Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Pope and the Holy Land


Click here if the video cannot be seen.

Upon the completion of Pope Francis' visit to the Holy Land in 2014, some conservative internet news media went abuzz with all sorts of criticism of the Holy Father.

Now, lest anyone mistakenly believe I think the pope is above criticism, I do have some of my own criticisms of the pope, but they are minor. I have an issue with Pope Francis on liturgy. I think he's too lax, and in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's magnificent reforms of the liturgy, Pope Francis has thus far been a step backward. The other issue I have with the Holy Father is over his spontaneous "off the cuff" remarks. While I don't have any major issues over what he actually said (as opposed to what the media wrongly reported he said), I still think a pope should be a bit more careful about how he says things in public. When the whole world is listening, wording is important. I think he should be more careful.  That's it.  Those are my two criticisms, and they are made in love, with the hope and prayer that the pope will improve in the days ahead.

Now in regards to the things this pope has said and done in general, I don't have a problem with that, namely because so far, everything he's said and done has been consistent with the previous popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II, in spite of erroneous media reports to the contrary.  This trip to the Holy Land is no different. Much hyperventilation has happened over Pope Francis' spontaneous stop at the separation wall between Palestinians and Israelis -- a wall erected after many suicide bomber attacks on Israeli citizens. After visiting Bethlehem, on his way to Jerusalem, the pope ordered that this carriage be stopped at the separation wall, where he got out, and made an unscheduled prayer. He laid his head on the wall, in an act of grieving, prayed for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and he did so right were graffiti read in English: "Apartheid Wall," "Free Palestine" and "Bethlehem looks like a Warsaw ghetto." I tell you it was no coincidence the pope stopped here. He wanted his image captured next to those statements. He never said a word to the public, but the message was crystal clear. Israeli officials were not happy about the incident, and issued the following statement...
"We had expected that the Pope would make a human gesture. There’s nothing political here," said a foreign ministry spokesman, who accused the Palestinians of turning the papal visit into "a propaganda stunt." "But that’s what they do and the Vatican plays along with it, and so be it. We will find the time to speak with the Vatican through diplomatic channels about this." -- source
Interesting. "We will find the time to speak with the Vatican through diplomatic channels about this." I would love to tap into that phone call and listen in. (Maybe the NSA can hook me up.) Clearly this was an embarrassment to Israel, and it should be. The whole separation wall project is shockingly similar to the Berlin Wall. Granted, the circumstances are different, but the solution is the same. Having lived through the end of the Cold War, Pope Francis' gesture at the Bethlehem separation wall on May 25, 2014 gave me flashbacks to President Ronald Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech before the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987. To add some balance to the matter, the pope spoke openly about ending terrorism, and rejecting violence as a means of solving political problems. Echoing his predecessors, Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Holy Father stated that peace can only come when both parties decide to make it happen, put aside all preconditions, and work for a solution. He then offered the Vatican as a meeting place for prayer on a final two-state solution.

For over two decades the United States has attempted to broker peace deals between the Israelis and Palestinians. The result has been a disaster, with the situation deteriorating further, in what seems like a never ending quagmire. Everything Pope Francis did in the Holy Land was consistent with his predecessors, accept for this one thing. He pushed the United States aside, and placed the Vatican in centre stage for a final peace deal. Overall, I think this is a wonderful idea. The United States has been a terrible friend when it comes to this issue, making matters only worse for both Israelis and Palestinians, leading only to a stalled process. It's time for a fresh start, with a whole new paradigm, in a brand new location, and under the watchful eye of a spiritual (rather than political) leader. 

It makes sense really, and it is a logical progression of events. However, some people in the United States are not happy. I'm speaking of Zionists. To be clear, Zionism is a political ideology. It has nothing to do with religion. Most Zionists are not even Jews. The vast majority of Zionists are Christians and they live in the United States of America. This is the reason why most Palestinian and Israeli protest signs, banners and graffiti are written in English, as opposed to Hebrew and Arabic. The message is directed toward American Christians, particularly those that support Zionist goals.

