“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:19-23)
What poses the greatest threat to the work of any Christian ministry involved in a contested field or controversial subject? I believe the answer is in John 20:19. Most versions translate the sentence as “fear of the Jews”. A few like the NIV translate the sentence “fear of the Jewish leaders” which is probably more accurate. How might we apply that today? I believe we are mistaken if we focus on the “who” instead of the “what”. Then what is it? Look at the text again. It was not the Jews, or the Jewish leaders. What does the text say? It was fear. Why do I say that? Well look at the context. What do the preceding verses say?
Like other Western colonial-settler experiments, for over 70 years, Zionists have been systematically erasing the culture and history of indigenous Palestinians to justify their forced removal and the theft of their land. Ilan Pappe, in his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, calls this ‘memorocide’ and in The Palestine Nakba, Nur Masalha elaborates,
“The founding myths of Israel have dictated the conceptual removal of Palestinians before, during and after their physical removal in 1948… The de-Arabisation of Palestine, the erasure of Palestinian history and the elimination of the Palestinian’s collective memory by the Israeli state are no less violent than the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948 and the destruction of historic Palestine.”
This is why books such as Ancestral Journeys and Western Missions are so vital in recording the memories and eyewitness accounts of Arabs and Palestinians who experienced the arrival of Western colonialists to the Middle East, were co-opted into their wars, witnessed the rise of Zionism and then became refugees in the Palestinian Nakba. Anita Damiani-Shanley’s book will most certainly help perpetuate their heritage and rightful historic claim to Palestine.
Ancestral Journeys is however much more than the story of two families, one Arab and the other Scottish joined in marriage. It traces the influence of missionaries, archaeologists, traders and colonialists competing with each other for a share of the Near East as the Ottoman Empire met its demise. Richly illuminated with family photos, the three main chapters trace the ancestral journeys of Damiani-Shanley’s extended family from Scotland and Lebanon to Iraq and then to Palestine. A fourth chapter traces the role of the Anglican Church in Palestine.
I didn’t mean to do it. I know I should not have done it. Every week I carefully avoid looking but this Friday I did. I don’t know what possessed me. I put it down to mid-life crisis. My eyes just wandered and there it was, the most enticing, the most tantalizing, the most tempting job offer I have ever read in the Church of England Newspaper.
“It’s True Adelaide is a great place… No doubt you’ve read about Adelaide’s fine weather, fine beaches, fine food and fine wine. Its all true! South Australia wants people who see their future in its progressive climate. The archbishop of Adelaide welcomes enquiries from clergy wishing to minister in parishes and schools. Find out more about South Australia at www.southaustralia.com. Send your expressions of interest to…” and then it gave the address.
Interestingly, the advert said nothing about what they were looking for in candidates, nothing about what the role required. It didn’t need to. I confess that purely out of curiosity I visited the website of www.southaustralia.com . Yes I did and it is true.
Good news is infectious isn’t it? You can’t stop talking about it. It just comes out. You don’t have to think about it. You don’t need training in how to communicate good news. The more immediate, personal and life changing, the more likely we are to want to share it. Its the same with Jesus. That is why on this, Good Friday, I would like us to spend a few moments contemplating Psalm 22, contemplate the cross of Christ. If people know one passage of the Bible, it is most likely Psalm 23. And yet I believe Psalm 22 is the most precious of all the Psalms, for it reveals the passion of God which made possible the promises of God contained in Psalm 23. No one can read Psalm 22 without being vividly confronted with the Crucifixion.
Viele bibelgläubige Christen sind davon überzeugt, dass Gott jene Nationen segnet, die sich auf die Seite Israels stellen, und jene verflucht, die das nicht tun. Dieser Glaube hat einen bedeutenden Einfluss auf die Einstellung zum andauernden palästinensisch-israelischen Konflikt im Nahen Osten gehabt. Stephen Sizer behauptet, dass diese Ansicht auf einer Fehlinterpretation der Bibel beruht. Er bietet eine Einführung in den christlichen Zionismus und eine klare Antwort und positive Alternative, die auf einem sorgfältigen Studium der relevanten biblischen Texte basiert.
