Methodist Conference on anti-Semitism

by Richard on June 28, 2011

The always splendid John Cooper reminds us that the forthcoming Methodist Conference will be asked to re-affirm it’s long-standing opposition to anti-Semitism.

{ 89 comments… read them below or add one }

1

PamBG 06.28.11 at 11:07 am

Of course, one can always maintain the argument that Conference didn’t really mean it.

2

Robert 06.28.11 at 11:09 am

I hope they come up with a reasonable definition in the process! Antisemitism is surely prejudice against Jews as Jews. Trouble is, people constantly try to stretch it to include political opposition to Israeli policies.

3

Kim 06.28.11 at 11:41 am

No fear: Conference has its own self-appointed inverted J. Edgar Hoover to flush out the many Methodist anti-Jews in the pews.

4

Joseph W 06.28.11 at 5:13 pm

Will the Conference agree with this equation?

Some - by no means all - expressions of anti-Zionism are anti-Semitic.

5

Richard 06.28.11 at 5:38 pm

It might, if that question were to be put. But it isn’t. What is clear — or should be — is that the Methodist Church has opposed anti-Semitism in the past, it opposes it now, and (I have no doubt) it will oppose it in the future. Despite what some would have you believe.

6

Kim 06.28.11 at 5:46 pm

One of the things the Conference should surely do first is to define its terms. “Zionism” might be a good place to start. It is not univocal, it has semantic range, as is evident from any number of adjectives that one will find attached to it. Diachronically, too, its meanings have shifted. And it’s a muleta word. It would be good if members of Conference could talk with each other rather than at each other, but at least let them not talk past each other.

7

PamBG 06.28.11 at 5:58 pm

People on this blog, of course, are not Comference. I’d say it depends what you mean by Zionism. And the issues we’d encounter in trying to define that might uncover some of the presuppositions at the heart of the different points of view on the issue.

I, for one, don’t understand or agree with the concept that the government of the secular State of Israel equates on a one-to-one basis with an individual of Jewish heritage. Which seems to be one of the main points of disagreement from last year’s Conference.

I wouldn’t have any problems agreeing with that statement, but I could also agree with the statement that some - but by no means all - pro-Zionist sentiments are antisemitic (e.g. the Christians who want a State of Israel in order to facilitate the second coming of Jesus). So I’m not sure how much that tells us.

8

Joseph W 06.28.11 at 6:41 pm

Well said Kim.

9

Avraham Reiss 06.29.11 at 9:24 pm

@PamBG
“I, for one, don’t understand or agree with the concept that the government of the secular State of Israel equates on a one-to-one basis with an individual of Jewish heritage.”

As a Jew born in England who has realised Zionism by emigrating to Israel, where I have spent most of my life, I have to agree with PamBG.

A simple definition of Zionism would be the belief that the Nation of Israel - i.e. all Jews everywhere - belong in the Land of Israel. Once there, their task is to settle the Land, leaving no waste areas.

And to get back to PamBG’s point: religious (as opposed to secular) Zionism has a fully-developed philosophy, staring with the Old Testament, thru the Talmud (which is the Oral Law given on Mount Sinai together with the Written Law), right down to the philosophical writings of Rabbi A.I. Kook, 1st Chief Rabbi of the Holy Land, who died in 1935.

To simplify all that he wrote (unfortunately, very little was ever translated from Hebrew into English), the Return of the Jewish Nation to the Land of Israel follows a Divine Program which has already been running for over 100 years, which follows the pattern of growth of a child: first the physical side appears, only later does the mental - and spiritual - development begin to manifest itself.

This is what is happening here and now: we are as strong as many nations, stronger than quite a few. We launch our own satellites, have superb technical capabilities, and some even hint at our possessing nuclear weapons for self-defence purposes - the Holocaust will never occur again.

But that is still a long way from the final destination: the spiritual side has yet to reveal itself, so that the entire Nation will once again live in peace and harmony with the G-d of Israel, who will again reveal Himself openly as in the past.

And since that is yet to happen, I could not possibly agree with the concept that the current government of the secular State of Israel equates on a one-to-one basis with an individual of Jewish heritage - that would be selling ourselves too short.

10

Joseph W 06.29.11 at 10:13 pm

Both Christian Zionism and Christian anti-Zionism have their echoes in Judaism.

The theology of many leading Christian Zionist evangelicals is very close to R. Kook’s, in that they see the secular state of Israel as a forerunner of the spiritual redemption of Israel.

There are similarities between the Christian anti-Zionist position, and the theology of the Neturei Karta.

11

fatprophet 06.29.11 at 10:28 pm

I have been following this debate both here and elsewhere and I think I would have to re-iterate something I said many months ago and that is the average Methodist church member in my opinion has little or no interest in the discussions and decisions of the conference.
Most people could not even tell you who the president is at any given time and they almost certainly would not have read any of the 100’s of pages of report that go to conference.
I have tried reading two reports that I had a particular interest in and got six pages in to one and had not worked out in any sense what it was actually trying to say. It seemed to me there were lots of words and very little substance.
I believe that the reality as those who know anything about grass roots Methodism should know is that people will have their own views and thoughts on issues and will not generally be swayed by what the official line is.
I suspect this is an issue that will continue to rumble on in certain places but will not get massive support or interest.

12

Richard 06.29.11 at 11:33 pm

You’re right, of course, that few “rank-and-file” Methodists take much notice of Conference. Whether that’s a good thing or not is maybe a question for another time.

But the accusations of anti-Semitism are getting increasingly strident and it is very disturbing that this is coming from within the church itself.

13

PamBG 06.29.11 at 11:46 pm

And since that is yet to happen, I could not possibly agree with the concept that the current government of the secular State of Israel equates on a one-to-one basis with an individual of Jewish heritage - that would be selling ourselves too short.

As I understand Methodist Preacher’s accusation of Antisemitism in last year’s Conference, one of his pieces of evidence is the statement that today’s Secular State of Israel is not the same as the People Israel of the bible - which I see as your wider vision from which you do not want to be sold short. So I wonder what it is we’re disagreeing about, since I seem to have spent the last year or so offending you. As I understand it, MP is in part accusing many of us of Antisemitism for NOT making this one-to-one correspondence and holding the view that the secular State of Israel may be held to God’s standards of morality and that it is, in fact, sometimes found wanting just like every other secular State or organization under the sun (forever and ever world without end, Amen, even).

14

Joseph W 06.30.11 at 1:16 am

I don’t get why it’s okay for Methodists to launch an inquiry into Zionism within their midst, and express concern about Christian Zionist theology - but then Zionist Methodists can’t express concern back about anti-Zionist Methodist theology?

The first “divisive” move was at last year’s conference, so I can’t see how you can blame David Hallam for it.

15

Avraham Reiss 06.30.11 at 5:30 am

PamBG,
“since I seem to have spent the last year or so offending you.”

You haven’t offended me. Differences of opinion between us are theological, not personal.

16

Richard 06.30.11 at 8:45 am

@Joseph W: You’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick. If David was leading a campaign to challenge the report that was received by the Conference last year, I’d have no problem. I’d want to argue, and that right robustly, but that’s good. Instead what he has done is use his blog to accuse the church and its officers of being involved in some sort of racist campaign against Jews. In the past he has frequently complained of “personal abuse” whenever anyone has challenged him, but that hasn’t prevented him from heaping abuse on others. It isn’t just the issue of Israel. This is just the largest and most frequent stick with which he beats the church. He presents himself as some sort of hero, battling almost single-handed against evil forces but if he was serious he’d do more than shout insults from the sidelines. There are several memorials going to Conference this year about Israel. How come one of them isn’t from his Circuit? Just to put the ‘tin hat’ on it, you might recall that in October last year he made a very public announcement of an “imminent” lawsuit to be brought against the church for discrimination. It’s the end of June now. There’s been no sign of it — he deflects any questions. I know that the law works slowly but I’d like to think that if I intended to sue someone I’d be ready with my writ before I went anywhere near a journalist. As it is it looks like it was merely a publicity stunt, and that stinks.

