Thursday, July 06, 2006

Reversing the Works of Mercy.

Bethlehem Bloggers published this commentary by Frubious Bandersnatch on the recent Israeli actions against Gaza:
It is doubtless true that terrorists, as human beings, are ultimately sustained by water, food and heat. Also, by Israeli definition, Gaza is a 'haven for terrorists'. Thus by denying water, food and heat to large sections of the Gazan population, Israel will almost certainly harm some terrorists. However, such a strategy could only really be effective in eradicating terrorism if the entire population of Gaza were annihilated along with the terrorists. In short: by genocide and ethnic cleansing. The absolute immorality of such a solution should be clear to the meanest intelligence. And yet, let us be clear, this is the strategy that Israel is currently pursuing.
I have been watching with interest the discussion in my denomination, the ELCA, among those interested in preserving biblical authority and retaining traditional sexual ethics-- two unqualified goods in my viewpoint. I've seen some discussion of the letter by the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA on the Gaza crisis to President Bush:
Mr. President, we write out of the deepest concern for the ever deteriorating situation in Gaza. We condemn the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier and pray for his safe return. We recognize the grief this brings to all Israelis but we cannot accept the response which punishes all Palestinians in Gaza.

While it is helpful that President Mubarak and the Group of Eight foreign ministers, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, are addressing the issue, the United States must use its long friendship with Israel to find a diplomatic solution which will not further impoverish and burden ordinary Palestinians. The loss of electricity alone affects all and only further escalates the mounting humanitarian crisis. Our churches and institutions there are filled with anguish as they try to meet the needs of Palestinians-- whether Christian or Muslim.

We have long applauded your vision and ours of a two-state solution and your Road Map for Peace. We continue to work with our Christian and Jewish colleagues to gain citizen support for this initiative but have been saddened that more progress has not been made toward its realization. If the present situation is allowed to continue unchecked, it could end the tenuous hope that remains for a solution that brings peace to Israelis and Palestinians.

You, and your administration, are always in our prayers as you seek a way forward in these difficult times.
The conservatives are upset. They don't like that he is advising on a matter of foreign policy, saying that he sounds like a Democrat, that he has discredited himself with the political constituency of the denomination which has opposing views. My God, do we really have a sizable constituency in favor of bulldozing children??

We must not forget that the office of Bishop or Pastor is not that of political lobbyist. There is in Lutheranism a doctrine of separation of Kingdoms-- effectively of Church and State. I do not view this as meaning that the State can do whatever it wants but rather that the church does not get involved in specifying or moting out punishments. The State has a duty of preserving temporal order and the Church has a duty which includes the Office of the Keys-- informing folks of God's wrath and God's love.

A good God by definition cannot fail to burn with wrath over such a crisis as is happening in Gaza. It takes but the meanest intelligence, to quote to article above, to see the immorality of the situation. I would bet that many nontheists who are exasperated with the Christian concepts of sin and wrath could make an exception to their exasperation in this one case. That the American church too often separates man's inhumanity to man from its doctrine of sin only turns thinking and feeling folks away from its doors.

Sometimes I think these things go in cycles. The mainline denominations take a moral stand on a controversial issue, like apartheid or pollution. Their conservative critics gripe at the mainline bureaucrats for having talked about the topic at all. Then after a while, a few noted Republicans or a pope or two join the chorus. Suddenly the paradigm shifts and we're told, of course everyone's always been against the humanitarian crisis, there was just principled disagreements of how to go about rectifying it that caused some to reflect before acting.

The Presiding Bishop of the ELCA tells us that "Our churches and institutions there are filled with anguish as they try to meet the needs of Palestinians-- whether Christian or Muslim." If this really were a time of detached reflection and not one of mourning, not one of tearing our clothes, then it is logical that it is a time of severe admonishment to the churches on the ground there. They tear their clothes and ask the American church for help, getting only a few of us riled up. If they keep making mountains out of these molehills, either they need to cut us off or we cut them off.

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