Dead theology: The Israel Fluff Tour

They trudge through the Unholy Land and miss the many splendoured thing the dignified lives of the Palestinians under occupation. IN my latest sojourn to Israel/Palestine I saw numerous “fluff tours”, depressing journeys to an ahistorical dead Jesus.I saw tour after tour salivate over dead objects- stones, churches, artiifacts which may or may not have some connection with the Galilean peasant we call Jesus Christ. Here is my letter to one “traditionalist” priest from Virginia.

Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?

Mk8:18

Dear Father

In the lectionary yesterday I read these vital words from Ezekiel

“Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house”.

When the young priest told me he had been to the Holy Land for his 5th anniversary of his priesthood.I asked him about it. He went on and on about the   holy places, Mt of Beatitudes, Bethlehem, etc.

As his former theology teacher I stopped him.

“Did I teach you nothing?”

I asked him if he had spent any time with those in whom Jesus especially locates himself, (Matt 25:31-46) the disfigured lives of the Palestinian people?

He grabbed his head as the penny dropped.

I got the feeling in talking to your pilgrims  that your tour was similar,

On our pilgrimage led by a Basilian priest Fr Bob Holmes we met the most amazing nonviolent Palestinians (try Melkite Archbishop Elias Chacour inter alios) who were struggling for dignity in the unholy land.

We met incredible  Jews with the same shalom orientation.

In other words we wanted to hear from “the living stones” not the dead ones. We wanted real tradition not traditionalism (“The dead spirit of the living”, Jaroslav Pelikan).

By visiting the holy places and the living stones we wanted to be in a living tradition. We wanted the living Christ not bad nostalgia.

Peter’s letter  reminds us,”You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood…”

To do this we must know the context of our lives or the Incarnation means nothing. As Jesse Jackson famously said, “Any text without a context is a   pretext.”

Any visit to Israel/Palestine that bypasses the marginalized in the quest for higher spiritual ground misses the point and bad theology leads to bad practice. Your tour was a journey to the past without contemporary relevance.

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