17

Kim 06.30.11 at 9:19 am

For the record, on “Christian Zionism” in the USA (from Wikipedia):

The General Assembly of the National Council of Churches [the NCC's member faith groups — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches — include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation, so it's the US equivalent of CTBI, the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland] in November 2007 approved a resolution for further study which stated that the “theological stance of Christian Zionism adversely affects:

justice and peace in the Middle East, delaying the day when Israelis and Palestinians can live within secure borders

relationships with Middle Eastern Christians

relationships with Jews, since Jews are seen as mere pawns in an eschatological scheme

relationships with Muslims, since it treats the rights of Muslims as subordinate to the rights of Jews

interfaith dialogue, since it views the world in starkly dichotomous terms.”

The Reformed Church in America at its 2004 General Synod found “the ideology of Christian Zionism and the extreme form of dispensationalism that undergirds it to be a distortion of the biblical message noting the impediment it represents to achieving a just peace in Israel/Palestine.” The Mennonite Church published an article that referenced what is called the ongoing illegal seizure of additional Palestinian lands by Israeli militants, noting that in some churches under the influence of Christian Zionism the “congregations ‘adopt’ illegal Israeli settlements, sending funds to bolster the defense of these armed colonies.” As of September 2007, listed among the Churches in America that have criticized Christian Zionism: the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Church of Christ.

18

Avraham Reiss 06.30.11 at 10:54 am

@PamBG
“As I understand it, MP is in part accusing many of us of Antisemitism for NOT making this one-to-one correspondence and holding the view that the secular State of Israel may be held to God’s standards of morality and that it is, in fact, sometimes found wanting just like every other secular State or organization under the sun (forever and ever world without end, Amen, even).”

I won’t comment on MP, since he is a true friend of Israel, but neither have I found overt anti-Semitism in this Methodist blog (although Kim occasionally pushes the envelope and sometimes skates dangerously near the edge).

I wish to contribute a philosophical viewpoint which sees both sides of the argument.

A Jewish commentary on Genesis says that G-d created the world under the Rule of Judgement, but saw that under this Rule the world would not survive for long, so he tempered this with the Rule of Mercy.

Simply put, Judgement means deciding isues by the bare facts alone - “you either did it or you didn’t” - whereas Mercy takes into
consideration extenuating circumstances, and contains a modicum of Pity.

My observation in life is that often people are guided by one or the other of these two Rules; some people are very demanding, ‘take no prisoners’, exacting the strict letter of the law in their relationships with others. Other people are guided by the Rule of Mercy, always assuming the best about their relatives, friends and colleagues. And people relate back in the same way to these behaviours, so that the Judgement person is also severely judged by others, while the Mercy person is also treated with mercy and understanding.

Personally, I’d go one step further and say that I’ve often noticed that people with sharp, defined facial features often tend to be of the
Judgement type, while round-faced people are more jolly and are of the Mercy type.

And all that brings me to my view on the MP issue on how Israel should be regarded.

The Judgement people stand, book in hand, marking off Israel’s current ‘behaviour’ against the book of rules that is the Bible: actuality against expectations. Under this view, Israel today won’t always come out squeaky white.

The Mercy people know that Israel is on a long, upward road, is still struggling to reach the top of the hill, and they know that this
goal will be achieved. The Bible says so! So they assume now what they know will be their final attitude towards Israel at the end of time, and wish to stand behind Israel and accompany it on its long journey.

Since both traits - Judgement and Mercy - are of Divine origin, neither can be called wrong.

But remember: you are judged by the trait with which you judge others.

19

PamBG 06.30.11 at 11:25 am

But remember: you are judged by the trait with which you judge others.

Good point. I, however, find it frustrating when someone tells bald and blatant untruths about people I personally know (there have been a number of these remarks down through the years although I don’t personally know anyone involved in the Conference report on Israel/Palestine), when that person will not listen to any explanation of why I think they have interpreted my friend incorrectly and when they will not give that person any mercy themselves.

There is also the phenomenon that individuals who have been bullied have a likelihood of turning into bullies. I can certainly have compassion and understanding on the ways that person was hurt but this is no excuse for allowing them to bully others. This is where we often go wrong as a society. We say “Oh, Joe hurt him so I can understand why he’s hurting Bill and I won’t intervene or say it’s wrong”. Or we say “I don’t give a damn that Joe hurt him, all I care about is that he’s hurting Bill”. I’m certainly prepared to be merciful about someone having been bullied, but I’m not prepared to bless lies just because someone has been hurt.

20

Joseph W 06.30.11 at 11:43 am

I do not believe that most Methodists are antisemites.

I welcome the fact that the Methodist Church decries antisemitism.

I believe there is institutional antisemitism within the Methodist Church, which many Methodists are hoping to eliminate.

21

Richard 06.30.11 at 11:46 am

>> “I won’t comment on MP, since he is a true friend of Israel, but neither have I found overt anti-Semitism in this Methodist blog”

I’m grateful for the clarity of that contradiction of a certain blogging preacher. I have to say that friendship of Israel has not been advanced by his campaign of misrepresentation.

The way I see it, divine judgement and mercy are not opposed. It isn’t that the Almighty’s judgement is tempered by mercy, but that his judgement contains — and is contained by — his mercy. I’m not sure how that relates to the politics of Israel, but I’m happy that we seem to be talking to, rather than at one another.

22

Richard 06.30.11 at 11:50 am

@Joseph: I suppose two out of three ain’t bad. There really isn’t any evidence for your third belief, but I’m feeling warm and fuzzy so I shan’t argue. Not just now.

23

Kim 06.30.11 at 1:02 pm

I believe there is institutional antisemitism within the Methodist Church, which many Methodists are hoping to eliminate.

You may be right, Joseph (though the Methodist Chruch here is an ecclesiastical synecdoche). But ethnically, racially, religiously? And along with institutional racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, ageism, and disabilitism. Hey, the Church is an equal opportunities systemic white male straight Christian thirty-to-forty-something abled other-fearer. (And I’m sure I must have missed some group.)

24

Richard 06.30.11 at 1:53 pm

Err, thanks Kim.

I think. ;)

25

PamBG 06.30.11 at 2:52 pm

Generally speaking, I think that insitutional racism, sexism and whateverism tends to happen because of a focus on “the ideal sort” and an ignoring of those who don’t fit the ideal.

I don’t think that British Methodism has any conscious ideal of being “not-Jewish”. If that sounds silly, we do have a very strong consciousness of being “not-Anglican,” in contrast. We do not fantasise about how it is good to be “not Jewish” whereas we do a LOT of fantasising about how it Very Good Indeed to be “not Anglican”.

So are we institutionally racist in the sense that we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Jewish people and their lives and trials and what they might need? Absolutely. I think I’d also argue that we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the needs of Palestinian Christians, either.

Does that mean that there are no individuals in British Methodism who are actively antisemetic? I’d not want to argue that because I think you’ll find antisemites in any organisation.

Is the organisation as a whole we actively promoting antisemetism? If I believed that, I would not be a Methodist minister. Are there a significant number of ministers in British Methodism who spend a good part of their lives actively working for an antisemetic agenda? I don’t believe that either.

