PRISM Peace with justice in the Holy Land Real stories, real hope
Palestinian children behind bars
Speaking out against detentions
March S April 2012
Christ at the checkpoint The cross as a bridge between Israel and Palestine
PRISM Vol. 19, No. 2
Editor Art Director Copy Editor Marketing Publisher Assistant to Publisher Member Services
Kristyn Komarnicki Rhian Tomassetti Leslie Hammond Sarah Withrow King Ronald J. Sider Josh Cradic Deborah Caraher
Contributing Editors Christine Aroney-Sine Clive Calver Rudy Carrasco Andy Crouch J. James DeConto Gloria Gaither David P. Gushee Jan Johnson Craig S. Keener Peter Larson Richard Mouw Philip Olson Jenell Williams Paris Christine Pohl James Skillen Al Tizon Jim Wallis
Myron Augsburger Issac Canales M. Daniel Carroll R. Paul Alexander James Edwards Perry Glanzer Ben Hartley Stanley Hauerwas Jo Kadlecek Marcie Macolino Mary Naber Earl Palmer Derek Perkins Elizabeth D. Rios Lisa Thompson Heidi Rolland Unruh Bruce Wydick
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A Publication of Evangelicals for Social Action The Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy www.EvangelicalsforSocialAction.org Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University All contents © 2012 ESA/PRISM magazine.
This page: Graffiti on the Israeli separation wall. Photo by Paul Alexander.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Isaiah 2:4
March / April 2012
2 Reflections from the Editor Got Peace?
3 Talk Back
Letters to the Editor
Rejoicing in the power of advocacy
5 Word, Deed & Spirit Lola and Jesus
7 Making a Difference
Something to Shout About
8 Washington Watch
Standing for Jesus in a Broken Political System
9 Kingdom Ethics
Tradition and Innovation in Christian Life
23 A Stone’s Throw from
37 Faithful Citizenship
In Search of a Holistic Higher Education
38 Art & Soul
40 Off the Shelf Book reviews
44 Music Notes
10 Bridges in the Desert
By sharing camel treks through the desert, Israeli and Palestinian Christians enter a new spiritual territory that leads to understanding, reconciliation, and friendship.
A Weekend with Waits
18 Muscular Love: Yohanna
46 May I Have a Word?
20 “If We Could Be Where
Leading Ladies Warriors, Women Are Support Chalice Bearers
48 Ron Sider
The Cross: Divine Child Abuse or Astounding Love?
Peace Starts”: Elisheva Korytowski
Prison In defiance of both international law and social justice, about 700 Palestinian children are arrested, interrogated, and incarcerated each year by Israeli authorities. The world is beginning to watch.
28 What Can Western
Followers of Jesus Do for Peace with Justice in Israel and Palestine? In spite of their many mistakes, American Christians have a role to play in the Israel/Palestine story.
32 Small Things, Great Love You don’t have to be Bono to work for social justice! You can make a difference just as, and where, you are.
Cover: Banksy graffiti on a wall in Bethlehem in the Occupied Territories. (Photo by J van der Wolf /Shutterstock.com)
R eflections from the Editor Got Peace? As Madonna and her underclad cohorts sent out the last vibration of sensory overload at the SuperBowl halftime show last month, the words “World Peace” were projected onto the football field in white lights. I barely stifled a sarcastic snort. World peace? You gotta be kidding me. What do vapid lyrics, crotchthrusting, and Pharoahesque self-worship (“YO-U wanna L-U-V Madonna”) have to do with world peace? Well, maybe I’m too cynical. Maybe it’s not, in fact, an attempt on Madonna’s part to disguise idolatry in the garb of social justice. Maybe the pop star has a genuine yearning for world peace. Who doesn’t? And why shouldn’t we? It’s big and vague and impossible enough to safely join that cheerleading team. It’s a slogan that requires nothing of us because it numbs rather than inspires the imagination. I like to think that I believe in—and even on occasion work toward—peace on a more humble scale. When I moved into my urban neighborhood 13 years ago, I was full of hope and had some pretty nifty plans for reconciliation. But that was before bricks crashed through my window twice in less than two years, both of them narrowly missing my youngest child while surrounding him with shards of glass the size of pizza slices. That was before seeing a woman being beaten by a man in front of our house and discovering not only that none of my neighbors came out to help stop it but that even the cops took a full 10 minutes to make their way over. I’m no Bruce Lee, but I went out myself and ended up taking a few blows and adding my own screams to the night air. (Forgive me, family and friends: I solemnly swear never to try to stop a fight again...) That was before I figured out that while every parent on my block was happy for me to have their kid over (free babysitting is always welcome), none of those parents were interested in getting to know me themselves. After that, I began to wonder if I really did want to make peace with my neighbors. Peace is tedious and trying work, and I’m not as tough as I like to think I am. Building peace is hard enough under my own roof. We’ve got lots of love in my house— it’s like water, unquestioned and available 24 hours a day—but peace is a premium
that we seem able to afford only occasionally. With two teenagers, a crosscultural marriage (we still don’t always understand each other’s accents), and the usual familial, financial, and educational challenges of middle class life, “Bless those who persecute you... peace is more like If it is possible, as far as it depends Dom Perignon— on you, live at peace with everyrarely on the one. ...Do not be overcome by evil, table. but overcome evil with good.” To be honest, Romans 12:14, 18-21 most days I’d settle for peace in my own heart, a labyrinthine leave with you...Do not let your hearts be place full of dark, hidden corners and more troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). devilish dust bunnies than my bedroom floor. The next minute he’s warning, “I have come But I digress. What I really want to talk to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish about here is peace in Palestine. It’s a small it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49). On area, less than 2,500 square miles, just over Monday he’s blessing the peacemakers and two-and-a-half million people. Compared to calling them children of God (Matt. 5:9); on world peace, this should be doable, right? Thursday he’s telling his friends that if folks Whether or not it is “doable,” there aren’t deserving, “let your peace return to are folks in Palestine, Israel, and around you” (Matt. 10:13). the world who, at this very moment, are Nothing real chill or popular about that. in fact doing it—working steadily, selflessly, The peace work of Jesus is daunting, situand faith-fully to make peace a possibility in ationally sensitive, requiring creativity and that place. Those are the stories we’re telling stamina and, yes, sometimes even bloody in this issue of PRISM. These people know drops of sweat. That kind of peace is too firsthand things about peace and about our big to fit on a football field or squeeze into Savior that I can only sense on a concep- a halftime show. But it’s the only kind that tual level, having not yet been forced to means anything. live them. They understand what’s at stake You can keep your world peace, in Christ’s command to love our enemies Madonna. I’m putting my money on Jesus. and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). They know why Jesus sweats drops of Kristyn Komarnicki blood as he prepares for the ultimate act is a sporadic and of reconciliation (Rom. 5:10). They get how easily discouraged Christ’s death and resurrection are not only peacemaker who, the commissioning orders but also the job since hearing the description for the ministry of reconciliation inspirational adage that he has bequeathed us (2 Cor. 5:18). “Only those who Jesus has a lot to say about peace, and see the invisible can none of it is the kind of thing you’d hear attempt the impossible,” has been trying from a celebrity peacenik wearing a patent to keep her eyes on the invisible. This is leather daisy chain. He is hardcore, sharp- just as hard as it sounds, but since Jesus edged, and controversial, and his “both/and” has been so incredibly faithful to her, she messages have that aggravating ring of au- knows he’s there even when she can’t see thenticity. One minute he’s saying, “Peace I him.
Letters to the Editor The November/December “Summoning Adam” issue kicks butt. I’m inspired and full of admiration for many of the folks you are interviewing or who wrote articles that are down in the trenches with men. You do a good job pointing out that the victimizer is also a victim. I think every Christian men’s organization that is serious about following Christ and being a man needs to get ahold of that issue. I’m recommending it to all I know. Tim Timmerman Newberg, Ore.
Here’s a suggestion for Drick Boyd and Gareth Brandt, who, on the November/December and January/February “Talk Back” page, both protested the use of the language of war in PRISM: Thomas Jefferson created his own Bible by literally cutting out all the parts he didn’t like and publishing what was left. Perhaps you could do the same with regard to all the language of war in the Bible, starting with the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6. By all means, leave out David’s rejoicing that God “trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle,” and Paul’s admonition to wield the Word that is “sharper than any double-edged sword” as you “fight the good fight.” As you browse through your slimmeddown Bible, you might reflect on the fact that language—all language—is a gift from God to be used for his purposes. Shun the path of the politically correct, who would shackle our language to win their own battles...oops, I mean, to achieve their own preferred outcomes. Roland F. Chase Newport, R.I.
When receiving our next copy of PRISM, let’s be mindful of the editor and pray for all the other special people in the PRISM community who write and share their stories, experiences, and perspectives with the hope of bringing us closer to God and to each other. Alvin R. Joyner Chester, Pa.
T alk Back Thank you for pursuing what seems to have become an ongoing theme in PRISM—the need for civil dialogue and partnership with those of other faiths. “Getting Schooled in Islam” in the January/February issue raised some important and challenging questions about how to best love our neighbor. It may not be easy, but it’s not rocket science either! When we finally commit to befriend our neighbors—in spite of the awkwardness, discomfort, and trepidation that necessarily entails—we discover that they, like us, are only and gloriously human. I appreciated Joshua Dubois making this point as well, in your interview with him, when he talked about the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge: “...if we can use service and the common good as a magnet to bring people together from different religious backgrounds, then we’ll build understanding and we’ll learn how to live with one another...Interfaith service [is] a simple but powerful tool to address conflicts both here at home and around the globe...” Amen to that. Anita Stanley Bristol, Tenn.
Regarding “Pity or Empowerment?” in the January/February issue—I wholeheartedly welcome Tomi Lee Grover’s call for “smart aid” that empowers people and, hopefully, calls us to address the larger issues of injustice. Yet, our doing this should not necessarily mean a rejection of “pity.” What is worse than “bad aid” is indifference and not providing anything at all. There is still some upside to providing poor Nigerians clothing; they would have more resources to pay for life-saving medicines or for fees so their children may go to school. Genuine compassion, “pity” if you will, by those of us in wealthy nations should lead us towards doing justice, such as addressing the role of big oil companies in corruption, economic inequality, and the leaving behind of toxic environments in places like Nigeria. Ron Mitchell Hope Africa Project New York New Rochelle, N.Y.
Make your PRISM experience even richer by engaging your small group in a discussion of the topics raised in the magazine. You’ll find challenging study/discussion questions for each issue at PRISMmagazine.org. This is a great resource for college faculty and small group leaders. Interested in bulk subscriptions for your church, college, or small group? Email PRISM@eastern.edu.
C elebrate! Not all advocacy efforts are victorious, but they are all important, regardless of size or outcome. Small efforts build up to small victories over time and can make a big difference in the end. What kind of advocacy work do you engage in? Write to the editor at KKomarni@Eastern.edu to tell us what you’re up to, and we’ll do our best to share it with our readers.
In late December, the EPA announced the Mercury Rule, one of the most important updates to the Clean Air Act in the Act’s 40 year history. This rule has been in the making for more than two decades and finally closes one of the biggest loopholes that allow coal-burning power plants to pump unlimited quantities of mercury and other toxic pollution into our air and pass the cost of their pollution to us. It’s a cost that millions of Americans, especially children and the elderly, pay in higher healthcare bills and shorter lives. In fact, the current lack of limits is the reason that one in 10 women has mercury levels in her body that are high enough to present a danger during pregnancy. CREDOAction.com gathered over 160,000 signatures, and the Sierra Club sent more than 900,000 comments to the EPA. President Obama’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard will, for the first time in our country’s history, protect our communities from dangerous mercury, arsenic, and other air toxics spewed from power plants. Thanks to grassroots efforts, the standard will help prevent 11,000 premature deaths each year!
After an epic campaign that involved millions of petition signatures and the arrests of thousands of American and Canadian protesters, the incredible coalition fighting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline emerged victorious in January. The pipeline—the fuse to “the largest carbon bomb on the planet”—has been delayed and effectively killed. And good thing too: NASA’s top climate scientist James Hansen has said that burning the oil locked in Canada’s tar sands would mean “game over for the climate.” While no environmental victory is permanent, it currently looks as if the Keystone XL pipeline is dead. Learn more at 350. org and TarSandsAction.org.
Thanks to thousands of green Americans standing up for a fair cocoa supply chain, the Hershey Company has made its first small step toward eliminating abusive child labor from the sourcing of Students gathered outside of the Hershey its cocoa. store in New York City in June 2011. On January 30 Hershey announced that, by the end of 2012, it will begin purchasing cocoa certified by the Rainforest Alliance for its Bliss line of chocolates. Since the Bliss line is a relatively small part of Hershey’s chocolate empire, this is a very small step for the Hershey company to take. But it is a significant milestone in grassroots work for social justice, because it represents the very first acknowledgement by Hershey management that they have a responsibility to directly address the human rights problem in their cocoa supply chain. Learn more at GreenAmerica.org and RaisetheBarHershey.org.
McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell have all announced that they’ll discontinue the use of ammonium hydroxide, otherwise known as pink slime, in their beef. A Care2.com petition demanding that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stop the use of pink slime in the US garnered over 10,000 signatures! Celebrity chef and food activist Jamie Oliver has been exposing the practice, which the FDA approves even in supermarket ground beef (without requiring listing ammonia in the labeling), but at least the big three fast-food giants are paying attention. Pink slime is made from the fatty sweepings from the slaughterhouse floor, which are notoriously rife with pathogens like E. coli 0157 and antibiotic-resistant salmonella. Once swept up, the scraps are sent through a series of machines, which grinds them into a paste, separates out the fat, and laces the substance with a mixture of water and ammonia (ammonium hydroxide) to kill those pathogens. Learn more at Care2.com.
Lola and Jesus Her name was Eudocia T. Pulido, but my four siblings and I called her Lola, which means “grandma” in our native tongue (Tagalog). Lola died suddenly and unexpectedly last November. I continue to feel the void and probably always will to some degree, because she was so much more than “grandma.” She was certainly a relative—the first cousin of my grandfather on my mother’s side—so “grandma” was not a totally inaccurate designation. But my journalist brother’s eulogy captures best what Lola was for us when he wrote, “While our parents went to school and worked their whole lives, Lola stayed at home and acted as mother, father, teacher, disciplinarian, protector, caregiver, comforter, confidante, friend.” My siblings and I are who we are today largely because of Lola. Since her death, we all feel a little off-center. Something is wrong with the universe. Anyone who has lost a parent can relate to this, I’m sure. Each of us is dealing with the loss in our own way. Part of my own grief process as a minister has been mulling over a question: Why didn’t I ever talk to Lola about Jesus? I talk to everybody else about the most important Person in my life; why didn’t I with Lola? I considered several answers, including just a gross oversight on my part, and thus deserving of Ezekiel’s hammer (Ezek. 33). My evangelical faith has produced this tension, and that’s fine. But as much as it wants to lead me further down the unhelpful (and untimely) discussion about Lola’s eternal destiny, I choose to keep my meditation this-worldly. I do wonder why I didn’t share the gospel with Lola—at least not in any conventional, 4-Spiritual Laws, Romans Road kind of way. Perhaps it was because there was nothing conventional about Lola. Born to subsistence farmers in provincial Philippines, she worked the land instead of working the books; she was forced to quit school after the third grade in order to help out on the farm. And then, beginning at age 18, she became a katulong (live-in helper) in my mother’s childhood home. Mom was 12 when Lola came into her life, and when Mom married and had children Lola filled the same role with our family. Where we went, she went, including when my family immigrated to the
W ord, Deed & Spirit United States in the early 1960s. Lola was there from day one of my life and the life of each of my siblings. In the end, Lola served as the primary caregiver for three generations of my family. And she did so with love, diligence, and excellence. I’m aware of the tendency to canonize the dearly departed, and Lola, who would be the first to point out her faults, would also be the first to laugh heartily at any of our attempts to sanctify her. She was born into the Filipino equivalent of the Episcopal Church, and she went to Catholic mass semiregularly, so she wasn’t completely ignorant of the things of God. My brother’s words say it best though: “She was not religious, but she was the saintliest person we knew.” In this light, for me to have attempted to lead her to Christ in some formulaic way, as I was taught to do early on in my Christian life, would have violated the beautiful complexity of our relationship. I mean, talk about seeing Jesus in someone. If anything, it was Lola who led me to Christ with the demonstration of her unconditional and sacrificial love. Lola witnessed the sea-change in me when I became a Christian and just rode the waves, while others mocked (a relative, for example, bet me money that my newfound faith wouldn’t last six months). Lola didn’t question my decision to go to a Christian college, though no one in the family had ever done that before. She cried when I embraced the life of a missionary and took my young family back to the Philippines, not only because she was going to miss us, but also because she was proud of us. She also cried with pride at my graduation when I was awarded a PhD. Whenever she was in town, she would sit through my Sunday sermons at church and join in on the community of people that formed in our house. One day, during what was to be her last visit with me, I took her to my office, which I had recently
Why didn’t I ever talk to Lola about Jesus? moved into. She walked over to my wallto-wall bookshelves and said in her heavy Tagalog accent, “Oy, too many books.” And then she laughed and put her arm around me, as if to say, “You’re brilliant, eho (son). I’m proud of you.” In all of these important events in my life, Lola’s presence served as a quiet affirmation of the life and vocation that I have chosen. Is it possible that I shared the gospel with my Lola in the same quiet, nonverbal, steady way that she shared grace and love with me all of my life? Such pondering testifies to the uniqueness of each and every relationship and therefore the necessity for discernment in the way that we share the gospel with others. It also questions the expectation upon the faithful to witness to people in a certain way. Pre-packaged evangelism be gone! But...no doctrinal statements about evangelism from me today; just thoughts from a grieving minister, who misses his Lola, the second biggest shaper of his life.
