The Blog

Fences and a "Just Peace"

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America makes a stand against Israel's security fence and in favor of a "just peace." (Never mind Palestinian terrorism.)

7:40 AM, Aug 15, 2005 • By JOHN HINDERAKER
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The failure even to mention, let alone denounce, Palestinian terrorism is a consistent hallmark of the ELCA's writings on the Middle East. The "Peace Not Walls" resolution, like the Lutheran article, makes no specific mention of Palestinian terrorism, never acknowledges that Israel is building the fence to keep out mass murderers, not to steal a few acres of land, and gives no hint that the fence has saved many Israeli lives by making it more difficult for terrorists to slip into Israel. Likewise, the ELCA's Strategy for Engagement In Israel and Palestine singles out the fence as a threat to peace, but is entirely silent with respect to Palestinian terrorism:

This Churchwide Strategy for ELCA Engagement in Israel and Palestine . . . describes the fragile hope for a just and peaceful solution that is growing in the region following the recent Palestinian elections. It also expresses a sense of urgency, calling for strong and concerted action so that: (1) the possibility of secure, contiguous, and viable Israeli and Palestinian states is not eroded by the placement of the separation wall and Israeli settlements in the occupied territories; (2) the witness and diaconic work of the indigenous churches in Israel and Palestine continues; and (3) the future of humanitarian ministries in Jerusalem and the West Bank--in particular those in which the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America participates through the Lutheran World Federation--are not jeopardized by a proposed change in Israeli tax policy.

The ELCA's pronouncements on the Middle East are so one-sided as to suggest a dissociation from reality. Hamas gunmen brandish firearms as they celebrate Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and vow to continue their effort to exterminate the Jews; yet the ELCA thinks the chief threat to peace in the region is Israel's attempt to keep these terrorists out. For that matter, the ELCA seems more worried about Israeli tax policy than Palestinian terrorism.

Of course, this willful blindness to Middle Eastern reality is not unique to the ELCA; on the contrary, it afflicts most mainstream Protestant denominations, as reflected, to take just one example, in the anti-Israel posture of the World Council of Churches. What explains the anti-Israel bias of the leaders of most mainstream denominations? There is no possible theological justification for it. There can be no more fundamental Christian doctrine than opposition to mass murder, as practiced by Palestinian terrorists. And there could hardly be deeper grounds for religious affinity than the shared scriptures and intertwined histories and traditions of the Jewish and Christian faiths. So it is no surprise that American Christians, and Americans generally, have overwhelmingly supported Israel in its conflicts with the Palestinians.

Dissociation from Middle Eastern reality exists, not among the laity of the ELCA and other traditional Protestant churches, but among the leaders and professional staffers of these denominations. It is hard to escape the conclusion that those leaders are just one more layer of the liberal elite; for them, support for the Palestinian cause is of a piece with other liberal political positions promoted by their church hierarchies--environmentalism, high taxes, and so on. The fact that the leadership of mainline Protestant churches is dominated by liberals who substitute their own political biases for Christian doctrine and principles is an important factor limiting the growth of those denominations in comparison to the newer, evangelical churches whose leadership is not dominated by political liberalism.

John Hinderaker is a contributing writer to THE DAILY STANDARD, a contributor to the blog Power Line, and a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.