Archive for the ‘Church & Culture’ Category

The blind evangelicals

December 13, 2017

The Mayor of Bethlehem asks why Are U.S. Christians Celebrating Israeli Policies Strangling Jesus’ Birthplace?

 

The world refers to the land of Jesus and the cradle of Christianity as “the land of peace.” The political reality today is quite the opposite. There are no words to describe the incarceration of Jesus’ birthplace, Bethlehem. It is enclosed by 18 illegal Israeli settlements, segregated road networks and infrastructures. Bethlehem’s 2,000-year-old contiguity with Jerusalem has been cut by a network of Israeli settlements and annexation, which also prevents the town from ever expanding further.

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We, the people of Bethlehem, have been separated from our hinterland, denied our right to control our natural resources and forced to cross Israeli checkpoints even to move within Palestine. Left with limited control over just 13 percent of its governorate, Bethlehem is an example of what 50 years of Israeli occupation have meant for Palestine and Palestinians in general, and to the Christians of the Holy Land in particular. ronically, in a few days, significant numbers of Christian evangelicals, mainly from the U.S., will come to celebrate those same Israeli policies strangling the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

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The Prime Minister’s Office has joined efforts with various agencies normalizing Israeli violations of international law, including the Israeli Ministry of Tourism and the so-called Jerusalem municipality, to bring in “Christian media” representatives. The conference, to be held in an Israeli hotel built on Palestinian, illegally confiscated land in occupied East Jerusalem, includes a tour in support of the illegal wall which surrounds Bethlehem. They will also be taken to the lands of Beit Jala, to visit the illegal settlement of Gilo, thus supporting Israel’s destruction of the Cremisan Valley and the dispossession of dozens of Palestinian Christian families.

 

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As a descendant of one of Bethlehem’s oldest Christian families, I was taught that Christianity’s message of is one of love, peace and justice. That’s the message we celebrate here every Christmas. The message of this conference, however, will be one of succor to oppression and apartheid. Participants will bestow their “divine blessing” on the illegal policies of the Israeli government – violations under international law.  This conference is not only an attempt to normalize the Israeli occupation of Palestine, but also part of the systematic Israeli strategy to exploit religion and holy texts as a political tool.

 

Abuse of scripture

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A few weeks ago Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the Bible to justify the Israeli occupation at the United Nations, just as several members of the Israeli cabinet continue to incite against the Palestinian people, referencing a “divine right” to take over our homeland. This is a dangerous trend that aims at turning a political question into a religious war. When Netanyahu addressed the U.S. Congress in 2011 he said, referring to the occupied West Bank, that “this is the land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel … No distortion of history can deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land.”

 

Sadly, we didn’t hear American religious leaders challenging Netanyahu to stop using his Biblical interpretations to justify a land grab. It reminds me of the dark period when South Africa’s apartheid regime would use “theological” arguments to justify its racist policies. History has shown that there is nothing divine in the violation of another people’s rights. Certainly, participation in a crime shouldn’t be called a “blessing.”

 

As the newly elected mayor of Bethlehem I witness on a daily basis the effects of the blind support of Israel given by my Christian co-religionists. How fundamentalist theological positions are used to justify injustice. But no church worthy of its name should offer a theological smoke screen for the denial of our most basic rights as Palestinians.

 

To those who choose to stand on the oppressor’s side, I ask them to remember our origins as Christians, and to resurrect the universal message of hope born in a grotto in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Only when human dignity is respected and equal rights are granted, only when the Israeli occupation is over and Palestinians are able to achieve their full potential on their own land, will we be able to say that peace has returned to the land of peace.

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Anton Salman, a lawyer, was elected this year as the mayor of Bethlehem.

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Would Jesus vote for Roy Moore?

December 12, 2017

Peter DeRosa one of the smartest theologians I know
sent this to the Boston Globe…and he lives in Bournemouth, UK

 

Ah, the digital age

 

WOULD JESUS VOTE FOR ROY MOORE?