Al Tizon (atizon@eastern. edu) is director of ESA’s Word & Deed Network and associate professor of holistic ministry at Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.
Something to Shout About
M aking a Difference
The Church of Common Ground provides multiple services to the community, including a foot ministry (to soothe the aches of feet that walk an average of eight miles How do you feel about pastors shouting? If a day), a Bible Study, a medical clinic, cinsitting in the pew of a Baptist congregation ema and art opportunities, and a recovery in the South, you might wince at the shouts program. The primary focus of this ministry from the pulpit, suspecting that the warnings remains, above all else, the Sunday afterto mend wayward ways are aimed at you. If noon service. Worship is the cornerstone of attending an Episcopal church in the Midwest, this community. you might think the pastor’s shouts indicate Deacon Maddux’s involvement comes a nervous breakdown of some kind. But if through the organized church. After her first you’re on a street in downtown Atlanta and assignment to a traditional Episcopal congreworshipping at the Church of the Common gation in Atlanta, Maddux felt called to work Ground (CommonGroundAtl.com), there is no with the unhoused and the mentally ill. She need for squirming or alarm. The shouts of found a way to answer her call within the Deacon Carole Maddux and her fellow min- structure of her Episcopal diocese. Maddux isters are encouraging, spreading the Good News of the unbounded love of Jesus Christ to all who will listen. Without shouting, Deacon Maddux can’t be heard above the noise of street traffic and the rushing water of Woodruff Park’s massive fountain. The Good News of the gospel is delivered by Reverend Mary Wetzel and Deacon Maddux 52 weeks a year to all who worship at the Church of the Common Ground, downtown Atlanta’s church without walls. Keith Johnson reads the morning Based on the ministry model of while Rev. Mary Wetzel looks on. Ecclesia established by Reverend Debbie Little in Boston, the Church of the recounts, “I went to the bishop and said, ‘I Common Ground focuses on the unhoused, know this isn’t a typical parish, but what do providing every individual with a place to you think about me being assigned to the worship side by side with their brothers and streets?’” Thus began her official connection sisters in Christ. with Common Ground. This downtown ministry was started Though Maddux and Wetzel work for the by Holly and Bob Book in 2006 and was Episcopal Diocese of Greater Atlanta, they quickly supported under the umbrella of the see their mission as different from a tradiEpiscopal Diocese in Atlanta. Christmas Eve tional church’s approach to street ministry. 2011 marked the church’s fifth anniversary. Their call is not to “fix” the unhoused but to Attendance has grown from that first night’s offer a ministry of presence: They welcome congregation of five to an average weekly people just as they are and provide them attendance of 50. In addition to weekly wor- with a spiritual home. A typical Sunday sership, the community participates in Atlanta’s vice, outside in Woodruff Park, includes the Hunger Walk and an annual memorial service unhoused, the housed, and the occasional for the homeless. Parishioners focus inwardly canine companion. All these children of God as individuals and outwardly as a group. This come together to listen to the gospel, pray year they gathered enough funds to donate with one another, and gather as the body of a duck, some chickens, and a hive of bees Christ at the communion table. to a charity, providing a source of survival to The people who worship at Common some even less fortunate than they. Ground bring a perceptible hunger with them.
In addition to the shared meal of sandwiches that follows each Sunday’s service, parishioners feast on the word to satisfy a deeply essential spiritual hunger that calls them to worship. The volunteer groups who bring sandwiches to share with the congregation always participate in the worship service. Maddux says, “This ministry isn’t simply worship without walls. It’s worship without barriers. Some of our unhoused worshipers have been invited to traditional churches,” Maddux continues, “but are then asked to sit together in a separate area from the rest of the congregation. Housed people who volunteer to serve meals at night shelters arrive and mound vegetables onto plates but do so from behind a buffet table. That separation forms a barrier.” During the Church of the Common Ground service, all worshippers form a circle holding hands during the Prayers of the People. They stand together and recite Psalm 23 in one voice. “Drinking from the same communion cup creates community,” observes Maddux. The communion table at The Church of the Common Ground is open, and Maddux welcomes all. Maddux has served congregations in the Atlanta suburbs, scripture midtown, and downtown. She sees striking similarities among members of all congregations, regardless of location and demographic profile. “Everyone is a whole lot more alike than they think,” Maddux says. “They need to hear how much God loves them and how they can express that love in their lives. It’s the same thing I need to hear.”
“Making a Difference” profiles congregations that put arms and legs on the gospel. Nominate a church by emailing PRISM@Eastern.edu. Jody Andrade is a third year masters of divinity student at Columbia Theological Seminary and a pastoral intern at Rehoboth Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Ga.
W ashington Watch Standing for Jesus in a Broken Political System In 2010 I was given an unlikely opportunity to live out my faith in one of the most polarized public spaces in our country today: politics. I was 25 and had recently published a book showcasing how young Christians are caring for the planet. I was also coleading a Christian environmental organization that was expanding its work nationwide. Between the book and the start-up nonprofit, I was busy traveling around America speaking, writing, organizing, and advocating. Life was full, and I was on a roll. But I was also becoming increasingly fed up with the corruption, brinkmanship, dishonest rhetoric, and partisan gridlock that so often characterizes our diseased political culture. I was fed up with irresponsible politicians intent on serving the powerful special interests that bankroll their elections instead of serving the common good. Beyond all this, I was fed up with the broken public witness of American Christianity amidst our national mess. I was deeply troubled by our pervasive cultural accommodation, the skewed political track record of the religious right, and our obsession with a few key social issues at the expense of many other biblical priorities. I was sick of the way our faith was being manipulated and abused for political ends by leaders on both the right and left. The church has a powerful opportunity today—really a divine responsibility—to be salt and light in a dark and decaying political culture. But we are failing. As the late John Stott warned, “We should not ask, ‘What is wrong with the world?’ for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather, we should ask, ‘What has happened to the salt and light?’” Or, as many of us have been asking, is it even possible to be salt and light in the public square today and be taken seriously, without compromising our faith in the process? This is the question I was determined to answer when I agreed to run against the incumbent in my congressional district.
I had never planned to run for elected office and was far from being a typical or ideal candidate, but I had been fed up long enough to be ready to take a stand. And while the incumbent was also an evangelical, many of us in the district were increasingly disillusioned by his polarizing rhetoric, partisan record, lack of constructive social action, and indebtedness to special interests and PACs. So began the hardest challenge of my life. Members of my own party tried to pressure me off the ballot because I refused to toe the party line on all issues. Conservatives questioned the sincerity of my faith because I ran on the Democratic ticket, and progressives criticized me for being “too religious.” I was largely dismissed by the press and was ridiculed by both sides for my youth and relative inexperience. I had doors slammed in my face, obscenities yelled at me, false rumors spread about my positions, and angry letters and emails sent by people I had never met. It was a hard season, but it was also one of the most meaningful and encouraging times of my life. I had the privilege of meeting kind people and hearing their humbling stories of resilience and hope. Over time our base of support blossomed to include an inspiring mosaic of Democrats, Independents, Greens, Republicans, and even the occasional Libertarian. Young adults mobilized enthusiastically and volunteered long hours to get the word out. Evangelical leaders began to back me, some commenting that I was the first Democrat they had supported in years, and Progressives who had originally shunned me ended up donating generously. It was also an eye-opening experience. I observed the corrupting power of money in politics, and I felt firsthand the incredible pressures to fight dirty and tear down the competition—or stay silent when others did so—in order to get ahead. But the ends do not justify the means. In a culture nurtured on a steady diet of fear, being
a faithful witness involves overcoming, not manipulating, our prejudices, so we are freed to engage all people and situations with grace and truth, breaking out of the old sociopolitical boxes and transcending the culture wars to build bridges for the common good. Though I lost the election with 36.7 percent of the vote, our campaign gained a measure of respect from all sides, and I
In a culture nurtured on a steady diet of fear, being a faithful witness involves overcoming, not manipulating, our prejudices, so we are freed to engage all people and situations with grace and truth, breaking out of the old sociopolitical boxes and transcending the culture wars to build bridges for the common good. learned that it is possible for Christians to be effective salt and light without compromising their faith in order to win elections. As Christians, we affirm the sovereignty of God over all things. Our faith releases us from the compulsive drive to succeed and the corrupting fear of losing. Pursuing victory at all costs points people to ourselves; pursuing faithfulness at all cost points others to Christ. Faithfulness will not always win elections, but it fulfills the call of God and is the only way we can truly reflect the light of Jesus in a world of darkness.
Ben Lowe is currently director of young adult ministries for the Evangelical Environmental Network, where he continues to promote faithful discipleship within the church and a more authentic witness within society. He is the author of Green Revolution: Coming Together to Care for Creation (IVP, 2009) and lives in the Chicagoland area as part of the Parkside Intentional Community.
K ingdom Ethics
David P. Gushee
Tradition and Innovation in Christian Life I turn 50 in just a few months. Perhaps there is something about being at the apex of my life, looking both backward and forward, that has my mind turning to the question of how tradition and innovation ought to be balanced in Christian life. But it was a recent visit to Australia that first triggered these thoughts. Last year, just before Christmas, I was wandering around Sydney’s Darling Harbour. This being Australia, it was about 80 degrees and sunny as I strolled the convention and shopping district. Christmas music was playing in the shops, though there was no evidence that anyone noticed. A large Christmas tree stood near the water, with Ho Ho Ho decorations and pretty gold and silver ornaments. Massive Santa ClausGrinch balloons were skillfully appended to the side of the Sydney Convention Center (where, incidentally, the Labour Party was inside debating whether to allow its MPs to
church have been reading scripture and praying for centuries. I wanted continuity, not change—no more change, not now. It is commonly observed, but no less significant for its repetition, that the pace of cultural change has quickened enormously in recent decades. Many of these changes relate to astonishing new consumer goods, such as everything that begins with the letter i—Phones, Pads, etc. But there is considerable innovation in church life as well, perhaps most noticeably felt in my world via the decline of pews-and-stained-glassand-hymnbook churches. I am just at the tipping point where I hover between yearning for a dying older way of doing church and appreciating needed innovations in a new era. On many fronts, tradition vs. innovation is merely a matter of stylistic preference. But on matters of doctrine and ethics the issue becomes more serious. The question of whether and/or how Christians come to change their beliefs about theology or morality is an agonizing one, especially in a time of rapid change. The pure “conservative” has a ready answer in his or her rejection of all things new in favor of the grand old tradition. The pure “progressive” has a ready answer in her or his embrace of all things new at the expense of old-fashioned tradition. But of course it is not as easy as all that. The history of Christianity reveals pivotal moments in which change was necessary and others in which change had to be resisted. Necessary: ending Christian anti-Semitism, racism, and sexism. Resisted: the Nazification of the German churches, the doctrinal innovations of new religious movements (such as Mormonism), or abortion on demand.
I am just at the tipping point where I hover between yearning for a dying older way of doing church and appreciating needed innovations in a new era. vote for gay marriage). That morning the newspaper’s polling found that only about 20 percent of those Aussies polled had plans to be in church sometime during the Christmas season. Perhaps it was my loneliness and cultural dislocation at that moment, but I had an acute sense that in that place Christian traditions were being eclipsed by (and absorbed into) the relentless engine of consumer capitalism. I felt an intense desire to be back home, sitting by our family Advent wreath, reading the assigned scripture text of the day as precisely the prescribed number of candles burned. In a context of innovation, I deeply desired tradition. In a context of secularization, I yearned for the ancient sacred rhythms of the Christian year. I wanted to read scripture and pray in the way that Christians in the great tradition of the
Most of the evangelicals who read this magazine will agree with my evaluations in the above paragraph. But many will be divided about the question of whether preservation of Christian tradition or embrace of change is the proper course when it comes to the issue of welcoming and affirming gay and lesbian Christians within the Christian family. At this moment, that particular issue is at the center of a titanic struggle between the forces for tradition and the forces for change. I will be cohosting a conference in Atlanta, April 19-21, in which our goal is to help our particular religious community, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and other interested Christians wrestle with sexual ethics issues, including but not limited to LGBT concerns. (See TheFellowship.info/ conference for more information.) I enter that meeting genuinely open to what God’s Spirit is saying to the churches and hoping for illumination through a process of collective Christian discernment. All readers are warmly invited, and your prayers are eagerly sought. Whether we veer to the traditional or the innovative, may our focus be on Christ alone as we seek to follow him in a world that will change regardless of how we feel about budging.
David P. Gushee is director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University, Atlanta, Ga., where he is also a professor of Christian ethics. He is the author or coauthor of a dozen books, including The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center (Baylor University Press, 2008).
Bridges in the Desert by Jonathan Partridge Photography by Barry Rodriguez
10 PRISM Magazine
All images courtesy of Barry Rodriguez, WorldNextDoor.org
Musalaha helps Christians in the Holy Land tread the road to reconciliation Crammed into the murky interior of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, thousands of pilgrims gather each year to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection in the place where Christians traditionally believe he emerged from the tomb. As fingers of “holy fire” protrude from the edicule—the ornate chamber believed to be the place where Christ was buried—priests from various Orthodox Christian groups practically wrestle to get their candles lit first, thrusting their fists into the air if their wicks are ignited before those of their “brothers” from other denominations. Jesus’ declaration that the last shall be first and the first last appears lost amidst the temporary chaos. Yet by the end of the ceremony, believers in Christ from across the planet will raise their candles in unity, illuminating the church in a moving reminder that the Light of the World has come to earth. Like an animated icon, the annual event portrays the church in all its splendor and shame in a land known both for sacred beauty and brutal warfare. The strife inside the building also hints at the ongoing tensions between ethnic Palestinian Arab and Jewish Christ-followers outside the church’s walls. Despite the unity of faith in Jesus as Lord and Messiah shared by these believers, they are often sharply divided by ethnicity, politics, and scriptural interpretation regarding the modern nation of Israel. Both Palestinian Chris-
Despite the unity of faith in Jesus as Lord and Messiah shared by the Palestinian and Israeli believers, they are often sharply divided by ethnicity, politics, and scriptural interpretation regarding the modern nation of Israel.
tians and Messianic Jews suffer persecution in the Holy Land; however, Jews who believe in Jesus tend to believe that all of the Holy Land, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, should be part of the modern nation of Israel, while Palestinian Arabs tend to favor Palestinian self-determination. Most Jewish believers also contend that biblical prophecies support the creation of the modern nation of Israel, while most Palestinian Christians believe the church has replaced political Israel as the recipient of God’s promises. The decades-long debate over who should control the Holy Land has received more international attention lately as the Palestinian Authority has sought statehood recognition from the United Nations, but not much has changed on the ground. The daily realities of military incursions, land confiscation, and sometimes indiscriminate jailing and assaults associated with military occupation continue, only exacerbating the tension for Palestinian believers, while missile strikes, bus bombings, and the fear of another Holocaust have the same effect on Israeli Jews. Christians in Western countries often make matters worse by taking sides and claiming that the Bible supports their position. Yet amidst the turbulence, a homegrown movement is afoot to bridge the divide among Christ’s followers in the Middle East. Among a handful of reconciliation efforts, including day camps, schools, and church gatherings, Jerusalem-based Musalaha has made the most waves over the past two decades, bridging the gap among Palestinian Christians and Israeli Messianic Jews through desert encounters and other ventures that foster understanding and build trust. Named after the Arabic word for
reconciliation, Musalaha is directed by Palestinian Christian and Israeli citizen Salim Munayer and is staffed by Jewish, Palestinian Arab, and international believers in Christ. Advocates say participants have experienced the miracle of unity with their Palestinian and Israeli brothers and sisters in Christ and have gained a better understanding of their commonalities. In time, they hope to see even greater changes from such efforts, such as deeper dialogue about theology. “There are always strains, always tensions,” says Evan Thomas, a Messianic pastor who serves as Musalaha’s chairman. “There are always those who are reluctant to let go of their pet theology or those who have a very strong right-wing, politically oriented theology who feel that they would be so threatened to think that Israel could do any wrong or, on the other side, those who would not be able to cope with any challenges to Palestinians’ political aspirations. But there is a large mainstream from both communities that are looking for the Father’s heart and actually desire to have fellowship with one another.”
Sojourning in the wilderness
No one can deny that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex matter, and followers of Christ who live in the Middle East are entangled in the quagmire. To get a grasp of the tension that divides Jewish and Palestinian Arab Christians, one need look no further than an organized encounter between the two groups in the summer of 1989. Munayer, who was on hand to participate and translate at the event, recalls how a “disaster” ensued after a huge political argument broke out.
