Lutherans Denounce Israel, Just in Time for Christmas – Mark D. Tooley

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.theird.org) and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.


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Led by a Palestinian Lutheran bishop, 16 Palestinians Christians have blasted Israel in a new declaration that the 4.9 million Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)  is obligingly disseminating.

“We…declare that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives the Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God,” asserted the “Kairos Palestine Document.  “It distorts the image of God in the Israeli who has become an occupier just as it distorts this image in the Palestinian living under occupation.”  Not content to criticize the Jews, the manifesto also excoriates Christians who support Israel.  “We declare that any theology, seemingly based on the Bible or on faith or on history, that legitimizes the occupation, is far from Christian teachings, because it calls for violence and holy war in the name of God Almighty, subordinating God to temporary human interests, and distorting the divine image in the human beings living under both political and theological injustice.”

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, from his Chicago office, evidently wasted no time hailing the new appeal, though it simply rehashed traditional Palestinian complaints against Israel, Christian or not.  “The ELCA has received with somber, yet hopeful hearts this authentic word from our brothers and sisters in the Palestinian Christian community,” Hanson rejoiced.  “Their perspective on the current conflict between Israel and the Palestinians warrants our respect and attentiveness.”  Hanson pledged that we “join these leaders in their search for signs of hope and positive responses in the midst of a dire and seemingly intractable situation.”

The Kairos Palestine Document cited a litany of unpleasant “realities” for Palestinians, for which Israel (backed by Christian allies in the U.S.) is evidently exclusively at fault, beginning with the assertion that “the reality is one of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, deprivation of our freedom and all that results from this situation.” The international Religious Left often likes to speak of “kairos” moments as specially historic times when Liberation Theology is ostensibly more relevant than ever.  Deprived of the pleasure of bashing the old Latin right-wing military dictatorships of past decades, or old Apartheid South Africa, Israel remains virtually the only nation, besides the U.S., that the Religious Left still anathematizes with special relish.

Christians barely comprise one percent of Palestinians any more, thanks to low birth rates and mass immigration. But the few remaining Christians are often convenient props for the international Religious Left’s ongoing campaign against Israel.  And many Palestinian Christian representatives, as a besieged minority, have always felt obliged to burnish their nationalist credentials by condemning Israel as loudly as any Muslim Palestinian.  Declarations against Israel like the Kairos document also useful excite attention and support from Western Oldline Protestant elites, who otherwise are uninterested in the plight of Christian minorities struggling to survive within Islam.

This Palestine Kairos manifesto is apparently an outgrowth of the Swiss-based World Council of Churches Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF).  According to the ELCA news service, PIEF is an “advocacy” initiative to “help Palestinian Christians strengthen their presence in the Holy Land and mobilize churches around the world for peace with justice in the Middle East.” In other words, PIEF is enlisting Palestinian Christians to publicly condemn Israel for the benefit of Western, and especially American ears, with hopes of minimizing U.S. support for Israel.

Lutheran bishop Munib Younan of Jerusalem was apparently more than happy to help out with the anti-Israel campaign by helping to organize the Palestine Kairos blast, which is predictably modeled on a similar condemnation by theologians in 1985 of racist South Africa, with which the international Religious Left always compares Israel.   “Our Kairos document is an expression of the aspirations of Palestinian Christians inspired by our common spiritual heritage,” Bishop Younan helpfully explained to the ELCA news service.  Naturally, these aspirations do not include any concerns about Hamas or radical Islam, which apparently is treating Palestinian Christians just find and do not excite any worry at all.

Since radical Islam supposedly poses no threat to Christians, the Palestine Kairos Document describes the true dangers to Palestinian Christians:  Israel’s “separation wall,” which ostensibly turns Palestinian villages into “prisons,” the “daily humiliation” of military checkpoints, “Israeli disregard” for international law, and Israeli “discrimination” against Arabs within Israel itself.   Israeli settlements “ravage” Palestinian land.  And Palestinians prisoners “languish” in Israeli jails for seemingly no reason.  It also complains about Palestinian refugees, who have patiently been “waiting for their right of return, generation after generation.”   Israel’s security measures against Palestinian terror are unneeded, they professed, because “if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance, no fear, no insecurity.”  Of course, what exactly is “occupied?”  Just the West Bank and Gaza, or is all of Israel an unjust “occupation” begging liberation?  The  manifesto revealingly does not explain.  But it provides a hint by describing Israel’s founding as a “Nakba” i.e. “catastrophe” that Palestinians will never forget.

