Monday, December 30, 2013

Unbound, captive Israel and chaos in the PC (U.S.A.)

When I followed a link to the Presbyterian journal, Unbound, this morning, I couldn't help thinking of how so many great British mysteries and novels bring their contradictory and troubling plots and characters together in explosive scenarios of disaster thus leveling all to a final equality as the author sorts out the good and the bad of her story. C.S. Lewis' Hideous Strength is one example, A.S. Byatt's Possession another. The literary device allows peace to emerge from chaos.

With an introduction by Rev. Chris Iosso, general editor and coordinator of Advocacy Committee of Social Witness Policy, Nahida H. Gordon has written an open letter which Unbound has placed under the title, “Ransom Captive Palestine? Salvation History in the Presbyterian Hymnal.” Connected to all this is a link to Rev. Thomas Are Sr.'s article Zionist Liturgy. [1]

Gordon as well as Are complain about the section in the Presbyterian hymnal that is titled “God's Covenant with Israel.” They are afraid that some in the denomination may see the title Israel in both that section and in hymns as too connected to the modern state of Israel. Iosso tries to agree with them but in his carefulness makes some rather strange statements. And altogether this does remind me of the chaos developing in both the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and British stories. Some progressives have now, alongside some conservatives, found a reason to be unhappy with the hymnal. But of course the issue is far larger than that.

What of ancient Israel and the modern State of Israel? What of God's covenant with Israel—what of “captive Israel?” Is Gordon's history and theology totally correct? Is Iosso's theology correct? There are some answers.

In almost all that Gordon writes one hears her sorrow as a Palestinian child exiled from her homeland—her personal history cannot be denied and we should all share her sorrow and pray for her healing, which of course, in this life, will never be complete.

But there are two stories, two histories running side by side. When Gordon speaks of the Palestinians being ethnically cleansed in 1948 and 1967 she narrows history into a one sided farce. In 1948 five Arab nations attacked the new nation of Israel and horrible battles ensued. There were atrocities on both sides and while Israeli officials did force some to leave others fled of their own will believing that the five Arab nations would win. At the same time in the following decade most middle Eastern Jews were forced from their own homelands such as Iraq and Egypt. The war of 1967 is more complex but nonetheless is not a one sided issue.

But the important part of this controversial letter are the theological statements about Israel and God's covenant. Gordon writes, “I frequently wonder why so many in our denomination are enamored with talking about Biblical Israel and God’s covenant with it when Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of that promise.” When it is taken apart piece by piece that is a strange statement.

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel. He is the long promised Messiah who came to redeem “captive Israel.” But the words of the song and the words of the Bible are not speaking of Israel's captivity to Rome, as Iosso and so many progressives suggest, but Israel's bondage to sin. A bondage that we all experience, a deliverance that many have and will experience. But without the history, the Hebrew Bible, there is no foundation for our faith. As Jesus stated, "salvation is from the Jews." They are the ones chosen by God to bless the nations with the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And while we worship the Christ of God, we do not, without destroying our own faith, destroy the history or the meaning of his genealogical people.

It is very clear from Scripture that God has a covenant with the Jewish people. Yes, salvation only comes through Jesus, but God has established a covenant with his ancient people of which the Jews of modern Israel belong. Paul writes to the Roman church concerning the Jews, “from the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake , but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:28-29)

Modern Israel is a Jewish state and God's will for that State is his alone to know. He will judge Israel for any sin they comment against others as he will judge the United States and the Arab nations and the Persian nation of Iran. (All nations after all.) But we think in error if we attempt to divide our liturgy, our faith, our hope and salvation from the title Israel or as pastor Are would have it from the Hebrew Bible. Church history is littered with those who attempted to separate the God of the Old Testament or the people of the Old Testament from Christianity. Gnosticism and Nazism tried and lost.

Divergent voices like the divergent voices within Gordon and Iosso's writing as well as the insistent push for political correctness in the PC (U.S.A.) will eventually lead entirely away from the Incarnation and his Lordship over the denomination.

[1] Thomas Are is using a very controversial book, Max Blumenthal, Goliath, (Nation Books, New York, 2013), by a controversial author. The subject belongs in a different posting.