“People approached each other not as brothers and sisters in the Lord; they approached each other as a theological sword,” Munayer recalls. With hindsight, organizers should have focused on building relations and trust between participants before delving into political topics, Munayer says. The experience, which helped him and others realize how much reconciliation was needed, prompted the creation of Musalaha. The group aims to give Palestinian and Jewish Christ-followers a deeper understanding of the unity found in Christ promised in Scripture as they get to know and worship with their natural enemies. Musalaha officially got underway when Munayer and Evan Thomas, who pastors a Messianic congregation in Israel and now serves as the group’s chairman, decided to promote unity among local Christians by taking Jewish and Palestinian believers outside of their comfort zones on a desert venture. “In the desert everyone is equal,” Munayer explained. “There is a balance of power. In the desert everyone struggles with the conditions of the desert, and people work together to get through it.” Participants were forced to lean on each other for basic necessities such as food and water in that harsh environment, and neither group had a natural advantage, Thomas says. Bonds began to form despite the surrounding conflict, and participants were able to honestly address the reasons for tension, including differences in theology and animosity related to the Israeli-Palestinian fracas itself. The vision they shared with other local Christian leaders has expanded in the past two decades to include such programs as sports camps and women’s and youth ministries. There have been plenty of challenges along the way. Relations among some program participants have cooled during periods when political tensions became strong, according to Musalaha’s leaders. Over time, participants on both sides have needed to deal with longstanding racial sentiments and mutual demonization.
should possess the Holy Land. Like other Christian Zionists, most Messianic believers who are interested in peace and reconciliation believe God is restoring the Jewish people to the land of Israel as their biblical inheritance, though some also question military policies. Thomas not only sees his longing for Israel as part of his Jewish heritage; it’s also part of his Christian journey. He grew up as a secular Jew in New Zealand and developed a yearning for his Jewish roots after coming to faith in Christ in 1978. That prompted him to move to Israel in 1983. “Coming to know Y’shua, the Hebrew name for Jesus, also entailed coming to know my Jewishness,” he says. “Without inside influences, I also felt a deep calling toward the land and my birthright.” Thomas noted that most Messianic believers like himself are opposed to a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, while most Palestinians favor such a solution. He made it clear that he believed Palestinians need to "In the desert, everyone is equal."
Perspectives in contrast
Much of the tension among Jewish and Palestinian Arab believers in Christ these days stems from political differences and theological disputes regarding who
be treated with dignity, but he hoped that would happen within a single state of Israel. The Messianic pastor believes that many biblical prophecies point to a regathering of the Jewish people in biblical Israel. For example, he cited prophecies in Jeremiah 31 that state that God will gather the remnant of Israel from the north and from the ends of the earth and bring them back to biblical Israel and in Ezekiel 36 where the prophet says that Israel’s towns will be rebuilt and that God will put his spirit in the hearts of the people. Thomas says his understanding of the Bible has impacted his understanding of the political situation in the Holy Land, though he and Munayer have come to contrasting conclusions.
Munayer believes that although the promises of the New Testament have not taken away the importance of the Holy Land, those promises have expanded to cover the whole earth. While some Messianic believers say they strive to take an apolitical stance—even as they support Israel as a fulfillment of prophecy—Munayer takes issue with the view that one must avoid politics when delving into theological issues. When it comes to theological views about biblical lands, politics are unavoidable, he says. “Everything in this country is politics,” he says. “The theological views of the end time and justice are political. “I think many times the dominant group wants to define what is theological and what is political,” he adds.
SEEKING UNITY IN Musalaha (Musalaha.org) may be the most prominent Christian group that is intentionally bringing together Jews and Palestinians in the Middle East; however, the vision for reconciliation takes many shapes and forms in the land of the Holy One. Here are some other groups that are working in the name of Christ either to unite fellow believers or to promote love of one’s neighbor in Israel and the Palestinian territories. House of Light (HouseofLight.net) is a Christian ministry based in the Arab village of Shefa-Amer in Israel’s Galilee region that includes a ministry to prisoners, Bible studies, worship gatherings, and a renowned youth program. Its year-round King’s Kids program brings together Arab Christian and Messianic Jewish children and teens for worship, Bible studies, and games and provides an opportunity to learn dances and pantomimes with Christian music. Participants then perform these routines as a means of sharing
“If you have a basic theology of restoration of the Jewish people to the land, it’s obviously going to affect your political perspective as well,” he says. On the other hand, Palestinians and supporters of a two-state solution often take issue with predominate Zionist perspectives in evangelical churches. Palestinian Arabs—including Palestinian Christians—typically agree that they were unfairly driven from their land in 1948, and they oppose Israeli policies both in Israel and the Palestinian territories that treat Palestinian Arabs unjustly. In the West Bank, they note that there are separate roads for Palestinians and for Israeli settlers, while land confiscation abounds and military checkpoints impede daily life.
their faith. House of Light also is involved in a monthly prayer meeting run by Arab and Jewish ministers that aims to strengthen the body of Christ. HOPE (House of Prayer and Exploits; Hope-Nazareth. org) is a Nazareth-based Christian ministry and training center that aims to raise up prayer warriors in the Nazareth and Galilee regions with a special focus on equipping Arab women for ministry. The organization co-hosts the annual Global Day of Prayer, an event that includes Messianic Jewish and Palestinian Christian congregations in Israel. Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary (NazarethSeminary.org), an independent, interdenominational evangelical seminary affiliated with the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel, has made reconciliation between Palestinian and Messianic Jewish believers in Christ one of its core values. Its department of intercultural studies has a
“That doesn’t work.”
The bumpy road to reconciliation
So how can two groups divided by both theology and politics find common ground? The answer is found in Christ’s work of reconciliation on the cross, according to Christians involved in bridge-building efforts. “Justification is not merely an event for the individual but rather a radically social and relational one,” Munayer says. Like the cross itself, the path to reconciliation comes at a personal cost and is painful, participants say. And while Scripture proclaims that Christ has removed the barrier between Jews and Gentiles, it takes time for traditional
political enemies to experience that reality first hand. “People don’t want to embrace the other side,” Munayer says. “It’s like the stage that boys go through when they don’t want to play with girls.” Initially, Israeli Jewish and Palestinian Arab believers may need encouragement to connect, but when they finally do, they enjoy getting to know one another and learning about each other, Munayer says. Israeli Jews are often surprised by Palestinian grievances and charges against the Israelis and by their political and theological opinions. This can lead Israelis to withdraw and state their own accusations against the Palestinians. People on both sides accuse the other of ignoring reality and biblical truths, Munayer says.
Pathways to peace
Though there are certainly trends among those who dedicate themselves to reconciliation efforts, everyone’s journey is ultimately as unique as their reasons for wanting to get involved. Thomas’ quest for reconciliation came after his military experience in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the First Intifada prompted him to rethink some Israeli military policies. He came to grapple with biblical passages such as 1 John 4:20, which states that anyone who claims to love God and yet hates his brother is deemed a liar, and Ephesians 2, which states that Christ has destroyed the barrier between Jews and Gentiles. Now, he says his theology is informed by a biblical Zionism that seeks the good of all who dwell in the Holy Land.
A TROUBLED LAND Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice (PCPJ.org) has sent delegations to the Holy Land to meet with Palestinians, Messianic Jews, and Jewish settlers alike. The group of Pentecostals and charismatic Christians seeks a just peace for all who live in Israel and the Palestinian territories and engages in dialogue with other evangelicals in Israel about the theology of the land. Most denominations to which PCPJ members belong hold a predominately pro-Zionist dispensational view regarding the modern nation of Israel, seeing it as the modern fulfillment of biblical prophecy. PCPJ founder (and ESA public policy director) Paul Alexander says he grew up with a very one-sided proZionist perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and he and others hope these trips will provide a more balanced view. (See Alexander’s article on page 28.)
Shevet Achim (Shevet.org) employs healthcare as a bridge between Jews, Muslims, and Christians since its inception, using Israeli doctors to conduct heart operations on children from predominately Muslim areas such as the Gaza Strip, Jordan, and Iraq. The name of the organization means unity between brothers and is derived from Psalm 133:1, which states, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” Shevet Achim applies this passage to the fractured relationship between Isaac and Ishmael (representing Jews and Muslims) in the Middle East. With the help of Israeli hospitals and international donors, Shevet Achim has sponsored operations on many Arab youths over the years with the aim of building bridges while saving children’s lives. “I’d like to think what we’re doing is a small act of a prophetic sign of people crossing barriers, with borders coming down and hearts ccoming together,” says the group’s international coordinator, Jonathan Miles.
But those who reach maturity begin to understand that both sides have genuine grievances and both sides contribute to the conflict, he says. They come to recognize that they must restore the relationships between the two peoples and work to do so. They experience personal and spiritual growth by learning about one another’s different histories and theological perspectives. When it comes to the work of bringing together Palestinian and Jewish followers of Christ, it’s often three steps forward and two steps back, Thomas says. He notes that there are some believers who are opposed to such efforts, but he believes Christians with such extreme positions are in the minority.
For Munayer, who grew up as a Greek Orthodox Christian, the cross’ role in reconciliation became apparent during a Bible study led by his uncle that contained Messianic Jewish and Palestinian believers. That same study not only led him into his life’s calling of working to bridge the gap with Jewish believers in Christ, it also became the place where he developed a personal relationship with Jesus, he says. In more recent years, many people have begun that journey through more organized efforts. Shadia Qubti, who now serves as a camp director for Musalaha, had never even heard of Jews who believed in Jesus before attending a young adult desert trip in Jordan at age 19.
focus on reconciliation ministry in addition to other subjects such as Holy Land studies, Islam, and Judaism.
“If the gospel is not able to overcome the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then it is not the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
“I did not meet Messianic Jews at any other event before, although I live in Israel,” Qubti says. “This is partly due to the separated nature of the communities here—Palestinians and Jews in Israel as a whole, and as a church.” Though she says she felt threatened at first by the Israeli Jews who participated in that trip, perceiving them as her enemy, she found a deep connection with a Messianic believer during her final day in the desert. The trip has led her on a lifetime journey of reconciliation as a staff member of Musalaha. Today she says she no longer feels threatened by Jewish followers of Christ, as she perceives them as her brothers and sisters, first and foremost, despite disputes about some theological and political issues. “It no longer is an issue what nationality they are, because the church of God is one that embraces everyone,” she says. “Just like in any other family, siblings disagree, but we are still a family. This is what helps me in times where there are issues of disagreement with Messianic believers.”
Mustard seed movements
Critics of dialogue efforts carried out by groups such as Musalaha often say those efforts fail to produce any tangible or meaningful results, and some Messianic believers have criticized the group for having a hidden “pro-Palestinian” agenda. But advocates for reconciliation say they have witnessed powerful impacts among Jewish and Palestinian
believers that often can be an example to others as well. Thomas fondly recalls a time when people who had watched him and Munayer give a joint presentation in Basil, Switzerland, told the two men that if Israeli Jews and Palestinians could be reconciled, then they could put aside disputes in their own lives. He also recalls a time when some Muslim girls who tagged along with a Palestinian Christian gave their heart to Christ after seeing the Arab and Jewish believers come together. Today Musalaha is expanding its vision to include Muslims and Jews who do not worship Christ. Although there is a unique aspect of reconciliation among fellow Christians, it is also important to seek peace with people
of other faiths inasmuch as it is possible, Munayer says. So far, Musalaha’s work in that regard has entailed sports camps with Muslim, Christian, and Jewish youths as well as a Muslim-Christian desert encounter experience. “There’s a growing tension among Christians and Muslims worldwide,” Munayer says. “We realize that we have to address it.” Other Christians worldwide have taken note of such peacemaking work. The Lausanne Movement missions conference in Cape Town, South Africa, in December 2010 featured a huge emphasis on reconciliation, including work between Jews and Palestinians. During one occasion, Qubti and Messianic believer Dan Sered of Jews for Jesus talked and prayed together in front of hundreds of attendees. David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus, recalled another night at the event when some attendees prepared to gather in a room to pray for Israel and others to pray for Palestine. Upon seeing one another, the believers decided to assemble for a joint time of prayer. Brickner described the event as a beautiful image of what can happen in Christ. He expressed
The two sets of believers have far more in common than not, Brickner says. As a result, he says he is willing to set aside theological differences about eschatology when dialoguing with Palestinian Christians. Likewise, Munayer has taken risks for the sake of reconciliation by saying positive things about Israelis, Brickner says. “We recognize within the church in general that there are both essential and secondary and denominational issues,” he says. “We don’t have to agree on nonessentials in order to break bread, and we’re willing to worship together.”
While Scripture proclaims that Christ has removed the barrier between Jews and Gentiles, it takes time for traditional political enemies to experience that reality first hand. hope that such expressions of love can ultimately attract people to Jesus. “I can’t imagine why people don’t see that reconciliation is the theme of the gospel itself,” Brickner says. “If the gospel is not able to overcome any matter including the IsraeliPalestinian conflict, then it is not the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Arab and Messianic believers in Christ have a shared legacy as minorities within their communities, Brickner says. Though he did not want to compare suffering between the two groups, he recounted how Messianic Jews are denied citizenship and persecuted while Palestinian Christians in Israel at times suffer from Palestinian Muslims as a minority among minorities and also from Israeli Jews because of anti-Arab sentiments.
For those who are in Christ, reconciliation is not just a feel-good activity, it’s a biblical mandate. It’s the reason that Spirit-filled believers in the Holy Land continue to work diligently toward bridging the gap between Jews and Palestinians, particularly within the church. "I'm a bit of a pragmatist," Thomas says, "but I think we have to be pursuers of peace." Jonathan Partridge developed a love for the Middle Eastern church while serving as a volunteer communications assistant for the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in 2002 and 2003. He has returned to the Holy Land several times since then with groups, including Holy Land Trust and Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace and Justice. Partridge serves as a volunteer web assistant for Abrahamic Alliance International, a group dedicated to building bridges among Muslims, Jews, and Christians through education, dialogue, and service activities. He is also editor of the Patterson Irrigator, the weekly newspaper in Patterson, Calif. He blogs at MiddleEastMusings.Wordpress.com.
Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock.com
Muscular Love: Yohanna Katanacho Interviewed by Paul Alexander and Robert K. Welsh A Palestinian evangelical, Rev. Dr. Yohanna Katanacho serves as the Academic Dean of Bethlehem Bible College. He is the author of several books, including the forthcoming The Land of Christ: A Palestinian Cry! (Bethlehem Bible College, 2012). I was born in Jerusalem in 1967 during the Arab-Israeli War.