Perhaps here it would help to explain exactly what Zionism is.  Often, many Americans equate Zionism with Judaism. They mistakenly believe to oppose one is to oppose both. That is not the case at all.  Judaism is a religion.  Zionism is a political ideology, originally promoting the settlement of Jews in Palestine and the creation of a Jewish State called Israel. Since the creation of that state in 1948-1949, the meaning of Zionism has expanded. Today Zionism means two things. First, the exclusive identity of Israel as a "Jewish State" which effectively makes non-Jews into second-class citizens there. Second, the expansion of the State of Israel into territories internationally recognised as "Palestine."  (Some even see the ultimate long-term goal of Israeli expansion into Jordan and Egypt.) Thus, in today's world (as opposed to 100 years ago), a Zionist is somebody who wants Israel to be an exclusively "Jewish state" and supports the expansion of that state into areas internationally recognised as belonging to Palestinian Arabs (both Christians and Muslims).  To be clear, not all Israelis are Zionists.  In fact, a fairly large number of Israelis support the peace process, and believe Israel should cease expansion projects into Palestinian territories.  The majority of the world's Zionists live right here in the United States and they are not Jews but Christians -- Evangelical Christians to be exact -- primarily Baptists and Pentecostals. Their motivation is a little different than the original Zionists a hundred years ago, who simply sought a modern Jewish homeland. The motivation of American Christian Zionists is primarily eschatological in nature, coupled with a misguided sense of desiring to defend Jews against anti-Semitism.  We could link the latter to "white guilt" over the Holocaust, so as to say, they think supporting the new goals of Zionism is a way of making up for the Holocaust.  However, the eschatological reasons are far more significant. This goes back to a fundamental misunderstanding about Christianity not Judaism. Many Baptists and Pentecostals support a belief system called Dispensationalism (Darbyism) which was founded by John Nelson Darby in the early 19th century. The idea is a break with historical Christian teaching that the Church is the New Israel under Christ the King, and instead supports the notion that Jesus Christ has two kingdoms, or two covenant peoples. The first is the Kingdom of Israel, who are the Jewish people, and the second is the Kingdom of the Church, which are primarily Gentiles.  The idea is totally heretical from a historical orthodox perspective, but it is supported by tens of millions of Evangelical Christians in the United States. Thus, it is mistakenly believed, that supporting the political goals of Zionism, will earn a Christian "brownie points" with Jesus Christ who is the King of both kingdoms.  They also believe it will set the stage for the physical return of Jesus Christ and the end of this present age.

This is why political messages in the Holy Land are often written in English. The intended audience is American viewers, in the hope of reaching out to Christian Zionists here and changing their opinion.  A practising Catholic cannot be a Zionist in the modern sense of the word. The popes have made it clear that both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to a homeland.  Jews have a right to live in Israel.  But then Arabs (both Christian and Muslim) have a right to live in Palestine.  The Vatican has already recognised the State of Palestine, alongside the State of Israel, and what the rest of the world is trying to hammer out in practical reality, already exists in the minds of those who work in the Vatican.  The Catholic Church supports Israel, and the Catholic Church supports Palestine.  It supports them both fully, and not one at the expense of the other.  Yet, Zionists in America are pitching a fit over what Francis has done, as if this were something new. Yet, there is nothing new about this at all. Five years ago, Pope Benedict XVI said far more against the wall separating Israelis from Palestinians, and far more about the stalled peace process.  I post a video of that here to refresh our memory...
Again, in this video, as in the many signs, banners and graffiti, the pope speaks in English. While it is true that English is the most universal international language in the West, at the same time, the people to whom this message is most directed, speak English as their native tongue. I'm speaking of American Christian Zionists again. This is because the greatest force stalling the peace process in the Holy Land is not fundamentalist Jews in Israel, or radical Islamist terrorists in Palestine, but rather Christian Zionists in the United States, who support the Israeli government "unconditionally" with arms, finances and political cover. They demand "unconditional support" of Israel from their politicians, who gladly pledge it to them in exchange for votes. America elects the most pro-Zionist politicians in the world, far more than exist in the Israeli Knesset.

One example of extreme Christian Zionism in the United States is embodied in WorldNetDaily.Com, an internet "news" outlet that has published stories declaring that Pope Francis may be the final pope in history, and thereby linking him to the possible Antichrist or False Prophet in the Book of Revelation. In its most recent publication, the editor of WorldNetDaily.Com, Mr. Joseph Farah himself, begins his article by stating quite boldly, "I know this article will offend some Catholics."  He then continues by refusing to recognise the State of Palestine, and then states that peace will never come to the Middle East if Palestine is ever allowed to become a state. He then goes on to say that the pope is either "clueless" or else he "has an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish agenda."  So there it is folks, one of the largest internet news publications in America, indeed the chief editor himself, has plainly said that either the pope is an idiot or some kind of anti-Semite, one or the other, take your pick.