If someone wants to point out our unconscious antisemitism, I’d be open to that, but I’m not going to trust anyone who has cried wolf so many times on items that I know are untrue.

26

Richard 06.30.11 at 3:26 pm

>> “If someone wants to point out our unconscious antisemitism, I’d be open to that, but I’m not going to trust anyone who has cried wolf so many times on items that I know are untrue.”

That was the sound of a nail being hit on the head.

27

Joseph W 07.01.11 at 3:20 pm

Look, the problem you have is entryism.

Stephen Leah is from the PSC, which is a movement festering with anti-Semitism. Only this week they have welcomed in hate preacher Raed Salah, who thinks no Jews turned up for work on 9/11. Leah boasts to the pro-Hamas lobby in the UK, that he knows what he can get away with in churches. He wants a full boycott of Israel, but he will work the networks to gain a partial boycott of Israel.

Most Methodists are totally unaware of Leah’s extremist connections, and I doubt Conference really knew what it was signing up too. All of a sudden, people get the idea that British Methodism is anti-Semitic.

It isn’t - but you need to stamp out the entryism and anti-Zionist radicalism to convince people that’s the case.

28

Joseph W 07.01.11 at 9:42 pm

Did my “entryism” comment get through?

29

Richard 07.03.11 at 8:35 am

Joseph, I think you should make your mind up up. “I believe there is institutional antisemitism within the Methodist Church” and “…people get the idea that British Methodism is anti-Semitic. It isn’t - but…” look very much like contradictory statements to me.

30

Joseph W 07.03.11 at 12:20 pm

Richard, I don’t think the institution of the Methodist Church and “British Methodism” are exactly the same.

I think antisemitism has appeared into the Methodist Church via Far Left entryism, causing the problem of institutional antisemitism. But I don’t think British Methodism is antisemitic.

31

PamBG 07.03.11 at 12:43 pm

I think antisemitism has appeared into the Methodist Church via Far Left entryism, causing the problem of institutional antisemitism. But I don’t think British Methodism is antisemitic.

I think I need you to parse that out grammatically because I think we need to understand the language that each other are using here.

When you say The Methodist Church is institutionally antisemitic, what does that mean? To me, it means that the organization has gotten together and is working toward a goal of antisemitism. Say, in the way a consumer goods company might work toward selling more laundry detergent to the 17 - 30 generation. Is that what you mean?

I don’t think the institution of the Methodist Church and “British Methodism” are exactly the same.

And out of curiosity, do you also realise that as institutions qua institutions British Methodism is a separate institution from the United Methodist Church? I ask because some individuals had brought up the UMC in past discussions and it only clouds and confuses the conversation.

For what it’s worth, my personal opinion is that some folk are not so much antisemitic as they are realising that there are innocent people on the other side who are suffering. Those who have a sophisticated understanding of Middle East politics (which I admit that I don’t) might see some of this effort to support Palestinian Christians as having practical consequences that are antisemitic. In which case, pointing out “I know you don’t want to be antisemitic, but here’s how I see it” would be far more productive an approach than creating a scenario of unsophisticated polar opposites, attributing someone’s disagreement with my point of view to hatred, and then repeating a narrative of “You good, me bad”. (Not that I think you’ve done that, but I certainly think some individuals have done.)

32

PamBG 07.03.11 at 12:44 pm

Urgh, I meant the scenario of “Me good, you bad”

33

Joseph W 07.03.11 at 5:52 pm

1) I consider the boycott against Israel - when you combine it with the theology used by Nichola Jones and Stephen Leah to justify this - to be anti-Semitic.

2) This boycott is propped up by the institution of the Methodist Church. Therefore the Methodist Church has a problem with institutional antisemitism.

3) Many local Methodist chapters have voiced concern over the action taken by Conference. So while the Methodist Church has a problem with institutional anti-Semitism, you can’t just say British Methodism is anti-Semitic.

4) If it helps, and you don’t take it the wrong way - the MacPherson report mentioned that the Met Police was “institutionally racist”. It doesn’t mean the same as saying “the police are racist.

34

Joseph W 07.03.11 at 5:53 pm

Is the UMC boycotting Israeli goods too?

35

PamBG 07.03.11 at 8:44 pm

1) I consider the boycott against Israel - when you combine it with the theology used by Nichola Jones and Stephen Leah to justify this - to be anti-Semitic.

OK. My two points would be:

a) For the love of truth, I wish people would stop calling this a boycott of Israel. It’s a boycott of goods from the disputed territories. It really doesn’t help dialogue or understanding to keep repeating the untruth that we’re boycotting the entire secular state of Israel.

b) I don’t understand, from within the presupposition of Methodist Christian theology, how Nichola’s statement was anti-semetic. (I don’t know what Stephen said, so I don’t want to address that statement.) It seems to me that one has to presuppose Supersessionism in order to come to an antisemetic interpretation. And Supersessionism is not only “not Methodist”, but the theological presuppositions needed in order to arrive at Supersessionism would make all of Methodist theology fall apart.

Central to Methodist theology is a concept called “prevenient grace” which, in broad terms, means that there are no peoples who God will refuse to gather to him. The Galatians verse that Nichola quoted comes from that well-trained Rabbi, Paul, disciple Gamaliel who reverse-echos the prayer “I thank God that I was born a Jew and not a Gentile, free and not a slave, male and not a female” by stating that, in Christ, there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. That has NEVER meant that Christians REPLACE the Jews, it means that God wants all people to be gathered into his covenant.

Now, I appreciate that no Jew would agree with this theology. My point is simply that Methodist theology is not, and never can be, about replacement. It’s about both-and, not either-or.

36

Richard 07.03.11 at 9:56 pm

In addition to what Pam said (which I wholeheartedly endorse — though I’d say ‘Occupied Territories’ rather than ‘disputed territories’), I’m not convinced that any definition of “institutional racism” can be applied to the Methodist Church. The MacPherson Report defined it
“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.”
That in no way applies to the church.

37

Kim 07.03.11 at 11:36 pm

#33 gets a Theology FAIL in clarity, that’s for sure.

38

Tony Buglass 07.03.11 at 11:57 pm

“This boycott is propped up by the institution of the Methodist Church. Therefore the Methodist Church has a problem with institutional antisemitism.”

No, it doesn’t. It means the Church has been drawn into a decision for one set of reasons, which has been (wrongly) interpreted by someone else to have been taken for a different set of reasons. It is a very long way from ‘institutional antisemitism.’

The fact is that most Methodists are pro-Israel, partly because we know our OT is the Hebrew Bible, and partly because a lot of Methodists are politically conservative and against terrorism, so will instinctively support Israel against Hamas and their co-conspirators. Most Methodists are also pro-justice, and will therefore instinctively be against Israeli practices which are portrayed by the Press as unjust: the theft of Palestinian land, the building of the Wall in a way which destroys communities, etc. I deliberately leave open the question as to whether the Press portrayal of such matters is accurate, but that’s where most Methodists get their information. “Entryism” and “institutional anti-semitism” may be partial explanations for what lay behind last year’s Conference Report, but they do not in any way explain the position of most Methodists or the Methodist Church.

39

Earl 07.04.11 at 4:37 am

Re: Comment # 33. Fine job of clearly stating the obvious. Very fine job.

40

Richard 07.04.11 at 7:11 am

@Earl - Obvious?

@Tony - I think you’ve conceded too much. Notice that Joseph diagnosed the problem not just as entryism, but ‘far left’ entryism. That’s the sort of nonsense you might expect to hear from a John Hagee, but not from anyone who knows anything about British Methodism.