My mom was at the hospital, and my dad was not able to come because of the curfew outside. The next day he had to endanger his life to come pay the hospital in order to release me and my mom. That was the first day of my life. We lived on Via Delarosa—the Way of the Cross, Station 8—and I grew up in the old city of Jerusalem. I used to see people carrying crosses and singing, but God was so far from my heart and my mind. When I grew up as a young person there were a lot of things that tempted me—drugs, gambling, alcohol—and my life was so far from God. But God still had mercy on me, even though I didn’t have a relationship with him. I come from a Roman Catholic family, but my family only visited church once in a while. When I grew up I joined the university and became an atheist. Eventually I became one of the leaders there who advocated atheism. My undergrad degree is in chemistry. This somehow fit with the scientific approach, and the one reinforced the other. Then around 1986 I had a very strange experience. I was sleeping at my home on Via Delarosa, and at about 3:00 a.m. I heard the bells of the churches ringing, and I opened my eyes. Then I felt some kind of air going through my body. I was not able to move my hands or feet and not to able to shout. It was not a nightmare—I was awake—but I didn’t know what was going on. My mind was really crashing. I wondered, “What in the world is happening? Why can’t I move? Am I paralyzed? Am I dead?” I tried to free myself, but I was not able to get up. After about two hours of struggling I said, “God, if this is from you, free me and I promise to look for you.” The moment I said that I was able to move again. I was terrified. My whole worldview collapsed in one night. What could I do? I was one of the leaders at the university advocating atheism. I was confused. As a result of this experience, every time I walked in a dark place I had fear in my heart and mind, a continual reminder of what had happened to me. I went to the university and told them I wouldn’t be active in the atheism group anymore, but I didn’t explain why. I started looking for an answer. For almost a year I searched. And as I was look-
ing, someone started interacting with me who was a Christian. I thought maybe I need to read the Bible. I thought, “Jesus is a cute guy; he’s meek; he never hurt anyone; he’s a good person, I’m willing to know more about this man.” So I started reading, but I was not convinced. I was invited to a church, and the presence of God was really strong there, and I felt God speaking to me, telling me, “Yohanna, you are a sinner.” I had no problem confessing that I am a sinner. So I closed my eyes and said, “Lord, I give you my heart, but I can’t give you my mind. I know that I am a sinner, and I can see that you are the Savior and that you love me, so I’m giving you my heart, but I’m really not convinced, and I cannot follow you with my mind.” God in his mercy chose to speak to me that week in dreams. I’m a very intellectual person, and yet God saw that this was the more effective way to deal with me rather than giving me arguments. These dreams were really a turning point in my life. God whispered in my ear, “If you want to follow me with your effort you will lose me, but if you are in Christ, then I will carry you, and this is grace.” For some reason when I heard that the barrier in my mind just fell. And I said, “Lord, I want now to give you my heart and mind. I want to give you my whole life.” It was said easily, but obedience is the real test of whether it’s true or not. The first thing God put on my mind was, “You have to start a Bible study at the same university where you were advocating atheism.” I said, “NO WAY. No way. Forget it.” I struggled. But the struggle went through stages. One of the first stages was something very important that God wanted to prepare me for. He wanted to take away the hatred I had toward the Jews. How could I relate to the Jews? I read my Bible, and Matthew says to love your enemies. It wasn’t like multiple choice— Who is my enemy?—the answer was clear for me. But I didn’t know what to do. In the streets Israeli soldiers would stop me and ask for my ID card. I would pull out my ID card, and many times they would ask me to stand in a corner for one or two hours; it was humiliating. They provoked my anger, and all the time it was nourishing my hatred. I went to the Bible and read again, and the spirit of God whispered in my ear one time after another, “Love your enemies. Love your enemies.” Eventually I said, “Lord, I can’t. I don’t know what to do. How can I love
my enemy when I’m living in a context that is so horrible?” God again whispered in my ear, “Witness to them. This is the way you love them. Witness to them.” So I thought, “Okay, I don’t know where God is leading me, but I’ll take a small step of obedience.” I went to a restaurant where they had a flyer called “Real Love,” and on it was a quotation from Isaiah 53, written in Hebrew as well as in English. So I decided to take that flyer, put it in my ID card, and when the soldiers asked me for my ID card, I would pull it out and give it to them. In this way I would obey my Lord. When the soldiers opened my card, they would say, “What is this?” And I would say, “This is how God wants me to relate to you.” I didn’t want to lie, I didn’t want to tell them how I felt about them, because I really didn’t feel any love in my heart, but I also wanted to obey the Lord. They would look at it and say, “Ah, this is from the Hebrew Bible,” and they would read it, and we’d have a discussion, and they would let me go. Sometimes they asked me more questions. I did that so many times that, without even noticing, my heart and mind and emotions started changing. God was shaping my heart. I would walk in the same streets, see the same soldiers, and now I would pray in my heart, “Lord, please let them stop me. Because when they stop me I can share your love with them.” One night I was photocopying the church bulletin, which is in Arabic, and the photocopier was stubborn that night. I don’t know if the evil one or God himself was involved in this—I’ll discover in heaven—but the photocopier was not working well, and it took me so long to photocopy a few bulletins that it was about midnight. During that time some Palestinians were writing graffiti on the wall, political things, and distributing political flyers against the Israeli government. The Israeli government wanted to stop that, so they said, “If you call a Palestinian who looks suspicious, and he doesn’t stop, you can shoot him.” So it was a really tense, dangerous time, and most people wouldn’t go out at night. I was going down the stairs from Damascus Gate, and, lo and behold, there were three soldiers sitting at the gate. When I saw them, my heart went faster and faster, and I said, “Lord, I have all these Arabic bulletins in my jacket pocket, and these soldiers don’t read Arabic. If they see them they will think these are political flyers, and I will probably be detained for the night, and I really don’t want to do that, Lord. I was doing your work, and now you’re gonna do this to me? That’s not fair. So please, Lord, do your work. You know I don’t want any of this to happen.” One of the soldiers pointed at me with his finger, which basically means “Come here.” And if I didn’t respond to his finger I might be shot. I approached the three soldiers without thinking, and I don’t know why, but I opened the zipper of my jacket very quickly and the zipper made a sound and these three poor soldiers were terrified. They thought I was going to attack them and kill them. So they put their hands on their machine guns and pointed them at my face. I put my hand on my heart, and I said, “I love you.” There was a moment of
silence. I don’t know how long it lasted, but it felt like eternity for me because the guns were pointing at my face. And then the soldiers put their guns down. The words of love were stronger than their machine guns. And I started talking to them about Jesus Christ, who changed my heart and really helped me to understand that I love them. They said to me, “We wish that all Palestinians were like you.” I said, “No, I wish that you were like me—I wish that Jesus was in your heart.” And we had about a 20-minute discussion. It was like a sermon after midnight. Praise the Lord. The soldiers didn’t accept the Lord that night, but they really had something to think about. And I will not be surprised if I see them in heaven. God taught me that love is not a feeling but a command, that love is a commitment to advocate Jesus Christ to the other. Only when we advocate Jesus do we truly love. Only
God was shaping my heart. I would walk in the same streets, see the same soldiers, and now I would pray in my heart, “Lord, please let them stop me. Because when they stop me I can share your love with them.” when we help people to be transformed into the image of Jesus are we ourselves transformed into the image of Jesus whom we love. Since that day I learned that my love muscles are too weak. During the process of witnessing, God helped my love muscles grow stronger and stronger. Today I know I need to practice love so that my love muscles will grow stronger. We Palestinians have a great opportunity to be so muscular in our love. Later, after God worked in my heart like this, God also opened an opportunity for me to start a Bible study at Bethlehem University, where I had once advocated atheism. That was the first Bible study ever in any of the Palestinian universities. We started with three students, and each semester the number grew. Then we had a conference and moved to other universities, and God in his mercy reached out to so many students. I thank God for that privilege. Without his interference I would have been lost. The grace and mercy of God came to an atheist Palestinian in the middle of the night and transformed me into a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. God works on the Via Delarosa in this century. God works in Bethlehem, in Jerusalem, in Nazareth, in the Palestinian territories, in Israel today. It’s amazing what God can do. All we need to do is be willing to walk with the Lord and to follow him whether he leads us to the checkpoint where I witness to soldiers or to the church where I kneel down in prayer. God is there—at the mount of transfiguration as well as in the valley of the shadow of death. God is here when I meet an Israeli soldier and when I meet a Muslim. God is here among the Palestinian people and in Palestinian churches. S
Interviewed by Paul Alexander and Robert K. Welsh A Messianic Jew, Elisheva Korytowski was born and raised in the United States before immigrating to Israel in 2006 at the age of 20. After completing her military service, she joined the team at Musalaha and began studying Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. My first year in Israel, I worked at a restaurant where all the staff was Arab except for me. They were all Muslim, from East Jerusalem. I went to government-sponsored Hebrew class in the beginning, too, and probably half the class was Arab teenagers who needed to improve their Hebrew before getting into college. I wouldn’t have called any of these people my friends, but we got along fine. I don’t know exactly how to put it, but I thought I was being this amazingly tolerant individual just because I could be polite to them. It wasn’t really conscious, but when I look back I see that I thought so highly of myself at that point just because I wasn’t saying hateful things about Arabs. Just because I wasn’t being a complete jerk, I felt I was the pinnacle of tolerance. But it’s not about being able to have a business transaction without stabbing somebody. The fact that these people weren’t believers made a huge difference, because I didn’t have to really incorporate them into my life. I had this fatalistic attitude of “Maybe we’re polite on the surface, but there’s a conflict going on and we are on different sides.” This is why I didn’t put forth a lot of effort into understanding. Then, about six months after I came to Israel, I went on a trip to the Jordanian desert with an organization I’d heard about called Musalaha, which means reconciliation in Arabic, an organization that seeks to reconcile Israelis and Palestinians, starting with believers on both sides. I went because I was curious—I’d never met Palestinian Christians before, and subconsciously I was trying to fill this role of being the tolerant, Western, forward-thinking Messianic Jew, proving through my participation that I didn’t hate Arabs. When I got there, it suddenly hit me: These people aren’t the kind of people I’ve been interacting with every day; these are my brothers and sisters in the Messiah, and just a smile
is not going to cut it here. For some reason I hadn’t thought about it before. I realized then that what I had thought was love was really only a kind of superficial niceness. There was tension throughout the trip. We were all very kind to each other, and we were sensitive and made sure not to talk about certain things, because the point of the trip is to have a forum where people can get to know each other just as people. So that’s what we did. We were each paired up with a person from the opposite side. We rode camels together on a journey through the desert and had to struggle together and make something work. And as a whole unit, we had to cross the desert as one. We did different team-building exercises, and we worshipped together, prayed together, and had Communion together. The most touching experience for me was at the end of the trip. Some of the tension had been released by that point, but it was still there. But at one point we entered into worship and I suddenly felt as if we had transcended all of our physical limitations, our ethnicity, all the things that define us as who we are on this earth. We just came together as children of God and worshipped; we were doing something towards God, together. Once we came down from that, it was as if we fell back into our bodies, into our male and female and Jew and Gentile bodies. Those are important on this earth; they bring blessing as well as conflict. But I had a kind of defeatist attitude, thinking, “Well that was nice. This was a taste of heaven, and we’ll be able to know that someday. But, for now, we’re here and it’s still hopeless.” I think, honestly, that a lot of that attitude came from what I believed then, which was that there will never be peace until Yeshua comes back, so there’s no use trying. In the back of my head, I thought, “We can enjoy these nice little sessions; we can be brothers and sisters, but really in the end they’ll probably all kill us and we’ll probably all kill them.” But at the same time, it was still really on my heart to bring these two communities together. The trip was a great experience, and I continued to partici-
David Levene, courtesy of Oxfam
“If We Could Be Where Peace Starts”: Elisheva Korytowski
pate in the organization in follow-ups and as a camp counselor, but soon after that I went into the Israeli army. So I kind of put all of that stuff on the table. My experience in the army didn’t really change how I feel about reconciliation, but it definitely changed how I feel about politics. I came to Israel with a vision, and the first thing I wanted to do was serve the country. I believe that Israel needs to be defended. Up to that time I was mostly friends with believers, but the army is a place where you have to interact and be a part of a team with people you wouldn’t otherwise hang out with—all different socioeconomic backgrounds, political views, ethnicities, races, religions—Orthodox Jews, secular Jews, Druze, Muslims, and Russian Christians. So, it was a really great exposure for me to the country. Most of the time, my unit was in the north guarding the Syrian border. We had guard posts and lookouts as well as a couple of jeeps constantly patrolling the area. During these patrols we would stop to make coffee under the trees, pick wild figs, or chat with Israeli tourists. It was not the hardest work a lot of the time. I felt good about guarding the borders, about being ready for legitimate warfare with, say, Syria or Lebanon. But at two points we were in the West Bank for a few months at a time, which was entirely different work. I can’t say that I felt as positively about this, but I’m really glad I got to see things for myself instead of just reading about them. We did all the missions that a regular combat unit would do in the West Bank—guarding, jeep patrols, raiding houses, arrests, random checkpoints. I was very conflicted, because on the one hand, I would hate a lot of what we were doing there, the things that were mainly for protecting settlers and the most intrusive on the lives of everyday people, and on the other hand, I’d think, “Somebody needs to be here to stop the real threats.” When I got out of the army I had time to process and research and really look into all these things for myself. But I didn’t tell a lot of my friends about it, because the Messianic movement, as a whole—it’s changing now with my generation—but as a whole, they’re very right-wing. And this is mainly because of their interpretation of the Bible, which was my interpretation as well at one point—that God gave this land to the Jewish people and we need to conquer it, period. But even when I still held to that theology, I wondered, “What about the Palestinians? Is what’s happening to them okay? And if not, if what we are doing is not something that looks like the love Yeshua talks about and commands us to show, then there’s a problem.” I no longer hold to the typical Messianic Jewish theology concerning these things, but I don’t think it’s an illegitimate view either. What’s important is to address these issues, no matter what theological framework you embrace. In general, I think it’s much more important to focus on what Yeshua commands us to do than anything else. Our role as believers is to do good and love our neighbor—then God will accomplish what he wants to accomplish through us. We need to act justly. And what’s happening is not just. In Israel, we Messianic Jews are fighting for our own rights
within society as Israeli citizens, and rightfully so. There are antimissionary organizations which persecute believers here, trying to shut down our businesses and deport us. There have been numerous protests outside of private homes and congregations, and even a few violent attacks including fires and bombs. These organizations are mostly backed by the ultra-Orthodox. This minority has a disproportionate amount of power in the government, so much that if they find out that a person is a believer they bar him from immigrating to Israel like any other Jew. But how can we demand justice for our own Messianic community while keeping quiet about the issues affecting the rights of those across the line, let alone those within our nation’s borders who are citizens of Israel just like we are? I have no doubt that most Messianics do care, that they don’t harbor hate towards Palestinians, especially not toward the Christians. But I also think that their love toward them is often manifested in politeness, as it was for me. I’m not saying that it’s not important to be civil, but love is much deeper. Yeshua commands us to love as he loved us, which is obviously sacrificial. It probably doesn’t take sacrifice for most people to smile or shake someone’s hand. Love is about giving something
You have to step back and question: Does it line up with what Yeshua teaches to have an entire population that doesn’t have the same rights as others? of ourselves, in this case at least putting in the effort to try to build relationships and understand the other side. To listen to the other side’s grief. To know their heart, because we are a part of each other. To treat them as my brothers and sisters, to love them as members of my own spiritual family, even when it’s not comfortable. Even when it might be a little scary. Some people think I’m crazy for going to Bethlehem to see friends. It’s against the law, and they think it’s dangerous. For a time I was scared, but I can’t live in fear and let the situation keep me from having relationships. If we don’t build these relationships, it just separates us more. So we have to fight against that—together. Jewish Israelis are not allowed to go into Palestine, and Palestinian Christians are only allowed to come to Israel at Christmas and Easter for a few weeks at a time. Last December, a few months after starting my work in Musalaha, I thought, “I have no excuse in the world for not inviting a Palestinian to my house. Really, it would be pathetic.” So I invited some Palestinians to a little get-together at my house with my Messianic Jewish Israeli roommate. Maybe they were scared. A lot of them didn’t come. But two girls did, and one of them said, “Wow, this is the first time I’ve been in a Jewish person’s house.” I realized it was a lot easier than I thought to break down
The Israeli separation wall provides the backdrop for this
all these little barriers. I guess want us dead no matter what. But Palestinian boy’s play in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock.com) it’s not that significant that now I think if both the Israeli-Palestinshe’s been in a Jewish person’s ian population and the Palestinian house, but if you add up all population had more freedom, these things, they lead down a if they had a country and were certain road. I feel like I’m a lot treated as important, they might further down that road than I be more inclined to be a peaceful was a year ago. Of course, my partner. involvement in this organization So the issue is “Where do and my theological and political we put justice versus security?” I views have brought a bit of hope that we can aspire to both. controversy into my life. Some Take the security wall. My main of my friends think I’m disloyal. problem with the wall isn’t that I’ve been called anti-Israeli just it’s ugly and separates us. If there because I don’t feel the same were two different countries, a way about the situation they do. wall between them wouldn’t matter I’m indeed pro-Israel. I beas much. The real issue for me lieve in this country. I live here. is where the wall is built. They’re I believe in defending it, physibuilding it through people’s neighcally as well as ideologically. borhoods and not on the 1967 But I don’t agree with all of its border. They’re using the wall as policies, and if I’m going to truly a way of cutting into territory that love Israel, I will help hold it to doesn’t belong to us, because a high standard. I will speak up they’re trying to include the settlewhen I think there’s something ments. Also, logically you can’t wrong. If you love your friend, just build this wall saying that you will confront him when he’s you’re separating two entities and doing something you think is not acknowledge that there are wrong. It’s the same thing with two entities. If you’re separating your country. Israel from Palestine, you have to acknowledge Palestine. People think you have to be either radically pro-Israel or If there’s hope for anyone making a difference here, it lies uncompromisingly pro-Palestine, as if only one people can exist with the believers. It’s not just that we want to get along for and the other has to lose everything. But you can acknowledge the sake of politics, or security, or freedom. It’s that we have to that both Israel and Palestine should have the right to exist. Or, get along, because God commands us to. However much of a you could acknowledge that this should all be one state. Or hassle it might be, we have to do it. It would be wonderful if we you might have some other solution. The point is to acknowlcould be where peace starts. Believers on both sides are such a edge that God loves and has a plan for both peoples and that small portion of the population. While we have many differences, he wants to see both peoples prosper—and all of us should we have brothers and sisters on the other side who not only want the same. follow God as we do but also understand what it feels like to When I think of evangelicals in America I think of a blindly be a religious minority. It would be amazing if we could somepro-Israel population for the most part. I think it’s fantastic that day lead the way through our unity. The situation is complex, they care, but it becomes a problem when your love for one and the road ahead will be filled with difficulties, but the obviside blinds you from loving the other side, or from seeing the ous next step is that we get to know each other and that we greater reality of the situation. We need to filter our theology come together as one unit in some way. I mean, they’re right through Yeshua’s words and not the other way round. Those next door. It just seems so obvious to me now. S organizations whose whole idea is to build up settlements and support Israel without question are hurting the Palestinians and, in my opinion, ultimately hurting Israel as well. These interviews were made possible by a grant from the Flame You have to step back and question: Does it line up with of Love Project, funded by the John Templeton Foundation. Paul what Yeshua teaches to have an entire population that doesn’t Alexander is professor of Christian Ethics and Public Policy at have the same rights as others? If not, then you have to Palmer Theological Seminary as well as director of public policy change something. You can’t just ignore it. They say it’s because at the Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy. He edited of terrorism, and I see there a legitimate point. I’m not saying Christ at the Checkpoint: Theology in the Service of Justice that if Israel gave up everything all of a sudden there wouldn’t and Peace (Pickwick Publications, 2012) and is producing a film be any threat—there will still be radical people and groups that about Palestinian Christians titled With Love from Palestine.
A STONEâ€™S THROW FROM PRISON Child Detentions in the Palestinian Territories by Mae Elise Cannon In conflict, children suffer the most. Thatâ€™s the case in the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict. Of particular concern to child rights advocates is the plight of Palestinian children arrested and detained by Israeli authorities. Not only are they denied due process by US and international standards, they are also subject to arrest, interrogation, and detainment, which is inconsistent with Israeli law. Everyday life is difficult for both Israeli and Palestinian children. Israeli children grow up in a country where insecurity exists because of the conflict with Palestinians and other neighboring states. They live with the fear of random attacks such as the suicide bombings common during the Second Intifada. Israeli children near the Gaza border live under the threat and fear of missiles which have been fired almost daily across the border into southern Israel. Moreover, since military service is compulsory in Israel, both boys and girls are expected to serve in the army when they turn 18. Involvement in the military occupation of the Palestinian territories can expose them and their families to hostile, volatile, and violent situations.
