Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Call to Action" Mark Braverman and a bad theology of land

In the continuing articles on, Mark Braverman is the author of “Kairos Time: A U.S. Call to Action.”    It is partly about the organization, Kairos U.S.A., and also about their document, Call to Action: U.S. Response to the Kairos Palestine document.”
While there are some items that can be commended in the Kairos U.S.A. document, for instance the confession of Christian anti-Semitism, there are several items which make the document unacceptable.

There is the suggestion that the problems in Israel and Palestine have to do, not with any hostility between the people nor with past hostilities, but with the overwhelming imbalance of power.  The authors are of course thinking of Israel. But this denies the complexities of the region and the several Arab States, as well as Iran and various radical Islamic organizations, who deny Israel’s right to exist.
Another is the usual attempt to avoid the bad theology of Christian Zionism by creating a similar theology of land that includes a land with “a universal mission,” which ends up fulfilling some redemptive purpose minus the cross. Instead I believe Alan Wisdom writing in Theology Matters about Israel and the land puts it just right when he states:

Even today, there remains a residue of unfulfilled prophecy. The great hope of the church is that all will be set right with the return of Christ. “Come Lord Jesus!” we pray with John (Revelation 22:20). But we do not know exactly how Israel will fit into that scenario. As Jesus said, “About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32).[1]

There are still other problems such as insisting that individuals, organizations and denominations must join the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement which is not a help toward peace, but instead will only irritate the situation. But the dominant problem with the “Call to Action,” document is the usual refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. And this is both subtle and blatant. It is subtle because it is not spoken, but instead there is this which is blatant in its intent:

We believe that a role for the Jewish people will include their participation with all peoples in a new order of justice, equality and universal peace that Jesus calls the realm of God. In embracing this vision, we are not taking the land away from the Jews or in any way denying to the Jewish people their fundamental right to live in peace and security and to express themselves as a people and a culture. Nor are we challenging the Jewish people’s special tie to the land in their own experience and in the view of many Jewish and Christian theologians. Rather, we believe, in the words of the Kairos Document, that the land “has a universal mission. In this universality, the meaning of the promises, of the land, of the election, of the people of God open up to include all of humanity, starting from all the peoples of this land.”

That is a long quote, but I have placed it here to emphasize that the authors nowhere in the document acknowledge Israel as a Jewish State but rather a culture with some land shared by all peoples in the area. They also, although representing several denominations, ignore Jesus Christ who by his death gathers in those who will receive him. Both the election of Israel and the election of the Church are replaced by land. The authority that the authors give for this is a theological viewpoint which gives the land a divine and universal mission. This is utterly dismal. It is a combination of liberation theology and universalism working side by side to delegitimize the Jewish State of Israel.  But it also denies the cross.
A better way, as Alan Wisdom suggests, is to look beyond the theological or biblical reasons for being pro-Israel; neither Christian Zionism nor liberation theology is helpful.  

While Wisdom does point out that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is “a standing contradiction to Israel’s democratic values,” he notes that Israel is one of the rare multicultural states in the region. Israel offers freedom of religion. Very few nations in the area allow such freedom. People, including Arab citizens are allowed to criticize the Israeli government. “Israeli society leads the region in educational attainment, cultural creativity, technological innovation, and balanced economic development.” The list goes on.[2]
Most of those who are offering articles on concerning the Kairos Document or any of the organizations, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network are not working for a two state solution—their documents all point away from such a solution. Either one works out of love for both peoples and a two state solution or one kicks dust in the face of peace while drumming for war.






[1] Alan F. H. Wisdom, “Lands of Promise and Conflict: The Middle East in Biblical Context,” Theology Matters Vol.  19 no. 2 Mar/April 2013.  This edition is not yet on their web site but hopefully it will soon appear.
[2] Wisdom, “Arguing From Evidence: Why Support Israel?, Ibid.

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