Thursday, July 24, 2014

From Climate change to Palestine


Summer Israel-Palestine reading series

Time at the office sandwiched between two events. An early morning clergy  breakfast at the Ethical Culture Society to plan a September 21st People’s Climate March. The goal is to equal the million 1982 march against nuclear proliferation (planned at West-Park) that drew over a million people to the city. Rabbi Michael of the Labor-Religion Coalition invited me and it’s one of the most diverse groups of clergy I’ve seen in awhile. Our speakers include Black Pentecostal, Buddhist and of course, Judson Memorial. We are reminded that climate change has its greatest impact on the vulnerable poor and communities of color. Think asthma in Harlem and the South Bronx. Katrina and Sandy. I’m impressed by the level of organization already. I feel like I/we can commit to this action. There is criticism of having a major national march on  a Sunday morning, or on anyone’s Sabbath. Or on the day of the annual African-American heritage parade. And almost boos when it is said that the NYPD would not grant a permit for a march that would interfere with Broadway matinees. It is said that sometimes we need to be prepared to, as Heschel said in reference to Selma,  worship and pray with our feet . I think of what Russ said about maybe some Sunday mornings, that marching is our worship and begin to think about how to make that happen.

To read more about it, go to

I have just enough time to run down to Chelsea and retrieve my laptop from Tekserve before heading to Advent for another in our summer series of readings from Israel-Palestine. Tonight’s book, Faith in the face of Empire: Reading the Bible through Palestinian Eyes by Mitri  Raheb. I remember a visit with Pastor Raheb several months ago at pastor Heidi’s church. It’s interesting to compare his book to Naim Ateek’s. Both are done with the current discourse on empire. Mitri sees today’s Palestinian Christians as the direct descendants of historic Biblical Israel and makes his case. Whereas Naim focuses mainly on right wing Christian Zionists, Pastor Raheb takes on liberals as well. Pastor Heidi sees the book sometimes coming dangerously close to supersessionism or replacement theology, the idea that Christians have replaced Jews in God’s salvation story.

She does see that this can be a corrective to the traditional evangelical narrative that the Jews must possess the holy land in order for Jesus to come back again.  She has recently discovered her own Jewish family background and has been exploring that reality theologically. She also fears that the book’s argument denies any connection to the land whatsoever.

I make the following points:
* Any statement has to be looked a from the perspective of who has the power to do what to whom when. The same words/analysis has a very different meaning when  spoken by a European or American Christian in a situation when Jews are in a vulnerable minority than when made by a Palestinian Christian under Israeli occupation. How can they not see themselves in the role of Christ and the Israelis in the role of Rome?
* American Christians have little theology of land. It was in Central America I learned the expression, la tierra es la vida: the land is life. We cannot deny the mythic role of Israel over millenia on Jewish self-identity. Each year, Passover ends with the words, next year in Jerusalem.
* Wink, Brueggeman and others have wrestled with a theology of land. It has been said that the Jewish people needed land in order to reenter history, it takes land to be incarnated.
* BUT, living on, in, the land does not necessarily have  equate to sovereignty in a modern political nation state.And ultimately the idea of a Jewish democratic state is an inherent contradiction. It can be one or the other, not both.

It is extremely difficult to have this discussion in the context of the ongoing daily terror and trauma of the siege on Gaza.


No comments:

Post a Comment