Palestinian children also face the constant threat of violence. They live in situations where family members are often traumatized, and they experience tight restrictions on movement and often limited access to basic necessities such as education and healthcare. A great number of Palestinian children suffer from poor emotional health and post-traumatic stress (PTS) as they witness violence and the humiliation of parents, siblings, and neighbors in encounters with the Israeli military. These children increasingly grow up in environments that lack opportunities or a sense of hope. Defence for Children International (DCI) is an independent nongovernmental organization represented in 40 countries with its International Secretariat based in Geneva, Switzerland. DCI is committed to promoting child rights around the world, including within Israel and the Palestinian territories. They argue that Israeli enforcement of child detentions in the Palestinian territories is one of the greatest barriers to the well-being of Palestinian children. Around 700 Palestinian children are arrested by the Israeli military every year. Since 2000, more than 7,000 Palestinian children have
In the last decade more than 7,000 Palestinian children have been prosecuted by Israeli military courts. been detained and prosecuted by the Israeli military courts. About one-fifth of these children are 12-15 years old. Most are 16-17 years old and are commonly arrested for throwing stones. These children are subjected to arrest, detainment, interrogation, and prosecution under military courts. According to DCI, the Israeli authorities use “systematic and institutionalized ill-treatment and torture” toward Palestinian children. DCI reports that the current conditions of arrest are in violation of the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of a Child. In January 2012, more than 106 Palestinian children were being held in Israeli prisons or detention centers. The number fluctuates monthly, but the experiences children report are remarkably similar. Most children are arrested around friction points where an Israeli settlement is being built, or already exists, near a Palestinian village in the West Bank. The authorities are often unable to identify who throws the stones, but they send a strong message that confrontation with the military force will not be tolerated. Arrests are typically made a few days after the incident in the village near where a stone-throwing incident occurred.
are put in a shipping container or some other “shelter” until they are handed over to the
authorities at the police station. Once at the police station, the interrogation begins. The child’s parents are not present, even though under Israeli law the parents have a right to attend the interrogation. The Palestinian parents are not notified about where their child has been taken and do not know when the interrogation will occur. Children seldom, if ever, are accorded all of their legal rights—including consulting a lawyer. Even under Israeli military law, the child has a right to silence but is seldom informed of that fact. By the time the interrogation begins, the child has had his hands tied behind his back for at least five hours. Most children are sleep-deprived and scared. Most children report that they are not allowed to use the bathroom and have not been given food or water. The interrogator then makes the allegations against them, asking, “Why do you throw stones?” The child typically begins with a denial.
Traumatic arrests According to Gerard Horton, a child rights advocate and attorney from DCI, the process of arrest, interrogation, and incarceration is extremely traumatic for the child. In most cases (62 percent), the Israeli army goes into family homes and arrests young male children (and young adults) between midnight and 5 a.m. Children will wake up to shouting and people banging at the door. In a small number of cases, children will be woken up with a soldier in their bedroom. The family is then gathered outside or in one room in the house. The commanding officer will check the ID cards of family members. Once the child is identified, a single plastic zip tie is used to tie the child’s hands behind his (or, on rare occasion, her) back. In nearly all cases (91 percent), the child is also blindfolded at some point during the arrest. Parents are seldom told why the child is being arrested and are not told where the child will be taken. The family is then told to remain in the house. Once the children are removed from their home, about 30 percent are then put on the floor of a military vehicle. While on the floor, they experience severe bouncing and the effects of the rough roads. Many children report physical or verbal abuse from soldiers, including kicking or slapping. Incidents are more severe when a commanding officer is not present. A child is sometimes pushed from one end of the vehicle to the other while being verbally harrassed. According to DCI, after the army completes the arrest, the children are then handed over to Israeli police. The police stations are located in settlements in the West Bank, such as the Ariel settlement. Police stations typically do not open until 7 or 8 a.m. Since most children are arrested between midnight and 5 a.m., the soldiers then have to decide what to do with them for the remaining hours of the night. Many of the children remain handcuffed and blindfolded and are left outside. Sometimes they
Israeli soldiers guard Jewish settlers who have seized Palestinian homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem in February 2011. (Photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock.com)
The degree of intensity of the interrogation sometimes depends on how long it take the child to confess. The interrogator uses many means by which to obtain the confession, including threats of physical violence or imprisonment and threats toward
Aziz Haddad* In the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, B’Tselem reports four cases in one month alone where Israeli soldiers entered homes in the village to photograph children in their bedrooms, record their names, and check their IDs. One night, at 2 a.m., 14-year-old Aziz Haddad was arrested when Israeli soldiers came into his home. After being kept awake for 12 hours, Aziz was interrogated and “slapped around.” His lawyer requested visitation but was denied access. The interrogator did not inform Aziz of his right to remain silent. After nearly six hours of interrogation, which included physical intimidation, being slapped around, and threats, Aziz eventually broke down and provided the names of men from his village who allegedly provided a threat to Israel’s security. Later some of those men were arrested solely on Aziz’s testimony. In an interview Aziz’s father reports: “It is difficult to live under the threat of night raids for fear your child will be arrested. Every night we sleep and prepare ourselves that this night the soldiers might come and arrest one of us—me, my wife, or even one of my children.” Mr. Haddad tells of the challenges living with this fear. After Aziz was arrested, his other son began to sleep fully dressed because he was afraid that someone would come in the middle of the night to arrest him. Aziz’s mother tells of the experience of children in their community: “After child detentions began in our community, the children have had difficulty sleeping. They are afraid all of the time. Sometimes they have trouble eating and do not experience joy in their play…we try to teach our children to be strong and not to be afraid.” *Name has been changed to protect identity.
the child’s family. Sometimes the interrogators threaten to cancel the parents’ work permits for Israel if the child does not confess. The physical violence begins with slapping the child, pushing him off the chair, shouting, and intimidation. This is followed by further physical violence if the child hasn’t yet confessed. DCI states that in nearly all cases (98 percent), the child eventually confesses, even those who are innocent. Many tell their lawyer they were beaten. More than 60 percent report some degree of physical violence. Often the child confesses in order to stop the beatings and the interrogation. Because bail is denied, the children also fear that if they plead innocent and the case goes to trial they will be kept in jail for a longer period of time than if they simply plead guilty. In about a third of the cases, the child is given a confession written in Hebrew, which the child cannot read or understand, to sign. After the confession, the child typically serves a sentence of two or three months. In 2009 and 2010, 93 percent of minors convicted of throwing stones served sentences ranging from a few days up to 20 months in prison. During incarceration the children are relocated to a detention facility within Israel. DCI notes that this is in direct violation of the 4th Geneva Convention Article 76, which states that “prisoners cannot be held outside of occupied territories.” The relocation of the children makes it virtually impossible for their parents to visit, since most Palestinian families do not have permits to travel into and out of Israel. The permit application process often takes
longer than the period of incarceration to be approved. While the children serve their sentence, they are denied access to a telephone and are not allowed to receive letters.
At What Price? What happens to these children once they are released from incarceration? One might think they would become increasingly militant and more resistant to the presence of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, but DCI and other human rights organizations report the opposite effect. According to Gerard Horton, “This system of interrogation and incarceration breaks the children. When you talk to the children’s mothers you get a much clearer picture of the effects. When children come home from prison, they have nightmares. They wet the bed. They become aggressive toward their siblings. They role-play scenes of interrogation with their friends. For many children their performance in school also suffers. These children never want to see a soldier again.” The system of child detentions in the Palestinian territories not only punishes the child and their families, it also has an effect within the village community, showing it that there will be a strong retaliation if children or adults are involved in incidents of stone throwing. Mahmoud D., a 17-year-old Palestinian child detainee, reported: “I went from having a normal life at home to handcuffs, deprivation of sleep, shouting, threats, rounds of interrogation, and serious accusations. In these circumstances, life
becomes dark, filled with fear and pessimism—tough days that words cannot describe.” According to DCI, at each step in the process, from arrest through incarceration and release, the child detainee suffers from “some sort of physical or mental abuse.” When looking at each component individually, their treatment could be considered degrading and a violation of human rights. However, considering the age of the children in question and the subsequent treatment from event to event, DCI has identified the process of child detainment as currently implemented toward Palestinian children in the territories as inhumane and degrading treatment. The Israeli military believes these measures are necessary as a means of maintaining security within the West Bank. The question of a child’s age and appropriate punishment also raises an issue of concern. According to Israeli law, a child is considered anyone under the age of 18 years old. Unlike Israeli children, Palestinian children in the West Bank are subject to military, not civil, jurisdiction. Until September 27, 2011, a child in the Palestinian territories was anyone under the age of 16 years old.
But Israeli Military Order 1676 raised the legal age of a child in the territories from 16 to 18 years old. Child advocates celebrate this decision as a step in the right direction toward protecting the rights of children. Order 1676 also made the provision for notifying a child’s parents that the child had been arrested and informing the child of his right to consult with a lawyer prior to interrogation. According to DCI, these amendments have improved notification requirements but have only had “marginal impact” on the situation facing Palestinian children prosecuted under Israeli military law: “These developments have had no discernible impact on the treatment of children at the point of arrest, transfer, or interrogation.” Under Israeli law, it is illegal to incarcerate a child under 14 years of age. However, the military law applied in the territories allows for the arrest of children as young as 12 years old. Human rights organizations and child advocates call for Palestinian children to be treated the same as Israeli children. In July 2011, B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, issued the report No Minor Matter: Violation of the Rights of Palestinian Minors
Gabi Mansoor* DCI reports the following case study regarding children detained in solitary confinement: Gabi is a 17-year-old Palestinian resident of Osarin village in the Nablus district of the Palestinian Territories. On October 15, 2011, he was arrested at 2 a.m. from his family home. During the course of his arrest, his detention and questioning were overseen by the Israeli army, the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), and the Israeli Prison Service (IPS). During his arrest, he was blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back by two sets of plastic cords. He was placed in a military vehicle and transferred to a military base. He was then transferred to the Huwwara interrogation center and made to sit on the ground until dawn. He was refused a request to use the toilet. At 9 a.m. he was again transferred to the Petah Tikva interrogation center within Israel. He was initially interrogated in Arabic for two hours and was told that a friend had provided evidence against him. He was accused of having thrown Molotov cocktails at an Israeli military jeep. He denied the charges. He was then placed in solitary confinement in Cell No. 5 for two days. He described Cell No. 5: “It was a very small cell with a mattress on the floor, a toilet, and two concrete seats. It did not have any windows, just a vent for air conditioning. It was very cold… I could not sleep because there was a yellow light on 24 hours a day.” He was then transferred to the Al Jalame interrogation center and was held in solitary confinement for an additional five days. While in Al Jalame his detention was extended, but he did not appear in court and does not know whether or not a lawyer appeared for him at an extension hearing. He was then transferred back to the Petah Tikva interrogation center and again held in solitary confinement, in Cell No. 4, for an additional nine days. He was interrogated on two additional occasions and eventually confessed to the crime. While professing his innocence, Gabi says, “I was in a very bad psychological state, so I decided to confess. I confessed to throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at army jeeps.” His total time in solitary confinement was 16 days. He is currently being held in Megiddo Prison inside Israel. *Name has been changed to protect identity.
Arrested by Israeli on Suspicion of Stone Throwing. The study included the interview of 50 minors, close to 40 percent of whom (19 children) were under the age of 14. These children served no more than two months in prison. In 2011, DCI, UNICEF, and other child-focused human rights organizations issued a plea for change to the mechanisms of child detainment in the Palestinian territories. On December 28, 2011, DCI issued an urgent plea to the UN Special Rapporteur, affirming that “the greatest concerns are persistent reports of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” and citing the UN Convention against Torture, which was ratified by Israel in 1991. The points of contestation include the nighttime raids on family homes, the treatment of children from time of arrest through their sentencing, children in solitary confinement, and dual legal systems for children in the West Bank and Israel. The issue of Palestinian child detentions in the territories has received increased attention in the international community, including recent discussions within the British Parliament highlighting great concern. On October 18, 2011, 25 members of the House of Commons signed a motion in support of UNICEF’s appeal to the Israeli government to release all 164 Palestinian child detainees from Israeli military detention. Two months later, 55 children were released on December 18, 2011, as a part of a prisoner swap agreement between Israel and Palestinian authorities surrounding the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Palestinians protest Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem in 2011. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock.com)
Solitary confinement In addition to the treatment of minors arrested for throwing stones, DCI and other human rights organizations have also issued an urgent appeal regarding children in solitary confinement. Since 2008, DCI has documented 38 such cases. These children are typically older, mostly between the ages of 16-18 years old, and are accused of more serious offenses, such as throwing Molotov cocktails or homemade grenades. Children are typically confined between three and 24 days. In 2009, one child was held for 65 days. Children are often held in Cell No. 36, which measures 2x3 meters. The cell contains a concrete bed and a thin mattress, which has been described as “dirty and foul smelling.” Meals are
Recommended Reading Stolen Youth: The Politics of Israel’s Detention of Palestinian Children by Catherine Cook, Adam Hanieh, and Adah Kay (Pluto Books) is based on firsthand information from international human rights groups and NGO workers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It also features interviews with children who have been imprisoned. The book is a disturbing account of abuses that have been widely documented yet never addressed by the international community. served through a flap in the door. When in solitary confinement, children are deprived of human contact. Some of the cells have grey walls with sharp protrusions which prevent the incarcerated person from leaning against them for support. The cells used for confinement are windowless and have a dim yellow light which is frequently kept on for 24 hours a day. There are severe psychological effects for individuals held in solitary confinement, particularly children. DCI reports these effects as: “panic attacks; fear of impending death; depression, including clinical depression; social withdrawal; a sense of hopelessness; unprovoked anger; short attention span; disorientation; paranoia; psychotic episodes; self-mutilation; and suicide attempts.” Children also directly report suffering pain behind their eyes and adverse psychological effects after being detained in Cell 36. DCI issued an urgent appeal to the UN requesting that solitary confinement not be used in the detainment of children. DCI and other human rights organizations acknowledge Israel’s right to security and defense. At the same time, they strongly oppose the current enforcement of detention practices being used on children in the Palestinian territories. They have requested the following amendments: Children in the Palestinian territories must be given the same rights and protection as Israeli children; parents must be present during the interrogation of minors under the age of 18 years old; children must be permitted to see a lawyer prior to their interrogations so they will know they have the right to silence; audio and visual records of interrogations must be made as a means of independent oversight; and all credible allegations of cruel and inhumane treatment must be thoroughly and impartially investigated in accordance with international standards and perpetrators brought promptly to justice. With these measures in place, they argue, progress will be made in providing a safe and protective environment for children living in the Palestinian territories. Mae Elise Cannon is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church and a doctoral candidate at the University of California-Davis, working on the historic engagement of American Protestants in Israel/Palestine. She is the author of Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World (IVP, 2009).
am an outsider to the Palestinian situation. I only know what I’ve read and heard and what I’ve seen during the few months I’ve spent in the West Bank and Israel. I can’t help but be an American Christian. But as painfully and intimately aware of the greed, nationalism, one-sided Zionism, and violence perpetrated by myself and my Christian brothers and sisters, as much as I might be ashamed of my past mistakes and the ongoing attitude of so many Christians, I am convinced that followers of Jesus must use their unique gifts and particularities to work for a just peace in Israel and Palestine.
Four ways to appeal to Christians 1. It’s biblical—Many followers of Jesus tend to respect and be persuaded by arguments that are biblically based. That’s good news as it applies to this situation, because working and sacrificing for a just peace is good biblical theology. The Bible calls for peace with justice, so the Bible is on the side of those who work to end the occupation and work for a just peace in Israel and Palestine.
by Paul Alexander 2. It’s Jesus-centered—Jesus calls us to love our enemies while also nonviolently resisting injustice. When Jesus said to turn the left cheek he taught neither passivity nor violence, but a third way of engaging oppressors with hopes of redeeming and transforming them (and us) and changing the situation. Jesus loves everybody, and Jesus is with those who work to end the occupation and work for a just peace. 3. It’s Spirit-empowered—In Luke 4, Jesus declares that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him to preach good news to the poor, release the oppressed, and declare the year of freedom (Jubilee). That is the work of the Holy Spirit in Luke and Acts, empowering Jesus and his followers to take on entrenched, imbedded, status quo, oppressive systems. Christians often resonate with a call to rely on the Holy Spirit to take on seemingly impossible obstacles. 4. It’s concrete—The fourth aspect of an argument that appeals to followers of Jesus is that it must be intensely practical—the
Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock.com
What Can Western Followers of Jesus Do for Peace with Justice in Israel and Palestine?
Bible, Jesus, and Spirit-empowerment have to matter in the real world—and Palestine is as real as it gets. It has to make a difference. It has to answer the question, “So what?” We want concrete actions that we can do and keep doing and get others to do. We actually want to make a difference.
The author performs a magic trick for a group of Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in Hebron.
Four things followers of Jesus can do There is a lot that Christians do poorly and foolishly, but I will focus on four things that followers of Jesus can do well. 1. We can tell stories. Ours is a faith that is drawn forward by stories; it is story-motivated and story-formed. Storytelling and music are two of the most powerful forms of human communication, and some Christians are said to specialize in both.1 Here’s a true story: I had just returned from the West Bank as part of a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation right before the Gaza pullout of 2005. My wife, Deborah, saw a sign at her home church, an 8-foot long Israeli flag hanging in their foyer, and a sign out front saying, “The Bible says the land belongs to Israel.” My furious and prophetic wife calls me. I’m watching Gandhi, had just watched the scene where the protestors are beaten by the British and row after row of Indians resist, are beaten, and carried away. I paused the movie, lay down on the floor, and prayed, and cried like a baby. “If Gandhi can take that to expel the British, I can call my fellow minister and ask to speak in his church.” I called the next morning, Saturday, and left a message, hoping he doesn’t call back. He does. I pray and plan the rest of the day, drive two hours Sunday morning. Get there, and the pastor says, “There’ll be no peace in Israel until Jesus comes back.” I respond that if a hungry family comes to your door you wouldn’t tell them that things will only get worse until Jesus comes back; we’d feed them, right? And help them find a home and a job if they need one? So there are things we can do until then to make things better. I started my sermon with Jesus and his love for the outsiders in Luke 4 (how Elijah and Elisha took care of the Syrian army commander and the foreign widow rather than fellow Hebrews) and how that sermon almost got Jesus killed (thrown off a cliff). I gently complexified the situation a little by talking about Palestinian Christians (Palestinian what?); simplified it by telling stories of how some Christians, Muslims, and Jews are working together in the Bereaved Families Forum and the work that Holy Land Trust, Musalaha, and Bethlehem Bible College are doing; and had an altar call where we all got on our knees together and prayed for the Jews, Muslims, and Christians in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel. This approach may not work in every situation, but it’s the language they understood.