Friday, December 27, 2013

A picture that the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the PC (U.S.A.) favors

I must update this before it is even posted. It is about a picture that was placed on the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)--I was just finishing the posting when I noticed they had removed the picture. However, it is still on their list of favorite tweets. So about the picture:

A picture, it is said, is worth a thousand words. But sometimes the picture that is offered says more about the one offering it than the intended meaning. Using Twitter and Antonio Degante's  twitter link, the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) re-tweeted this picture:

For several reasons the re-tweet shows how IPMN is anti-Semitic. First of all, the picture which seems to be an attempt to say that BBC purposely gets it wrong when it writes about violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, uses a caricature of a Jewish man. He is pictured not as a symbolic Israeli but simply as a Jewish man. Admittedly he does have a Star of David on his hat but even that is small and insignificant. On the other hand the man representing the Palestinian appears as a symbol of Palestine because of his keffiyeh which is seen as symbolic of Palestinian solidarity. However, ultimately it is the idea in the picture that the Israeli is violent without any violence on the part of the Palestinian that makes the picture anti-Semitic.

But that is hardly the worst part.

The cartoon is on an Iranian Spanish language site that is truly anti-Semitic. (One must use the Google Translate) The site, Islam Oriente, has writings by various Imams but there are also articles and news. One of the articles, The fourteen reasons why Israel is doomed to disappear as a legal status is simply all of the arguments radical Islamist give for the end of Israel including that in a war with so many Arab states Israel would undoubtedly disappear. That is reason five—but one must read carefully with the Google translation.

Another article is 11 S: Internal Operation or Operation Mossad? written by Laurent Guyenot of Voltaire Network an odd web site that seems to offer multiple articles on 9-11 and Syria. He accuses Israel of being behind the 9-11 catastrophe. But there is an even clearer reason why IPMN's posting of the picture on their twitter site is a sign of their anti-Semitism.

Although IPMN has a statement that re-tweeting an article does not mean endorsement, they have marked this particular tweet as a favorite. So they really like the picture offered by a very anti-Semitic site. This is truly a case of a religious organization mixing bigotry with a very unprofessional attitude toward those they must deal with in order to gain any kind of peace. And it is a Christian organization whose attitudes are anything but caring and Christ like.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A very merry & holy Christmas to everyone

Over five years ago my husband and I were talking about some of the precious times in our lives—those times when God blesses with great grace. I remembered a Christmas Eve when our children were much younger and our house was filled with lights, food and friends. The sounds of children drifted into every corner and in the midst of sound, singing and laughter, one of my sons led a friend to Christ. Light is what fills that memory but also the sounds.

After the discussion between my husband and myself, waking up the next morning, the Lord put a promise in my heart, “Your house will once again be filled with the sounds of children.” He has been mightily fulfilling that promise over the last five and a half years.

Tonight, Christmas Eve, three beautiful great granddaughters will be sleeping in my house, they want to sleep on the couch by the Christmas tree with the lights on! And downstairs, in our apartment, three other beautiful great granddaughters will sleep anticipating Christmas and coming up stairs to play in great grandma's home. I'm sure we will read the Betty fairy book and The Flying School Bus. Another will arrive with her mom tomorrow, and visiting in another home, for Christmas, the eighth great grandchild resting in her/his mother's womb is a promise to come.

The Lord's blessings are amazing, including all of my wonderful grandchildren. But the most amazing of his gifts is the birth of his Son who lived, died and was resurrected that we might have salvation: forgiveness of our sins, eternity with Jesus and brothers and sisters in the Lord.

video HT to several Facebook friends

Picture is Picasso's Madonna taken from an old English magazine.

Friday, December 20, 2013

ACSWP & Matthew Dimick: Dishonoring God

The Advocacy Committee for Social Witness Policy cares too little for the honor of the Biblical God. And one can not fully stand by the downtrodden if in the process God is not honored. Reaching out in mercy, kindness and love occurs in the believer's life because they have experienced God's saving love and honor and respect his holiness.

The committee, working through their journal, Unbound, in allowing Matthew Dimick's article “Searching for Us: 7 Ways the New Hymnal is Queer” have diminished the Lord of the Church, the transforming power of the cross, the authority of Scripture and the love of Christ's people.

Dimick attempts to show where the new hymnal is queer. He writes of the committee's, rightful, attempt to not stereotype denominational members including any who are LGBTQ. But he uses this commitment to claim that the statement “can be read as a tacit affirmation that LGBTQ people share an identity, not a sin.”

Dimick claims, and this claim is happening too often, that Naomi and Ruth as well as David and Jonathan, are biblical models of LGBTQ people, writing:
And rest assured, even when orientation is not mentioned by name, we see our faces in the text. Just as the perspective of queer theology on biblical texts has allowed us to uncover and celebrate the Ethiopian Eunuch, David and Jonathan, and Ruth and Naomi as part of our stories, the LGBTQ community has also come to understand that texts which celebrate the outcast, strangers, and the unaccepted – texts which cry out for justice – are speaking to our community. 