 

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Nothing in the Gospels is clearer. Whoever votes for Roy Moore forfeits the name of Christian.

 
Jesus said: ‘Whatever you do to the least of my little ones you do to Me.’
Vote for Moore and you victimize Christ.
Jesus said: ‘Whoever abuses one of my little ones, it were better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the sea.’
Vote, if you wish, for Roy Moore on the advice of a self-confessed sex abuser. But immediately admit you victimize Christ.
Jesus says to you what he said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan … you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’

Gaza is dying; the rabbis are silent

November 9, 2017

 

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Gideon Levy once again dons the prophetic mantle and holds the shocking mirror up to Israeli society and in some ways to American Jewry and the co-opted U.S.Congress and Senate. The header to his article in Haaretz succinctly sums up this staggering tragedy.
Dystopia in the Gaza Strip

Gaza kids live in hell: A psychologist tells of rampant sexual abuse, drugs and despair The interview with Israeli psychologist Mohammed Mansour is one of the most shocking, terrifying and upsetting documents to be published here recently. If Israel were a moral society and not nationalist and brainwashed, its foundations would be shaking. This should have been the topic of the day, the tempest of the day. A human catastrophe is taking place just an hour away; a humanitarian disaster, a horror for which Israel bears the brunt of the blame — and Israel is occupied by the sexual assault allegations against TV executive Alex Gilady.

 

Mansour returned from a visit to the Gaza Strip as a volunteer with Physicians for Human Rights — Israel. He is an expert in treating trauma, and no one could remain unmoved by his observations from his two most recent visits. Right or left, it doesn’t matter, anyone with an iota of humanity would be shocked. Over one-third of the children he met in the Jabalya refugee camp reported being sexually abused. Their parents, caught in a war for survival and themselves suffering from depression, are incapable of protecting them. In Gaza, it is impossible to remove the children and their parents from their sources of trauma because the trauma does not and will not end; adults and children live in terrible pain. No one is mentally healthy in Gaza.

 

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Chaos, that’s the word. Mansour describes dystopia, a society that is falling apart. Devastation. Gazans demonstrate astonishing endurance, spirit and solidarity in their families, villages, neighborhoods and camps, after all the plagues they have suffered: refugees, children of refugees, grandchildren of refugees and great-grandchildren of refugees, are falling apart. Mansour described an all-out struggle for survival, with addiction to painkillers as the last refuge. Nothing is left of the Gaza we knew. Nothing reminds us of the Gaza that we loved. “It will be difficult to restore Gaza’s humanity. Gaza is hell,” says Mansour.

 

The descriptions given by Mansour, as harsh as they are, should not surprise anyone. Everything is being conducted according to the book, the greatest book of experiments on human beings. This is the only possible outcome of the imprisonment of two million people in an enormous cage for over 10 years, without any way out and without any hope.

 

The blockade of the Gaza Strip is the biggest war crime Israel has ever committed. This is the second Nakba, even more horrifying than its predecessor. This time Israel does not have the excuses of war and the Arabs fleeing. Even the excessive security excuses can no longer convince anyone, except for the Israelis who are incited against Gaza. Only they have no moral problem with the existence of a human cage on their border. Only they have a thousand excuses and accusations against the entire world, some false, such as the claim that Hamas rose to power through the use of force; or that the Qassam rockets began after Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip — anything to silence the already always-quiet conscience — after all, these are Arabs.

 

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“These are Arabs” sums it up. Yes these are the new untermenschen,the latest subhuman, inferior human beings, absolutely devoid of any dignity.
The scandal of course is the sad silence of the American rabbinate which seems to have become frozen in a moral netherworld unable to move away from a tribalism which excludes “the other.”

