Christianity gone haywire, and going down
Tom Holland the historian reckons we’re witnessing the total extinction of Christendom in the Middle East. And Christian leaders’ attitudes and actions in the Holy Land are far from standing in the way
Christian people are not like Muslims. They have no tradition of putting themselves out for co-religionists. Under attack they’ll remember to pray for them, perhaps; but picket embassies, occupy piazzas, marshal the media into battle, take the UN by storm – never.
Christendom right now is in dire straits. What would Paul the Apostle have done with some 100 million followers under existential threat? Has there been a time like the present when every hour another Christian is martyred?
The way the church was afflicted under the Romans pales by comparison. Even under Muslims in mediaeval times the burning and slaying and pillaging to near extinction is dwarfed by the scale of what’s happening now.
Tom Holland the historian reckons we’re witnessing the total extinction of Christendom in the Middle East. He might also have warned about the subcontinent, after Pakistan’s worst-ever attack blasted 85 church-goers to kingdom come.
What have Christians done about it? Pakistan did erupt in country-wide protests; but elsewhere their hallmark behaviour has been passivity. “Everyone is ignoring the growing danger to Christians in Muslim countries,” bewailed Mano Rumalshah, the Bishop of Peshawar. “European countries don’t give a damn about us.”
Not quite. The Archbishop of Canterbury gives a damn. Though his words may have brought cold comfort to the bereaved and afflicted, they will at least take us where we need to go. So here’s what Justin Welby, head of the Church of England had to say after seeing the “mass graves” of latter day martyrs.
“I have no illusions about this. But historically the right response of Christians to persecution and attack is – it’s the hardest thing we can ever say to people, but Jesus tells us to love our enemies. It’s the hardest thing when you’re violently attacked. It’s an indescribable challenge. But G-d gives grace so often for that – to love our enemies.”
Hold onto Welby the consoler of Christians drowning in blood while we revert to people of another faith. When last did a Jew kill a person for being a Christian? When last in the Holy Land did Jews burn down a church? When last was a Christian converted to Judaism under pain of death?
Yet churchmen aim their missiles where?
The Rev David Kim, head of the World Evangelical Alliance, takes aim at the “impossible people”. ”How to Deal with the Impossible People – A Biblical Perspective”, was the title of his paper at a conference in Bethlehem. Ha! Muslims rooting up two thousand years of Christianity, you’d be given to think. Think again.
A banner in the hall made his reference as clear as daylight. It had a church and a cross imposed over a menacing-looking part of Israel’s anti-terror barrier. Kim’s paper was about how to deal with Jews. And that is odd because, in one unbelievably thin strip of land in a vast Christian graveyard, Christianity has prospered and burgeoned.
In 1949, Israel had 34 000 citizens of that faith. Today the number is 168 000. In this awkward Christian haven, freedom to practise religion is guaranteed, along with access to holy sites. And what draws more visitors to Israel than Holy Land tourism? Tiberius and Nazareth and Jerusalem practically live off pilgrim excursionism. Under the “impossible people” Christianity is alive and well.
Oh men of the cloth; with all that G-d-endowed grace for loving your murderous enemy, have you no leftovers of love for your friend? Is it all spent on your Muslim persecutors? Only heed your imperilled flock in “Palestine” and reroute some love to your benefactor, Israel.
Will the church heed its flock in Palestine? Out of Gaza and Ramallah come leaks and whispers, hole-in-the wall fear-ridden testimonies, tearful stories told behind locked doors. Who knows the totality of fear, cruelty, confiscation, assault, homicide perpetrated on reclusive Christian pockets?
Who cares to know? When did the media run a story on the torments of Gaza’s few remaining Christian souls, or on Bethlehem’s decimated long-time majority of Christian Arabs? When will men of the cloth sound the alarm?
With all his abundant love for the persecutors of his faith, Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu has nothing left to give the “impossible people” but hatred. Indeed Tutu finds them more than impossible. “The Jews think they have a monopoly of G-d. Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings.” Like Welby’s, here’s another statement to hold onto.