We must become experts at showing the faces and telling the stories that reveal the giftedness and dignity of people in Palestine and Israel. Millions of people suffering—that’s too much to comprehend. But we can tell the small stories in the name of Jesus. The church suffers without the stories of Palestinian Christians.2 We all need stories and testimonies of the good, the reconciled families, the human rights that bloom, the lights that shine. We also need stories of complaints, prayer requests, and stories that protest abuse, exploitation, and oppression. Christians can protest. We call them prayer requests, but they can be seen as protests against suffering, injustice, and pain. “Testimony and lament are two sides of the same coin.”3 These stories are protest/imonies—we’re protesting and testifying at the same time, and that can be truly prophetic. The stories of the suffering must be told; the despair, and fear, and frustration must be expressed. For hearing the voices
I know followers of Jesus can move from fundamentalist, dispensationalist, one-sided Christian Zionist, uncritical support for Israel and disregard for Palestinians to Jesus-shaped, Spirit-empowered love for Israel and Palestine and dedication to a just peace based in solid biblical theology—because it happened to me. and seeing the faces of the injustice can evoke empathy,4 and empathy can lead to calling, and calling can lead to action, and action can lead to healing, and healing can lead to hope and transformation.5 I believe that God works through the practice of telling stories, and this can bring healing, hope, justice, and peace to Palestine and Israel by evoking empathy, calling, and action. Imagine a fundamentalist Christian televangelist, with millions of viewers around the world, preaching powerfully on the rights, gifts, and humanity of Palestinians. We need people with the televangelist’s mass appeal preaching the peace-with-justice message of Jesus and the prophets. We need a continually
flowing counter-narrative that can gently and humbly undermine, subvert, and replace a one-sided Christian Zionist narrative that does not support justice for Palestinians (and that therefore does not truly support the state of Israel). Imagine a 24-hour television channel with Christian leaders and activists telling stories, showing the gifts of Palestinians to the world—online TV channels, podcasts, YouTube, websites, radio, skits, drama teams, curricula, all presenting stories, testimonies, preaching, and teaching, real Christian people referring to Jesus and the Bible, connecting the deep core of their own religious expressions and traditions to this concrete situation.6 The Palestinian News Network does this with excellence, but I think there needs to be more. For instance, there could be a North American Christian show on human rights, justice, and peace-building that uses its particular Christian language and is produced by Christians who are passionate about this issue.
live out the core of our faith. We then become the stories we tell that continue to shape our communities of faith and empower work for justice. 3. Followers of Jesus can believe in and work for conversions. Christians believe in changed hearts, changed minds, and changed realities. They are 2. Followers of Jesus can testify. One particular way that Chris- willing to pray and tians tell stories is by testifying. Some call them praise reports. work for people’s I testify of the goodness of God who has saved me from con- transformation—from tinuing a life of theologically justified racism, greed, warmon- substance abuse gering, one-sided Zionism, and injustice. And I have all kinds and destructive behaviors to healthy relationships and healthy of additional sins that I’ll hopefully be able to testify about in lives. Christians believe that nothing is impossible with God; the future. This is what Christians do—we tell our narratives of the impossible is possible. Holy Land Trust has a “Making the transformation, and this opens up continual narrative frame- Impossible Possible” campaign, and to me that seems like a works in which others can live. very Christian way of looking at this situation. To continue Think about your own personal testimony of your journey to take on a situation as serious as this, there has to be a with God. What has happened to you and in you—emotionally, movement of people who believe in conversions. spiritually, physically, experientially, rationally—that has brought I know followers of Jesus can move from fundamentalist, you to a place of concern for justice and peace? What is your dispensationalist, one-sided Christian Zionist, uncritical support story? Your story matters deeply, and people are motivated by for Israel and disregard for Palestinians to Jesus-shaped, Spiritpersonal testimonies of transformation and hope. empowered love for Israel and Palestine and dedication to a We need communities that cultivate persons of charac- just peace based in solid biblical theology—because it happened ter and conviction who, through habits, practices, and actions, to me. This brings hope. And hope is crucial. I’ve seen people change, so when doubters say The author engages a group of Palestinian children in the small town of Beit Umour, Palestine. that folks are stuck with their worldview or theology, or that people don’t change, I just look in a mirror and at many of the other people I’m working with and think, “I don’t know how you can say that, because here we are.” People can change their minds, they can learn something new, they can have the situation reframed and re-storied for them so that they understand it differently, and then they can work for social change. Only 11 percent of Assemblies of God pastors in the US believe that Israel should not be privileged over the Palestinians. I think that 11 percent is a prophetic minority and that the number is growing and will continue to grow— people can change. It is possible. 4. Followers of Jesus can follow Jesus. To have the kinds of conversions to peace with justice
in Palestine that this social movement needs, I think we have to stick very close to Jesus—a “thick Jesus” whose life and teachings we take seriously and whose call to peacemaking we heed. Jesus taught neither passivity nor violence when he taught us to turn the other cheek. When slapped on the right cheek of indignity, one could either retaliate with violence or passively slink away and take it. But Jesus taught his disciples to stand there and turn the cheek of equality, of dignity, of hope, offering a space for possible confession, repentance, transformation, and redemption. Now the oppressor has choices: hit me on the cheek of equality, which means I suffer yet still win; walk away because he will not see me as an equal; or repent and I can forgive and we can embrace and be reconciled. But the oppressed takes the initiative to transform the situation, this third way of cheekturning, this transforming initiative that flips the script.7 It is the way of Jesus and it is Spirit-empowered, biblically based, and intensely practical. We must rediscover and practice the powerful teachings of Jesus. Since God’s name is invoked in vain to support the occupation—confiscation of land, suppression of human rights, exploitation, and destruction—we should invoke God’s name not in vain but with honor and humility as we nonviolently and redemptively promote human rights and political solutions. We can say, “UN resolution 242 says that Israel should withdraw and Palestinians should be compensated,” but many Christians would simply respond, “So what? That’s just the UN.” They’re not convinced, because UN resolutions are not sacred texts. But scripture is sacred, and Jesus is authoritative, so when we say to Christians, who are supposed to listen to Jesus, “Jesus does not want Israel to continue occupying Palestine,” we can tell them why God cares, based on the scriptures, about the Palestinians and what we think can and should be done. This is what followers of Jesus must do: commit to the challenging and inspiring work of exploring the depths of our faith to create communities that follow Jesus and who can’t help but surpass the expectations of the UN security resolutions. We do not expect too much when we ask Christians and their leaders to work for a just peace in Palestine and Israel; we expect too little. Human rights should be easy; love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness are greater challenges and greater
gifts. So Christians can do the powerful and divinely bestowed task of calling our people to faithfulness, and this will help us accomplish the easier task of promoting a two-state solution.
God with all of us Christians should glorify God and support the Palestinians as well as the Israelis by being themselves and by being prophetic. Prophets “speak for God to the world”—pointing out evil and calling us to justice, risking their lives by telling the truth, loving their enemies, and challenging injustice. We need faith leaders and communities who humbly risk their careers and their safety to stand in solidarity with the suffering and tell the stories, in the name of God, and to carry their words and stories to the streets and to the halls of government and become part of the story as they risk it all for the glory of God and the health of Israel and Palestine. The prophet Joel said, “Your sons and your daughters will prophesy” (2:28), and the time has come in human history for followers of Jesus to speak and act prophetically regarding this present injustice without relenting, no matter the cost, and to use every nonviolent weapon in our arsenal—stories, preaching, teaching, persuasion, music, movies, marches, prayer, jail, drama, patience, and even the giving of our very lives. So let us speak freely, humbly, powerfully, and continually in our own particular ways and tell the stories that prophetically protest, testify, and inspire to action; for the stories of painful protest and the stories of thankful testimony are often the same story, the story of Immanuel—“God with all of us.” This article was adapted from chapter 5 of Christ at the Checkpoint: Theology in the Service of Justice and Peace, edited by Paul Alexander (Pickiwick Publications). Paul Alexander is professor of Christian ethics and public policy at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University and director of public policy at Evangelicals for Social Action. He is also cofounder of Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice.
(Editor’s note: due to space limitations, the endnotes for this article have been posted at EvangelicalsforSocialAction.org/PRISMendnotes.)
Great Love by Margot Starbuck
Using the everydayâ€”morning commute, potlucks, play datesâ€”to engage with a world in need
oo often, I have failed to engage with a world in need. I’ve done it quite sincerely, especially when I’ve cloaked someone like Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Teresa as a red-caped, neighbor-loving superhero. This convenient posturing inoculates me against actually doing anything. Rather, the unspoken assumption becomes that, since I’m just a regular gal, I obviously won’t be doing anything superhuman like demonstrating for garbage workers or touching the pus-filled wounds of a dying stranger. This way I’m able to feel warm and fuzzy inside, admiring my heroes without the complication of actually joining them. Basically, if I make loving the poor a big thing, then I’m off the hook. But Mother Teresa made it hard to weasel around Jesus’ clear invitation to engage with a world in need when she said, “We cannot do great things, only small things with great love.” Small things are when I learn the name of my daughter’s school bus driver. Small things are when I listen to the dreams of a woman who lives in a group home on my block. Small things are when I risk crossing a language barrier even though I look really stupid doing it. Small things, of course, put me back on the hook.
My friend Hugh
So if engaging with a world in need feels overwhelming to you, I get that. Because managing laundry, a Visa bill, email, and dinner are already unwieldy enough, entering into relationship with someone who is poor can feel more than a little daunting. This awareness is never more palpable than when I think of
my friend Hugh, who shares life with folks who are homeless in nearby Raleigh, N.C. When I think of Hugh, I can start to feel guilty as I mentally scroll through all the ways I’m not engaged with the poor.* This list is quite extensive. Recently Hugh had a chance to share with one local church that was filled with very well-meaning people. He challenged them to consider investing in relationships that cross boundaries of shelter and race and religion and income and class. One churchy guy there named Chuck was inspired by the vision. Like me, he’d bought into the big idea about Christians loving folks who live on the margins; at the same time, he wanted Hugh to hear what his life was like. “I commute at least one hour, each way, to my job,” explained Chuck. “I work at Research Triangle Park. I love what I do, and I work hard at it. The one day of the week I do have at home with my family, I don’t want to go to the park and meet homeless people.” Often it’s best to just lay it out there. Hugh thought for a moment, and then asked Chuck, “Do you have an office?” “Yes...” Chuck replied, not sure where this was heading. Hugh continued, “Is there someone who cleans your office?” “Yes,” Chuck carefully answered again. “There’s a woman who cleans my office two or three times a week.” “What’s her name?” Hugh asked. “I don’t know her name,” Chuck admitted.
Hugh pressed, “How long has she been cleaning your office?” “Seven or eight years,” Chuck estimated. By this point he was beginning to catch on. Several weeks later, Hugh answered his ringing phone and heard a voice blurt out, “Her name is Regina!” Chuck had taken the time to meet the woman who cleaned his office, and he had learned that Regina was working two jobs to provide for her children. “You know this has messed me up, right?” Chuck demanded of Hugh. By “messed up,” he meant that being in relationship with Regina had sort of ruffled the comfortable, insulated life he’d been enjoying. Smiling to himself, Hugh acknowledged, “I know.” You want to know just how messed up Chuck’s life got? Chuck’s family and Regina’s family spent Christmas together last year. It was a holy mess.
But wait, wait...
Before cuing the violin music, I want to say that I think Chuck made a pretty valid point about his regular responsibilities. The formative reality for many of us is that, at the end of the day, we’re too exhausted to get up off the couch after watching Modern Family, let alone garner the energy to go out and make new friends. Although we’re not proud of it, the daily reality of our lives is that lawn-mowing and grocery-shopping and oil-changing and laundry-folding really do demand our energy and attention. Faced with our own needs and the needs of the world, we attend to that which seems most urgent. Then, with whatever energy is left, we feel bad about it. For most of us, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to have a cookout with our families and to feed the poor. We don’t have enough energy to do all our errands at Home Depot and Walmart and also care about adequate shelter and clothing for those in need. When we’ve got to choose between laying out 2,000 bucks on car repairs or scraping together enough to buy a reliable used vehicle, we’re not exactly pining for the kinds of new friends who’ll inevitably ask us for rides. Though we certainly admire and applaud modern saints like Hugh who engage in relationship with the poor professionally—in inner-city neighborhoods and on the foreign mission field—our daily lives are of a different order. Our lives are already full. They’re not full of bad stuff, either. No square on my calendar reminds me to commit a homicide or torture Dalmatian puppies. In fact, one square prompts me to coordinate the nursery volunteers at my church. A few more squares on my calendar remind me to take walks with friends. Several have me scheduled to take care of other people’s children after school. One means I get to eat a yummy dinner, cooked by my husband, with neighbors who
Wanted People willing to use their day-to-day routine to engage with a world in need. Must be familiar with the following operating systems: “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Required: eyes to see, ears to hear. Not required: free time, MDiv. Superheroes need not apply. are local grad students. I like that one a lot. Another has me meeting and praying with the small group from church that meets in my home. A bunch of squares remind me to drive or fly places to talk about God, and even about how much God loves the poor. No one would say that my life is not full of good stuff.
The $100,000 question
Here’s the rub: A lot of us with rich, full lives do take seriously Jesus’ command to love our neighbors the way we love ourselves. We’re even willing to entertain the probability that his signature “Good Samaritan” definition of neighbor calls us to befriend the unlikely and sometimes inconvenient type of person he describes in the story. And so the rich, full lives we lead, packed with important stuff—but without much margin left over to know those who live on the world’s margins—sort of begs an important question. Is God scowling in judgment because we’re changing the batteries in our smoke detectors instead of going door to door collecting eyeglasses to send to Haiti? Is God looking down from heaven feeling sort of resentful that we’re using the “look inside” function on Amazon.com instead of visiting prisoners? Isn’t God angry that Americans keep getting fatter while so many on the globe are starving? You’d think so, right? It’s pretty easy to imagine that God, who loves the poor, would be a little bent out of shape that the rest of us are so darn self-involved.
But I simply don’t think it’s the case. Here’s why: God’s love for you and God’s love for the larger world in need cannot be separated. God’s longing to see you liberated for life that really is life can’t be neatly pulled apart from God’s longing to see the poor liberated for life that really is life. The two are inextricable. God’s concern for the stuff of our lives, and God’s concern for the lives of those who live on the margins, can never be neatly parsed. Wess Stafford, president of Compassion International, sees this pretty clearly. Wess will be the first one to tell you, “Compassion’s work—releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name—is releasing me from wealth in Jesus’ name.” That’s God’s big plan. If your life is anything like mine, God longs to set you free from addictions to pleasure, appearances, busyness, consumption, envy, greed, and selfabsorption. I don’t think it will come as a surprise that those sorts of miracles, until now, haven’t been happening while we’re at the mall or the movie theater or the nail parlor. Yet that’s exactly where they’re meant to happen. For example, I can’t say for certain that the Good Samaritan, who helped the poor guy on the side of the road, wasn’t on his way to coffee at the Jericho Mall to discuss a possible business merger. It’s not as if he produced a celebrity telethon or even launched a nonprofit to provide medical supports to mugging victims. He was just on his way somewhere (Target? Dentist appointment? Starbucks?), recognized someone in need, and pulled over on his donkey to check it out. Can you see what great news it is that this serendipitous double liberation isn’t something extra we do? We don’t have to add lots more overwhelming activity to what we’ve already got going. Rather, the regular stuff of our lives—the commute to work and the potlucks and home improvement projects and errands and play dates—are the exact places in which we express and experience God’s love for a world in need. For instance, a conviction that Jesus’ love crosses social and cultural boundaries informs which one of the parents in my daughter’s kindergarten class I telephone to arrange an after-school play date. It influences my husband’s decision to direct his giving dollars toward a local ministry that’s reaching teens marginalized by poverty, violence, and lack of opportunity. God’s heart for those on the world’s margins affects the way my friend Suzanna interacts with the friendly, slow-talking young man who bags her groceries. Whom do you imagine when you think of those who live on the world’s margins? Close your eyes for a moment and visualize these precious ones Jesus called “the poor.” Whom do you see? What do they look like? If you are privileged—by race or status or income or gender—you may find that you think of non-white minorities. If this is true of
you, own it. I only mention this because, if you’re anything at all like me, you’ll want to deny or minimize noticing this as quickly as possible. Can I help it if the folks I know who are poor just happen to be black and Latino? That’s just the way it is. When I look at the planet, many of those who do suffer poverty and oppression are people with lots of melanin. But Jesus crossed barriers of race and gender and ethnicity and religion. I’m just acting like Jesus. Right, right, right. I get all that stuff. And while it all may be technically true, it’s still sticky business, since even my impulse to “serve” is tainted with my own twisty racialized motives. Despite the fact that I’m quick to invoke Jesus’ name, there can be a wily dynamic at work by which my “service” to “the poor” still allows me to feel superior to those I’m serving. It’s a mess, right? In my own heart, this devilish bind can precipitate one of two things. It can paralyze me so that I stay stuck in my privilege-ghetto, segregated from so many that God loves. But acknowledging the mess can also drive me to prayer when I recognize that the tainted kind of power I do have— by virtue of race and education and affluence—only interferes with, rather than lubricates, authentic kingdom relationships. Then, to get unstuck, I cry out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). This is pretty much how it goes. Come, Lord Jesus. Finally humbled, I realize that embracing the adventure of loving a world in need is—at its best—about giving Jesus, in us, access, through us, to the ones around us he already loves. It’s about doing small things with great love.