Rising Star: The making of Barack Obama

September 8, 2017

“There is a need for ever new movements of solidarity of the workers and with the workers…The Church is firmly committed to this cause, for it considers it to be its mission, its service, a proof of its fidelity to Christ…Labour has priority over capital”

Pope John Paul ll Laborem Exercens 1981

 

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David J. Garrow is a 64 year old American historian whose best known work so far is Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. It was a stunning bio of KIng.The New York Times in its 1986 review wrote: “This book will endure as the starting point and inspiration for more fully analytical works that wrestle with the questions that have been opened before us by David Garrow’s meticulous investigative scholarship.”

 

The man is a monster historian and this book will be hard to beat especially unpacking Obama’s life up until the presidency. This tome, really a door stopper, was 9 years in the writing and runs at 1451 pages.

 

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All in all it is an extraordinarily detailed reading of a controversial life but the depth of digging and personal interviews commands great respect.
What is brilliant about this work is the time Garrow has spent with the context and as Jesse Jackson once said, “any text without a context is a pretext.”

Today the context.

The first 50 pages do not even mention Barack Obama. What Garrow does is unpack the largely black south side of Chicago in the late 70s and early 90s just before Obama arrives. Here we see the devastating impact of the folding of the huge steel companies, US and Wisconsin Steel and all the ancillary jobs connected with these major employers. We then see the terrible wound unemployment leaves on so many families.

 

US Steel was particularly heinous in the rust belt. In Youngstown, Ohio the unions were openly supported by the great Vatican ll Bishop Jim Malone. The latter  led steel workers to occupy the offices of US Steel which rather than sell the company to a worker-community co-op, dynamited the whole business. Malone was but one of the Vatican ll social justice bishops named by the apostolic delegate Jean Jadot.Today we have bishops who have never been on a picket line, never marched in a Labour Day parade.

 

An amazing fact for this reader was the powerful Vatican ll response of the Roman Catholic Church to this palpable suffering.

 

One of Obama’s great friends turned out to be Chicago priest Mike Pfleger of St.Sabina’s Catholic church. The priest was homegrown. At age 17 in 1966 he watched a racist mob attack an open housing march of Martin Luther King Jr in Marquette Park. Pfleger had been 12 years at Sabina’s by 1987 and was a close friend of another dynamic priest Bill Stenzel.

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It was vey revealing to see the thrust of Vatican ll parishes when push came to shove and suffering plagued the neighbourhood. it is heartbreaking to see the dead zones of most parishes today focussing on sunday liturgy and charity but never justice and never leaders in any social movement. It is no wonder that youth are not attracted to such a moribund entity.
Read the names: St Victors Holy Rosary St Helena, St Kevins, St Catherine of Genoa, St Sabina, De la Salle, Our Lady of the Gardens.

 

Remember the priests: Leo Mahon Joe Bennett, Bill Stenzel, Paul Burak, John Calicott, Mike Pfleger, Tom Joyce George Schopp, Tom Kaminski, Cardinal Joe Bernadin. All iof these men were inserted in the social struggle.There were dynamic men like this in the local post-Vatican church, a legacy squandered by papacies which became church-centred and not kingdom-centred.

 

 

Unions go where churches won’t

August 26, 2017

Unifor Canadian Council passes BDS motion at Winnipeg convention
Congratulations to the Unifor’s Canadian Council on easily passing a pro-Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) motion at their recent convention in Winnipeg, between August 18-20.

 

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The BDS movement is founded on the call made by more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations on July 9, 2005, inviting people across the world who support freedom, justice and equality in Palestine/Israel to boycott, divest from, and press for sanctions against the State of Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:
UNIFOR a secular union has done what the Canadian Council of Bishops, the Ontario Catholic Teachers Union (OECTA) has failed to do—support the cry of the Christian Palestinian churches for solidarity with an oppressed people.

In 2009 those churches sent a cri de coeur across the Christian world.it was called the KAIROS document. In part it read:

 

Our word is a cry of hope, with love, prayer and faith in God. We address it first of all to ourselves and then to all the churches and Christians in the world, asking them to stand against injustice and apartheid, urging them to work for a just peace.”