Meanwhile people on whom Tutu showers love, the inhabitants of Gaza, have made half the Christian population flee. Decorations for Christmas are banned and public crucifixes forbidden. And the rulers have broadcast calls for Muslims to slaughter their Christian neighbours. Rami Ayad was one of the victims. Owner of the only Christian bookstore in Gaza, he was murdered and his shop reduced to ash.
“We pray for all those Palestinians whose homes have been demolished and those who have been driven away. For Palestinians who suffer because of the separation wall and settlements and for those who have lost their jobs and suffer from poverty, hunger and thirst, we pray to you, O G-d.”
Here’s a psalm to bring that loving spirit enjoined by Welby into the hearts of the flock. The words are part of a liturgy composed by the World Council of Churches. The authors were Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran and Catholic, and they were helped by the “World Day of Prayer Committee in Palestine”, headed by a body named Kairos. It’s the body that lobbied church leaders to declare the Jews a “sinful” people for their occupation.
They all gathered in Bethlehem, Christianity’s cradle, not to defend the faith but to promote another Muslim state that would lose no time uprooting it. Defend Christians or attack Jews: for Bethlehem conference-goers it was a no-brainer.
Can men of the cloth, even pooling their faith, justify the perversity? Can they square the circle of exerting themselves to attack Jews while having no time for Christendom exploding on their doorstep? Yes they can, by leaning back to a St Augustine doctrine and forward to a modern pair.
Put together, the two modern doctrines do not measure up to St Augustine’s one, so why not get them out the way promptly. Actually they’re more blind faith than doctrine, which is not to say that the doctrines are treated less reverently than the Gospels themselves. One is called “Human Rights” and the other goes under the name “Multiculturism”.
We find the human rights doctrine enshrined in the so-called Kairos Document. The doctrine relies on the bible to make the political views and world vision of the authors sacred. Their approach, if not their intention, converts Christianity into a very human ideology. For example, at the “Christ at the Checkpoint Conference” in Bethlehem, the “priesthood” of human rights deliberated on what Jesus would do and say if he walked through an Israeli checkpoint on a daily basis.
Delegates wanted to know how the Son of G-d would deal with the same feelings of anger and bitterness daily experienced by Palestinian people. So said Munther Isaac, Academic Dean at Bethlehem Bible College. Hence that liturgy and how it resonates with the idea of G-d the human rights activist: “We pray for all those Palestinians…”
A flyer for that conference coloured human rights with even bolder biblical hues. “It seems that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians around him… The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily”.
Thus Naim Ateek, an Arab cleric, weaves the Gospel narrative into pro-Palestinian ideology.
Desmond Tutu, appealing to the United Methodists to punish Israel, is also a busy weaver. “The harsh reality endured by millions of Palestinians requires people and organisations of conscience to divest from companies… profiting from the occupation and subjugation of Palestinians.”
Apparently, then, employing time and energy on Palestinian Arabs is another way to get to heaven. Grace will come if a Christian can only learn to love his enemy and hate his friend.
What of multiculturalism? Is it a more credible-seeming doctrine for a good Christian believer? Going into it we find it is not far removed from the first doctrine of Arab rights and Jewish wrongs. And it seems easier for people to keep. All you have to do is pay homage to the “I-word” – Islamophobia. Parody Islam, point a finger at the barbaric behaviour of Islamists, speak out against how they treat their women, and you’re Islamophobic. Your fate as a “bigot” is sealed.
The doctrine, though strict but easy to follow, is not very consistent. Towards people of another faith the rules are ultra lax. If Muslims are off limits and sacrosanct, you’re allowed to say what you like about Jews, provided you call them Israelis or, better yet, Zionists. And you can write a made-to-order record of that people, replete with blood libels, ethnic cleansing, apartheid and all manner of crimes a Jew can inflict upon humanity. Say about Zionists or Israelis whatever you like, only avoid the fatal “J-trap”.
So much for new Christian doctrines which will bring G-d’s grace to those who love their enemy and hate their friend. A very old doctrine is a far more serious candidate. For all we know it may even be true.