Naturally, these Palestinian Christian spokespersons want “economic sanctions and boycott” against Israel, and “everything produced by the occupation,” despite largely failed attempts by some left-leaning church elites to divest from firms doing business with Israel.  And they pledged that “Christian love invites us to resist” the ”evil” and “sin” that is the Israeli occupation.   “Resistance is a right and a duty for the Christian,” they insisted.  “We do not resist with death but rather through respect of life,” they asserted, evidently pointing to civil disobedience. More mercurially, they added:  “We respect and have a high esteem for all those who have given their life for our nation.”  To whom did they refer? Suicide bombers?  Rock throwing youth?  Hamas militia?

“The roots of ‘terrorism’ are in the human injustice committed and in the evil of the occupation,” the Palestinian Christians inevitably declared, of course forgetting that Palestinian terrorism began well before any Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  Or maybe they did not forget, since they never defined what exactly is “occupied.”  And of course, they want “repentance” by “fundamentalist” Christians primarily in America who have purportedly turned God’s Word into a “weapon with which to slay the oppressed” while offering a “theological cover-up for the injustice we suffer.”

This Palestine Kairos Document not so covertly portrays Israel itself as an illegitimate nation that must be dissolved in favor of a Palestinian alternative.  In such an unlikely eventuality, Christians likely would not be very welcome in a newly “liberated” Palestine.  And the international Religious Left of course would have no interest in the plight of Palestinian Christians struggling to survive under unrestrained Islamic rule.   Brandishing such a proposal is evidently some Lutherans’ way of wishing “merry Christmas” to the land where Christ was born.

  • elizabethwerner

    For those who are offended with Christian Scriptures – you may want to scroll past this post (although, my aim here is not for offending nor proselytizing, but rather for exposing the hypocrisy of all of the so-called self-professing 'Christian' kings who speak and act as that Bishop Mark Hanson does. Let those who follow them, who believe themselves to be Christians….take note:

    If your leader is headed for the pit – so are you} Mat 15:14, Luk 6:39

    Isa 42:9 Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.

    Psa 83:4 They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.

    Isa 41:26 Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous?

    Exd 15:14 The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. {Song of Moses

    The saints 'sing' this song} Rev 15:3

    It is the sound of war by words} Exd 32:17

    Jer 16:14 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;

    Jer 16:15 But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north

    …..for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone IN HIS APPOINTED TIMES} Isa 14:31

    Mat 18:16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

    2nd witness) Joe 3:4 Yea, and what have ye to do with Me, … Palestine?

    3rd witness) Isa 14:31 Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone – IN HIS APPOINTED TIMES.

    1Ti 1:18 This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee – that thou by them – mightest war a good warfare.

    Eph 4:25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour {a Christian Command.

    Are the leaders to the Christian house (there are many) that you belong to 'singing' the Song of Moses? (be your own judges)

    Isa 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to THIS WORD, it is because there is no light in them.

  • robotnik

    ELCA only speaks for ELCA. There are other, REAL Lutherans. ELCA is not
    even an evangelical protestant church anymore, having given up the protestant
    doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone. They are apostate. Your headline
    makes it look as though the whole body of Lutheranism is against Israel.
    They are not.

  • robotnik

    Jimmy Carter (and others) compared Israel to the Apartheid State, South
    Africa. Israel allows Arabs to live and work in Israel.
    How many Jews will the Palestinians allow to live and work
    in the areas they control? I'll bet none.
    Now: who are the real bad guys? You decide.
    May Jimmy Carter take his apology to Israel and stuff it.
    I'm sorry I voted for the bastard.

  • Lee

    Wow. All of these “Christ following”, “Bible believing” and “true Lutherans” sure seem to be living up to their ideals based upon the content of these posts. I know that the passions of controversial issues and differing interpretations of Scripture can be heated, and I assume that is the reason for the tone of these comments, but I must say that most of these posts do nothing to reflect belief in the Bible, faith in Christ or the principles of the Reformation. Do all of you “true Lutherans” remember Luther's commentary in the Small Catechism concerning the commandment to not bear false witness? Do you remember the part that says we are to love our neighbor, do good to him and defend his actions and motivations by viewing them in the best possible light? .