We proclaim our word based on our Christian faith and our sense of Palestinian belonging – a word of faith, hope and love.
We declare that the military occupation of Palestinian land constitutes a sin against God and humanity. Any theology that legitimizes the occupation and justifies crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people lies far from Christian teachings.

A pariah state can only be redeemed by ending this cruel occupation not by attacking and scapegoating Canadian citizens who are defending international human rights.

UNIFOR has heard the call. Others have stood paralyzed in silent embarrasment.

Submitted by Unifor Local 222 (Oshawa), Unifor Resolution No. 5 is titled “Palestinian Self-Determination and the Movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions,” and reads in part:

 
“… BE IT RESOLVED that Unifor supports the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (“BDS”) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT; and […] BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Unifor will support such a form of BDS until such time as Israel implements a permanent ban on further settlement construction in the OPT, and enters into good faith negotiations with representatives of the Palestinian people for the purpose of establishing a viable, contiguous and truly sovereign Palestinian state ; and THEREFORE BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that Unifor opposes all efforts to prohibit, punish or otherwise deter expressions of support for BDS.”

 
During the summer 2014 bombing of civilians in Gaza, the Palestinian trade union movement, with support from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and its affiliates, unanimously called on international trade unions to take immediate action to stop the Israeli massacre in Gaza and hold Israel to account for its crimes against the Palestinian people.
They wrote: “… civil society solidarity is the only force that can help stop the ongoing slaughter of our people and send them a message that they are not alone, exactly as effective international solidarity had done in supporting the struggle for freedom in apartheid South Africa […] In the face of this international inaction, we, the Palestinian trade unions, call on trade unions around the world to take urgent measures, and in particular to intensify Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, until it complies with international law.”

 

Mike Crosby Vatican ll giant

August 18, 2017

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Although I am hard to find on Facebook, I am there if anybody wants to find me…and marvellous in the telling, several former students to my delight have found me. Johnny Quinn, the inttrepid Scouser posted a story last week on a rare visit to the site that shook me up. It was the death of my friend Mike Crosby, the prophetic Capuchin priest who expired with remarkable grace on August 5.

When in June doctors informed Crosby that their attempts to control the cancer in his body were failing, he described himself in a letter to friends as “surprisingly am embracing” the diagnosis that he only had several months left to live.

I have no fear of dying; in fact I must admit … I actually prefer to depart from this form of my life sooner than later; I believe in heaven. I am at peace and very thankful for this peace.

“I’ve tried to follow Jesus all my life as a Capuchin, and you have been part of this journey; for you I am so grateful,” Crosby wrote in a letter to friends. “I wait in joyful hope what is in store for me. Pray that I’ll be faithful.”

 

Mike was the quintessential Vatican ll priest, an author of over a dozen books which fused biblical justice and spirituality. These books are well marked in my library.

 

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Mike was a brave but gentle prophet who refused to stop speaking  in the ice age of John Paul ll and Benedict XVI. These misguided leaders destroyed a lot of theological reputations but they never broke Mike’s spirit. One fanatic bishop would find out where he was giving one of his conferences and try to have him cancelled.
Like his master, he was always in trouble. He challenged the near dogmatic ruling of JP ll that celibacy was forever and not a discipline which could be (and should be) changed.

“We still have to worship a God that the Vatican says ‘wills that women not be ordained.’ That god is literally ‘unbelievable.’ It is a false god; it cannot be worshiped. And the prophet must speak truth to that power and be willing to accept the consequence of calling for justice, stopping the violence and bringing about the reign of God.”