41

Kim 07.04.11 at 7:11 am

Sorry, Earl. I guess I’m just thick. Apparently, however, I’m not alone in not understanding exactly what constitutes “institutional anti-Semitism”. Or, come to think of it, what constitutes “anti-Semitism” either. Sometimes it simply seems to equate with “being critical of Israeli policy over illegal settlements on the West Bank”. Throw in “supersessionism” and semantic untidiness turns into a mess. For example, one can be a Christian Zionist who is 100% behind Israeli policy on the West Bank and yet believe that unconverted Jews will go to hell, while one can be an ardent opponent of supersessionism and be a fierce critic of Israeli policy on the West Bank. How does anti-Semitism parse with these two views? More, how do the cultural, the ethnic, the racial, and the theological dimensions of Judaism relate to each other - and to this kind of discussion? Unless we get some clarity here, comment threads like this one become a pouring from the empty into the void. So be patient with me and explain #33 to me, stating what is so obvious to you actually is.

42

PamBG 07.04.11 at 4:45 pm

With apologies to Joseph W who, if I am correct, is neither Christian nor Methodist and would therefore not be expected to understand Methodist theology…

The theology displayed in post 33 also displays a total lack of understanding of Methodist theology. And I would personally argue a lack of understanding of New Testament and Pauline theology although, unfortunately, it can’t be denied that other Christians have interpreted both the Gospels and the Pauline and other Epistles in an antisemitic way.

I can understand why those who don’t understand Methodist and Christian theology might interpret what Nicola said in an antisemitic way, but I don’t understand why someone who is supposedly trained in Methodist theology would do so.

As to the “far left” comment, this displays a transferring of American political ideas to the British context where such knee-jerk processes simply don’t apply. In my experience, British Christians simply don’t do the process of “I’m politically left so I must support abortion and God-is-dead theology” or “I’m politically right so I must support laissez-faire capitalism and seven-day 24-hour creationism”.

I think most British Methodists would probably be happy to be called “leftie” by an American. The movement was founded, in part, because the established church of the time stated in their deeds if not in their words that there were some people - the working class - who were permanently outside the grace of God and who God wanted to exclude from his covenant for all eternity.

The ironic thing also is that the one individual who might, just might (I’m not actually certain) be happy to be labelled as “far left” is Methodist Preacher.

43

Joseph W 07.04.11 at 8:42 pm

Pam, I am a Christian.

I am also politically left, but not Far Left.

I strongly oppose the Far Left politically.

Richard, I don’t think John Hagee’s ever uttered the word “entryism”, but I wouldn’t care if he did.

Stephen Leah is an entryist, and he’s pretty clear about that.

He says so himself.

You don’t have to agree with him though, of course.

44

Joseph W 07.04.11 at 8:57 pm

Here’s an example:

1. A BNP-supporting vicar pushes an anti-immigration resolution, calling on all Anglicans to voice concern over mass immigration, which the Synod agrees to adopt as church policy. Another vicar justifies this view because he thinks there is a curse on Ishmael and a curse on Ham, who represent blacks and Muslims in the Bible.

2. The BNP-supporting vicar boasts to his local group - really I’d like to kick out all the Muslims from Britain, but I know what I can get away with in churches. They’re all too worried about what Muslims think anyway.

4. Muslim groups in the UK are outraged when they hear about the background of the BNP linked vicar, and his reasons for pushing this resolution.

3. Many grassroots Anglicans voice concern over how the BNP-supporting vicar gains such a prominent voice in the Church.

4. The vicars protest - of course we’re not anti-Muslim or anti-black. Clergy express their willingness to defend and comfort British Muslims, and they would never want to push all Muslims and blacks out of the UK.

5. The vicars may not be anti-Muslim or anti-black. But why did they allow a vicar with links to the BNP to push this resolution?

6. Given the nature of the resolution, outsiders might conclude that the Church now has a problem with institutional racism. It’s not the same as saying “British Anglicanism is racist”. That would be unfair on most Anglicans who had no say in the matter - in our fictional scenario.

7. If you don’t think the PSC has an equal problem of racism to the BNP, consider this.

45

PamBG 07.04.11 at 9:38 pm

OK, Joseph, now I understand what you mean. I would call that unintentional racism and turning a blind eye rather than institutional racism. And, yes, I totally understand that such a thing can happen. I *would* want to prevent such a thing happening in British Methodism, but frankly I think that the hyperbole has actually helped to obscure the truth rather than to flesh it out. It may very well end up serving antisemitism rather than exposing it.

46

Alan 07.04.11 at 9:41 pm

This is an extremely civilised and interesting discussion. Not what I usually encounter in the blogosphere. A refreshing change!

I’m not getting deeply involved in this discussion - I’m interested in following the theological and political positions, but I’m not sufficiently familiar with the former to participate properly.

In relation to ‘far Left entryism’: I think that’s an apt term. I follow far Left politics closely: which is a kind of theology. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is an organisation which is significantly controlled by two political parties: the Communist League, and Socialist Action.

You can read about this on far Left websites, if you’re interested:

http://www.cpgb.org.uk/article.php?article_id=1002570
http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker2/index.php?action=viewarticle&article_id=1002558

Remember: this isn’t John Hagee talking about the politics of these organisations: these are members of other far Left sects.

Socialist Action is an interesting beast. They are the Trotskyite group which staffed Ken Livingstone’s Mayoral election, and were central to the alliance that Ken Livingstone forged with Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami activists in London. That, in turn, led him to defending the hate preacher, Yusuf Al Qaradawi, who has issued fatwas legitimising suicide attacks against Jewish civilians, and has expressed a hope that he will one day be able to repeat the Holocaust against Jews.

I appreciate you don’t follow this politics - there’s no need for you to do so. I didn’t know anything about Methodist theology and politics until your world and mine collided!

47

Joseph W 07.04.11 at 10:08 pm

Oops I can’t count!

I’ve tidied up my numbering and published latest comment as an article.

48

Joseph W 07.04.11 at 10:24 pm

Thanks Pam for your conciliatory and gracious comment.

49

PamBG 07.04.11 at 11:21 pm

Thanks Pam for your conciliatory and gracious comment.

You’re welcome. Thank you for answering my question. It really helps to understand where you’re coming from.

50

Alan 07.04.11 at 11:28 pm

The other thing I thought I’d mention is this.

Most people, particularly those who aren’t Jewish, who are particularly involved in this issue, are passionately concerned with opposing racism directed against Jews. Many Christians who take this stance, do so because they’ve given significant thought to the theological component to antisemitism, and because they’re very sensitive to its manifestation in both Christian theology and generally, and are called to oppose it. In particular, they tend to be very opposed to Islamist political parties, which deploy their own version of scripturally sanctioned antisemitism, which bears some similarities to the Christian variety. These are people who do not regard their faith as antisemitic, and are effectively acting in defence of it, as well as of Jews.

In that sense, they’re like many Christians who are strong advocates of the Palestinian cause. They’re more switched on to the issues, because they’re very immersed in a culture of debating them.

I appreciate that to those who aren’t so closely involved in these discussions, many of the points are as strange and unfamiliar as those I might raise about far Left political theory. That’s why I’m grateful to people like Joseph, who patiently unpack and explain those perspectives.

There are certainly Christians who have adopted a position on Israel, because of a strange dispensationalist theology. But that really hasn’t been my experience of Christians who are strongly opposed to antisemitism. I’ve found them to be liberals and anti-racists, who absolutely despair at the trajectory of their Church.

Sometimes, they get a little emotional. It helps to get them back to first principles.

51

PamBG 07.04.11 at 11:41 pm

I appreciate you don’t follow this politics - there’s no need for you to do so. I didn’t know anything about Methodist theology and politics until your world and mine collided!