While Dimick finds some welcoming hymns in the new hymnal that he believes LGBTQ people can relate to, he adds to his article some actual hymns written for the LGBTQ community and in the process refers to Mary the mother of Jesus as “the first Madonna and original Christian Diva.”

Dimick, also writes that he is happy that both genders, male and female, are used as metaphors for God but then, referring to James N Hoke's article, he writes, “some of us are still anticipating the day when we can sing out in loud voices “Come, Thou Almighty Queen.”. (Hoke was suggesting that queen should be just as acceptable a term as king when speaking of God.)

And then two other statements that fit together like a hand in a glove. Remembering that Dimick has titled his article " Searching for Us: 7 Ways the New Hymnal is Queer,” for number seven he simply adds “Robert Gagnon seems to have a problem with the new hymnal.” He links to Gagnon's article on the meaning of God's wrath, and writes,“enough said.”

 And in the middle of Dimick's article is this: “"Misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and classism are just a limited number of social problems that can be used as tools for abuse.” For Dimick and his publisher, ACSWP, there is no middle. Either one sees homosexuality as a gift and innate or one is homophobic.

So first, the dishonoring of God. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. It is the cross, the blood of Christ that has cleansed us and brought us near to God and to each other. (Colossians 1:15-23) God has and is transforming us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus has, washed, sanctified and justified us, turning the sinner, all of us, away from our sin and toward God. (1 Cor. 6:11) To deny both the sin and the transforming power of Christ is to dishonor God.

To say that sin, in this case sexual sin, is not sin, and to attempt to twist the Scriptures to say that righteous relationships, Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, are something else, gay and lesbian sexual relationships, is to deny the authority of Scripture. The Bible is not a story book about us—we don't look in it to find our picture—we read it to find the will of God for our lives.

Finally orthodox Christians are not against the LGBTQ community as people, they are not homophobic. God calls us to love and care for them as well as others. But that love includes speaking the truth that homosexuality is sin and it is a sin, like other sins, that leads to deeper and deeper darkness. Dimick should be aware of this since he states that he works with members of the polyamorous and sadomasochist community helping those involved in domestic abuse.

And this is where the the Advocacy Committee for Social Witness Policy has fallen into a quagmire. If nothing is to be brought under the discipline of the word of God, then even the darkness of polyamorous relationships and the darker world of sadomasochist will only be mentioned as communities bothered by domestic abuse. Why do we not care to pull the broken away from gross sin as much as we seek to protect them from domestic abuse.

Let the ACSWP, let us all, find that place where we love Jesus more than anything else, then the policies formed and given will not leave the broken to try and mend themselves.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network & truth Update

The summer of 2012, after the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly, I wrote about committee 15, the committee that gathered in all of the Israel and Palestine overtures and debated them and voted on them. I wrote that the committee was overwhelmed by PC (U.S.A) organizations who were clearly anti-Israel. One of the organizations, represented in mass, was the Israel/Palestine Mission Network. This coming GA 221, will undoubtedly see as many representatives of IPMN as well as their many friends. The commissioners should be aware of the ideology of the members of IPMN and understand that there is a horrific bias against Israel in particular and American Jews in general.

Just today, December 15th, 2013, on their Twitter page was this:

  1. Incredibly brave reporting by @DanielBushellRT on Israel. One of the few REAL journalists today, he holds no punches!

The video IPMN is linked to, which is part of a series Bushell does for Russian TV, is about Israel and nuclear weapons. It is a propaganda piece with several anti-Semites reporting, including two persons, Gilad Atzmon and Pepe Escobar, who write for the vile anti-Semitic site Veterans today

There is also a news item about the Kuala Lumpur war crimes commission which found Israel guilty of genocide. But the commission has no authority or legitimacy.

All of that is bad enough—the video is so filled with lies and twisted reporting that it should anger any Presbyterian. But I thought I would place another video by Bushell in this post to show who it is that IPMN considers brave and one of the few “REAL” journalists today.

The video below accuses the FBI of setting the bomb which exploded during the Boston Marathon. Once again Bushell uses two writers from Veterans Today. One is
James Fetzer, the other Kevin Barrett. They are both “Truthers;” they believe the destruction of the World Trade Centers was planned and carried out by the United States government with the possibility that Israel was involved. Kevin Barrett was one of the main organizers of the Million American March Against Fear, which originally was the Million Muslim march scheduled for 9-11, in 2013. (An aside, very few people, 25, showed up for the march.)

