If the Iranian state media and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke salute your church’s work, your church is doing something wrong. The Presbyterian Church (USA) has published a new pamphlet that makes the case against Zionism and therefore, the premise behind Israel’s existence.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has formidable influence. Its website says it has over 2 million members and 10,000 congregations in the United States. The church’s Israel-Palestine Mission network published the pamphlet, titled Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide. It says:
“It examines the role of Jewish and Christian forms of Zionism in providing theological and ideological ‘cover’ for the takeover of Palestinian land, and the domination and dispossession of the Palestinian people during the past one and a quarter centuries.”
It also criticizes its own church for having a hymn book with a section titled, “God’s Covenant with Israel.”
“Yes, the Bible tells us of God’s activity in covenanting with Israel, but it was ancient Israel, not the modern political state,” page 66 of the study guide says.
David Duke wrote on his blog that the literature is a “major breakthrough” and took credit for coining the term “Jewish Supremacism” to define Zionism.
The Iranian state Press TV gloats that it “describes Zionism as the single reason behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and “argues that most Jews reject Zionism and choose to live outside the Israeli-occupied Palestinian lands, depicting Jewish life inside the Islamic Republic of Iran as ‘alive and well.’”
Indeed, that is a direct quote from page 41 of the pamphlet. It also states that Jews in the Middle East have a “history of largely harmonious integration in their host countries” but Israel is to blame for their current persecution.
“Sadly, this model of coexistence was destabilized by the regional penetration of Zionism beginning in the late 19th century,” the pamphlet teaches.
The study guide is also a call to action. Page 58 endorses another publication, Kairos Palestine and its preaching that Christians are obligated to stand up to Israel. It reads:
“It is a call to use all nonviolent means available to stop the injustice and oppression perpetrated under the mantle of Zionism by the government of Israel against the Palestinian people. It is a call to do everything we can to end Israel’s occupation of Palestine and implement the requirement of international law so that the God-given human dignity can be restored to the Palestinian people, and justice will be done.”
An example of the activism the Church encourages is divestment from Israel. On February 9, its Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment recommended divestment from Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar and Motorola Solutions for their business with the Israeli military. Last year, its General Assembly
Thankfully, Presbyterian Church (USA) does not represent all Presbyterians. Some are offended by the biased document. For example, the president of Auburn Theological Seminary, Rev. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, said the pamphlet “purports to be about love but it actually expresses demonization, distortion and imbalance.”
The Church is reacting to the controversy with carefully-worded deception.
A February 13 statement describes the Israel-Palestine Mission Network as an “independent group,” even though the Church admits it created it in 2004. It also clarifies, “The IPMN booklet was neither paid for nor published by the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
The Israel-Palestine Mission Network technically funded and printed the document, but it is still a branch of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The Church is hoping that we confuse its division of labor for independence. If you go to the Israel-Palestine Mission Network website, the header explicitly states that it is “of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.”
Ethan Felson, Vice President of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, debunks the Church’s excuse by noting that the Israel-Palestine Mission Network isn’t even registered separately and its donations go through the Church.
“They charter IPMN, they speak to IPMN, they speak at the IPMN annual conference, they recommend people get involved in IPMN, they take contributions to IPMN and when they’re challenged, then they say it does not speak for the church,” Felson said.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) apparently believes slandering Israel is necessary for productive Christian-Muslim relations. A look at its interfaith allies shows where this perspective is emanating from.
It came to the defense of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and Huma Abedin when five members of Congress brought attention to their records and Islamist links. The Church is also a member of the ISNA-allied Shoulder-to-Shoulder interfaith coalition.
Last year, when the Presbyterian Church (USA) began updating its study on Christian-Muslim relations, it had Islamist advisors. The Presbyterian Mission Agency, an agency of the Church, has "interfaith links of interest" on its website that includes ISNA, MPAC, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Islamic Circle of North America.
The Church also published a book warning Christians about the “rise of Islamophobia,” reinforcing the narrative of the Islamists who use the term to slander their opponents. The book also gave favorable coverage to the radical Imam Zaid Shakir and the school he founded, Zaytuna College.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 tells Christians to “keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” The Presbyterian Church (USA) needs to think of that scripture as it reads about its Islamist allies and the glee of Iran and David Duke.
The Institute on Religion and Democracy contributed to this article.
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