- “Today, we’re coming after the Saturday people; after we finish, we will come after the Sunday people”
My personal history with the Presbyterian Church goes back to the early 1990s, when they accepted me as a student for their doctoral program. In the three years I attended the SFTS (San Francisco Theological Seminary) in San Anselmo, CA., I considered it one of the most important learning experiences of my life. I had some outstanding scholars who served as my professors. Yet, one of the things I discerned early on in my studies, some of the professors seemed a bit more anti-Zionist than I had expected. They weren’t overly anti-Zionist, and they were mild by today’s standard.
The relationship between the Presbyterian Church and the Jewish community was reasonably cordial. In 1987, the PCUSA formally rejected Replacement Theology:
- We believe and testify that this theory of supersessionism or replacement is harmful and in need of reconsideration….We affirm that both the church and the Jewish people are elected by God for witness to the world… We affirm the continuity of God’s promise of land along with the obligations of that promise to the people Israel.
While I attended the SFTS, I became very friendly with the Walter Davis who was one of the seminary’s top administrators; he was also a Vietnam veteran. We became very good friends for the time I was there. On one occasion,
Walter Davis was one of the Seminary’s most important leaders while I was there. Walt, (who fought in Vietnam) and I became pretty good friends. I remember him taking me aside after I finished attending a lecture given by Lewis Rambo (he is no relation to Sylvester Stallone ). During one 1995 summer session, Walt said to me, “Michael, I really must apologize for the Presbyterian Church’s failure to come to the Jewish people’s aid during the Holocaust.”
Surprised, I thought about his remarks and said to him, “Walt, if you really want your Church to atone for their apathy during the Holocaust, there is something important your Church can do.” He asked, “What can we do?” I replied, “Be a friend of the State of Israel—have your Church do everything in its power to make a difference in ensuring Israel’s health and stability. Your Church’s work would go a long way in making up what the Church failed to achieve in the dark days of the Holocaust.” Walt promised me that he would see to it that the Church would become a good friend of Israel.”
As the nineties quickly passed, the PCUSA became more and more critical of Israel and its occupation of the West Bank. The PCUSA began articulating some of the worse attitudes that the Vatican II Council tried so hard to expunge from the Catholic Church.
In a recently released document, “Zionism Unsettled,” the PCUSA has gone far from being opposed to a few West Bank settlements; now, it has declared that the ideology of Zionism is really a “Jewish supremacist ideology” that represents “a supremacist misinterpretation of God’s word.” Zionist leaders are guilty of planning and implementing “ethnic cleansing” just as the Nazis did with the Jews of Europe, “They slaughtered untold numbers of Palestinian men, women, and children. . . ”
Did you know that many Palestinian churches have carefully edited the Book of Psalms, deleting the words “Israel” and “Zion” every time they appear. Well, I suppose we can look at the bright side and say, at least they didn’t replace “Israel” and “Zion” with “Palestine” and “Hamas.”
And the PCUSA looks the other way. . .
Christian Palestinian pastors fondly speak about the Exodus as a story about the Palestinians. Observe how Jesus is no longer a Jew; he is a Palestinian—in fact, he is the “first Palestinian revolutionary” according to Rev. Mitri Reheb, a Lutheran pastor from Bethlehem. American tourists were surprised when they went to Manger Square in Bethlehem over one Christmas to see a banner, “Greetings to the birthplace of the Jesus, the first Palestinian revolutionary.”
How strange. Daniel Pipes writes:
- The transfer of power of Bethlehem from Israel to the Palestinian Authority just before Christmas 1995 inspired a spate of articles on Bethlehem’s diminishing Christian presence. They noted that a place not long ago 80 percent Christian is now but one-third Christian. For the first time in nearly two millennia, the most identifiably Christian town on earth has lost its Christian majority. The same changes have taken place in two other famously Christian towns, Nazareth and Jerusalem. In Nazareth, Christians went from 60 percent of the population in 1946 to 40 percent in 1983. Jerusalem Christians in 1922 slightly outnumbered Muslims (15,000 versus 13,000): today, they number under 2 percent of the city’s population.
Surprisingly, the PCUSA doesn’t seem to be bothered by this social reality. Instead of condemning the anti-Christian and anti-Semitic Muslims, they enable them through their apathy and stupidity.
At their symposiums on the Christian Palestinians, they have often invited the Palestinian cleric, Father Naim Ateek, whose influence in contemporary Protestantism is immense as a keynote speaker. Ateek’s condemnations of Israel include imagery linking Israel and the Jews to the charge of deicide, which has fueled anti-Jewish bloodshed for nearly two millennia.
Writing in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Adam Gregerman observed that theologians like Ateek “perpetuate some of the most unsavory and vicious images of the Jews as malevolent, antisocial, hostile to non-Jews.” For example, Ateek wrote about “modern-day Herods” in Israel, referring to the king who the New Testament says slaughtered the babies of Bethlehem in an attempt to murder the newborn Jesus.
One last note.
It is ironic that the former Grand Wizard of the KKK, David Duke expresses outrage at the PCUSA for appropriating his description of Zionism as a “Jewish Supremacist Ideology.” Thank you David Duke, I think you and the PCUSA have a lot in common. By the way, the Iranian news media agencies agree with Duke as well.
One would think that the PCUSA would condemn the suicide bombers and the cult of death that provides hagiographical images of their “martyrs” replete with Israeli body parts. One would think that they would condemn the Islamic theology of necrophilia that inspires young men to kill hundreds in order to have their seventy virgins in Paradise. Worst still, they do not even condemn the Jihadist bloodshed of Christians in the Middle East, who are being slaughtered by the thousands by the ISIS movement in Iraq and Syria.
The moral leadership of the PCUSA is morally bankrupt. Someday, these theologians, academics, and stuffy-shirt thinkers will be remembered for being the moral cowards they really are. I also believe that the twenty million Presbyterians do not all feel the same as their leadership.
To Presbyterians everywhere, I will conclude with this short remark:
When the Iranian state media and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke salute your anti-Zionist attitude about Israel, you must be doing something wrong.
 Elizabeth Smith Gamble, Lexington Theological Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 1, 1992 pp. 80—90.