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Sunday, October 21, 2012

American Jewish Leaders Find Anti-Semitism in Churches

Nadene Goldfoot
First of all, there is a big divide in Protestant churches regarding Israel.  On one hand, we have Pastor John Hagee, who wrote "In Defense of Israel" and means it.  He's done so much in exploring accurately the history of Israel and the situation she finds herself in.  He is a conservative evangelical leader and his group is behind Israel's endeavors to survive. He has denounced the "replacement theology" believing that chapters 9-11 of the book of Romans teaches that the Jews have continuing favor with God by the election of grace. He believes the bible commands Christians to support the State of Israel and the Jewish people even though he has uttered remarks that some have interpreted as antisemitic. His  nondenominational church has a following of 19,000 active members.    On the other hand, we have the main Protestant churches who follow a different sort of Christian religious philosophy by believing in the replacement theology,  whose results are harsh towards Jews.  The result is that they do not support Israel.  I feel their stand comes from this ages old anti-Semitic reasoning.

A top official of the Presbyterian Church, Rev. Gradye Parsons, "asked Congress to treat Israel like it would any other country to make sure military aid is going to a country espousing the values we would as Americans--that it's not being used to continually violate the human rights of other people."  They did this in a letter signed by 15 leaders of Christian churches that calls for Congress to reconsider the promised and planned aid to Israel.

In other words, they are calling in the chips and saying that Israel is violating Palestinian human rights by not having the same values that Americans have and shouldn't be receiving the military aid that Congress has already decided on, a stark attack on the relationship between Israel and the USA.  This is an outrage and is doing harm to our interfaith relations.

Jewish leaders have long known that Presbyterians and others have held this belief.  These mainline Protestants have annual meetings deciding the creeds to follow for the year and Israel has been in contention.  Jewish outreach programs have been hard hit by ministers who refuse to listen to Jewish leaders who wish to present their side of the problems to them but gladly will listen to the Arab sides.  Evidently the problem is now out of hand.  Christian leaders have taken "a step too far" with this indication of "the vicious anti-Zionism that has gone virtually unchecked in several of these denominations."

Rabbi Steven Wernick, Conservative Jewish leader asked, "Where's the letter to Congress about Syria, which is massacring its own people?  When Israel is the only one that is called to account, that's when it becomes problematic."  Jewish leaders said that such an approach to single out Israel amid all the crisis in the world was a "double standard."  The Palestinian Authority (Abbas of Fatah) also receives foreign aid from the US and has also been accused of rights violations, they said.

I'd like to note here that the Palestinians in Gaza have been shelling southern Israel with mortars, rockets and missiles since 2001.  The shelling comes daily into the civilian population.  Schools have to have bomb shelters.  The people have a 15 second warning siren to scramble to presumed safety.  You're at risk if in the bathroom!  Where's the letter about that?  It's okay to attack Israel but not okay when Israel defends itself?  Is that the American religious way?

Israel is so small that 12 Israels could fit into Oregon alone!  Yet the Palestinian Muslims, who already enjoy having  48 Muslim majority countries in the world while the world shivers at our one Jewish one, is now claiming that Judea/Samaria and Gaza are now the state of Palestine and make it the 49th one.  All this is going on while proclaiming their take-over of all of Israel-from 1967 borders to 48.  Their first desire is to take Jerusalem as their capital, of course.  I haven't read of any letter of complaint about the several fatwas put out by Muslim leaders to kill all Jews in the world, either.  We're having a David and Goliath fight on our hands and Israel, like David, has to use its morality which it stands for, but doesn't have to lie down and die, which is what Goliath is after.

I'm proud to say that Congress voted to support Israel and that our government, whoever is at the helm, Democrat or Republican, have both considered Israel as a major friend. Congressmen have visited Israel to get first-hand knowledge, but not the religious leaders behind such a letter.   In fact right now, there is a major practice going on in Israel with American troops. They are having a large scale drill to practice defenses against Iranian ballistic missile attacks.  How many American servicemen have benefited from learning Krav Maga, the Israeli martial arts?  How many have benefited from our Israeli security systems that have been shared with the USA?

To show who they are backing, the Christian leaders involved, mostly from historically mainline Protestant churches, have decided to divest their stock holdings from companies that sell military and security equipment to Israel.  The Jewish leaders responded to this momentous betrayal and are withdrawing from a regularly scheduled Jewish-Christian dialogue meeting that was on for Monday.  "Something is deeply broken, badly broken, " said Ethan Felson of Jewish Council for Public Affairs.  "We're certainly not getting anywhere now."  The Christian letter called for  an investigation into  Israel's activities.  Are they maintaining that only Israel can do wrong?

The religious makeup of the USA is losing its congregants.  The latest news is that it's on the decline.  One study I found showed that Protestants made up 51.3% of our population and Catholics 23.9%.  Jews are at 1.7% along with Mormons who are also 1.7%.  At the time of this Pew assessment, the unaffiliated was at 16.1%.  Out the of Protestant percent comes the different groups with Evangelicals at 26.3% of that 51.3%.

The most recent findings show that in about 1972, 7% of our population had no religion.  By 2007 15% of our population had no religion.  Today 1 out of 5 Americans are either atheists, agnostic or nothing.  Whatever message are the mainline Protestants sending out to the unaffiliated, or do they matter?

Resource: Oregonian newspaper 10/21/12 page A7 "Jewish leaders react angrily as churches challenge Israel aid" by Laurie Goodstein, NY Times

1 comment:

Nadene Goldfoot said...

It pains me to read this information about Protestant churches in America, because I am one of them -- St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Lakewood, Colorado. And I am an ordained minister.
Having just visited Israel a month ago and driven all over the country, I don't understand it and would urge every mainline minister to follow my example. Israel deserves all our support, both political and clerical. If it wasn't for the Israeli people "Palestine" would still be a desert because it is obvious that the Arabs have little interest in helping grow this nation into the best it can be. I say that after driving through much of what is Palestinian Territory. It is pretty bad and reflects little desire to maintain and improve it.
The Rev. George Stapleton