When a person in authority within an organization such as the PC (U.S.A.) and their mission group IPMN tells the public that a person is one of the few “REAL” journalist and they do it in capital letters, and one finds out that the journalist uses the worst of anti-Semites to tell his news stories (conspiracies) that surely means the person who recommended him must share such sentiments. The PC (U.S.A.) needs to remove the foxes from their inner circle lest they wake in the morning and find that all of their hens (or sheep) have fled the house.

This is politics not Christianity—this is very serious work by a group of people who would just as quickly push a Jewish Israel into the sea as any radical Islamist would. Do not be deceived, this affects everything within our denomination. We are on the edge of developing an incurable sore because no one is prepared to deal with the problem. I would suggest that an overture be written asking that the Israel/Palestine Mission Network be removed, and a new organization with love for both the Palestinians and the Israelis, be written. Otherwise we will eventually sink into the dark world of international anti-Semitism which has its roots in the Nazi era.

Update: I have noticed that also on the IPMN twitter page they have linked to another commentator on RT whose guests are Norman Finkelstein and Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich who also writes for Veterans Today via the site Veterans News Now. The twitter link posted by IPMN is

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The baby who saves a bent world: Advent 3

C. S. Lewis, in his book, Out of the Silent Planet, the first in his science fiction trilogy, writes of a kidnapped Ransom who is forced to travel with two evil men to another planet. Unlike earth, which in the book is called Thulcandra, the other planet, Malacandra, is not fallen. The ruling Angel, Oyarsa, speaking of earth as a silent planet says to Ransom:
“Once we knew the Oyarsa of your world—he was brighter and greater than I—and then we did not call it Thulcandra. It is the longest of all stories and the bitterest. He became bitter. That was before any life came on your world . Those were the Bent Years of which we still speak in the heavens, when he was not yet bound to Thulcandra but free like us. It was in his mind to spoil other worlds besides his own. He smote your moon with his left hand and with his right he brought the cold death on my harandra before its time; if by my arm Maleldil [God]had not opened the handramits and let out the hot springs, my world would have been unpeopled. We did not leave him so at large for long. There was great war, and we drove him back out of the heavens and bound him in the air of his own world as Maleldil taught us. There doubtless he lies to this hour, and we know no more of that planet: it is silent. We think that Maleldil would not give it up utterly to the Bent One, and there are stories among us that He has taken strange counsel and dared terrible things, wrestling with the Bent One in Thulcandra. But of this we know less than you; it is a thing we desire to look into.”

This is C.S. Lewis' picture, using a fantasy story, of both the Incarnation and the total wrestling of Jesus Christ from the beginning of his taking on flesh and struggling against temptation, the flesh, the world and the Devil, until he reaches the cross and with his death and resurrection destroys the personal evil that bends the world away from the shape that God intended. And of course the Oyarsa could not tell the whole story, like the angels, according to Peter “it is a thing they desire to look into.”

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things in which angels long to look.” (1 Peter 1:10-12)

Amazing that we are part of God's great mystery, a redeemed people, gathered around a small baby who grew, suffered, died and rose from the dead. A baby who is a returning King for whom we wait. The world is bent—but only for a little while.

Picture by Ron Andersen

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The tradition in the story: reading J.R.R. Tolkien

Sometimes I read something and it bothers me. Then I reread it, pondered it and find thoughts and feelings buzzing in my heart and mind. This happened when reading Charlene Han Powell's article, “The Sacred Adventure,” in the Presbyterian Outlook. This time I wondered through several books and even into memories of setting in the “Eagle and the Child” pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien read their drafts to each other. That was over twenty years ago. 

It is the Tolkien tales that Powell has written about. She watched all of the Tolkien movies and loved them all, except for the Hobbit movie—until she re-watched it and rethought it. Powell concluded that she was very much like Bilbo Baggins. And she feels that isn't good, that some of his attitudes need changing.