Augustine in the 4th century made the exile of the Jews a matter of theological proof. Long after him, Pope Pious X, giving an audience to Theodor Herzl in 1904, reiterated Augustine: “The Jews, who should have been the first to acknowledge Jesus Christ, have not done so to this day. And so if you come to Palestine and settle your people there, we will be ready with churches and priests to baptise all of you.”
A Jesuit journal at the time explained that the Jewish people “must always live dispersed and vagrant among the other nations so that they may render witness to Christ by their very existence”. So, the Vatican’s refusal to recognise the new state of Israel in 1948 was not a matter of pro-Arab bias, but a matter of dogma.
The likes of the World Council of Churches, the Presbyterians of America, the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, and many Christian leaders and icons, think in St Augustine’s terms. Get the hell out of Palestine, they yell inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) at Israelis. You rejected the G-d Messiah. The Church took your place as G-d’s Chosen. Return to being the witness wanderers HE meant you to be.
In parallel, Israel’s rise from Holocaust ashes equally troubles secular anti-Zionists. For them the problem is not religious but perceptual. Anti-Zionists just cannot come to terms with the military Jew. Since when was that people meant to be stronger than its persecutors?
The stereotype of the Jew of old – that bearded bookish stateless wanderer – could never have evolved into a mean machine. What a vinegary mind anti-Zionists turn on it, what sourball gaze at the juggernaut Jew. Get the hell out! Go back to your natural born fate!
With biblical fire Desmond Tutu, Stephen Sizer and co, look to punish the unchosen people. “Your destiny was never to make the desert bloom, to build a Tel Aviv of Manhattan skyscrapers, to win Nobel Prizes by the wheelbarrow full, to boast a bustling hi-tech economy with a currency stronger than Europe’s.”
The pores of Israel-hating Christians leak not envy but error – the faith-losing error of dogma. Hence the driver of Christian angst and bluster towards friendly Israel: the spoilage of the plot, the shattering of the icon.
Below are ‘Christ at the checkpoint’ speakers:
Ron Sider: Biblical Justice
Ron Sider speaks on “Biblical Justice” at the Christ at the Checkpoint 2012
Sang Bok David Kim: How to Deal with Impossible People – A Biblical Perspective
Keeping Jews Jewish “is offensive in a wider American context”… Really?
JDate’s mission of making ‘JBabies’ might provoke outrage, ‘Atlantic’ writer allows
A piece by Emma Green at the Atlantic on the intermarriage crisis inside the Jewish community suggests that the whole purpose of Birthright is evidently to create Jewish couples.
Those who actually went on Birthright were 45 percent more likely [than the young people who were waitlisted for the program] to marry someone Jewish. This “is some kind of reflection of the experience in Israel, although there is no preaching during the ten days,” said Gidi Mark, the International CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel.
In relating the comments of Jews who deplore intermarriage, Green says that the language is offensive in a wider American context:
“Would you ever marry a non-Jew?” Sharon asked [a group of friends in D.C.] from the backseat. Answers varied; one person said she wasn’t sure, while another said she might consider marrying someone who was willing to convert. Debates about intermarriage, or marriage outside of the faith, are common in the Jewish community, but her question still struck me as remarkable. Here were four twentysomething women who hardly knew each other, already talking about the eventuality of marriage and apparently radical possibility that we would ever commit our lives to someone unlike us. This conversation seemed very “un-Millennial”–as a whole, our generation is marrying later, becoming more secular, and embracing different cultures more than any of our predecessors. If the same question had been asked about any other aspect of our shared identities–being white, being educated, coming from middle or upper-middle class backgrounds—it would have seemed impolite, if not offensive.
And here’s Green’s reporting on JDate, which she also suggests is offensive.
JDate sees itself as more than a dating service. “The mission is to strengthen the Jewish community and ensure that Jewish traditions are sustained for generations to come,” said Greg Liberman, the CEO. “The way that we do that is by making more Jews.”