Thank you. Your post is interesting. I have no basis on which to measure or judge what you say but, equally, I have no reason to reject it. I’m quite sure there are individuals who are working for the downfall of the Jewish State.

The problem with internet conversations is that various people enter them without (understandably) reading the background conversations. We now have about 10 months of background conversation here on this blog. In reality, I’m still dealing with the beginning of this conversation and many people have come along in the meantime with their own, different, agendas.

Maybe someone recognised a name on the Working Committee of last year’s resolutions and, recognising him as a notorious ‘entry-ist’, became nervous about the outcome. Then I wish the person would have said so much. I would have entertained that possibility and listened to it. I’m not a knee-jerk antisemitic. As I’ve said before, I work daily as a Chaplain in a team (thus requiring “team-work”) with an Orthodox Rabbi.

Instead, we’ve had a 10-month smear campaign of the Church, a threat published in a national newspaper to bring a suit against the Church that was never carried out, swingeing emotional and hyperbolic accusations against a number of people.

And - probably the worst thing in my mind - we’ve had someone who appears by their moniker to be theologically trained appearing to proclaim to the world that the theology that we all believe to be inclusive of all peoples and genders and races is, indeed, a theology of exclusion and a theology that not only supports antisemitism but that proclaims that God hates the Jewish people. And, frankly, that pisses me off.

52

Alan 07.05.11 at 8:09 am

PamBG

Yes, I can see why it would.

By way of parallel, imagine that a group had been campaigning within the Methodist movement for a ban on ritual slaughter by Muslims and Jews. Many Methodists might support such a campaign, because they were concerned that animals suffered more when killed in this way, than were they stunned first.

Muslims, and particularly Jews, could be expected to react badly to such a campaign. That is because bans on ritual slaughter were introduced by Nazis, as a prelude to a wider assault on Jews. Even now, campaigns about ritual slaughter tend to be associated not just with animal welfarists, but also those who have a problem with Muslims and Jews in their societies.

In the Methodist Church, such a campaign might also be expected to attract those who are generally hostile to Muslims and Jews. Imagine if some of the campaigners turned out to have links to the EDL.

Muslims and Jews might be particularly concerned if, for example, Galatians or Peter’s vision at Acre was invoked to explain why Muslims and Jews were foolish to continue to observe the requirements of their religion. A Muslim or Jew might regard the campaign as both racist and theologically underpinned.

Somebody worried by such a development might react in a frightened and angry manner, and you might not understand why: because as far as you’re concerned, the campaign about animal slaughter is just about behaving properly towards animals.

I hope that this parallel might give you some perspective as to why a boycott aimed at Jews, theologically underpinned, might raise particular concerns.

53

Richard 07.05.11 at 8:42 am

Thanks for your contributions Alan, especially the comment about the civility of the conversation. I always aim at that, though it must be said that we haven’t always succeeded. This is the interweb after all!

As Pam implies, the issue here isn’t a lack of understanding of the sensitivity of this issue. We get it. Neither is anyone suggesting that there is a simple solution to Israel/Palestine nor that the issue is one-sided. (All sides of the conflict bear some responsibility, but the power is is surely with Israel.) But like Pam, I have been angered by the increasingly strident — and continuing — accusations of anti-Semitism which have been made against the church and its officers which have based on no real evidence, but lots of assumption and misrepresentation. The conversation would have been much more fruitful without it. As we’ve seen, it has been possible for worthwhile conversation to emerge from all this, but there’s no point in pretending that it has been a comfortable ride.

54

PamBG 07.05.11 at 11:16 am

By way of parallel, imagine that…

I can imagine that. I’m actually a fairly empathetic person.

Now, what I need is information of the following sort (not necessarily all from you):

(a) Who are the individuals you suspect of being the entry-ists and why? Show me some evidence.
(b) In what way do you believe that they are working through the Methodist system and what do you think their specific agenda is with respect to Israel?
(c) Why do you think my theology is antisemitic when I think it’s inclusive?

I actually have a number of questions of people who disagree with me that have never been answered other than - as an illustration - with an implicit “Everyone knows why your theology is antisemitic”

Factual statements will help me. Statements like (taken from said blogger’s blog post dated 4 July) Contrary to what has been said since, the authors - and the conference which accepted this report - clearly envisaged a witch hunt against those both Zionists in the Jewish Community and those with sympathies to Israel within the British Methodist Connexion. Conference made it clear that it was placing sympathy with Zionism in the category as racism and support for organisations such as the BNP. Are unhelpful in the extreme.

55

Kim 07.05.11 at 12:56 pm

Except, Alan, that we’re not talking animals in the case of Israel/ Palestine, we’re talking people. We’re talking fundamental human rights, violations of UN resolutions and international law, humiliation and suffering caused by settlements, dislocations, walls, blockades, etc. Moreover, those of us here who are critical of Israeli policies and actions against the Palestinian people make our appeal not against the Hebrew scriptures but precisely by deploying them, seen, of course, through the lens of the New Testament, and specifically the life and teaching of Jesus, the Jew from Nazareth. None of us here (as far as I can tell) are supersessionists: we believe the Jewish people are — and always will be — the people, the Israel of God. Finally, we all support the right of the state of Israel to a safe and secure existence, and condemn all violence directed against its people. Indeed, some of us are (Christological) pacifists and are firm and outspoken in our belief that the only way forward for the Palestinian people is the way of non-violent passive resistance and direct action, including initiatives in conflict resolution and campaigns of civil disobedience, supported, crucially, by Israelis themselves who are both critical of their own government and committed to non-violence (cf. Gandhi in India, King in the US, not-quite Tutu in South Africa). Personally, I think women hold the key.

However, where you are absolutely right, Alan, is how a case against the nation-state of Israel is liable to highjacking by actual anti-Jewish bastards who have violence, not love, in their hearts. (Similarly the case against Islamic state violence is liable to highjacking by anti-Muslim elements.) We must certainly be aware of the odious and unscrupulous. What is being called “entryism” no doubt occurs in secular micro- and macro-politics. But though the Church certainly needs to be extremely careful about its pronouncemets on Israel/Palestine — “Could do better” is a phrase that could no doubt be added to most of its documents — I suspect it is sheer McCarthyism to suggest, let alone shout, and in some cases even rant, that entryist anti-Semitism is rife in the Methodist Church, or any mainline Church in the UK.

56

Methodist Preacher 07.05.11 at 5:54 pm

One of two commentators on here allude to a mysterious person who name cannot be uttered by the righteous.

It may be helpful if to read carefully these two blog posts:

http://methodistpreacher.blogspot.com/2011/07/afternoon-at-methodist-conference-2011.html

http://methodistpreacher.blogspot.com/2011/07/wonderful-methodist-fringe-event-at.html

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Richard 07.05.11 at 9:54 pm

>> “One of two commentators on here allude to a mysterious person…”

Hardly, David. You are specifically referred to several times in this thread. But I don’t want to deny you the opportunity for self-publicity, so I’ll leave the links in your comment. Especially as they illustrate perfectly many of the things that have characterised your pursuit of this issue. I especially liked “…for the time being I will pause the preparation of the legal challenge that I instigated in the aftermath of last year’s conference”. As my grandma used to say — pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

What, I wonder, makes you think you have the right to speak of or to Angela in the way that you do in your post and comments?