Before I go further I should point out that Powell states that she has not read any of the books but only watched the movies. I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and saw the movies, but I have not read the Hobbit and though I attempted to watch the movie, I found it too violent. I do however know what the story is about. (And here I will link the reader to a wonderful review of the first Lord of the Rings movie by a young lady—the review was written several years ago and will help the reader to understand that the books are a bit different then the movie: The Lord of The Rings: A Myth Translated to Film )

Calling hobbits simpletons, Powell notes that Bilbo is reluctant to leave the Shire and go on an adventure. And he was reluctant, but not as Powell puts it, because “He was so limited by his attachment to his stuff and his creature comforts. He was too happy living by himself where he could control who ate his food and drank his drink. He was overly content leading a life of predictability because it meant there was always a clean hanky in his pocket and a warm bed to sleep in at night.”

Yes, Bilbo loved all of that, probably innately, perhaps at times too deeply, and was reluctant to leave, but not because he was “limited by his attachment” nor because he was “too happy living by himself.” Nor was it because he was “overly content leading a life of predictability.” Instead, these traits, in the end, are his strengths because the great adventure is not meant to be something that washes away the foundations but instead the foundations, the knowledge of past contentment, happiness and predictability, are what stabilizes one in the midst of adventure, particularly an adventure into dark places.

The truth is Tolkien saw himself, or the common Englishman, as a hobbit, (although I bet he didn't have large hairy feet). And contrary to Powell's understanding that there is “something beautiful about the unknown, something holy about possibility, something sacred about adventure” there is rather the seriousness of moving into the adventure for the sake of preserving that which is holy, permanent and already known.

Powell also turns her essay toward the Christian's reason for taking the adventure, seeing it as a means of following the example of Jesus. He moved out of his comfort zone to dine with tax collectors, heal and tell parables. Powell writes, “Jesus was an adventurer not for adventure's sake, but for the sake of those he would encounter along the way.” Yes, Jesus did all of that, and it was for the sake of others, but thinking of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit stories, Christ's story is so much greater.

He humbled himself, the author of Philippians states, “by becoming obedient unto death.” He did not leave something less, his home was not the Shire but the bosom of the Father. He took on the adventure, so to speak, for the sake of humanity. The Son of God left heaven in order to die and give eternal life. And one can hardly speak of it as an adventure since he knew the beginning, the middle and the ending, the humility and the glorification.

Powell asks the question, “Why does our Lord challenge us to push beyond our attachment to tradition in order to be better witnesses of the Christian faith?” If Powell is writing of human traditions such as how we dress for church or the various kinds of music we use in worship, what kind of dish we bring to the potluck, and whether we kneel or stand in prayer, she is so right. After all Paul was a Jew for the sake of the Jew, and a Gentile for the Gentile that he might win them to Christ. But if she is writing about the doctrines of the church universal or the morality that is given in God's word she is wrong.

Tolkien had a mean—a measure—for fairy stories and he applied it to the story of the Incarnation—the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the story caused joy when it was read, a certain kind of joy, “the Consolation of the Happy Ending” as Tolkien put it, it possessed the quality of a true fairy story. He wrote:
The Consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous 'turn' (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially 'escapist'. Nor 'fugitive'. In its fairy-tale—or otherworld—setting, it is sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief. (Italics the author)
Tolkien went on, as I stated, to apply this image of Joy to the Incarnation. “Because the story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord of angels, and of men—and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused.” But my reason for quoting from Tolkien is to return to Tolkien's stories and Powell's, innocent concern with predictability and tradition. There is a constant in all of Tolkien's stories. It is the Joy that he speaks of in his essay “On Fairy-Stories.”

While there is darkness and evil—misunderstanding and failure—in each group of creatures, except the orcs who are false creations, there is an ancient tradition, a measure that rests in tradition which holds something of that Joy of Consolation, the denial of final defeat. There is a predictability and a tradition which every adventure rests upon. But it is more than human predictability—it is “Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Office of Public Witness of the PC (U.S.A.) and their faulty Washington Report

The PC(USA) Office of Public Witness (OPW) has sent out their Washington Report to Presbyterians and they are once again singling out Israel. They devote all of page seven to the issue of boycotting Israel. Evidently there are no other nations that deserve such actions. We must dialogue with Iran, North Korea and Syria but not Israel. An example of their choice of  a company is SodaStream. They write:
SodaStream’s main production site is in Mishor Edomim, an Israeli settlement industrial park located in the West Bank. The land where the SodaStream factory is located was illegally confiscated from its Palestinian owners by the Israeli military occupation authorities. Israeli settlements are an impediment to peace and violate international law.
But Presbyterians for Middle East Peace has a video on their site that gives the true story of SodaStream and the help they give to some Palestinians: 