  • TexasLutheran

    Christians, all of them, not only Lutherans, are called to live in the tension between law and grace. Luther said that the church resembles a drunken man riding a donkey, always in danger of falling off on one side or the other. Over time the pendulum swings from “missing the mark” (sin) in one direction or another.
    One must continually examine one's own life in light of scripture, so much more (eternally) important than judging others!
    It is so unfortunate that our immigrant forbears allowed the label “Lutheran” to be attached to their churches. Martin would be horrified!
    His intent was merely to correct the direction the church had wandered away from true faith. Our national council needs correction. Most congregations are not in agreement with the policies that are being forced from the top down.
    I am beginning to wonder if our reputation can ever be repaired.
    I agree that Christian faith is not defined denominationally. But the Lutherans were the first to understand “sola scriptura, sola gracia, sola fide” We have a strong heritage of the priesthood of all believers. No pastor or bishop carries great authority over any other believer. We must correct the missteps of those who would mislead the faithful.
    We are not to judge others' motivations, it is true, but people are accountable for their visible actions, and the fruit of them.

  • hanekhw

    The ELCA really should change their name. They really aren't acting what their name implies…..

    Main Entry: 1evan·gel·i·cal
    Pronunciation: ˌē-ˌvan-ˈje-li-kəl, ˌe-vən-
    Variant(s): also evan·gel·ic -ik
    Function: adjective
    Date: 1531

    1 : of, relating to, or being in agreement with the Christian gospel especially as it is presented in the four Gospels
    2 : protestant
    3 : emphasizing salvation by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ through personal conversion, the authority of Scripture, and the importance of preaching as contrasted with ritual
    4 a capitalized : of or relating to the Evangelical Church in Germany b often capitalized : of, adhering to, or marked by fundamentalism : fundamentalist c often capitalized : low church
    5 : marked by militant or crusading zeal :

  • John

    Just more revisionist history. No one is occupying anything that doesn't deserved to be occupied. The lands that Israel currently “occupies” was won during hard fighting after the last invasion by the Arab nations surrounding her. If they didn't like to be occupied perhaps they shouldn't have started so many wars they were bound to lose – or at the very least they shouldn't have lost them over and over. To the victor go the spoils. That's they way of things! Do you think the Arab nations would be surrendering land they would occupy if they had won? Hell no! So forget these double-standards by the Arabs and their lackeys in Palestine and Europe! They should be grateful Israel hasn't wiped them from the face of the earth altogether! They have the military power to do just that and have restrained themselves remarkably in the face of rocket attacks and terrorist bombings. Israel is not perfect and does not always behave they way they should, but they occupy land fair a square by any historical standard. The so-called Lutherans who promote this rubbish need to remember that Jesus was a Jew – not a Lutheran or a Palestinian, and the Palestinians have had ample opportunities to get a good deal and have squandered each and every one.

  • emettsedaka

    surprise surprise???
    the spiritual covering for the PROTESTING LUTHERIAN CHURCH
    was (and obviously still is) a rabid anti-SHEM-itic supposed Christian named
    martin luther. his beginnings, pro Jewish, turned wicked and sour
    after his failed attempts to convert the (partially blinded) Jewish people
    without the power of the Ruach Kodesh.
    What else is new????

  • TexasLutheran

    I don't speak for the ELCA, but there are many Christian members of Lutheran congregations world-wide who would never claim the mere mortal, Martin Luther, as their spiritual covering. All true Christians understand Christ alone as our only hope of salvation, through grace, by faith.

    And yes, he did become embittered by his failure to convert the Jews to faith in Christ. He was a vehement man, and his vehemence in defending the secrets of salvation hidden from people he cared about led him to do many things considered outrageous in his time. Those so enlightened by his writings and preaching also did many things he was dismayed to see.

    But the truth is that many generations have benefitted from his defense of the truth he found in scripture, hidden from the common people by the church of his time. The Holy Spirit has used Luther's life and life's work in a mighty way throughout the world. Lutherans do not doubt the work of the Holy Spirit in individual lives, nor throughout history.

    History will unspool itself as God decrees. The time will be ripe when the Jews know their Messiah.

  • Hans

    All of you are too young to have followed the whole mess of what is happening there.

    The Jewish people should never have been plopped down on a poor rural people.

    God according to the Bible made the Jewish people the Chosen people. Chosen by God to be a blessing to all they came encountered. By being who they are they were born to care for others before themselves.

    . Unfortunately the Chosen people thought that meant they were supposed to get everything they wanted.

  • Abron

    As a Lutheran (ELCA), I am not that surprised regarding Bishop Younan. Maybe he and Mark Hanson need a refresher course on radical Islam’s hatred toward Christians, like the Muslim Brotherhood’s killing of Christians in Egypt or a Christian woman in Pakistan getting the death penalty for drinking water from a Muslim well. The list goes on and on. Jews are not the only ones who are targeted by these IslamoNazis, and Hanson, Younan, and every Lutheran better realize that now!