Many Bible-believing Christians are convinced that God blesses those nations that stand with Israel and curses those that don’t. This belief has had a significant influence on attitudes toward the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Middle East. Stephen Sizer contends that this view is based on the misinterpretation of the Bible. He provides an introduction to Christian Zionism and a clear response and positive alternative based on a careful study of relevant biblical texts.
Did you watch the crime drama Maigret recently on TV? They were adapted from the novels by Georges Simenon and portrayed the French detective Jules Maigret. What made the new series stand out from previous ones, however, was the main character. The role of Mairget was played by Rowan Atkinson. I think Rowan portrayed Maigret very well indeed, but I kept expecting him to turn to the camera, open his eyes wide and grin like Mr Bean. That is the challenge for an actor portraying a serious role when he is associated with a very funny one. Rowan is in fact a very good hypocrite.
Around Easter time, a few years ago, I found myself in Bethlehem. I planned to spend the day with a Christian family in a village called Beit Jala near Bethlehem. Their land had just been confiscated. Their beautiful old olive trees are being bulldozed to make way for the 8 metre high Separation Wall. It was going to come within 3 metres from their front door and not only cut off all day light, but cut their whole village in half. The Hafrada or apartheid wall (that is what it means in Hebrew) has been ruled illegal by the highest court in the world, the International Court of Justice. But few are doing anything about it. So we did. But we never got to see the family that day.
As we walked down the hill towards their property we came face to face with a line of soldiers with guns and tear gas and sound bombs. And they were not about to let anyone through. They tried to scare us off by lobbying few sound bombs at us. And they succeeded in scaring us, temporarily. But we carried on walking toward them until we came face to face with these young soldiers. We assured them that we were unarmed and had peaceful intentions. We were not there to hurt them. We disagreed with what their government is doing. We wanted to see our friends on the other side of the road – please. They said no and after an hour or so we went home. I came back the next day with a friend and we managed to see the family and take these pictures.
I am still working through the rights and wrongs of civil disobedience. What do you do when you see people made homeless, widowed, orphaned? When you witness deep injustice, theft, exploitation? When you see a State abuse its power? And Christians justify this theft of land in the name of God? What would you have done? More importantly what would Jesus have done? I can tell you what he would not have done. Would he have picked up stones and thrown them at the soldiers? Would he have taken up a gun and forced his way through? No, of course not. But would he have ignored the suffering? Would he have walked by on the other side? I don’t think so. What was the point of the parable of the Good Samaritan? If you are not sure, you need to watch our film With God on our Side.
A new film, ‘Til Kingdom Come, takes a close look at the phenomena of Christian Zionism and American Evangelicalism, and how they relate to Israel/Palestine. As the film synopsis says,
“Millions of American Evangelicals are praying for the state of Israel…They donate sacrificially to Israel’s foremost philanthropic organization, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, because they fervently believe the Jews are crucial to Jesus’s return….With unparalleled access, this film exposes a stunning backstory of the Trump and Netanyahu administrations, where financial, political, and messianic motivations intersect with the apocalyptic worldview that is insistently reshaping American foreign policy toward Israel and the Middle East.”
“Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father…”
All good Anglicans know the words of the General Confession well, but do we know what they mean? For the Confession contains language and sentiments that have virtually been erased from common usage, they might as well be deleted from the dictionary. It sounds all too negative, critical and judgmental. Surely we believe in a God of love. That is why these first words of Jesus recording in Mark’s gospel hardly seem good news. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). What is good news about repentance? It is not a word we use in polite company.
Jewish Network for Palestine (JNP) Webinar: Zionism’s Christian Soldiers, Dr Stephen Sizer is interviewed about his work on the topic, and his two books on it. Held on November 28, 2020, by JNP, London.
Preceding Jewish Zionism by at least a half-century, Christian Zionism was called Restorationism, imagining that Jews everywhere would be ‘restored’ to their ancient homeland. In recent decades Christian Zionism has had a global resurgence, especially in the USA. Nowadays 9 of every 10 Zionists are Christians, well organized at national and global levels. They provide important support for the continuing Zionist colonization project and for pro-Israel government policies. They also seek to intimidate and disrupt solidarity activity by pro-Palestine Christians. Learn about this threat and efforts to counter it in JNP’s second webinar ‘Zionism’s Christian Soldiers’.