The Washington Report to Presbyterians offers a pledge for churches and presbyteries to sign stating they support the overture passed in the last General Assembly to boycott all products coming from Israeli settlements. They write:
As peacemakers committed to nonviolent resolution of deep-seated conflicts, we join a growing number of international and religious partners, including Jewish, Muslim, and Christian voices, who believe that a boycott can inspire a more useful dialog and negotiation towards a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Respect for the dignity of every human being, alongside a vision to put aside the violence of terrorism, oppression, and military force is key to moving negotiations forward for a lasting peace for all involved.
Note that since they are only asking that Israel's settlements be boycotted they are undoubtedly inferring that terrorism is caused by Israel not by radical Islamist. Too often organizations in the PC (U.S.A.) single out Israel. And if the GA votes on a positive action those organizations either belittle the actions or they ignore them. The 220 GA voted to began a helpful investment program in Palestine, rather than divesting from companies doing business with Israel. The OPW did not mention this at all in their report and yet it was the most positive action the GA took to further the peace.

Here is what was passed; it is item 15-11:

1.     call for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to pursue a positive and creative course of action with respect to the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict that will make a difference in the lives of those who are most vulnerable on all sides and that will preserve an effective witness to peace in the entire region;
2.     call for a process of engagement that will bring Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the U.S. into effective partnering for study, travel, and social action;
3.     advocate for the development of educational programs that expose U.S. Christians, Jews, and Muslims to the varied experiences of both Palestinians and Israelis;
4.     devise a plan of active investment in projects that will support collaboration among Christians, Jews, and Muslims and help in the development of a viable infrastructure for a future Palestinian state. We also encourage greater denominational engagement with Christians in the West Bank around issues of job creation and economic development.
[5. instructs the General Assembly Mission Council to create a process to raise funds to invest in the West Bank, and the program will be inaugurated no later than the meeting of the 221st General Assembly (2014).]

On the web site of the Office of Public Witness it speaks of "a sovereign God" who "is at work in all the world."  We must never forget that our sovereign God is also at work in the PC (U.S.A.). If we do not follow in humble obedience, and in mercy and goodness, God's judgment will come also upon us. We are not a political organization although as Christians we must sometimes act in political ways. When we prefer boycott over  the hard work of dialogue we are political above all else. When we prefer dialogue, combined with our own prayers, we allow the Holy Spirit of God to move on hearts and change people and situations.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lynne Hybels and the Israeli, Palestinian problem

Lynne Hybels, wife of Bill Hybels, the pastor of Willow Creek, posted an article on her blog, “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Six Things I Believe,” giving her reasons for advocating for the Palestinians at the Bethlehem Checkpoint Conference as well as other places in the Holy Land. Hans Cornelder, Editor of linked to the article.

I agree with some of Hybels' thoughts. She honestly attempts to be fair toward both sides. She speaks of the Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem and how she would not bring other people to Israel without taking them to the museum. “ How can we begin to understand this place without holding the reality of Jewish history in our conscious awareness?,” Hybels writes.

She also ate with Jewish people and “talked with Israeli families who’d lost children to the violence of suicide bombers.” This is an excellent beginning point if it is linked to understanding the Palestinian side. Hybels lists some of the things she believes about the Middle East problems, which include wanting the Jewish people to have a safe place to live. Counter wise, of the Palestinians she writes:
When I say I’m pro-Palestinian, I mean that I believe the Palestinians have an equally valid right to live in the land and should have the same civil rights that are afforded to Israeli Jewish citizens, whether that’s in one state, two states, or however many states. I believe Palestinians should be free from military occupation. They should be able to travel freely between their own communities, engage in commerce, and have easy access to the outside world
Most of us want that kind of goodness and freedom for the Palestinians. But this is where Hybels' paper begins to fall apart as she writes, “whether that's in one state, two states, or however many states.” Hybels reminds me of too many American Evangelicals who don't pay attention to history or the darker side of humanity. We are all, to often, rosy with Christian goodwill and fail to see the problems staring us in the face. Hybels wants a safe place for the Jewish people but she somehow believes that could happen with a one state solution.

