Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Silence Is Not A Virtue

The death toll and the violence mount in Gaza. The Israelis have opted for a military solution to a humanitarian problem. I find it curious that so many of my Presbyterian colleagues are silent about this. There are a whole lot of Presbyterian clergy and laypeople who blog. But not too many are blogging about this.

I wonder why?
  1. Perhaps the news is boring. "They always have been fighting over in the Middle East and they always will be fighting" is a mantra I hear now and again. "Ho hum. No news here."
  2. Perhaps people don't feel informed enough about the issue to make an opinion.
  3. Perhaps they don't want to anger friends and colleagues who have a different opinion than theirs.
  4. Perhaps they agree with President Bush that this is all the fault of Hamas or the Palestinians themselves and they hope that Israel will kick some butt.
  5. Perhaps, consciously or unconsciously, because the Jewish scriptures are incorporated into the Christian scriptures and the Muslim scriptures are not (ie. Qur'an), then Christians always need to be on the side of the Israelis no matter what they do.
I see it differently.
  1. I think this is news. Tragic news. There is a reason why there is fighting in Israel/Palestine. Johann Hari offers an important view.
  2. If we are not informed, whose fault is that? There are plenty of resources available. Thanks to Doug King of Witherspoon for providing some.
  3. Making opinions can cause friction. So what else is new? If you are supposed to speak for justice and peace and to witness to Christ, that is part of the job. If we take our jobs seriously regarding Jesus Christ, we should not be silent even if we disagree.
  4. Hamas generates no sympathy for lobbing rockets, that is for sure. But in desperate times, when backs are to the wall, extremists become leaders. A long history of second-class status for the Palestinian people complete with all the indignities placed upon them for decades has led to this situation.
  5. This is the 21st century. Policies based on holy books and "chosen people" need to replaced by human rights and self-determination for all people. If it matters, many Palestinians are Christian.
I visited the Holy Land in 1994 as part of a tour. It was a gift to me by members of my first congregation. It was a "visit the places Jesus walked" kind of thing. I saw quite a bit. We visited the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, and others. This was before the wall. No rockets or suicide bombers as I recall.

There was gunfire now and then. Israelis had guns. Palestinians had rocks.

One day I left the tour. A couple of us ventured on our own at one point. We took cab ride. The Palestinian driver told us a different story than what we had heard from our Israeli hosts. I heard about houses that were demolished. He showed us illegal Jewish settlements. He told us of the indignities the Palestinians experienced because they were second-class citizens. He told us that Americans need to know what is happening.

A lot has changed since 1994. The situation has deteriorated. For my own understanding, perhaps it is time for me to find a way to take another trip to the Holy Land.

The United States supports the Israelis unequivocally. Obama, so far, looks little different from Bush. Apparently, "our interests" are aligned with supporting the Israeli military. The superstition of American Christians regarding so-called biblical prophecies encourages this support.

What are the solutions?
  1. Two separate states based on 1967 borders. This doesn't seem to be working. Perhaps it could yet, I don't know.
  2. One new nation. This seems to me the logical choice. A new Holy Land that shows no distinction regarding ethnicity or religion. One country run democratically in which Jews, Christians, Muslims and all others who live there share with one vote in one government.
  3. Continue the violence. This is apparently what the U.S. wants. Fox News reports that the U.S. rejected the U.N.'s call for a cease fire.
The U.S. is the major player here. If the political will of the United States advocated for a just peace for all who live in the Holy Land, rather than unequivocal support and money for one ethnic group at the expense of the others, changes would come.

This would require U.S. citizens to become informed, to care, and to act.

This seems to me to be something worth blogging about and worth talking about. If you see it differently, let me know.

Silence now is no virtue.
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