The Palestinian Theologian Trying to Turn Christian Churches against Jews

Participating in a panel discussion at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, Robert Benne—an expert on Lutheran theology—found himself deeply disturbed by one of his co-panelists, the prominent Palestinian Lutheran pastor Mitri Raheb. Raheb, “something of a celebrity” on the campus, has been influential in bringing the anti-Israel cause—including boycotts—to mainline Protestant churches. In his talk, Raheb repeated, to enthusiastic applause, the standard anti-Israel talking points about apartheid, colonialism, and the like, adding the claim that Jews have no ancestral connection to the ancient Judeans and Israelites. Even more troubling, Benne found in Raheb’s words a revival of supersessionism—the doctrine that the advent of Christianity has completely voided God’s prior covenant with Israel:

[In his presentation], Raheb proceeded to reduce Christian faith to a crude liberation theology, one essentially without mention of [traditional Christian notions of redemption]. Those oppressed by “empire” (Israel as a tool of the U.S.) are the Palestinians, whom all good people will support in their effort to end occupation. The faith demands justice for the Palestinians! To top it off, he asserted, the cross of Jesus is “the ultimate critique of political and religious terror.” I presume that “political terror” refers to Rome in the ancient world and Israel today; “religious terror” is Jewish in both eras. Jesus is all about “liberation,” not “salvation.” (An alert Lutheran pastor in the audience asked if there were not more meaning to the cross, to which Raheb shook his head, claiming that his “contextual theology” is the way Palestinians interpret it.)

Entirely absent was the reality on the ground: Muslim oppression of Christians in the West Bank, as well as the danger that militant Muslims would present to Raheb and his family—and the many West Bank institutions he leads—were he to criticize them or the Palestinian Authority. He spoke not a word about the flight of Christians from his own hometown, Bethlehem, and the protective strategy of Christians in the West Bank to gather into small enclaves distant from their Muslim neighbors. . . .

[Raheb] is a one-man wrecking crew, supported by many who are no friends of Israel or of the Jewish people. He is closely associated with the BDS movement and steers churches toward strategies that would destroy Israel if successful.

[A]s a Christian, I am concerned about the emergence among Christians of a politically driven supersessionism—a “replacement theology” based on a crude liberation theology. Raheb’s statement about Jews as a medieval East European “invention” is an egregious example, for it denies that they are people of the covenant. This mentality could do great damage to the Jewish cause.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at First Things

More about: Anti-Semitism, Christian Zionism, Christianity, Jewish-Christian relations, Palestinians, Religion & Holidays

 

The Proper Jewish Response to the Pittsburgh Massacre

Nov. 21 2018

In the Jewish tradition, it is commonplace to add the words zikhronam li-vrakhah (may their memory be for a blessing) after the names of the departed, but when speaking of those who have been murdered because they were Jews, a different phrase is used: Hashem yikom damam—may God avenge their blood. Meir Soloveichik explains:

The saying reflects the fact that when it comes to mass murderers, Jews do not believe that we must love the sinner while hating the sin; in the face of egregious evil, we will not say the words ascribed to Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We believe that a man who shoots up a synagogue knows well what he does; that a murderer who sheds the blood of helpless elderly men and women knows exactly what he does; that one who brings death to those engaged in celebrating new life knows precisely what he does. To forgive in this context is to absolve; and it is, for Jews, morally unthinkable.

But the mantra for murdered Jews that is Hashem yikom damam bears a deeper message. It is a reminder to us to see the slaughter of eleven Jews in Pennsylvania not only as one terrible, tragic moment in time, but as part of the story of our people, who from the very beginning have had enemies that sought our destruction. There exists an eerie parallel between Amalek, the tribe of desert marauders that assaulted Israel immediately after the Exodus, and the Pittsburgh murderer. The Amalekites are singled out by the Bible from among the enemies of ancient Israel because in their hatred for the chosen people, they attacked the weak, the stragglers, the helpless, those who posed no threat to them in any way.

Similarly, many among the dead in Pittsburgh were elderly or disabled; the murderer smote “all that were enfeebled,” and he “feared not God.” Amalek, for Jewish tradition, embodies evil incarnate in the world; we are commanded to remember Amalek, and the Almighty’s enmity for it, because, as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik explained, the biblical appellation refers not only to one tribe but also to our enemies throughout the ages who will follow the original Amalek’s example. To say “May God avenge their blood” is to remind all who hear us that there is a war against Amalek from generation to generation—and we believe that, in this war, God is not neutral.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Commentary

More about: Amalek, Anti-Semitism, Judaism, Religion & Holidays