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Monday, July 12, 2010

PCUSA General Assembly - Day Seven.1

The State of Israel.

“Monks have guns? There is a prison in the Potala?”

--- The young Dalai Lama in the film, Kundun

Being connected to a State, that is, having an organic, wedded relationship to a particular political-economic order, corrupts the spiritual community. Necessarily.

Under the Christendom system, the church was bound to defend, excuse, rationalize, and support the projects, policies, and agenda of those in secular power. This alliance has been catastrophic in draining the spiritual institutions of their integrity, authenticity, and faithfulness. Because the church was wedded to Rome, Christian missionaries were suppressed and persecuted in countries that were Rome’s enemies, like Persia, or, later, the Islamic world. From the crusades to slavery, from the Inquisition to the Iraq War to squeamishness about offending business interests we see in this General Assembly, the identification of the faith with a particular economic-political order has been a disaster for the church.

Today the Jewish faith is beginning to experience the same ambiguities: they too have to choose now between keeping the moral stance of their faith, and supporting the policies of their State. For the first time in two millennia, Jews relate to a sovereign, political-economic entity. And they have, unfortunately, developed the same self-righteous blindness that afflicted the Christian church for much of that time. Now they are in the habit of overlooking, defending, rationalizing, justifying, down-playing, and supporting the actions and policies of their military. They have lost the relative moral purity and integrity that accompanied independence from a particular economic-political power.

The unutterable tragedy here is that this community has endured the most horrific act of genocide in history, the Shoah or Holocaust, now chooses to horribly oppress their own neighbors. They are becoming as blind to the atrocities of their own State as we Christians have historically been to the atrocities of ours. They have ignored important parts of their own Torah almost as completely as Christians ignored the explicit teachings of Jesus. For the sake of the security of the State.

Meanwhile, the Christian church has been moving in the opposite direction. We are becoming a post-Christendom church, meaning that the marriage between church and State is deteriorating and disintegrating. One of the more miraculous and prophetic lines in The Confession of 1967 is: “the church which identifies the sovereignty of any one nation or any one way of life with the cause of God denies the Lordship of Christ and betrays its calling.” That simply could not have been confessed by any Reformed church prior to the middle of the 20th century, and hasn’t been totally embraced even now.

The weaker this connection grows, the more conscious the church becomes of the excesses and weaknesses of the economic-political order in which it finds itself. A generation or two ago, the church was enthusiastic and uncritical about both Capitalism and the policies of the American government. Fortunately, over the past few decades we have decided to follow Jesus.

Following Jesus, means, among other things, standing with the oppressed of the world, no matter who they are. When Jews are victimized, we stand with them. When it is Buddhists or Hindus or atheists, we stand with them. Indigenous peoples, Gays, women, children, or whomever, we stand with them. And when it is Palestinians, we stand with them. We don't care whether the victimizers are Christians, Presbyterians, Americans, or Israelis. We still stand with the victims. Just as Jesus did. When he healed people he NEVER, in the end, cared about their politics, ethnicity, religion, social standing, or moral life. All he cared about was the suffering person before him. That is our example. That is why the church's heart goes out to the Palestinians.

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