God longs to set us free from addictions to pleasure, appearances, busyness, consumption, envy, greed, and self-absorption.
This article was adapted from Small Things with Great Love: Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor by Margot Starbuck. Copyright 2011 by Margot Starbuck. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press (PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515; IVPress.com). *I use “the poor” here and elsewhere with some reservation. It’s a designation that has, until now, been in common usage; it’s also the language Jesus used. That said, I hope and believe we’re moving away from language—“the poor,” “the marginalized,” “the oppressed”—that can subtly dehumanize people by identifying them by the challenges they face. Instead of “the homeless,” try out “people who live outside.” I know, I know; it sounds corny at first. Instead of “illegal immigrants,” try “people who have immigrated without legal documentation.” Naming beloved individuals as people first humanizes them in your own heart and in the hearts of others. The goal is to begin to know these ones God loves by name. Baby steps.
F aithful Citizenship
In Search of a Holistic Higher Education At my middle school commencement we sang a song with lyrics declaring the occasion to be “a time for joy, a time for tears, a time we’ll treasure through the years.” Those words came back to me as I attended my daughter’s commencement exercises at Florida A & M University recently, but in that context they sounded more prescriptive than descriptive. So many other issues cloud the mental skies of college graduates today that the simple suggestion of celebrating and bidding “adieu” are overshadowed by the forecast of uncertain futures. Much of what occurs in higher education today finds the market, not the mind, as the central factor in decision-making on issues from curriculum development to choice of major. At one time we expected a college education to produce persons of intellectual acumen and social concern, mind and character, brains and belief conjoined by a commitment to the holistic development of persons ready to contribute to society as a whole and not just a 401K. Scan the registries of the typical college in your area and marvel at the preponderance of pre-professional majors, tailored to meet the needs of a population raised with the mantra “Get a good education to get a good job.” Peruse the curricular offerings and be amazed at the career-bound context that frames so many course offerings, from “Gaming and Casino Management” to “Special Event Planning.” Our onetime objective of sending our young people to college to be prepared for the world has shriveled into a base
one-to-one connection between college and career, education and employment, mind and market, skill and salary. The “time for joy and tears” yields to the frantic search for employment consistent with curriculum. The “time we’ll treasure through the years” degenerates into “the time we’ll transition to careers.” And what careers they are! A virtual cornucopia of professions in the private sector designed to further the progress of a consumer-driven society devoid of any ethical critique of our cultural consensus around consumption! Majors ranging from accounting to tourism and hospitality reflect the shift in our view of higher education, as do those in sports management or risk management/insurance. The shift intensifies as colleges and universities diminish the number of required liberal arts courses designed to produce character, critical thinking, and worldview and load up on classes that address specific issues in the workplace while overlooking the development of the person who will do the work. Even colleges whose DNA samples reveal character, morality, and service in their foundations seem to have succumbed to these forces as well. Black colleges founded in the post-Civil War era to educate teachers for newly freed slaves find themselves engaged in a rush to provide pre-professional education to a generation of African American youth oblivious to the history of struggle that made those schools necessary. We also see Christian colleges—founded to provide an alternative process of worldview development to the increasingly modernist, humanist, secularist vision that emerged in the early 20th century—falling prey to the new consensus by offering vocationally specific majors such as youth ministry to a generation anxious to engage in any career that enables them to perpetuate their adolescence. Professional readiness trumps personal development, despite the fact that there is no correlation between undergraduate major and vocation when one dons the lenses of long-term careers. Additionally, in the press and stress for professional success, the focus on indi-
Harold Dean Trulear vidual achievement wins out over any sense of community, both community as a sense of shared values/support and community as a venue for service. Students who stress out in their quest for individual achievement find it difficult to live out the innate sense of connectedness inherent in the Imago Dei. “It is not good that the man should be alone” frames the human quest for community in a culture of individualism and isolationism. I thought about this at my daughter’s graduation as the news trucks hovered outside the ceremony, not to celebrate the 700 degree recipients but to
Much of what occurs in higher education today finds the market, not the mind, as the central factor in decision-making. gauge reaction to the university’s investigation into the hazing death of one of its band’s drum majors. While that student’s tragic death clearly warrants investigation, I doubt they will ever investigate to the point of discovering why students are willing to subject themselves to such brutal hazing. I propose that it is at least in part because their opportunities for developing a sense of belonging are limited in educational institutions that make an idol of individual success. It is not realistic to believe that colleges will, en masse, return to their original purpose. But it is realistic that families of faith nurturing youth of promise factor in the total character development of the individual in assisting their choices concerning college. Community service programs within the curriculum help. But so does a thorough perusal of what a school has to offer the body-mind-spirit of an individual, beyond the promise of a fast track to employment.
Harold Dean Trulear is associate professor of applied theology at Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC, and director of the Healing Communities Prisoner Reentry Initiative at the Philadelphia Leadership Foundation (HealingCommunitiesUSA.org).
A rt & Soul
Urban Expressions In difficult economic times many of us are forced to distinguish between genuine needs and mere desires. Everyone agrees on the basic necessities: food, clothing, a place to sleep at night. But would anyone rank art as an essential? The team at Mission Waco does. Mission Waco has a long history of attending to the needs of its community. Thirty-five years ago Jimmy and Janet Dorrell moved into a poor, urban neighborhood marked by drug-dealing and prostitution in Waco, Tex. Believing that Christians should show compassion for and solidarity with the marginalized, not through charity but through radical fellowship and community building, in 1991 they founded Mission Waco to do just that. The ministry has grown to include a homeless shelter, youth outreach, church services held year-round under the interstate highway, and a café, to name a few of its initiatives, as well as poverty simulations that allow middle-class Christians to experience homelessness firsthand. Jimmy Dorrell says they had long dreamed of adding something that would minister to their neighbors on a more creative level. “Our basic belief is that God calls all of us to a type of creativity, whether it be cooking or how you sweep the
floors. The very image of God and creativity go together.” With this vision in mind, last year they launched an arts ministry called Urban Expressions, designed to offer creative opportunities to a number of groups in the community, including underprivileged children and people who are homeless. Classes so far have focused on drawing and paint-
traction of the community, it had been abandoned like much of the rest of the neighborhood and eventually ended up as a porn theater. It took some time to get it restored for occupancy, and for a while the organization used it for offices and meeting space. But two years ago, Stevie Walker Webb, a former student at Mission Waco’s afterschool program, completed college and returned to the blighted neighborhood to launch a full-scale community theater. With Webb as the director, the rechristened Jubilee Theater has now performed four major community productions, dealing with themes—such as race and faith—that are relevant to this particular ministry and community. Their most recent play, The Whipping Man, is a Broadway production that tells the story of three Jewish men, two of them African American, trying to understand the shift in their identities as they celebrate Passover the day after the end of the Civil War. Dorrell notes with satisfaction the significant impact these performances have had. “It’s creating a buzz as local residents recognize that low-income or multicultural people have unrealized talent and now have a venue to discover it. Mission
“Mission Waco has been privileged to be part of unleashing God’s creativity among folks who never knew they could express themselves through the arts.” ing but will eventually expand to ceramics, sculpture, and other genres. A week-long summer camp offers the chance to learn from and interact with a handful of Christian artists. Students in these programs are taught the basics of how to create and appreciate art, skills that help build confidence in their own voices and creativity. This type of expression, says Dorrell, is sadly lacking in the lives of many within the community. “When you’re poor,” he says, “you kind of just do what you have to in order to survive, and so the creativity that all of us have in us gets pushed to the side and we don't even realize it’s there.” Visual arts are not the only route for creative expression. About 15 years ago, Mission Waco bought a building known as the Texas Theater. Formerly a central at-
Waco has been privileged to be part of both community transformation and unleashing God’s creativity among folks who never knew they could express themselves through the arts. We’re in the middle of a neighborhood where new life is emerging.”
Rebecca Hall is a Sider Scholar and Masters of Divinity student at Palmer Theological Seminary. She recently spent several months volunteering at a shelter for abused women and children in Tijuana, Mexico.
O ff the Shelf Many Colors by Soong-Chan Rah Moody Publishers Reviewed by Mayra Picos Lee In Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing World, Soong-Chan Rah makes a strong case for developing cultural intelligence as an essential component to forming a “genuinely multiethnic faith community.” As US churches become more committed to fulfilling the biblical call to participate in multiethnic ministry, they realize the frustrations and difficulties such ministry entails. It is not enough to have good intentions; “the church needs to develop cultural intelligence in order to fully realize the many-colored tapestry that God is weaving together.” The goal of cultural intelligence, in the author’s own words, is “not to erase cultural differences but rather to seek ways to honor the presence of God in different cultures.” The book is organized in three parts. The first introduces and defines culture from a biblical perspective as well as from a perspective risen from the history of racism in the US. This definition is important, as it sets the foundation for exploring the relationship that the church may choose to develop with culture. This relationship needs to closely examine the church’s theological and biblical understandings of culture as well as the painful and negative effects that race and ethnic identity have had in American history. Part II argues for the development of a new cultural paradigm that views culture as “a process or journey of discovery, exploration, and development.” Since culture develops at multiple levels, cultural intelligence is required to understand its complexity and to act in culturally intelligent ways, which is critical for US churches, given the changing face of Christianity in this country. Part III discusses specific actions for churches to begin the process of creating an environment that fosters the development of cultural intelligence. Rah brings his pastoral, academic, and personal experiences into the writing of this book, thus making the topic highly accessible to both academic and church audiences. The author’s illustrations and stories bring the subject alive as he models the difficult and sometimes agonizing task of discussing issues of race, racism, power, and privilege. Yet, he does it in a manner that not only acknowledges the pain and suffering many people have experienced as a result of these realities but also offers hope in the transformation God is bringing US churches to become truly multiethnic faith communities. The book does not intend to provide a how-to list for audiences on how to become more culturally intelligent; rather it highlights the importance of creating an environment that facilitates a process that takes time, love, commitment, and grace. Although Rah discusses gender relationships and makes a good case for the equal valuing of women and men, he does not use inclusive language consistently throughout the book, which seems to contradict some of his arguments. As an immigrant into this country, I also wonder about Rah’s view of other non-US coun-
tries, especially in his description of how God is at work around the globe. At times he seems to present non-US cultures in condescending ways, as when he notes: “The story of the brave American missionaries who were martyred while trying to bring the gospel to the Auca Indians became one of the rallying cries that spurred on great missionary endeavors...” Albeit unintentionally, here and elsewhere in the book Rah presents Americans in a positive Christian light while casting some foreigners as savages or needy in a way that promotes stereotypes. He says that “The power of story is the power to change how we view the world and our place in the world,” and then asks: “Will we begin to hear the stories of God in different cultures and contexts?” I will respectfully reframe the author’s question as follows: Can we begin to hear the stories of God in different cultures and contexts in non-condescending ways but in a manner that honors God’s presence among them? Overall, the book is well written and offers very critical insights and discussions into an important subject for churches in the US and around the world. A native of Mexico, Mayra Picos-Lee teaches pastoral care and counseling and marriage-and-family systems at Palmer Theological Seminary. As a therapist, she works with bicultural and immigrant individuals and their families. A Public Faith by Miroslav Volf Brazos Press Reviewed by Stephanie Summers In A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good, theologian Miroslav Volf asks, “What would it take for religions not only to preserve their differences but to bring the wisdom of their own traditions to bear on public decisions and debates? What would it look like to do this and yet live in peace within a single democratic framework in which the law of the land treated members of all religions equally and the state related to all religious communities impartially?” Throughout the text, Volf presents a framework in which to consider these timely questions, a framework that moves the reader to reflect deeply on the content and the purpose of religious political engagement. Writing for a lay Christian audience, Volf begins the first of his two sections, “Countering Faith’s Malfunctions,” in a spirit of repentance, identifying the ways, including idleness and coerciveness, that Christians publicly malfunction in the contemporary world. The opening chapters also begin an ongoing discussion of violence and the role of religious political engagement in promoting peace. For readers unfamiliar with theological discussions about the meaning of work, Volf’s chapter on human flourishing presents a normative model that rightly calls us to eschew the empty goal of self-satisfaction and to pursue community flourishing instead.
Book Reviews The second section, entitled “Engaged Faith,” provides theological frameworks and offers a discussion of how the church has related to culture, animated by a concern for the future of Christian engagement in public life. Volf posits that while the Christian Right was focused on seeking social influence, “in the future, Christians will likely exert that influence less from the centers of power and more from social margins.” The work also presents helpful groundwork for Christians to become comfortable with being one of many religious faiths present in the public space and highlights what Volf terms “inadequate proposals about how Christian communities should understand their presence in contemporary societies.” The inclusion of a chapter on sharing wisdom among religious traditions refreshingly takes the reader far beyond a comparative discussion of internal similarities and differences. Volf’s final chapter and conclusion stand squarely against secularization of the public square, pointing out that secularism is not religiously neutral. Volf offers instead a pluralist framework that affirms freedom of religion, rejects religious totalitarianism, and embraces a religiously motivated vision of justice. There is much in common here with what James W. Skillen, the first president of the Center for Public Justice, calls “principled pluralism,” where the pursuit of what Volf terms “the common good” animates religious communities as they pursue faithful engagement in public life. While A Public Faith is highly recommended for casual readers, for those looking for content for more academic study, the “Notes” section is a tour de force meriting an attentive read. Stephanie Summers is the CEO of the Center for Public Justice. In Our Backyard by Nita Belles Free River Reviewed by Robyn Hubbard Nita Belles’ call-to-arms, In Our Backyard: A Christian Perspective on Human Trafficking in the United States, demands our attention. This tenacious exposé of modern-day slavery is hard to face but even harder to put down. Belles’ easy storytelling style belies the fact that she will topple defenses and break hearts with unrelenting accounts of crimes against humanity that occur right in our communities. She bangs on our carefully locked doors to warn us that people are being deceived, captured, tortured, and sold as commodities—all within our reach. Belles’ well-researched, practical guidebook for fighting trafficking in all its heinous forms requires a response. First step, examine heart and wallet for desires and habits that contribute to enslavement of unsuspecting people on American and foreign soil. The pursuit of low-cost goods results in a heavy price paid by slave laborers, who are rounded up in order to supply our demand. Products boasting “Made in America” labels are often stained with the blood of victims. The migrant farm workers who provide our grocers with fresh
produce are often trapped in debt bondage, forced to pay absurd sums to captors who had promised them jobs in the United States. Held captive through deceit and physical abuse, once-hopeful workers spend excessive hours laboring to pay back a mounting “debt” for their passage into the US under threat of being turned in to authorities for illegal entry. Belles decries the coercion of a multitude of foreign-born service workers, often in American restaurants and hotels—businesses that become hotbeds of forced labor when companies turn to “employment agencies” to fill positions inexpensively. She offers viable ideas on how to demand that businesses offer goods without a trace of slave labor on the production line. Sex trafficking has long been considered a foreign problem, and only recently have American citizens begun awakening to the fact that our neighborhoods host slave markets where children are on the block. Within 48 hours on the street, one in three runaway minors (age 11-14) is lured into sexual exploitation by a trafficker promising food, shelter, and love. High school girls are, unsuspectingly, “dating” and “falling in love” with young men who are grooming them for the sex trade. Belles educates readers in the cruel strategy of traffickers, its mind-altering effect on their victims, and the demand for services that feed the multibillion-dollar sex trade. She equips us to recognize the signs of trafficking in our community, the critical factor in exposing this crime. Quoting Frederick Douglass—“Slavery is one of those monsters of darkness to whom the light of truth is death”—she provides clear steps we can take towards effective light-shedding action. End-of-chapter questions make the book a good choice for a small group study. Nita Belles exhorts Christians to relinquish self-protective thinking and to embrace the call of Christ to break the bonds of oppression. “There is nothing the criminals … recruiters, the traffickers, the pimps…want more than for decent people to remain ignorant of what they do. All they ask is that we do nothing. Simple silence. If the myth that ‘it doesn’t happen here’ can prevail, they have won.” Commit to read this book. Find your voice—and then use it. Robyn Hubbard works with at-risk kids in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. Left, Right & Christ by Lisa Sharon Harper & D.C. Innes Russell Media Reviewed by Sarah Withrow King In Left, Right & Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics co-authors Lisa Sharon Harper and D.C. Innes stand under the same cross on different sides of the political aisle to engage today’s most complex and divisive political issues. The result is an attempt to move beyond the vitriol of sound-bite bickering and develop a space in which the authors are each able to present their thorough and uninterrupted political theologies. After brief introductions and biographical sketches, the co-
authors present their common ground. Harper and Innes start with a love of Jesus and agree both that God created the world and that humans are made in God’s image. Therefore, “People as imagebearers have an inherent dignity and value, and so our relationship with each other should always be one of love.” The authors acknowledge a mutual understanding of the biblical imperative to care for the poor, oppressed, marginalized, or outsider and that government and politics are established by God “for his good purposes.” Sin wreaks havoc on God’s good world, and Christ’s redemptive power “not only saves people for heaven but also restores them for every relationship in this world.” Christians are called to engage the world, including participation in political engagement, so that human communities can flourish according to God’s desires. “Both of us are Christians,” they write. “And so what we have in common is greater than all our differences.” From this “in common” theological framework, Harper and Innes offer their widely disparate views on the role of government; capitalism and its relation to poverty; healthcare reform; gay rights; immigration; war and peace; and creation care. While it is hopeful that Christians on both sides of the political aisle are passionately working towards a more just society, this reader was left discouraged that the authors’ foundational understanding of what is just and their opinion of the government’s role in helping to realize justice were fundamentally and unequivocally at odds, and that this division is an accurate reflection not only of the larger Christian community but also of the deep chasm that exists in secular society. Even when Harper and Innes agree, they disagree. While both writers are clearly anti-abortion and both point out that, contrary to the prevailing cultural myth, the unifying issue that launched the Religious Right movement wasn’t abortion but the “right” of Bob Jones University to maintain tax-exempt status while discriminating against people of color, they ultimately divide on the most expedient way to save unborn lives. Innes focuses his essay on the political record of evangelicals, Republicans, and Democrats in relation to Roe v. Wade while Harper argues that reducing poverty is the first step to reducing abortion rates. Left, Right & Christ is an accessible and articulate book; however I found the arguments of one author deeper than the arguments of the other, more successfully addressing the core of issues rather than offering the standard debate fare. This probably betrays my existing biases and affirms publisher Mark Russell’s suggestion that the book be read as a “conversation starter” (it would surely lead to dynamic conversations in my own small group). Be warned: If you have any political leanings whatsoever, you may find yourself vigorously highlighting and having vehement disagreements with one author while nodding your head and simply writing “Yes!” throughout the work of the other. Sarah Withrow King serves as ESA’s marketing and development projects director and is a full-time student at Palmer Theological Seminary. She isn’t afraid to admit that she likes TV but mutes the commercials.
