Monday, 17 March 2014

Palestine, Politics and Power

I have a picture of Jesus depicted as a wanted criminal on a poster with an offer of a reward for his capture. It is implied that he is a dangerous rebel whom the powerful are trying to capture because of his criminal activities on behalf of the poor.

I showed this to someone not long ago and they were confused by it. They asked why Jesus was being portrayed in this way. They couldn't understand why politicians or the powerful would see Jesus as an enemy and what relevance Jesus would have in these areas of life.

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In April 2002 am Israeli bulldozer - a bulldozer made and sold by Caterpiller Inc., an American company - destroyed a Palestinian home in the West Bank. The home was destroyed in the middle of the night killing Mahmoud Omar Al Sho’bi's father Umar, his sisters Fatima and Abir, his brother Samir, pregnant sister-in-law Nabila and their three children, ages 4, 7, and 9. 

In March 2003 American activist Rachel Corrie went to Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian led movement using nonviolence to resist the Israeli occupation. She was killed in Gaza when she knelt in front of a Palestinians friends home to stop their house being demolished; the bulldozer ran her over and crushed her to death.

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'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.'

'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.'

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What are we teaching in our churches when people cannot see why Jesus is a threat to political oppression, the corrupt and the powerful? How can it be that we have so individualised the gospel that people see the Way of Jesus purely in terms of a personal encounter with God and their own personal salvation? When such teaching prevails we have no prophetic imagination as to how Jesus is a rebel to the 'principalities and powers' and systems in this world that leave people in abject poverty and despair.

It astounds me that we (myself included) can continue to ignore the plight of the poor, oppressed, abused and marginalised. Christian Zionism that is displayed through right-wing, conservative evangelicalism is an evil ideology that has no place within the Church and those called to the Way of Jesus. Any ideology that continues to ignore, oppress and abuse the Palestinians is evil.  Indeed, when any people group are systematically abused and scapegoated for some kind of deluded theological tradition, then evil is present. The murder of Palestinians in the ways described above needs to named for what it is, evil. Jesus stands on the side of the least and calls us to serve them.


Jesus continues to be a threat to the powerful and oppressors because His Way enables people to rob the oppressor their ability to humiliate by subverting the ways of violence with peace and nonviolence.


To be peacemakers and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness is to name evil for what it is, to be active in the nonviolent pursuit of peace and to live the 'third way' of Jesus - not fight or flight but active reaction of nonviolence displayed by Jesus. 

It is voices raised in prayer and forgiveness in the wilderness of violence and oppression, actively standing in the place of the voiceless and downtrodden.

We need the grace of God, in the power of the Spirit, to walk the Way of Jesus. We need God to expand our vision and understanding of the Gospel, for the Spirit to tear down dividing walls of oppression and hostility and to see Jesus in the face of every person.  The Cross makes a mockery of the violence of this world and sees the victim raised with Jesus into the embrace of God, surrounded by the Love of the Trinity. Let us pray that God would open our eyes to our own hate and transform us into a people of compassion in such a way that we might be willing to go wherever Jesus leads to see justice roll across this world like a river.

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