Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Using Jesus as a talking point in a GA debate about divestment


Right in the middle of morning devotions, given by Virginia Sheets,  vice moderator of the Middle East issues committee, she suggested that Jesus wasn’t afraid to tell the Jews when they were wrong. The rest of her devotions gave the listener, at least this listener, the understanding that she was implying to the commissioners ‘go thou and do likewise.’ And then she, not the moderator, facilitated the commissioners in voting to divest from businesses doing business with Israel. [1] [2]
First of all using a devotion to advocate for your preference in voting is immoral. It is misusing the word of God.

But from a Christian point of view there are two greater problems: Jesus was also a Jew and he was God incarnate. He was the long promised messiah. Because he was a Jew he had the prophetic right to speak to his own people. By reason of fulfilling the promise given to the people of God he had the right to open the door to his kingdom and scold those who because of the hardness of their heart prevented others from entering into the kingdom.
But the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is neither Jewish nor God. And they are, in fact, the ones shutting the door to the kingdom. With their constant politicalizing they are driving many away from the foot of the cross, and many away from the denomination. Jesus is often and only used as a formal expression such as we must do this because Jesus wants us to do so. And because of the hardness of hearts they do not listen to the tears and concerns of God’s people. Their hearts are hard against the real message of the gospel which has to do with redemption and reconciliation.

Whether Sheets understands it or not, in the midst of a debate about divestment, her comment about Jesus not being afraid to tell the Jews when they were wrong is anti-Semitic. It wasn’t even categorized as the Jews of Israel—no it could just as well have been the Jews of New York City, or Palo Alto, or even the Jews living in Germany in 1938.
How shameful that our denomination has sunk to such lows.

Surely, Jesus has some strong words for us as a people.
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 the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29)

[1] It may be that many commissioners did not catch the implications of Sheets remarks but I believe many did.
[2] The committee did vote to divest. This however can change in plenary.

8 comments:

will spotts said...

Shameful and typical.

It really goes to the heart of the difference between politics - which is about the process of getting my way - and Christianity.

Pity the people who are easily manipulated in this fashion don't realize they are being goaded into an unchristian position.

Anonymous said...

Viola, we've been following the events of GA on twitter. Very sad. Can't imagine what it would feel like to be there. Just wondering if what happens in the committees will pass in the assembly...prayers for you. Amy

Viola Larson said...

Amy last GA the committee voted for divestment and it lost during the plenary. There are at least two minority reports going to plenary now. One has to do with same sex marriage, and one has to do with divestment. So far only a few things have turned out alright. You know you can watch on live streaming. But twitter does give you a lot more of people's feelings.

Anonymous said...

Seems like the twitter feed is quick news, albeit one sided at times. There is a guy with the name "Buber Zionist" who had the same reaction you did to the "Jesus didn't mind telling the Jews when they were wrong" comment.

Gary Scott said...

Thank you for showing us that there is still some decency left in the Presbyterian Church USA. People like you restore my faith in humanity.

I consider what the General Assembly did to be an act of extreme hate, but they do not speak for all.

As a Christian whose children were raised in the Jewish faith and also attended day care and Easter egg hunts in our local PC USA church, this decision has unnerved me greatly. I have made the decision to no longer attend weddings or other events in PC-USA churches; I am divesting. I hope someday I will be able to change that decision and that my family will feel welcome once again.

Viola Larson said...

Thank you Gary, there are actually quite a few of us. But leadership at the top is unbelievably manipulative.

Anonymous said...

Typical of an evangelical to call everything that disagrees with the Israeli position "anti-semitic".

will spotts said...

What a ridiculous observation. The pointed misuse of devotions to get a desired result, the use of has absolutely nothing to do with any "Israeli position".