58

Kim 07.05.11 at 10:48 pm

” … exultant bellowing …”

“… who — despite his embarrassing incapacity for philosophical reasoning — never fails to entrance his eager readers with his rhetorical recklessness…”

“… whose talent for intellectual caricature somewhat exceeds his mastery of consecutive logic …”

“… raises the wild non-sequitur almost to the level of dialectical method…”

“… consists entirely of vacuous arguments alfoat on oceans of historical ignorance, made turbulent by storms of strident self-righteousness …”

That’s David Bentley Hart, in a good mood, in the opening pages of his most recent, and now award-winning, book. Who could he be talking about?

59

PamBG 07.05.11 at 11:50 pm

I don’t think publicity-whores and bullies deserve to have their blogs linked to.

You’ve banned me from your blog, David, so I assume you don’t want me anywhere around it, anyway.

60

Richard 07.06.11 at 12:29 am

@Kim: I dunno, but the description sounds familiar…

@PamBG: That’s annoying. I can’t leave any more comments there now in case I discover that I haven’t been banned! What makes you so special? ;)

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PamBG 07.06.11 at 1:05 am

Never try to have a conversationn with the pre-offended.

62

Ric 07.06.11 at 1:19 am

Before 1945, most Jews had the same approach to morality as most true Christians, in this respect: they bent over backwards to do right by their fellow man, even if it was to their own detriment.
After 1945, that ship had well and truly sailed. After the Shoah, Jews realised that they needed to preserve their own lives and those of their loved ones by any means necessary. Because nobody else would give a damn if the Jews went extinct.
Please try to look at the comments of Zionists, Jewish or otherwise, through this ‘lens’. The Shoah is our Crucifixion.

63

PamBG 07.06.11 at 1:36 am

Ric, actually I do give a damn if the Jews go extinct although I don’t expect you to believe me.

What you imply is understandable. It doesn’t make it right. I really don’t know what you want here from a bunch of Methodist ministers? A blessing that what you imply about “by any means necessary” (which, by the way, I don’t actually believe most Jewish people think, although I could be naive) is good and right and moral?

If you want to play Realpolitik, then by all means play Realpolitik, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t claim that you will act “by any means necessary” and then turn around and demand that other people act toward you by the highest and self-sacrificing moral standards.

In the rules of “by any means necessary”, the angry people on both sides are going to kill a lot of innocent people. But so what, eh?

64

Ric 07.06.11 at 1:51 am

Good comments, PamBG - assertive but not aggressive. I don’t ask for a blessing from Methodist ministers; nor do I expect that other people act toward me by the highest and self-sacrificing moral standards. All I ask is for people to understand that Jews try to protect their children’s lives, while the Palestinian Arabs persist in putting theirs in harm’s way. This is why, tragically, so many Arabs died in Gaza in January 2009. To repeat a cliche: if the Arabs stopped fighting, there would be no more death. If the Jews stopped fighting, there would be no more Jews.

65

PamBG 07.06.11 at 2:06 am

All I ask is for people to understand that Jews try to protect their children’s lives,

I do actually understand that. That’s Realpolitik. It’s totally understandable. And I’m not going to bless it.

while the Palestinian Arabs persist in putting theirs in harm’s way.

See, I don’t think every single Palestinian Arab is trying to kill Israeli children.

You are making two kinds of generalisations here. All Israelis want nothing more than to defend their children. All Palestinian Arabs want nothing more than to kill Israelis.

And the Palestinian Arabs are repeating the meme that all they want is to defend their children and that every Israeli wants nothing more than to kill them.

The reality of the situation is that there has been a complex history of who has been on the land, when. And there has been a complex history of violence and retaliation. You absolutist memes may make you feel better about your side - allegedly unable to commit any wrong - but it is simply untrue.

I am simply not going to bless anyone killing anyone else. And I doubt that anyone here is going to. And, as I have said before, if your criteria for defining someone as an antisemitie is someone who won’t bless Israeli “by any means necessary” then, by this crazy definition, feel free to see me that way.

66

Kim 07.06.11 at 9:19 am

Ric, you say “The Shoah is our Crucifixion.” No, it’s not. Not if you appropriate the cross as a justification for the defence of the state of Israel “by any means necessary”. The cross, as the climax of the life and witness of Jesus, refutes absolutely the ethical validity of “by any means necessary”, and the resurrection confirms its repudiation (indeed it confirms the repudiation of the lex talionis itself — cf. Matthew 5:38ff.: no payback!). In fact, “by any means necessary” is the logic of ethical nihilism. Are you sure you want to be in that dark, dark place? So best leave the crucifixion out of your moral calculus. And Christians should certainly leave the Shoah out of theirs unless it provokes shame, penitence, and resolve to be in solidarity with the oppressed, Jews for sure but gentiles as well.

67

Tony Buglass 07.06.11 at 9:45 am

Ric: “if the Arabs stopped fighting, there would be no more death. If the Jews stopped fighting, there would be no more Jews.”

And if both stopped fighting, they might remember that shalom and salaam are the same thing, learn to talk and live together. It’s been done before, it could be done again. I rather suspect the vast majority on both sides would wish it - it’s he hardline minority that makes it impossible. Unfortunately, the more people get hurt, the more they turn into hardliners.

68

Avraham Reiss 07.06.11 at 2:53 pm

Tony Buglass, #38:
“… Israeli practices which are portrayed by the Press as unjust: the theft of Palestinian land …”

- to which “theft” are you referring? Israel today occupies lands that were before the 6 Day War Jordanian and Syrian. It “won” them as a result of a defensive war waged against her by Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

What “theft”? And what “Palestinian”? There was no “Palestinian” in 1967 .

69

PamBG 07.06.11 at 3:36 pm

There were individual people who had homes and land which their families had been on for centuries which was taken away from them, Avraham. And we all - Americans and British - took the highly rational (i.e. without heart or emotion) view that this was all OK because we were going to move them elsewhere and that shouldn’t be a problem. We also used the excuse that because this was a society that did not have Anglo-Saxon property deeds that no one really owned any of this.

Disclaimer, which will probably be in vain: This is not meant as a statement of “Non-Israelis all good and always right / Israelis all bad and always wrong”. It is a complex and messy situation about which the US and the UK have historically been less than honest, less than transparent and which will continue to bite the world in the rear end until we do actually deal with it honestly.

70

Avraham Reiss 07.06.11 at 10:25 pm

@PamBG
“There were individual people who had homes and land which their families had been on for centuries which was taken away from them, Avraham.”

Yeah? For how many other world conflicts have you shown such compassion? Did anyone in Britain show such compassion for the victims of the bombing of Dresden in WWII? (I am not criticizing the bombing itself).

Or any other recent conflict? And what about one million Jews living for centuries in Arab countries, forced to leave their homes and properties when the State of Israel was declared? Any compassion for them?

But I must admit that you do fulfill the ‘turn the other cheek’ instruction to the full, since those Arabs for whom you feel so much compassion deny the existance of the Temple in Jerusalem, which means denial of the existance of Christ.

71

PamBG 07.06.11 at 11:36 pm

Yeah? For how many other world conflicts have you shown such compassion?

Um, Avraham, I try to see all sides of every conflict. In every conflict there are innocent people who die at the hands of people on the other side who proclaim that their lives are worthless.

Did anyone in Britain show such compassion for the victims of the bombing of Dresden in WWII?

Good trick. If I say that I have compassion for the innocent civilians who died - which I do - then I’m an Antisemite, right? Rhetorical question.

Did you hear the bit about me not taking the position “All Israelis always bad / all Palestinians always good”? Nope, I think not. Since you keep twisting and turning my words into this very argument. I don’t really see much point in having more of a conversation. I’m trying to listen to you and you’re just trying the “spin” me, like your friend David. The only way you can be a good person beloved by God is if I’m a bad person who God hates? So be it.

