Sunday, 11 March 2012

Christ at the Checkpoint: Despair in the Midst of Confusion?

The very first words I heard when I visited the Christ at the Checkpoint website last Tuesday morning to watch the live screening of the event was the words: ‘… the Israeli occupation is a sin.’ I had a lot of other fish to fry last week (which is why I could not post any blogs) and was able to visit the site only occasionally.

During the four days of CATC I heard Shane Claiborn telling moving stories of his visits to Iraq but also equating the rich man who went to hell in Luke 16 with Israel; and Lazarus outside his wall as Palestinian Christians.

I heard Gary Burge spiritualising the land promises made to Abraham.

I heard Colin Chapman blame Israel for the existence of Islamic terror. Hamas and Fatah he asserted were ‘birthed by Israeli occupation’ and terrorism and suicide bombings are ‘an expression of despair’.

I heard Lyn Hybels sweetly explain what she ‘believed’ Jesus would ‘say’ to Jews, Palestinians, Christian Zionists and American Christians. The conference itself was about what Jesus would ‘do’ at the checkpoint and I’ve got to tell you that I never cease to marvel at how certain Christians appear to know what Jesus would ‘do’ or ‘say’ in certain situations!

Christ at the Checkpoint has since delivered its ‘Manifesto’ (it sounds more dynamic than 'Conference Statement'), much of which I agree with, including the claim that the Kingdom of God has come and that ‘Evangelicals must reclaim the prophetic role in bringing peace, justice and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel.’ Like the CATC organisers, I believe ‘Reconciliation recognises God’s image in one another.’

I hesitate to endorse Point 3 of the Manifesto: ‘Racial ethnicity [for which read 'Jewishness'] alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant.’

I know Paul teaches in Galatians that all who believe in Messiah are children of God but the fact remains that throughout the Hebrew Scriptures the land promises were addressed to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And I’m not persuaded by Gary Burge’s Augustinian spiritualisation of the land promises.

I agree that ‘The Church in the land of the Holy One, has born witness to Christ since the days of Pentecost’ but I suspect ‘the Church’ is a tendentious term.

Yasser Arafat set in motion a Palestinianisation of Jesus and Christianity and some Palestinian make the outlandish claims that they are descended from the shepherds who heard the announcement of the birth of Christ and claim their ancestors heard Peter preach on the Day of Pentecost. If that is what the CATC organisers mean by ‘the Church’, I want out.

Clause 5 states: ‘Any exclusive claim to land of the Bible in the name of God is not in line with the teaching of Scripture.’ I suspect that the formulators of the Manifesto are denying the right of the Jewish people to have a ‘Jewish’ state.

To the clause, ‘All forms of violence must be refuted unequivocally,’ I say ‘Amen.’

Ditto to clause 7: ‘Palestinian Christians must not lose the capacity to self-criticism if they wish to remain prophetic.’

Clause 9: ‘For Palestinian Christians, the occupation is the core issue of the conflict.’ Is this the only permissible perspective? Why no mention of a a core issue for Messianic Jews…’?

I agree that, ‘Any challenge of the injustices taking place in the Holy Land must be done in Christian love’ but I’m cautious about accepting the clause, ‘Criticism of Israel and the occupation cannot be confused with anti-Semitism and the delegitimisation of the State of Israel.’ Some conference delegates, including Stephen Sizer, Ben White and Porter Speakman have stated that Israel reminds them of Nazi Germany, that Israel is an apartheid state and have employed fabricated quotes to bolster their anti-Israel aspirations.

There is a perverted logic abroad that says in effect: ‘Criticism of Israel is not a delegitimisation of the Jewish state. I critcise Israel for being an illegal, imperial, colonial, occupying, Nazi, apartheid state; therefore I am not a delegitimiser of Israel.’

Clause 11: ‘Respectful dialogue between Palestinian and Messianic believers must continue. Though we may disagree on secondary matters of theology, the Gospel of Jesus and his ethical teaching take precedence.’

I reserve judgement on this clause until I know if the formulators of the statement agree that Christian Zionism a ‘secondary matter of theology’ rather than ‘a heresy’.

Clause 12: ‘Christians must understand the global context for the rise of extremist Islam. We challenge stereotyping of all faith forms that betray God’s commandment to love our neighbours and enemies.’

Before agreeing to this, I would want to know if the CATC organisers believe Islam teaches that Allah commands Muslims to love their enemies.

For the fullest comments on CATC, visit the Rosh Pina Project.


  1. I appreciated your comments on Clauses 1-11. On your comment to clause 12: what bearing does whether or not "Islam teaches that Allah commands Muslims to love their enemies" have on the assertion that stereotyping faith forms is not loving?

    1. Thanks Yahnatan. The point I was making is that the formulators of the 'Manifesto' talk about 'faith forms that betray God's commandment to love ... enemies.' If a particular 'faith form' does not teach its adherents to love their enemies, they are not 'betraying' any commandment of their God. I suspect the organisers subscribe to the stereotypical position that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all worship the same God.