When distressed, we tend to use whatever tools we have to try to alleviate our condition. For example, if I have a headache I will take two tylenol. That is unless all I have in the cupboard is ibuprofen, in which case I’ll take ibuprofen.
We tend to use the things we have at our disposal to solve problems. Toddlers, for example, will sometimes resort to hitting or biting when feeling threatened by another. They use these strategies because they do not yet have the social skills necessary to remedy the situation.
I have multiple tools to cope with personal stress. The healthiest are getting rest and exercise. A good vigorous walk or run does miraculous things to my ability to cope with challenges. Regular sleep results in a more rational and loving me.
Though I know this, too often I turn to the cookie in the cupboard to deal with stress. Briefly, the cookie makes me feel better. Soon, however, it actually makes things worse. I feel bloated. The sugar disrupts my mood.
The suggestion that our nation refuse to accept Syrian refugees or accept only Christian refugees, as some have suggested, is a cookie. Rufusing our sisters and brothers may make us feel safer for a short time but it only breeds more hostility and bigotry.
Rather than gorging on cookies baked in the oven of bigotry and fear by opportunistic politicians, this is a time to slip on our running shoes and exercise our social skills, our hearts, and our faith. We need to look inside ourselves for the divine love with which we have each been created and love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:29-30).
Three caveats before I start: 1) I failed to do my homework before the CPCUCC Annual Meeting which led to my failure to speak out to the assembled; 2) I feel woefully inadequate to address solutions to conflict in the Mid-East; and 3) I am deeply troubled by Israel’s actions directed at the Palestinian population.
The Central Pacific Conference of the United Church of Christ met last weekend for their Annual Meeting. The gathering passed “A Resolution of Witness Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” I voted against this resolution which can be read here. (This is the original version without friendly amendments added during the meeting.)
My concerns about this document began when I read materials on the information table. Terms like “European Jewish colonialism” and frequent use of the term “Jews” in background materials are at best vague and imply or place blame on whole swaths of people rather than Israeli decision makers. The tone of the materials and their reliance upon the Kairos document, which one Conservative Jew whom I respect calls “antisemitic at its core” were red flags for me.
When a proponent of the resolution described Gaza as an open-air prison, I was appalled. If our goal is peace and reconciliation terms like that only polarize. Peace requires the concerns of all parties be recognized and heard. As an American Christian that term was loaded with innuendo and implication that failure to pass the resolution was tantamount to condoning Israel’s actions against the people of Gaza. How might a phrase like that be heard by Israeli Jews who live within a context Americans — especially Christians — can barely imagine?
It is no secret that embedded anti-semitism is both a contemporary and historical sin of the Christian church. Our sacred text itself has been used as a weapon to blame our Jewish sisters and brothers for killing Christ! This, of course, is historically inaccurate. The only entity that had the ability to crucify Jesus was the occupying Roman authority.
Too many Christians believe that Jesus’ criticism of religious leaders of his day implies a rejection of his own Jewish faith. The biblical witness does not bear this out. His criticism of leaders and arguments with other Jews is analogous to differences argued within any mainline American Christian denomination. Our supersessionist reinterpretation of some passages of the Elder Testament (e.g.; Isaiah 7:14) to have meanings never intended by the original authors too often affirms embedded anti-Jewish attitudes.
None of this is to suggest that the proponents of the resolution passed at the CPCUCC Annual Meeting last weekend are antisemitic in intention. We must stand with our Palestinian sisters and brothers — Christian and Muslim — who are victimized by the actions of the Israeli government. The conditions under which they live are abhorrent.
That said, when those of us in the United Church of Christ, a denomination committed to Christian unity and positive interfaith relationships, stand with oppressed peoples in Palestine we must do so without relying on antisemitic documents. We must intentionally seek to uncover the embedded antisemitism of our tradition. Until we do, our voice calling for justice will lack credibility.
In short, we need to stand in witness with our Palestinian sisters and brothers but we must do so without perpetuating the sin of antisemitism.