Besides getting his facts wrong about the goals of Palestinians, Mr. Farah goes on to rehash tired old Protestant propaganda about the Catholic Church being anti-Semitic, and then suggests that the pope is supporting evil by recognising the State of Palestine.  In the course of his article, Mr. Farah reveals that he was raised in the Catholic Church but does not consider himself Catholic. You can read the screed here if you like, but I advise that you keep a vomit bag nearby. Farah ends his commentary with an interactive online poll his readers can participate in. The results of which, as of the date of this entry, reveal that most of his readers believe the pope is "continuing the global deception spoken of in the Bible." This should tell you something not only about Mr. Farah, but also about the audience he writes to. As I said, WorldNetDaily.Com is a well known news publication, relied upon by many (not all but many) Evangelical Christians in the United States. With Christian Zionism like this, who needs Jewish Zionism?

There are many problems with Christian Zionism, and I discussed this in detail in my previous article entitled "Why I don't believe in the Rapture," but American Christians need to wake up and educate themselves about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Much of what they've been told is simply untrue, and with "news" outlets like Mr. Farah's we can see why. The truth is that many Palestinians are Christians, and that the majority of Palestinian Christians are now refugees living in other countries. The conflict between Israel and Palestine has driven them out, and for those who have managed to stay so far, their life is a hard one. If you ask the average Palestinian Christian who the greater threat is, in their daily lives, Hamas or Zionism, they will all tell you it's Zionism. Under Israeli occupation their homes have been destroyed, their daily lives disrupted, their churches vandalised, and they are regularly assaulted not by Muslims, but by Zionist Jews!  I'm not saying that -- they are!

So what do we do?  Do we dismiss them?  Do we take an "America knows best" attitude, like we usually do, and tell these Palestinian Christians to either shut up or move!?!  That's what we've done so far.  It doesn't appear to be working very well.  Perhaps this is why the pope is pushing the United States out of the peace process.  Perhaps this is why the next phase of the peach process will be held in the Vatican, away from the prying eyes of American politicians.  How will the Christian Zionists in America react to this? Well, I think we've already had a pretty good taste of this with Mr. Farah's commentary. I think it's safe to say we can expect a lot more where that came from, if not worse.

Pope Francis, like his predecessors, has spoken about the right of both Palestinians and Israelis to a homeland, and he has expressed support for the plight of Jews during the Holocaust. He's prayed at the Wailing Wall, asking for peace between Palestinians and Jews. In every way he has expressed support and love for the Jewish people, both in Israel and abroad.  However, he doesn't do this at the expense of Palestinians. They are people too, and they have a right to a homeland. Mr. Farah, along with tens of millions of other Christian Zionists in America, doesn't see that. He does not regard the Palestinians as a people at all. His view of the situation seems to be that they should either put up with the injustice or just move! He leaves us with the impression that all Palestinians are Muslims, and there is no such thing as a good Muslim, only the kind that want to kill Jews. This is the sort of "news" outlet that many (not all but many) Evangelicals in America rely upon, and in doing so, the conflict in the Holy Land never ends. This is why America will soon be irrelevant in the Holy Land peace process, and Zionists like Mr. Farah only have themselves to blame.

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2 comments:

Pair O' Dimes said...

I'm a little confused. From how you discussed it, it sounds like you do not equate Zionism with there being a Jewish state in the Holy Land at all. Obviously it's prudent to deal with the situation as we have it, since there already is one, but I was under the impression that that is what Zionism is.

This being the case, since the Church is the New Israel, with Christ the King and Mary the Queen, I don't see how a man-made Jewish republic can be in line with God's will, especially when the Jews in question are not Christians.

I also recognize that this is a temporal matter, and that the Church doesn't rule infallibly on temporal matters. Still, I cannot think of a way to make support for the Jewish state in the Holy Land work consistent with the dogmatic teachings of the Church--indulgence, perhaps, if necessary, but support?

If I am wrong, can you show me where?

Steve Dalton said...

Joe Farah, IMO, is a Zionist fanatic. He openly promotes Judaizing and Zionism on WND. I now believe he's also a classic Anti-Catholic bigot. That line that some of my best friends are Catholic, is the classic line that all Catholic haters use when people bring them up short for their bigotry. I think every Catholic in the US who knows about Farah's bigotry ought to flood WND with protests to let this apostate know that we don't appreciate his smearing of the Catholic faith. We should also encourage a boycotting of any products advertised or sold by WND so he can understand the depths of our displeasure.