Not only did Mike say this in open but he said it to popes:

For example, when he first oversaw the release of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Nov. 18, 1995, declaration by Pope John Paul II regarding the non-ordination of women, he sent Cardinal Ratzinger a letter outlining some of the reasons why he did not believe his rationale about God’s will and women’s non-ordination. he wrote:

I find it illogical, inconsistent and ill-conceived to argue that because Jesus didn’t choose women to be his apostles that anyone can thus conclude that, in that given milieu, he intended this in a way to exclude them from full leadership in the future. Also, to argue that such a “non-choice” represents not only the will of the Jesus of history but of the Christ of our faith in whom there is neither male nor female appears to me even less convincing. Finally, somehow to make a conclusion that this is the actual will of our God (in whom there is no exclusiveness) is beyond my comprehension.

I never received a response.
Afterward

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Afterward, when Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI and reiterated virtually the same statement about God’s will being that women not be ordained, I again privately wrote him my disagreement. I explained respectfully why I could not believe in such a God, especially when the God of my belief has been revealed to be a Trinity of equals who has made male and female to be Trinitarian in the way God is Trinitarian (see Mt. 5:48). I also summarized in that letter my theological rationale for my nonacceptance of his declaration that it is God’s will that women not be ordained, even though I think right now might not be the time for women’s ordination because of some significant local churches’ cultural bias against women in such a role.
I wrote:

Next, I addressed the argument he made as a cardinal in 1997 that he reiterated as pope:

… the teaching that “the church has not been given the power” to ordain women. This seems to belie Matthew 28:16-20 as well as the fact that “the church” was never given the power to limit priesthood in the Latin Church to celibates in a way that restricts the pool of sincere men and women for priesthood and the laity for capable and equipped ministers.

Although my letter described my deeply held faith concerns about his teaching, I received not even as much as a note acknowledging receipt of my letter, much less its contents.

 

Because of such a nonresponse to these and other communications I have sent to the Vatican in the last 15 years,

 

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I decided to make some of them public in my recent book, Repair My House: Becoming a “Kindom” Catholic (Orbis, 2012). Furthermore, given the recent actions of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Bishop Blair, I believe my private dissent on the issue of women’s full equality in our patriarchal, clerical church should be made public lest any perceived silence on the matter by clerics like me might be construed as consent.

Thus, I reiterate here what I wrote in those letters above,

A blessing to have called this courageous man a friend.

The religion of America is America

August 15, 2017

Roberto has now lived in Canada for 5 decades. He grew up in New York state and came to St.Michael’s College in Toronto. He does a lot of ruminating such as below.

I always enjoy reading these essays from Commonweal.  The true religion of America…the American civil religion…has yet again been exposed for the Calvinist heresy that it is.

F. Scott Fitzgerald nailed it 100 years ago.  I understood “Americanism” at age 10 when my Presbyterian, Masonic grandfather and uncles touted the deadly myths of exceptionalism and worth gauged by success.

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I will also never forget the real message of the country that I learned when my good friends from St Michael’s who did everything that they could to bring their kids up Catholic, thinking that they would please the wealthy Catholic parents from New York, only to discover that what really mattered beneath it all was status, wealth and high position.  They were shocked, but I realized in a flash the familiar story of my youth…the essence of the American culture always comes back to Calvinism, the elect distinguished by and known through their wealth. 

 

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The contemporary demise of Catholicism in capitulating to this heresy is just awful to behold!

 

I regard myself as so fortunate to number among my friends a remnant of Catholic critics who continue to hold out against this soul destroying culture.

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That so many Catholics have fallen for Ayn Rand, militarism and the like.  Just pathetic!

 

Most days I feel like I did as a kid with his crystal radio listening to a faraway station as the signal comes and goes.  Catholicism feels like that to me now.  Sometimes the music coming in loud and clear and others times fading out with static and eerie warped noises.  Or sometimes even slipping off into dead silence!

Magical thinking and Christian Right

August 11, 2017

Chris Hedges on Truthdig unpacks the magical thinking of many evangelicals.

 

I once asked a prominent joutrnalist if he ever heard of The Late Great Planet Earth, the best selling religious book in US history. He was clueless. This piece of magical thinking and crude phantasmagoria and its follow up The Left behind series is classic magiacla thinking and a horrible manifesdtation of Christianity.