M usic Notes
A Weekend with Waits In his first studio release of new material in nearly a decade (since 2004’s Real Gone), Tom Waits’ Bad As Me offers the same grit and versatility that his loyal fan base find so endearing. But it also offers the sort of fresh perspective one might expect from an eight-year gap between records, rendering Bad as one of Waits’
Joshua Cradic ing the kind of versatility seldom seen by today’s pop icons. Sure, there are tracks sopping in whiskey, like “Raised Right Men,” “ C h i c a g o,” and even the aforementioned “Get Lost.” But we also see a sophistication in the classy “Kiss Me” and a Dylanesque folksiness in the waltzy “Pay Me.” From start to finish, Waits drags the listener through a wild weekend of emotions, starting on a Friday night with perhaps a few regrets, then a Saturday to reflect and recover, followed by a Sunday morning of hope for the new week as the album culminates with the nostalgic “New Year’s Eve.” Still, despite this versatility and perhaps newfound accessibility, there is something hauntingly familiar about Waits’ latest collection. As gritty, raw, and often experimental as Waits is with his sound, his lyrics are often about love. Granted, these aren’t the sort of love songs you would find (or want) your teenager listening to. An inherent cynicism lurks in Tom Waits’ kind of love; it’s love that’s been though the ringer and questions whether it’s better or worse off than before. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than on the title track, where he belts, They told me you were no good / I know you’ ll take care of all my needs / You’re the same kind of bad as me. If you’re a lifelong Tom Waits fan, Bad As Me won’t disappoint. Regardless of the decade, there’s a certain tenor of worldweary charm that we have come to rely on and love in a Tom Waits album. And in an age when every other song on the radio utilizes an auto-tuner more so than actual talent, Bad As Me serves as a breath of fresh air for consummate fan and casual listener alike.
What we need the Lord will give us All we want we carry with us You know where I can be found Where the rainbow hits the ground more accessible releases in decades. Waits finds a little help from his friends this time around, enlisting the likes of such talented musicians as Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Les Claypool (Primus), Keith Richards (Rolling Stones), and Marc Ribot (a staple on Waits’ albums since 1985). The camaraderie generated by this richly endowed lot is tangible, and when combined with the freedom of an artist well over 40 years into a refined career, it produces rich, playful tracks like “Hell Broke Luce” and “Get Lost.” For decades Waits has fallen prey to the label of niche artist. This tag, often applied by the mainstream pop music industry, indicated that Waits’ music was inaccessible and unlistenable (at least in terms of pop radio). Bad As Me serves as Waits’ counterpunch to such criticism, display-
Last year was rife with exciting music from new and familiar artists alike. Here are the top five albums that demanded my attention in 2011:
Wilco, The Whole Love
Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues
Elbow, Build a Rocket Boys!
Beirut, The Rip Tide
Gillian Welch, The Harrow and the Harvest
Honorable mention goes to two eponymous albums: Bon Iver and The Head and the Heart. Joshua Cradic is a guitarist/ singer in the Philadelphiabased Americana/folk band Black Horse Motel (BlackHorseMotel.net).
Warriors, Women Are
L eading Ladies
sit with dying people and those who loved them and offer comfort without complacenLying against that hospital bed, her head cy or platitudes. She sat by deathbeds and elevated to help her breathe and her knees held hands. She witnessed final breaths bent to ease the pain caused by the can- and hugged tightly those who remained becer eating at her spine, she looked so frail. hind as their bodies shook with loss. Mom But we knew her to be otherwise. Her spirit stood at the final battle and let people was strong and, even in her shrinking phys- know that death is not a failure but a path, ical life, she found a way to stand. The day a way of acceptance. before she died, she convinced us to put So while she lay dying, while we listened for her breath on baby monitors, we In loving memory of Ruth Marines Cumbo, battled with 1947-2010, pictured here with her, not to keep baby Andrea. her with us (although my dad, brother, and I wish every day we could have) but to help her find her path, to help her see her way Home. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was what Mom wanted us to do. Now, I battle in my own way. I am not my mother, and I do not have her in a wheelchair, carry her IV bag, and the strength to sit by deathbeds keeping stand with her on the porch in the cold my own pain bottled back so that others’ November air. My mother was a warrior. can flow forth. But I battle nonetheless. I She fought cancer every day of the am the chair for the local American Cancer 36 years she and I shared this earth. Even Society Relay For Life. when she was in treatment for melanoma Every day, I work to let people know and found she was pregnant with me, she they are not alone in this fight. I pass out fought on, refusing to choose between her cards with a phone number where people life and mine when the doctors suggested can call 24 hours a day, seven days a an abortion. She battled the dual nausea week, to get answers to the scary quesof morning sickness and cancer treatment, tions about insurance and treatment and and when I was born, she was healthy— hair loss and hospice. I send emails enand so was I, all 9 pounds 9 ounces of me. couraging teams to fight on and raise Mom battled cancer in quieter ways money so that we can find a cure for what than some. She never did a Susan G. Ko- this year will be the number-one killer in men Walk or a Relay For Life. Instead, she the United States. I give hugs when women chose to stand in the fray at the most dire I know tell me they are having surgery for and frightening of moments: She became cancer on Friday, and I cheer as loudly as a hospice volunteer. When I was a kid, I can when a woman, her hair just growing she trained on weekends to know how to back, stands up in a meeting and says, “I
had more courage and strength than I ever knew I had.” In our society, we often think of men as warriors, the ones who go into battle for us. But this is not how I see our world. Men may battle in the more obvious ways, but women, we are the quiet warriors. The ones who organize relays and walk for entire weekends, who wear pink even though we hate it, and don silly outfits to get people laughing. We are the ones who hold bedpans when our children are weak from
Mom sat with dying people and those who loved them and offered comfort without complacency or platitudes. She sat by deathbeds and held hands. She witnessed final breaths and hugged tightly those who remained behind as their bodies shook with loss. chemotherapy and hold a dying man’s hand because his son is too weak from grief and fear to do it himself. We are the warriors, women are. We do not all battle in the same ways, but we all wage this war—as my mom did— one whispered “You are not alone” at a time.
Andrea Cumbo is a writer, editor, and writing teacher currently working on a book about the people who were enslaved on the plantation where she grew up. She blogs regularly at AndiLit. com and GrayHairandAcne.wordpress.com.
M ay I Have a Word? When God made woman, he spoke the gospel into her biology. Just as Christ’s blood perfectly nourishes his church, a woman’s breasts provide perfect food for her children. God has specially gifted women to provide their children with sustenance and protection against disease during the most vulnerable period of human life. Furthermore, the intimacy of the breastfeeding relationship provides a window into the kind of relationship the Father offers us. God designed children to live and grow through breastfeeding. While there are valid reasons to resort to breast milk substitutes, using them always costs babies something. To a varying extent, in the industrialized world, it is costing them their health, as incidences of childhood illness and chronic disease steeply rise. In developing countries without reliable medical care (or clean water to mix with formula), it often costs babies their lives. In the United States, breastfeeding knowledge has wilted in the shadow of the formula industry. Misinformation abounds. African Americans and the indigent arguably stand to gain the most from breastfeeding because it lowers the risk of asthma and obesity, among other conditions that disproportionately impact these populations, yet these groups formula feed at the highest rates. Indeed, society privileges the corporate interests of formula companies over the health interests of marginalized groups. Hospitals gladly accept donated architectural services from formula companies, resulting in labor and delivery spaces that deliberately separate mother and baby. Politicians benefitting from formula industry dollars safeguard companies, even when industry practices demonstrably lessen breastfeeding duration. We can help breastfeeding women receive the information and support they need for successful breastfeeding by first welcoming the breastfeeding couple. Many women who feel that their communities will not accept breastfeeding either live cloistered lives with their young children or quit breastfeeding in desperation to get out. We can invite breastfeeding couples into church programs through explicit language in service bulletins and posted on doors. Imagine my gratitude as a new nursing mother when the chair of my church’s women’s retreat welcomed me
to bring my baby. Had she not, I would have stayed home. Although some may harbor concerns that babies in church services and programs would bring disruption, most babies fuss less in their mothers’ arms. Furthermore, a baby in a silent room distracts much more than one in a room full of baby chirps and coos. As parents become more comfortable with bringing their babies, the distraction will lessen. Churches can also offer mothers a private breastfeeding room, so long as women who feel comfortable breastfeeding in public are not pressured to use it. Young babies seem to feed continuously, and the private room could effectively exclude the nursing couple. The same principles of welcoming the nursing couple extend to outreach ministries. I recently visited a ministry for teenage mothers in which children played in a separate room, away from the mothers’ activities. I wondered whether any of these mothers breastfed and whether this ministry accommodated them. Why not encourage mothers to stay together with their children, especially nurslings, and offer childcare as an option for those who would like it? Alternatively, such a ministry could establish a system by which childcare providers would contact mothers when their children needed to nurse. Church communities can also support the breastfeeding couple by organizing meals and housework for new mothers, freeing them to breastfeed. They can host mothers’ groups in which women can offer one another encouragement and information. Outside of church life, breastfeeding support not only engages us in Christlike service, it can also serve as a form of evangelism as we share God’s love for women and children. Fathers and grandparents can play a crucial role by commending the breastfeeding mother and by helping with non-feeding baby care such as diaper changes and baths. Anyone with a breastfeeding friend experiencing difficulty can encourage her to seek help from a knowledgeable support person, such as a La Leche League leader or a lactation consultant. Many women face harassment for breast-
Griffin Photography, jbgriffinphotography.com
Support Chalice Bearers
feeding from people who believe that breastfeeding is a healthy but dispensable choice rather than a biological norm. You can counter this. Stand up for your coworker when you hear a disparaging remark about how many breaks (or how much space in the company fridge) she is taking to pump and store her milk. Ask your representatives to pass the federal Breastfeeding Promotion Act, which would bring breastfeeding discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and require employers to provide reasonable break time for breastfeeding employees to express milk. Give a discreet thumbs-up to the woman breastfeeding her baby in the mall. In my church tradition’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper, specially trained lay chalice bearers offer the congregation wine, the blood of Christ, in a chalice. Through breastfeeding, God makes a woman into a chalice bearer. Who will support her?
Jamie Oyugi is a breastfeeding support person and "lactivist." She attends the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, Pa., with her husband, David, and 18-month-old son, Aiden.
R on Sider The Cross: Divine Child Abuse or Astounding Love? Holy week is a good time to ponder recent challenges to the traditional understanding of the cross. In the last couple of decades, a growing number of theologies have rejected the traditional understanding of substitutionary atonement—i.e., that at the cross Jesus Christ became our substitute, bearing our sin in a way that resulted in our Holy God (who rightly punishes sin) offering unconditional forgiveness to those who trust in Christ. Denny Weaver’s The Nonviolent Atonement is one striking example of this rejection. Weaver charges that this view (a) involves divine child abuse, as some feminist theologians have charged, and (b) undermines ethics because (allegedly) one can have one’s sins forgiven and thus be saved and on the way to heaven without any ethical transformation. Weaver denies that God willed Jesus’ death and rejects any role or importance for the cross in our salvation. The only acceptable view of the atonement is what he calls a “narrative Christus Victor” understanding. This widespread recent rejection of substitutionary atonement profoundly affects our understanding of Holy Week—indeed of the whole Christian life. Four issues are important. First, biblical authority is at stake in this debate. For more than 1,500 years, all branches of the Christian Church (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant) have taught that the whole Bible is God’s special revelation and is our reliable norm for faith and practice. To deny that God willed Jesus’ death or to claim that the cross has no significance for our salvation flatly contradicts clear and numerous New Testament passages. Second, the New Testament presents several models or images to help us understand the cross. The moral view associated with Peter Abelard rightly captures NT texts that say the cross revealed God’s love to us (e.g., 1 John 3:16). The Christus Victor model (associated with Gustav Aulen) reflects many passages that say Christ came to conquer evil (e.g.,. John 3:8; Heb. 2:14-15). And the substitutionary model (often associated
with Anselm, Luther, and Calvin) expresses texts that say that all who sin stand under God’s wrath but at the cross Christ died as our substitute (e.g., Gal. 3:10-13; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 3:21-26). If one reduces an understanding of the cross exclusively to the model of substitutionary atonement, then one does cut the link between the atonement and our life of ethical obedience. If justification by faith alone through Christ’s substitutionary death for us is the total meaning of salvation, then that is a one-way ticket to heaven and we can live like hell until we get there. But to understand the atonement and salvation so narrowly and individualistically is to ignore important parts of NT teaching. It ignores the fact that Jesus came to show us how to live and reveal God’s love. It ignores the passages about Christ coming to conquer evil with his life and resurrection. And the gospel Jesus preached was the fantastic news that the long-awaited Kingdom of God was breaking into history, and now by the power of the Holy Spirit Christians can increasingly live the life of ethical obedience Jesus modeled and taught. The substitutionary atonement model is just one of several important NT models of the atonement. Instead of picking and choosing according to modern whim, we should embrace everything the NT tells us about the cross. Third, many modern views of the atonement ignore half of what the Bible says about God. Yes, God is astounding love and mercy. But God is also searing holiness. Our holy God rightly punishes sin (e.g., Rom. 1-3; Acts 17:30-31; Rom. 5:9; Matt. 25:41). Finally, to speak of divine child abuse at the cross is to ignore the Trinity. The cross is not an angry God bludgeoning an innocent man. We should reject as totally mistaken and dreadfully wrong any view that sees three independent actors: a guilty party, an angry judge, and an innocent victim at the cross. No! The Trinity is present at the cross. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit suffer equally at the cross. The One hanging limp on the middle cross is the Eternal Son of the Father. Somehow, in a way that we will never fully understand, God chooses to substitute Godself for us on the cross.
We should never claim to fully understand this mystery. But the Bible tells us that a God who is both holiness and love, who both rightly punishes sinners and loves sinful persons, chooses to bring together God’s holiness and love, God’s justice and mercy, by substituting Godself at the cross. That is not to say God of necessity had to bring together his wrath and mercy in this way. We simply know from biblical revelation that this is what God did. Such an action underlines in an awesome way how serious our sin is. It also reveals in an utterly astonishing fashion how overwhelming is God’s love. For at the cross, divine love for disobedient sinners prevailed. As John Stott has said, “Divine love triumphed over divine wrath by divine self-sacrifice.” One can only fall to one’s knees in awe and gratitude. Because of what the Trinity did at the cross, we can now stand before our Holy God in confident trust that we are forgiven. That is only one (wonderful!) part of the atonement. Every part of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection is essential for a fully biblical understanding of the atonement. The incarnate Christ has taught us how to live. He has and is conquering evil. In the power of the Resurrected One, we can and must now live like Jesus, working against every evil, oppression, and injustice. This Holy Week, let’s embrace the full biblical Christ. Hallelujah, what a Savior! For a longer version, see my forthcoming article in Brethren in Christ History and Life (April, 2012). Ron Sider is president of ESA and professor of theology/public policy at Palmer Seminary of Eastern University.
PRISM Vol. 19, No. 2
Editorial Board Miriam Adeney Tony Campolo Luis Cortés Richard Foster G. Gaebelein Hull Karen Mains Vinay Samuel Tom Sine Eldin Villafane
George Barna Rodney Clapp Samuel Escobar William Frey Roberta Hestenes John Perkins Amy Sherman Vinson Synan Harold DeanTrulear
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A Publication of Evangelicals for Social Action The Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy www.EvangelicalsforSocialAction.org Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University All contents © 2012 ESA/PRISM magazine.