In 2013 before the 221 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I wrote an article about two pastors who made a point of disconnecting the European Jews who migrated to Israel, from the ancient Jewish people. The article also contains information about how the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church holds the same ideas about European Jews.
One of the men, Stephen Sizer is an Anglican priest of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, England. The other is Rev. Mitri Raheb of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem. Raheb has at times attended and attempted to influence the General Assembly of the PC (U.S.A.). Both men have been speakers at Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in Bethlehem. I am writing this as an example of how such ideas spread and change the very face of Christianity; I also want to show how the church in her various forms is confronting anti-Semitism. I will include in this posting information about Naim Ateek founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical liberation Theology Center who holds the same views.
Stephen Sizer, has been restricted from participating in social media and commenting on Middle East issues. Mitri Raheb has removed Christianity from its Jewish foundations by insisting that both Jesus and the first Christians were Palestinians. Naim Ateek has carried the idea so far that the person of Jesus is divided from Christ.
Stephen Sizer on one of his blog postings linked to an article that suggested that Israel had something to do with 9/11. John Bingham of the Telegraph writes that “Although Dr Sizer removed the posting after complaints, he initially continued to defend it insisting that he was “encouraging debate” about “serious allegations” – insisting that he could not be sure Israel was not behind the 2001 atrocities in the US.” He would later apologize, but this was just one of his many links to anti-Semitic material with later apologies.
Sizer’s bishop, the Right Reverend Andrew Watson, has banned him from using all social media for six months. And he is to no longer write about or attend conferences that have to do with Middle East issues. He had just recently attended a conference in Iran which Bingham referred to as a conference which “was dubbed an anti-Semitic hate fest.”
I mention Raheb because too many Christians in the Middle East welcome his explanation of a Palestinian Jesus. He is simply setting up a false foundation for Christianity that others have taken much further. Rather than seeing the ancient and contemporary citizens of the Holy Land as belonging to various ethnic groups he sees their identities changing. Raheb in his book Faith in the Face of Empire: the Bible through Palestinian Eyes writes:
“Their identity, however, was forced to change and develop according to the new realities and empires in which they found themselves. They changed their language from Aramaic to Greek to Arabic, while their identity shifted from Canaanite, to Hittite, to Hivite, to Perizzite, to Girgashite, to Amorite, to Jebusite, to Philistine, Israelite, Judaic/Samaritan, to Hasmonaic, to Jewish, to Byzantine, to Arab, to Ottoman, and to Palestinian to mention some.” (12)
Raheb goes on to name the various religions the people changed to and finally states that, “… they stayed, throughout the centuries, and remained the people of the land with a dynamic identity. In this sense Palestinians today stand in historic continuity with biblical Israel.” In this way, the term “remaining the people of the land,” allows the Palestinians to take the place of Jews who are immigrants from Europe. All diaspora Jews are disconnected from their biblical roots.
Raheb leads to Ateek. They are often mentioned together, speak at the same conferences and are both liberation theologians. In a Sabeel newsletter, Cornerstone, issue 68, Winter/Spring 2014, Ateek, in explaining what he believes is Jesus way of using Scripture tears the text apart. He writes of Jesus quoting Isaiah 61. He notes that Jesus leaves out the line which has to do with vengeance, “The year of the Lord’s favor is the year of jubilee when justice is restored to the poor and oppressed in the community. This, Jesus read; but he left out, “the day of vengeance of our God.”
Admitting that other theologians disagree Ateek gives this as the reason Jesus left out the line:
“Jesus refused to read that sentence. He left it out. In other words he refused to call for God’s vengeance on their non-Jewish enemies. He refused to read what for him was theologically offensive and unacceptable.”
“Jesus refused to read words that reflected racism and bigotry. … The lesson is clear for me: whatever does not agree with the hermeneutic of God’s love for all people has no authority for us and must not be read even if it is written in the Bible.”
In another newsletter, issue 67, fall, 2013, Ateek gives a lesson on God’s on going revelation, and he teaches an unacceptable Christology. He begins with a purely pagan understanding of revelation writing:
“In the history of faith, there have been various stages in the development and understanding of the concept of the “word of God.” It is safe to conjecture that human beings from their early periods of life on earth felt and believed that God was speaking and communicating with them through the natural order.”
Ateek’s idea skips over any idea of God speaking personally to humanity. Romans 1 and much of the Psalms and Prophets show that God grants some revelation from nature, God’s power and creativity are seen but God’s redemptive purposes are not known without his word both oral and written. God speaks to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Hagar, etc.
Ateek points out that there are verses in the New Testament that point to an infallible revelation, but he proceeds from that to suggest that there is a better way of interpreting Scripture. He writes, “Many Christians, including myself, have found that using the Christ hermeneutic (criterion for interpretation) or the hermeneutic of love can be very helpful especially in the interpretation of difficult texts in the Bible.”
And then Ateek writes this:
“… it is important to emphasize that faith for many Christians is not totally dependent on the historical accuracy of the biblical documents. They are liberated from the letter of scripture and they experience the liberation of the children of God. As Paul wrote, “…for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6). They go to church to worship God and in their worship they meet the Christ of faith and not necessarily the Jesus of history.” (Italics mine.)
In Sizer, Raheb, and Ateek’s attempt to be only pro-Palestinian, they have crossed many lines, both ethical lines and theological lines. There can be criticism and fairness without tearing the New Testament from the Old Testament, or Christ from the humanity of Jesus. Sizer’s bishop is giving proper discipline. On the other hand Raheb is invited to speak at many mainline churches and Ateek’s Sabeel Center is one of the mission projects of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
 Sizer’s blog is now open only to those invited and when I tried to go to a blog posting where he uses someone else’s quote that insists the European Jews are not true Jews, I get a warning from McAfee.