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Tens of millions of Americans are already hermetically sealed within this bizarre worldview. They are given a steady diet of conspiracy theories and lies on the internet, in their churches, in Christian schools and colleges and on Christian television and radio. Elizabeth Dilling, who wrote “The Red Network” and was a Nazi sympathizer, is required reading. Thomas Jefferson, who favored separation of church and state, is ignored. This Christian propaganda hails the “significant contributions” of the Confederacy. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who led the anti-communist witch hunts in the 1950s, is rehabilitated as an American hero. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, is defined as part of the worldwide battle against satanic Islamic terror. Presently, nearly 40 percent of the U.S. public believes in Creationism or “Intelligent Design.” And nearly a third of the population, 94 million people, consider themselves evangelical.

 

Those who remain in a reality-based universe often dismiss these malcontents as buffoons. They do not take seriously the huge segment of the public, mostly white and working class, who because of economic distress have primal yearnings for vengeance, new glory and moral renewal and are easily seduced by magical thinking. These are the yearnings and emotions Trump has exploited politically.

 

Bless

Those who embrace this movement need to feel, even if they are not, that they are victims surrounded by dark and sinister groups bent on their destruction. They need to elevate themselves to the role of holy warriors, infused with a noble calling and purpose. They need to sanctify the rage and hypermasculinity that are the core of fascism. The rigidity and simplicity of their belief, which includes being anointed for a special purpose in life by God, are potent weapons in the fight against their own demons and desire for meaning.
“Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty,” Simone Weil wrote.

 

Back

These believers, like all fascists, detest the reality-based world. They condemn it as contaminated, decayed and immoral. This world took their jobs. It destroyed their future. It ruined their communities. It doomed their children. It flooded their lives with alcohol, opioids, pornography, sexual abuse, jail sentences, domestic violence, deprivation and despair. And then, from the depths of suicidal despair, they suddenly discovered that God has a plan for them. God will save them. God will intervene in their lives to promote and protect them. God has called them to carry out his holy mission in the world and to be rich, powerful and happy.

 

The rational, secular forces, those that speak in the language of fact and evidence, are hated and feared, for they seek to pull believers back into “the culture of death” that nearly destroyed them. The magical belief system, as it was for impoverished German workers who flocked to the Nazi Party, is an emotional life raft. It is all that supports them. The only way to blunt this movement is to reintegrate these people into the economy, to give them economic stability through good wages and benefits, to restore their self-esteem. They need to live in a society that is not predatory but instead provides well-funded public schools, free university education and universal health care, a society in which they and their families can prosper.

 

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Time is running out. If we do not act, American fascists, clutching Christian crosses, waving American flags and orchestrating mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance, united behind the ludicrous figure of Donald Trump, will ride this rage to power.

Mike Pence, great leader

July 20, 2017

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WASHINGTONVice President Mike Pence told evangelical supporters of Israel that God had a hand in creating the state of Israel and that his support for the country is rooted in his faith.

So reports Religion News Service.

One wonders what kind of faith this is.

“Indeed, though Israel was built by human hands it is impossible not to sense that just beneath its history lies the hand of heaven,” Pence told the annual summit of Christians United for Israel on July 17. The group, founded by San Antonio pastor John Hagee, bills itself as the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S. It is composed largely of evangelicals and Christian Zionists

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Ridiculed by bible scholars everywhere they believe that Jews will be ingathered in Israel and then….

 

In his book The End of Days, Gershom Gorenberg says “The Jews die or convert. As a Jew, I can’t feel very comfortable with the affections of somebody who looks forward to that scenario…..They don’t love real Jewish people. They love us as characters in their story, in their play, and that’s not who we are, and we never auditioned for that part, and the play is not one that ends up good for us. If you listen to the drama they’re describing, essentially it’s a five-act play in which the Jews disappear in the fourth act.”
Bad theology begets bad practice

 

Pence has had a long history of Christian jihad as the Intercept described his bizarre career.

