What an emotive picture; Jesus held up at an Israeli checkpoint! For a conference that has a “…desire that Jesus be central to bringing peace and reconciliation to the Holy Land” even the website banner is an emotive expression of the bias of the event (see below).
The conference, the second of the same title, is being held this week in Bethlehem Bible College in Bethlehem. One might welcome the idea of a Christian conference to promote reconciliation if the list of speakers and topics did not carry a message of its own. The message is that of Palestinian Liberation Theology, an unbalanced doctrine based on the victim-hood of Palestinian Christians, eternally at the mercy of a cold and harsh occupier (no, not the Muslim Palestinian Authority but Israel).
This Palestinian Christian theology crystalised in the 2009 “Kairos” document, “…the Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about what is happening in Palestine.” It is an open appeal to Western Christians and churches for help in opposing the suffering that fellow Christians are suffering under Israel’s “occupation”. There is no doubt that there is suffering, but its cause must be laid more at the feet of discrimination and persecution by the PA (Palestinian Authority) than at the foot of the “apartheid wall” (Israel’s security barrier). The movement behind the document has attracted a following that is universally pro-Palestinian and usually anti-zionist and anti-Israel. It has not been hard for Sabeel, the Palestinian ecumenical organisation, to find plenty of support in Britain where replacement theology has reigned in seminaries and Bible colleges for centuries.
Sabeel must be congratulated on having brought the issues surrounding the conflict into the public Christian arena in Britain. It is sad though that, while reconciliation and justice are spiritually worthy objectives, the thrust of Sabeel’s teaching and actions are so grossly unbalanced. The equivalent discrimination against the growing Messianic movement in Israel is ignored (something that should bring Jewish and Arab believers together) and those who support Israel are accused of supporting a “sin against God” (being the “occupation of Palestinian lands” by Israel).
It is against the background of the Kairos document that the Christ at the Checkpoint conference is being held and it has to be said that the conference is only causing further division in the Church over Israel and the Palestinian Arabs rather than the reconciliation the organisers say is their aim. I have long held the view that the “real peace process” is going on all the time at grassroots level, so why must the Church cause waves instead of calming the waters and promoting genuine reconciliation.
Palestinian and Messianic pastors meet for prayers and conferences; Musalaha takes Israelis and Arabs into the desert together – the Church “the other side” of the checkpoint should be active in encouraging these grassroots movements, not in muddying the waters with an unbalanced and emotive conference in support of Palestinian liberation theology.
Jesus is not standing in line at an Israeli checkpoint; he is getting on with the real work of bringing brothers and sisters together, heart to heart and Arab to Jew!