A one state solution means that the Jews will be in the minority, eventually all government leaders will be Palestinian, and the Jews will once again face the possibility of becoming no more than a few leftover memories in another Holocaust Museum. Hybels has not dealt with the deep hatred against the Jews that is ingrained in Arab nations and societies. And this leads to another point she makes. When writing of violence she actually sweeps the problem under the rug and the implications for Israeli citizens are tremendous. Hybels writes:

I believe that any violence against civilians, whether carried out militarily or through guerrilla tactics, is illegal under international law, damages prospects for peace, and should be stopped immediately. I want to state that clearly, because my critics have asked why I don’t spend more time talking about Islamic extremists and Hamas and the battle between Muslims and Christians. Part of my reason is that I think we hear plenty about that. I have no desire to give more airtime to the voices of violence.
The very problems that are hurting Palestinians are caused by radical Islamic violence and Hamas is included in that. There is a wall and checkpoints because of suicide bombings. That can’t be so easily dismissed. Yes, there are problems with where some of the wall is located and there are problems with extreme settlers-the list goes on, but none of it will ever be solved from the Israel side only. Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish nation and until Hamas and other radical groups accept that right there will not be peace in the region.

I do agree with Hybels when she writes, “I believe that if we want to engage in the Holy Land as peacemakers, we must recognize that Israelis and Palestinians have very different, and often conflicting, histories and narratives, each of which must be sought out and respectfully heard.” But I would go further, and this is where I will take a leap outside of Hybels' posting. We are unable to untwist all of the threads of the conflict that began before Israel became a state and after she became a state. But as Christians we cannot accept only a subjective history. We belong to the truth and we must seek truth in every aspect of our lives.

Certainly there was a great deal of killing on all sides. There were Palestinians forced to leave their homes and the slaughter of innocent Jews, but what we do know absolutely is that five Arab nations attacked the nation of Israel. If they had not done so there would be no Palestinian refugees. Nonetheless, Hybels is right we must with compassion listen to the stories, all of the stories.

 But Hybels goes on with her views about history, and here I agree again with her, yet with one reservation. Hybels writes:

When you pay attention to both narratives, it’s easy to understand why the Jews would want a homeland and why they feel they have a legitimate claim to the Holy Land based on biblical promises. And it’s easy to understand why the Palestinians feel they have an equally valid claim on the land based on centuries of residence in the land.

Certainly, either narrative can be mythologized and distorted and used to demonize the other. So, part of our task as people seeking peace is to listen with a discerning ear, to study well, to question what we hear, and to learn from a wide variety of people.
But here again there is a missing part of the picture. (My reservation) Yes, we do understand why the Jews would want a homeland, and yes it is easy to understand why the Palestinians feel they should have a homeland. But the truth is, Israel is a nation—she doesn't just want to be a Jewish nation she already is a Jewish nation. That is reality. It must be accepted by both her Arab neighbors and Iran, or there will be no peace. The other reality is that the Palestinians do need a homeland. We should work and pray to that end, but in truth, as Christians who will not hide from the darkness on either side of this conflict.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Hatred of life and the joy of Christmas: Advent 2

I am reading a new book, Live like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis' s Chronicles; the author, Joe Rigney, reminds the reader that Lewis saw goodness and joy in feasting, celebrations, the coming of spring and certainly Christmas. In the chapter, “The Witch's War on Joy,” the reader begins to understand how precious is the gift of joy. 
Rigney writes of how the white Witch with Edmund comes upon a party of several creatures of Narnia who are feasting together and she accuses them of gluttony and self-indulgence, then turns them to stone. Of her actions the author writes:

The benefit of the scene is that it demonstrates that the witch's evil is not fundamentally about winter and cold weather, but about a deep-seated hostility to life, joy, and celebration. The Witch loves death and her icy gripe on Narnia is simply one expression of this overall hatred of life.
 But we are nestled into the One who is life and the great enemy of real life is already defeated by the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God. So there is joy, great joy in this season of Advent and Christmas. There is joyful acknowledgment that the Son has taken on flesh and entered this world as a small baby for the sake of humanity:

For God so loved the world that, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

And there is joy for those who believe because beyond a first there is a second coming when he shall bring to a close all of the evil, repression and sorrow of this present time. There is coming that time of being totally with Jesus our Lord, feasting, celebrating and worshiping the lamb.

I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and he came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and his kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

The gift of life, the gift of tomorrow are wrapped up in Advent and Christmas.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

For you have been called for this purpose ...

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad , for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:11-12)

I saw the video several times during the day at several sites, including Hot Air,, and an earlier posting on which links to an uncensored video of the event. The video is so grievous that I finally decided that I should blog on it. The video is of a huge group of radical feminists who are part of what is called the National Meeting of Women in the Argentina city of San Juan; they are harassing and humiliating a group of Catholic young men who have surrounded their church to protect it from the women. Many of the women are naked (the video covers them) from the waist up and their actions are obscene.

