Several writers and leaders, both Christian and Jewish, have stated that since the Israel/Palestine Mission Network gets its tax free status from its connection to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) then their new publication, Zionism Unsettled is truly a PC (U.S.A.) publication. And that is technically true, and yet we have no idea who actually donated money to make the publication possible because IPMN is sheltered by their relationship within the PCUSA.
So alongside that thought about finances is this question: ‘Why does a supposedly Christian book lift up Islam and the Qur’an but in many ways treats the Holy Scriptures of Judaism and Christianity shamefully?’ Why is the history of radical Islam’s past and contemporary assaults on Christians and Jews mostly neglected while the history of Jewish and Christian sins are emphasized?
Beginning on page seven the authors critique all three monotheistic religions using the idea of religious exceptionalism. That is, the belief that one’s religion is the one true faith or the completed revelation about God. This is how the authors of Zionism Unsettled put it, “the belief that ‘my people’ are unusual, unique, or special.” While IPMN’s authors do not see that view as acceptable, they do see as positive the idea that each religion has a special calling to be a blessing to the nations.
And interesting enough in writing about Zionism and exceptionalism, the authors intertwine Zionism with Judaism. One becomes the other. The authors believe that exceptionalism has a dark side. And sometimes it does, yet that dark side is not clearly or honestly detailed in Zionism Unsettled.
So what is the actual exceptionalism of the three religions? Zionism Unsettled explains in several places what that means for Christians and Jews but not what it means for Islam.
The authors are undoubtedly referring to the Jewish belief that they are the chosen people who have a special covenant relationship with God which includes blessing the nations with God’s law. They point to God’s promise of land to the Jewish people.
The authors are also referring to the Christian claim, to have in Christ the complete revelation of God and the unique way of salvation by means of Christ. But nowhere is the Muslim’s claim that Mohammed is the final prophet and the Qur’an is ultimate truth, spoken about or pointed to as exceptionalism. Yet for many Muslims their kind of exceptionalism includes sharia. And sharia is too often forced on believer and non-believer alike.
Nonetheless the authors do point out their views of the results of exceptionalism in all three monotheistic religions. Most of their blame is directed at Zionism which they conveniently mix with Judaism.
Beginning their account of Christian exceptionalism the authors write, “Christian exceptionalism beliefs and actions contributed to the Nazi Holocaust, the genocide of Native Americans, and countless other instances of tragic brutality.” Of Islam they write:
Exceptionalist doctrines and behaviors within Islam have contributed to grievous human rights abuses as the massacres during the closing days of the Ottoman Empire, which crescendoed with the Armenian genocide in 1915.
These two statements also need to be unpacked. The Christians first. It should be pointed out that it was not Christian exceptionalism that contributed to the Holocaust but just the opposite. The orthodox Christian believes that Jesus Christ is the final revelation, the only way to God. The German faith movement and the German Christians who contributed to the Nazi’s rise believed that another revelation stood equally beside Jesus as Lord. They believed in an earthly kingdom with Adolf Hitler as a revealed Savior. And in fact, all of the sins, genocide and racism, festering in the above quote have to do with a divergence away from orthodoxy as a means of holding on to some cooperate sin, be it greed, racism or some other self-indulgence.
The reference to Islam, as it was represented by the Ottoman Empire, while true, conveniently leaves out one of the most devastating events of contemporary times—that is the world-wide persecution of Christians in many Muslim countries. Also there is, at the moment, discrimination against Jewish communities in most Muslim countries. There is no need to go back so far into history. It appears with this that IPMN was fearful of insulting the Islamic community.
Most of Zionism Unsettled deals with what the authors see as the main problem and their focus is Zionism exceptionalism. In a small box where religious exceptionalism is explained the authors write of Zionism, which they have, in this case, turned into a religion:
The dark side of Zionist exceptionalism today is the ethnic cleansing and land confiscation of Palestinians justified by an appeal to God’s will derived from biblical texts.
The author’s do give a second negative critique of a radicalized Islam although they do not put it in historically truthful words:
We believe that justice, peace, and reconciliation will become possible for the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian inhabitants of the Holy Land when Israel and its supporters around the world comprehend the impossibility of resolving the crisis through the exercise of power, and radicalized Muslims relinquish the dream of an Islamic theocracy.
The historical untruthfulness here is defining radical Muslim’s Islamic theocracy as a dream. In many Arab states it is a reality and not a dream. In Gaza under Hamas it is a reality and a threat to any democracy. And for radical Islam, with such entities as Hamas—it is also about power.
And then when speaking of holy texts, and I have already written on how the biblical text is used in Zionism Unsettled, whether one is speaking of the Hebrew Bible or the Christian Bible which contains the Hebrew Bible, the Muslim Qur’an gets lifted up by using a Palestinian Muslim. The authors write:
Abu Sway contrasts what he calls the inclusive theology of the Qur’an with the exclusive theology of Zionism, which makes use of the Old Testament to justify separatism, domination, and ethnic cleansing.
After referring to Old Testament texts (Psalm 137:9) which speak of crushing a baby’s head against rocks and of the stories of God’s command to kill all of those in the cities of the ancient promised land the author’s go on to write:
There are many texts in the Qur’an that affirm God’s love for all people, demand that humans act justly toward others, and condemn any form of discrimination. The Qur’an insists that Muslims demonstrate God’s special respect for Jews and Christians because God is revealed in all three Abrahamic faiths.
So once again we need to unpack all of this information. As far as genre or type is concerned the Bible is a very different book than the Qur’an; but not different as far as exclusivity is concerned. The difference is the kind of writing. And yet in the Qur’an we find instructions without mercy. In his book, The Teachings of Jesus and Muhammad, Mateen Elass, born into a Muslim family and now a Presbyterian pastor, lists some of Jesus’ and Muhammad’s words about how to treat enemies. His conclusion is:
The Qur’an frequently depicts as enemies those who refuse to submit to Allah, who stand opposed to the advance of Islam, who themselves reject the claims of Muhammad to be a true prophet. The prevailing teaching of Muhammad is that enemies are to be shown no mercy unless and until they repent and submit to the authority of Islam; hence the widespread commands for Muslims to fight (In the armed struggle of jihad) against all the enemies of the Prophet. (35) (Italics authors)
The texts the authors of Zionism Unsettled have chosen to pick from the Bible, include the honest thoughts of a person in anguish (the Psalms), it is not a commandment to do so. The commandment by God to kill all of the people in cities of the Holy Land must not be considered easy texts. But we do know that God was calling down judgment on a people who had been warned for over 400 years. They were a people whose false religion included the burning of babies to the god Moloch and the giving of their young people for prostitution.
Whether one agrees or disagrees with that section of Scripture the Qur’an is not more inclusive than the Old or New Testament. And it is shameful that a Christian publication lifts up the Qur’an over the Bible. It does raise questions about the publication, Zionism Unsettled, and its publishers, as well as those who unwittingly or knowingly funded the booklet.
Here is a video, which among other persecutors of Christians, Buddhists for example, points out the persecutions by Islamic radicalism. It is not silent as is Zionism Unsettled. And keep in mind that many of these countries do not allow Jewish communities.