72

Ric 07.07.11 at 12:53 am

PamBG is NOT an antisemite. She is an honourable and decent political opponent whom I happen to think is naive and misguided about the facts of the Israeli-Arab conflict. It is Kim, however who is coming from what he refers to as “that dark, dark place”. He doesn’t like me saying “The Shoah is our Crucifixion.” I bet he doesn’t. In the film ‘Shoah’ by Claude Lanzmann, a Polish Christian eyewitness describes a column of Jews being marched to their deaths as looking like a thousand Christs. There are those who equate the necessarily stringent methods used by the IDF to ensure that Israel is protected from suicide attacks and rockets with the mass torture and murder perpetrated by the Nazis. It is this phrase: “The Israelis are treating the Palestinians like the Nazis treated the Jews” that brands the speaker as an antisemite. I hope I shall never read that on this forum.

73

PamBG 07.07.11 at 1:31 am

I’ve been thinking about this conversation. I’m not sure what people “want” from it any more.

Speaking only for myself…

Do people want me to understand and appreciate the hurt of the Jewish people and the Israeli people?

Do people want me to hate every single Palestinian from a six month old baby to a 90-year old grandmother?

Do people want to prove that I, personally, am an Antisemite?

Do people want to prove that most Methodist ministers are Antisemites of which I am just one example?

Who knows? It mainly seems to me like the last three things. OK, you don’t like me because of my views. I can live with that. And I’m not going to hate someone simply because of their national origin, so that’s a total non-starter.

Call me if there is anything additional to discuss. Otherwise, this conversation is a waste of energy.

74

Avraham Reiss 07.07.11 at 5:33 am

@PamBG, I didn’t accuse you of being an anti-Semite. I said that your compassion was selective, which means that you are specifically targetting Israel, which means Jews.

Why are you doing this? We have not received an explanation.

[quote]
“Did anyone in Britain show such compassion for the victims of the bombing of Dresden in WWII?”
Good trick. If I say that I have compassion for the innocent civilians who died - which I do - then I’m an Antisemite, right? Rhetorical question.
[unquote]

The “trick” was in your evading an answer to the question. Which still has not been answered: where else have you published compassion for a suffering nation? How about Syria, where citizens are being murdered daily. Or Libya? Are you on the record there?

75

Kim 07.07.11 at 8:05 am

Read what I wrote, Ric, not what you might like me to write so that you can engage in bogus polemics:

Ric, you say “The Shoah is our Crucifixion.” No, it’s not. Not if you appropriate the cross as a justification for the defence of the state of Israel “by any means necessary”.

The key words, in saying you misappropriate the cross, are your by any means necessary. And my later reference to its moral nihilism. Go on — defend it.

I can’t say that I am happy to be your — and others’ — whipping boy here. Not when, as Pam rightly says, you use cheap rhetorical tricks to score points and misrepresent what is said. The bit: It is this phrase: “The Israelis are treating the Palestinians like the Nazis treated the Jews” that brands the speaker as an antisemite — that’s worse than cheap in its bearing false witness, it’s downright nauseating. By any means necessary. Yep, the phrase characterises the way you argue too. Which, as coherence and cogency go, is so bad that, to be fair, I’ve felt more stinging whip-lash from a feather.

76

Kim 07.07.11 at 10:34 am

Avraham, some few bold Brits did criticise the bombing of Dresden, notably George Bell, Bishop of Chichester (and close friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer). In an article published in November 1939, “The Church’s Function in Wartime”, Bell argued that that the Church must be the Church, and not “the state’s spiritual auxiliary” (which, after all, was exactly what the deutsche christen were). On the basis of classical “just war” theory, Bell said that the church should insist on basic principles of conduct in bello, and “not hesitate … to condemn the infliction of reprisals, or the bombing of civilian populations, by the military forces of its own nation. It should set itself against the propaganda of lies and hatred. It should be ready to encourage the resumption of friendly relations with the enemy nation. It should set its face against any war of extermination or enslavement, and any measures directly aimed to destroy the morale of a population.” Bell, you see, was not a “by any means necessary” kind of guy.

As the for the governments of Syria, Libya — and let’s not forget the long arm of the Saudis — I’m sure Pam will be more than willling to go on record with me in catergorical condemnation of their murderous abuse of human rights. Critique, with critical distinctions, is not a zero-sum game.

77

Ric 07.07.11 at 11:16 am

Job 15:6
Deuteronomy 9:5

78

PamBG 07.07.11 at 11:20 am

I said that your compassion was selective, which means that you are specifically targetting Israel, which means Jews.

Why are you doing this? We have not received an explanation.

I will take your question as an answer: “I wish to use this blog as a platform”. And since I have no clue why it was included, I can’t help you.

79

Kim 07.07.11 at 3:08 pm

On Job 15:6: Er, Eliphaz the Temanite is speaking. And you know what the Lord thinks of him: see Job 42:7.

On Deuteronomy 9:5: I guess that’s your by any means necessary defence text — which then evidently includes, with rather tragic irony, genocidal dispossession of the land. In the hole of moral nihilisn, you will keep digging, Ric. If I were to offer an alternative text, it would Matthew 5:5 (ten gen), though I realise it understandably has no authority for the Jewish people.

80

Avraham Reiss 07.07.11 at 5:05 pm

@Kim, I have to assume that the Church, like any other serious body of religion, would see the saving of life as paramount.

This is OT, but I’m commenting anyway.

Dresden was bombed in response to a request from Russia to create some action in the West that would draw off some of the Wehrmacht fire on the Red Army, in order to expedite its approach to Berlin from the East.

The bombing of Coventry in 1940 taught the British the vitality of Transport and Communications centers at time of war - both of these facilities were very badly damaged at that time. The main areas that were bombed in Dresden were therefore Transport and Communications centers. Thus enabling a swifter Red Army advance, thus expediting the end of WWII, which however viewed put an end to mass-killings all over Europe and the UK.

Coventry and Dresden raised two questions that have places in the world of religion.

For Coventry, see Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coventry_Blitz#Coventry_and_Ultra
[quote]
In his 1974 book The Ultra Secret, Group Captain F. W. Winterbotham asserted that the British government had advance warning of the attack from Ultra: intercepted German radio messages encrypted with the Enigma cipher machine and decoded by British cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park. He further claimed that Winston Churchill ordered that no defensive measures should be taken to protect Coventry, lest the Germans suspect that their cipher had been broken.[26] Winterbotham was a key figure for Ultra; he supervised the “Special Liaison Officers” who delivered Ultra material to field commanders.

However, Winterbotham’s claim has been rejected by other Ultra participants and historians who argue that while Churchill was indeed aware that a major bombing raid would take place, no one knew what the target would be.[27][28]
[unquote]

Assuming the 1st possibility, does one sacrifice a large number for the sake of survival of a greater number?

Regarding Dresden, the same question is asked: can one blanket-bomb a city in order to expedite the cessation of all killings everywhere?

Hiroshima and Nagasaki also invoke the same question.

81

Kim 07.07.11 at 6:32 pm

Very helpful, Avraham. Those are the questions for sure. Thanks for asking them. Here is the teaching of the church on the matter, according to its “just war” tradition. Not that I expect you to agree with it. After all, many Christians themselves don’t agree with it. But here it is.