Indeed, pictures of so-called “JBabies” featured prominently in promotional materials sent over by the JDate team. In JDate’s view, these new Jews will be the future of the people, but they’re also good for business. “If we’re at this long enough, if Jews who marry other Jews create Jewish kids, then creating more Jews ultimately repopulates our ecosystem over time,” said Liberman.
The “JBabies” that have resulted from marriages started on the Jewish dating service, JDate. (JDate advertising materials)
It’s hard to imagine this kind of language being used in other communities without provoking outrage, particularly if it was used in a racial context. But perhaps because they are so assimilated or because of their long history of persecution, Jews are given a collective pass in American culture—this casual reference to racial preservation seems almost wry and ironic
It appears that Spark Networks, which owns JDate, also runs Christian Mingle, Catholic Mingle, and services aimed at getting black people to date black people, Latinos to date Latinos, and LDS to stick to LDS dates. Sparks has Jewish leadership. And this is regarded as a worthy Jewish enterprise, to keep folks marrying other folks like themselves? This is a story for the Forward. I don’t think that Jews can be given a collective pass on language of a racist character, notwithstanding persecution. And assimilation/empowerment only increases the obligation to represent a broad society.
Who is a Jew?
By Shlomo Phillips
Our Roots and Our Branches
There are two essential ways to determine who is Jewish and who is not.
First, understand that Judaism is not a belief system. A person can believe everything Jews believe and still not be Jewish. A Jew can believe nothing Jews believe and still be Jewish. Beliefs are neither of these two identifiers. This is important to understand. While there are certain beliefs religious Jews tend to agree on, Judaism is incredibly diverse.
So, Who Is A Jew?
One is a Jew if:
- One is born of a Jewish mother.
- One formally converts through a Jewish beit din (religious court).
So, if ones birth mother is not Jewish and one has not formally converted through a recognized Jewish beit din, then one is not Jewish no matter what one believes or does.
One can not simply decide to be Jewish anymore than one can decide to be a Canadian or American citizen and be accepted as a citizen of Canada or the U.S. There are rules, requirements and judgements to be met if one wishes to be part of the Jewish Covenant.
So far everything is clear, no? But in Judaism things are never so simple!
As for point one, if your mother is Jewish you have been born into the Covenant. Jewishness is not dependant on anything else. Beliefs, level of observance, etc. are irrelevant in terms of ones being a Jew if ones mother is Jewish: Such a person is born Jewish. BUT is ones mother really Jewish? This is where it can get complicated. Because the Orthodox rabbinate is now challenging and rejecting so many conversions and other rabbinic rulings it is now possible for ones Jewishness to be challenged!
A directly related question to this is point two, did one really convert to Judaism? There are people who went through the process and have lived as Jews for many years who are now not being accepted as Jews by the Rabbinate!
Who has the authority to decide the terms of gerut (conversion)? There are two important streams to consider in this regard. These are the topic of this study:
- Our Roots: What is Judaism? What are the origins of Judaism? What is the Covenant of Judaism?
- Our Branches: Who has the authority to determine who is and who is not Jewish and to rule over our people?
For the first point, we need to understand the essential history of the Jewish Covenant with God. Without this Judaism is simply another ‘ism’, another human created religion. It may be meaningful to the individual who practices it but be lacking in its claimed divine authority. By what authority do Jews proclaim our right to exist as a distinct people with a national homeland, language and religion? In other words, by what authority do we legislate such matters as Jewish identity?For this, see my study:
Our Roots.For the second point, we need to understand who is authorized to rule on matters of Jewish Law and practice. Over the past 100 years or so Judaism has fragmented into rival movements or denominations. Which of these wields Jewish authority and has the right to judge and establish halacha (Jewish law)? To understand this we need to examine the Jewish movements and their claims.
For this, see his study:
As always, he invites you to Contact him with questions or thoughts.
Let’s Discuss This on the AllFaith.com Blog
By Shlomo Phillips © 12.29.2010 (last updated 08.20.2013)
Who’s a Jew: (used with permission from allfaith.com) http://allfaith.com/being/whois.html