One Catholic blogger, Rebecca Hamilton, speculated about what other group they might be connected to as there have been some milder nude protests involving European and Eastern Europe groups. She could find no connection, but there is an abstract connection. An incident at the World Social Forum, (a mostly Marxist organization), which involved nakedness, but not obscenity nor hatefulness, led one academic writer to speculate on the importance of nudity in protest, Naked Protest: Memories of Bodies and Resistance at the World .

But surely one can understand that given humanity's sinfulness, the act of nudity in protest, must eventually lead to evil consequences. It leaves the protester open to the powers of darkness; the protester early begins a downward spiral with a lose of dignity and their own humanity. And then there is the combination of mob power. Everyone's movement becomes a frenetic attempt to gain the most attention by their act.

And the protest itself was inherently evil; the demand for the right to kill the unborn. This on top of their very public sexuality. Their hate was turned against the Catholic Church but also against individual Christians as they spit, sexually harassed and spray painted the young men who stood silently praying.

I am placing the video here not so much so that readers can see the awfulness of a group of radical feminist, but so they can instead see the steadfastness, patience, faith and unity of a group of Christians.

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you leaving you an example for you to follow in his steps., who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth; and while being reviled he did not revile in return; while suffering he uttered no threats, but kept entrusting himself to Him who judges righteously; and he himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness ...” (1 Peter 21-24) 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A gay Jesus: a heretical Christology

Some members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A,) have stated that the move toward a more inclusive church, the ordination of members of the LGBT community and the recognition of same gender marriage, is not as troubling as an official endorsement of a heretical Christology. While I agree with them, accepting the immoral sexual practices of the LGBT community as a gift leads to a heretical view of Jesus Christ.

Several days ago the More Light Presbyterians shared, on a twitter paper, The #PCUSA Daily, a Huffington Post blog posting by Presbyterian teaching elder Brett Webb Mitchell entitled “Sunday School Taught Me that Jesus was Straight... and Other Myths and Legends of Yore.” [1]

Not only does the title imply that Jesus was gay, in the body of the article, Mitchell implies that Ruth and Naomi as well as David and Jonathan were also lovers. And beyond the point of the article, that sexuality, especially LGBT sexuality, was not discussed in Sunday School and should be, because of the title, a heretical view of Jesus overshadows the whole post. If the denomination allows for that which is sin, homosexual practice, to be called “no sin” and enough PCUSA members insist on even the possibility that Jesus was homosexual, a Jesus will be created who is not the Jesus of Scripture or the church universal.

Remembering that More Light Presbyterians is an organization involving a moderate sized group of people, their sharing of the article implies that too many PCUSA members have a low view of Jesus Christ and are willing to debase his person in order to under gird their own particular theology. And their Christology, in fact, runs counter to several basic reformed doctrines. One is that a resurrected man who is also fully God exists within the Godhead. (Acts 7:56; Scots Confession 3.11) Shall we teach that a resurrected gay man is within the Godhead?

Secondly is the doctrine that we are in Christ, that is, we are united to Christ in his resurrection. Who Jesus Christ is, the resurrected One who is fully human and fully God is who we are united to and it his image we bear. His righteousness is ours, his life is our life. He takes his sinlessness and places it on those who belong to him. (Romans 7:4; 8:11) Does his righteousness include homosexuality?

Furthermore, the work of Christ as redeemer is destroyed for those who are caught in the bondage of homosexuality if Jesus in his person is homosexual. In this scenario, God's love and care for any sinner, in particular for the sexual sinner, has no meaning or value. The author of Hebrews points out that Jesus was that offering without blemish. (Heb 9: 14) Shall we take the bloody death of our redeemer and make it of no account?

So my plea would be that leadership would now see the seriousness of the dispute happening in the church because of homosexuality. It does touch the person of Christ, it will and has produced a heretical Christ. And the denomination is allowing the most important of their essentials to be undermined:

  1. The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did. When the fulness of time was come, take upon him man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof; yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. . So that two whole perfect and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ the only mediator between God and man. (The Westminster Confession of Faith 6.044)
True, those who do not agree with Scripture, who do not stand under the authority of Scripture or find a way to twist the meaning will have no problem with the coming heretical Christ. Nonetheless, the church of which Christ is Lord must care unto death. 

[1] For a view of how Mitchell views sexuality as he writes about his own desires read I "Heart" Ron: Young Life, Youth Ministry, and Me” but be aware it is offensive.

Picture by Ethan McHenry