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He has never wavered in his commitment to America-First militarism, the criminalizing of abortion, and utter hatred for gay people (unless they go into conversion therapy “to change their sexual behavior,” which Pence has suggested the government pay for).Pence has been at the forefront of the movement to defund Planned Parenthood.

 

Pence has an impressively atrocious record on environmental issues and a slavish devotion to big energy and big oil companies.

Forget all this. God somehow is behind Israel’s success.It can never be criticized. It has divine protection. The Palestinians, either nowhere to be seen or all terrorists.

Mike Pence, great American—and now mum on his fundamentalist Christianity.

 

No investment in Israeli apartheid

July 16, 2017

Global Church body with 80 million members takes action supporting Palestine, calls for examination of investments

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(Palestinian pastor,  Reverend Mitri Raheb from Bethlehem speaking at WCRC)

14 July 2017 | https://tinyurl.com/ycdach4r

The General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), representing over 80 million Christians, has called on its members and member churches to take action in support of the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation and oppression (click here).

The WCRC held its 26th General Council this past week in Leipzig (Germany) where, among other speakers were BDS South Africa’s Chairperson, Professor Farid Esack as well as a leading Palestinian theologian and pastor from the holy town of Bethlehem in Palestine, Reverend Mitri Raheb (click here). The General Council, the highest decision-making body of the WCRC, stated that “many of us have seen with our eyes and heard with our ears the painful realities of life for Palestinians…with respect to the situation of injustice and suffering that exists in Palestine, and the cry of the Palestinian Christian community, the integrity of Christian faith and praxis is at stake.”

Among other measures, the WCRC has urged its more than 225 member churches worldwide to examine their investment relationships and to disseminate to members educational materials on the Palestinian situation. The WCRC also cautioned that the Christian faith should not be used to justify the injustice against the Palestinian people and rejected any use of the Bible “to legitimize or support political options and positions that are based upon injustice, imposed by one person on another, or by one people on another.”

The WCRC General Council also instructed its Executive Committee to respond to the letter of 21 June 2017 from the National Coalition of Christian Organizations in Palestine (NCCOP) indicating what actions can be taken by the WCRC in response to the Palestinian Christians’s cry for “costly solidarity”.

Last month, on the 21st of June, Palestinian Christians belonging to the NCCOP wrote an open letter to churches worldwide calling for “costly solidarity” and support of the BDS boycott of Israel. The Palestinian Christians wrote: “[We call on you to] call things as they are: recognize Israel as an apartheid state in terms of international law […] we need your costly solidarity. We need brave women and men who are willing to stand in the forefront. This is no time for shallow diplomacy Christians […] we ask that you speak in support of economic measures that pressure Israel to stop the occupation and that you support athletic, cultural, and academic measures against Israel until it complies with international law and UN resolutions […] in response to Israel’s war on BDS, we ask that you intensify that measure.” (Click here for the NCCOP letter)

The WCRC represents over 80 million Christians in Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed, United, Uniting and Waldensian churches in over 100 countries. South African churches belonging to the WCRC include the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC)/Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK), Evangelical Presbyterian Church in South Africa, Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika/ Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (DRCA)/(NGKA), Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA), Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, and the Maranatha Reformed Church of Christ.

The South African Christian theological organization, Karios Southern Africa, has welcomed the WCRC action in support of Palestine saying: “We celebrate the WCRC’s unique voice in the growing chorus of Christian communities in ending “shallow church diplomacy“. It is our prayer and hope that this ecumenical family will thereby actively add your unique presence towards a just peace in Palestine/Israel. We look forward to seeing the fruits of these resolutions. We therefore pray for wisdom and courage in implementing them as stewards of moral consistency…we and many others are with you on this journey.” (Click here for the Kairos SA message of support).

ISSUED BY KWARA KEKANA ON BEHALF OF BDS SOUTH AFRICA