One of the principles of jus in bello is discrimination: non-combatants may never be knowingly targeted. Now — a for-example — according to the principle of “double effect”, commanders may order the bombing of military targets even if they foresee that some civilians may be killed, as long as that is not their intention (the “double effect” refers to the foreseeing/but-not-intending). However, intention is determined not by the commanders’ wishes or hopes but by the nature of the action itself, and that is where a second principle of jus in bello kicks in, viz., proportionality: if the deaths of large numbers of civilians is anticpated, the action is considered to be impermissible. Hastening the end of hostilities is not considered a sufficient reason for trumping the twin principles of discrimination and proportionality, and a moral commitment to protecting non-combatants is considered sacrosanct even if it entails pilots/troops putting themselves at risk. It follows that massive incendiary bombing (Dresden, Tokyo), let alone nuclear bombing (Hiroshima, Nagasaki), and also the use of chemical and biological weapons, cannot be morally justified.

I hope that’s as helpful as your comment which prompted it.
Pax

82

Tony Buglass 07.08.11 at 11:05 am

Been away for a couple of days, so catching up with this one.

Avraham: “Did anyone in Britain show such compassion for the victims of the bombing of Dresden in WWII? (I am not criticizing the bombing itself).”

Yes. It was by far the most controversial event during the closing stages of the war, caused such a furore that Churchill (who had ordered it) backed off and used Harris as a scapegoat. It was largely because of that fuss that the survivors of Bomber Command (who WERE the ‘Second Front’ for most of the war, losing 55,000 casualties in all) were the only group not to be awarded a campaign medal at the close of hostilities. It is only recently that a statue of Harris was erected to honour him and his colleagues for heir endeavour and sacrifice.

“Dresden was bombed in response to a request from Russia to create some action in the West that would draw off some of the Wehrmacht fire on the Red Army, in order to expedite its approach to Berlin from the East.”

It was argued for decades that Dresden was not a military target, that it was bombed when full of refugees fleeing from the Russians, that it was a communications nub enabling reinforcement of the Eastern Front, etc. It has also been alleged that it was used to demonstrate to the Russians just how destructive Allied bombers could be, just in case Stalin was thinking of marching all the way to the North Sea coast. Etc, etc, etc. The facts are that it was part of the momentum of a bombing offensive by a force that had grown to a colossal and could deliver such overwhelming force - a force which might have been rehearsing techniques for the destruction of Japanese cities. It is also a fact that Dresden had a large industrial sector, including factories producing precision instruments for aircraft production.

Either way - is that relevant to the concern of contemporary Christians for perceived oppression and injustice by a nation with which we’d like to be friends? Bit of a red herring, if you ask me.

83

Avraham Reiss 07.08.11 at 4:22 pm

@Kim and Tony (#81, #82):
” Either way - is that relevant to the concern of contemporary Christians for perceived oppression and injustice by a nation with which we’d like to be friends? Bit of a red herring, if you ask me.”

Kim, the details of ‘jus in bello’ as laid out by you, are surprisingly similar - if not identical - to standard operating procedure of the IDF (Israel Defence Forces). The questions are raised often here, because unfortunately frequent hostilities invoke them. The standards are constantly being re-examined, and occasionally enhanced.

A Rabbinic ruling written in the ‘fifties discussed the harming of innocent villagers in an IDF raid in Jordan, as a reprisal against attacks
by terrorists who were hiding in the village. It determined that the knowledge that innocent bystanders might be hurt when hunting murderers, was NOT a reason to call off the raid.

Simply put, current IDF SOP is a little to the ‘left’ of Rabbinic ruling.

Tony, “perceived oppression and injustice” is simple anti-Semitism.

84

Richard 07.08.11 at 4:33 pm

>> “perceived oppression and injustice” is simple anti-Semitism.

I think you’ll find it isn’t, but we’ve been over this ground before and there isn’t much point re-treading it.

85

Tony Buglass 07.08.11 at 5:31 pm

“Tony, “perceived oppression and injustice” is simple anti-Semitism.”

No, it isn’t. In the first place, as I have explained several times over the last year, I have been pro-Israel all of my adult life. I am still pro-Israel, and want to see the nation survive and flourish. That does not mean I have to approve of everything that is done in the name of Israel. I expect my friends to tell me if they think I’m doing something wrong. I also expect to be able to speak honestly with my friends without having insulting epithets heaped upon me.

In the second place, branding any criticism ‘anti-Semitic’ is the sort of smokescreen that wears very thin after a time. I have already referred in these conversations to the prophets: does Israel still fail to hear the call to live in “mishpat w z’daqah’ (Am.5:24)?

86

Avraham Reiss 07.09.11 at 9:55 pm

@Tony, my apologies for not stating clearly that I was NOT referring to you personally with that comment. I wasn’t.

But world-wide, the expressed sympathy for the Arab dictatorships and the blaming of Israel for their plights, is very definately anti-Semitism.

The citizens of Gaza on the one hand have elected a terrorist regime - Hamas, who push “offenders” off the tops of buildings, or publicly shoot them in the knee-caps - and on the other hand are NOT suffering privation of basic requirements. Yet the “flotillas” to Gaza (1 so far) against the backdrop of citizens being shot daily in Libya and Syria - is nothing BUT hypocritical anti-Semitism.

In 1939 this was a problem for the Jewish People. Today, it is simply
pathetic. As Israel’s 1st Prime Minister, Ben Gurion, once said: “it doesn’t matter what the UN says; it matters what the Jews do”.

87

Tony Buglass 07.10.11 at 12:04 am

“But world-wide, the expressed sympathy for the Arab dictatorships and the blaming of Israel for their plights, is very definately anti-Semitism.”

Again - no, it isn’t.

The Arabs are Semites. The Jews are Semites. Using words like anti-semitic is just confusing. I am against some of the policies of Israel. I am definitely (and I do know how to spell it ;) ) against most of the policies of the Arabs. People who think like me are not anti-Semitic. We are pro-peace and pro-justice. We would like to see both sets of extremists just shut the **** up and both sets of tribes learn to live in peace together.

I love Israel. I’ve never been there, and I won’t go unless they stop shooting at each other, but what my faith and my scriptures have received from Israel is incalculable. So never ever call me anti-Semitic. Listen to what your friends say, and good things might start to happen.

Shalom.

88

Avraham Reiss 07.10.11 at 4:02 pm

“So never ever call me anti-Semitic. Listen to what your friends say, and good things might start to happen.”

Tony, I’ve already told you I wasn’t calling you anti-Semitic.

Regarding “friends”, Israel has just one good friend - America - and under the current administration, that friendship is a bit shaky. But that will pass.

“…good things might start to happen” - sorry, we never build on “might”.

89

Avraham Reiss 07.10.11 at 4:19 pm

@Kim, “Hastening the end of hostilities is not considered a sufficient reason for trumping the twin principles of discrimination and proportionality, and a moral commitment to protecting non-combatants is considered sacrosanct even if it entails pilots/troops putting themselves at risk. It follows that massive incendiary bombing (Dresden, Tokyo), let alone nuclear bombing (Hiroshima, Nagasaki), and also the use of chemical and biological weapons, cannot be morally justified.”

Kim, I think we (or I) “put to bed” this point a bit early. I’ve been having doubts.

Are you saying that to save, say, half a million people, one can’t kill 100,000 people - brutal and inhuman as it sounds? Particularly when regarding nations who support evil regimes such as Nazi Germany or WWII Japan? (In the ’sixties, Lord Russell of Liverpool published two books on WWII war crimes: The Scourge of the Swastika (Germany) and The Knights of Bushido (Japan). The book on Japan was much thicker than the one on Germany!)

How much weight (if any) does “turn the other cheek” carry? For a fact, I’ve never seen a nation refuse to retaliate at time of war. (There may have been one or two that considered surrender the best way of staying alive, but that would be a tactical - not a religious - decision).

It’s a generally-accepted opinion that if Iran ever attacks Israel, Iran will be uninhabitable for the next 100 years. How should a Christian country relate to such an attack?

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