Op-Ed: US Churches against the Jews: Heavenly Intifada
The United Methodist Church is the major mainline Protestant denomination in the United States. Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Rick Perry, to name just a few, are all Methodists.
During its General Conference in late April in Tampa, Florida, the Church will discuss some divestment proposals targeting companies that profit from Israel’s “occupation”, such as Motorola, Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard.
The Methodists boycott no other country. But they loudly proclaim a radical anti-Israel policy.
The divestment campaign can have severe consequences for the companies targeted. For example, the United Methodist Church’s pension agency reportedly has $5 million in Caterpillar stock out of $15 billion in assets.
Methodist bishops have already opposed U.S. arms sales to the Jewish State.
The Virginia and New England conferences of the Methodist Church just passed resolutions calling for divestment from Israel. The Methodist Church of Britain launched a boycott against goods emanating from Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
Last October, the historic Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., which features a pew where President Abraham Lincoln once sat, also backed an anti-Israel divestment proposal.
In March, three resolutions taking anti-Israel positions were adopted by the Methodist Church’s public policy arm, which voted in favor of resolutions seeking boycotts and divestment directed against companies regarded as “complicit in the Israeli presence in the West Bank”.
Equating Israel with apartheid South Africa is a recurring theme among pro-Palestinian Methodist groups.
The Methodist Church is not alone in this anti-Israel wave. The wealthiest US Church, the Presbyterian, will also vote the divestment proposal during its General Assembly in Pittsburgh. The Church’s Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment urged the General Assembly to fully embrace the boycott movement against some major companies which are based in Israel.
Last November, the Presbyterian Church hold a conference in Louisville and it embraced the “Kairos Document”, which rejects the Jewish State and says that Israeli security policies are “a sin against God”.
"Liberal" Church efforts to divest from companies doing business with Israel are part of a bigger trend which demonizes Judaism. At the recent Louisville symposium, Eugene March, professor emeritus of Old Testament at Presbyterian Seminary, said the Jewish right to the land is “invalid”, while Gary Burge, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, criticized “the territorial worldview of Judaism”.
Anti-Jewish eschatology is nothing new in the Presbyterian denomination. When the US Church voted to divest from Israel in 2004, its flagship intellectual journal, Church and Society, ran an essay by theologian Robert Hamerton-Kelly who argues that Judaism has always been “a blood-thirsty, primitive religion”.
The well-known Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann, who is professor emeritus at Presbyterian Church affiliated Columbia Theological Seminary and one of America’s most influential left-leaning theologians, wonders if any idea of “chosen people” inevitably results in “absolutism” and the “seeds of violence”. This is a return to Martin Luther’s demonology, since the founder of Protestantism argued that the Jews were no longer the chosen people but instead “the Devil’s people”.
Stephen Sizer, British theologian and leader in these mainline Churches, released a declaration to support the UN Palestinian bid: “The New Testament insists the promises God made to Avraham are fulfilled not in the Jewish people but in Jesus and those who acknowledge him”.
Historically these two Churches have occupied the corridors of power and wealth in America. So although liberal Christianity is now declining in the United States, it still is culturally and politically important. Methodists and Presbyterians are the most aggressively anti-Israel among Protestant denominations, but all five of the mainline denominations in the US – Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Lutheran and United Church of Christ – have debated and adopted policies intended to bring direct or indirect economic pressure on Israel.
As William van der Hoeven, an Evangelical with extensive Mideast experience put it as early as the 1970s, “The PLO has hijacked the main churches”. It’s a new form of Intifada "from Heaven".