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‘Ecumenical deal’ crumbles as Christian denominations press on US aid to Israel

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Earlier this week the heads of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church and 12 other Christian denominations wrote a letter to members of Congress “urging Congress to conduct an investigation into possible human rights and weapon violations by the government of Israel.” As Annie Robbins reported the response from American Jewish organizations was swift (the American Jewish Committee for one said it was “outraged”) and now the Anti-Defamation League has come out swinging.

Haaretz reports that the ADL has withdrawn from a national Jewish-Christian interfaith dialogue in protest over the letter. Abe Foxman explained, ”The blatant lack of sensitivity by the Protestant dialogue partners we had been planning to meet with has seriously damaged the foundation for mutual respect.” He also called for other Jewish leaders to boycott the event as well.

Remember, during the debate over Presbyterian divestment Jewish leaders threatened the very same thing. In July, Rabbi Gil Rosenthal lobbied against divestment using some vague, but ominous language:

Rabbi Gil Rosenthal, executive director of the National Council of Synagogues and for years a participant in Jewish-Presbyterian dialogues, told the 220th General Assembly Thursday that significant work of interfaith reconciliation could be in jeopardy if the assembly approves a controversial divestment recommendation. . .

“Instead of being the only mainline church that espouses divestment, I encourage you to work hard to get the parties to return to the table and talk with one another. I’ve learned something from history. People who don’t speak to one another do unspeakable things to one another . . . I fear sincerely that divestment will cast a pall on our relationships and undermine our dialogue and fracture relationships, perhaps irreparably. So I implore you, do not undo what we have accomplished so beautifully together.”

“People who don’t speak to one another do unspeakable things to one another?” I think we can assume Rabbi Rosenthal wasn’t referring to divestment. No, “unspeakable things” can only refer to the ultimate bludgeon the organized Jewish community has used to quash Christian dissent over Israel – the holocaust.

Marc Ellis explained the “ecumenical deal” in a post for Mondoweiss during the Presbyterian debate:

A civil war within the Christian denominations is being waged over Israel and the rights of Palestinians. During the Shamir years few would have thought it possible that the interfaith ecumenical deal between Christians and Jews might be broken. Back then there wasn’t any daylight between the Holocaust and the Jewish abuse of power. Christians were riding their high horse of repentance for anti-Semitism. It didn’t to matter that another people was suffering at Jewish hands. High level Jews didn’t care. Why should they? Now all of that has changed. Christians have gone international in their justice concerns. The Empire and Progressive Jewish establishments have gone American – without a second thought! . .

Crushing the Palestinian uprising ultimately sounded the death knell for the Jewish-Christian dialogue/cooperation/deal making. It has unraveled year by year. Though they continue, Holocaust memorialization – the engine of the interfaith ecumenical deal and now a major factor in trivializing the Holocaust itself – also started its downward slide then. The reasons are obvious. When it became clear that Israel as a state wasn’t interested in justice for Palestinians and that Jewish leadership in America was only interested in silencing Christian misgivings about Israeli occupation policies, it was only a matter of time before the Jewish-Christian love fest came to an end.

Among the liberal Christian denominations, Christian support for Israel is on life support. The back-up oxygen tanks, already in use, are running empty. There isn’t any way of resurrecting the interfaith ecumenical deal. The “Christians are evil/Jews are innocent” genie is out of the bottle, never to return.

The Presbyterian divestment push just barely failed to pass, but this new letter to Congress proves Ellis’s point.

My question is, what’s the Jewish endgame here? Foxman has gone incommunicado, will Church leaders cave? And assuming they call the ADL’s bluff, what next? Does the Jewish community withdrawal from American life? Cut itself off from its neighbors and broader community as a separation wall goes up over criticism of Israel? I don’t think many in the community would support this, interfaith dialogue has been a hallmark of Jewish assimilation and acceptance in the United State and I doubt many will heed Foxman’s call to follow him out the door (although I could be wrong). But what do they say to their interfaith partners if they stay? A tipping point has been reached and American Jews in public life will increasingly be forced to defend, or reject, Israel’s actions.

Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Executive Editor of

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62 Responses

  1. FreddyV on October 12, 2012, 4:34 pm


    It’s very simple. Support for Israel’s behaviour doesn’t correspond with Christianity.

    Up to t’internet, Christians haven’t been able to access information and have been lead from the pulpit on such issues. Kind of like the Catholics pre Vatican II.

    Sure, there are some die hard evangelicals who toe the line due to futuristic interpretations of the Christian Bible, but many reasoning believers in Christ see something desperately wrong with supporting what’s going on.

    Here’s where Finklestein’s approach works. The law. Christians can’t disobey the law, whether local, national or international, irrespective of theological fantasy.

    • joecatron on October 12, 2012, 9:49 pm

      “Christians can’t disobey the law, whether local, national or international, irrespective of theological fantasy.”

      What strange new theology is this? Of course we can! Some of us do it pretty regularly.

      Early Christianity was defined by its defiance of laws as much as anything else: Roman mandates for military service and deference to imperial symbols, Jewish ritual and dietary codes …

      That “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” business had a more literal meaning in the first few centuries AD than many remember.

      This wouldn’t have been the case if everyone had simply done as they were told.

      • RudyM on October 13, 2012, 1:00 am

        It’s the theology of Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; and 1 Peter 2:13-15. Not saying I endorse it or any other Christian theology (I don’t); but I don’t see how a seriously Biblical Christian theology can be cavalier about disobeying the law. I can see how you can make a case for certain exceptions (e.g., it’s hard to see how the Great Commission wouldn’t take precedence over civil law), but unless you are very liberal about how you use the Bible (liberal enough to pretty much dismiss the verses cited above), there is a strong presumption that Christians should obey the civil authorities.

        Then again we are talking mainline denominations here, and they mostly do what they want anyway.

      • joecatron on October 13, 2012, 11:50 am

        I think, by “a seriously Biblical Christian theology,” you mean a very Protestant kind that focuses exclusively on a text while largely disregarding how it has historically been understood and applied. (And if that’s someone else’s bag, they’re fully entitled to it! Not my fight.) But when “Render unto Caesar” has come into question, St. Peter and the other apostles’ “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29), rather than advice written elsewhere to certain people in specific contexts, has usually been regarded as the trump card. (IIRC, even the Assemblies of God and the Southern Baptist Convention, to say nothing of everyone to their left, support the right to refuse military conscription, with or without legal sanction.)

        Your last sentence, of course, could not possibly be more correct.

      • FreddyV on October 13, 2012, 3:15 am

        @ Joe Catron:

        Here’s my take.

        Romans 13 is pretty clear:

        Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

        6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

        As Christians, international law can’t be disregarded and this is the area in which a strong challenge can be made. The international community and law is thoroughly on the side of Palestinians based on the 1967 borders. This includes EJ, which many Christians are led to believe is Israeli territory. I personally think this area is where we can challenge Christian Zionist thinking.

      • FreddyV on October 13, 2012, 2:34 pm

        @Joe Cantron:

        RudyM covered my thoughts far more articulately than I did and my post appeared after.

        My point is this:

        When a Christian Zionist argues for Israel, we have a case in law which questions their support against Biblical teaching.

      • joecatron on October 13, 2012, 5:32 pm

        You’re definitely onto something, and I won’t make it my project to dissuade those wanting to try this approach. But personally, I see more promise in Galatians 3, which answers every Christian Zionist claim pretty emphatically:

        Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many; but, referring to one, “And to your offspring,” which is Christ …

        There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

        And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

      • FreddyV on October 14, 2012, 2:35 am

        @Joe Catron:

        You’re absolutely right in your interpretation of Galatians 3, but I’ve found the big issue with using this (and I have on numerous occasions) is that you attack the other person’s theology head on. CZ’s generally believe that the chosen people of the Christian Old Testament have been set aside and the text of Galatians 3 speaks directly to the Christians in Galatia. CZ’s are generally hard wired to dismiss anything out of hand that they consider ‘replacement theology’ where the Church are the new ‘chosen people’, and you lose them at hello.

        Challenging them by using Biblical instructions on how to respond to modern day law, the CZ doesn’t immediately throw up a defensive stance as their faith isn’t being attacked, but they do tend to listen and consider Israel’s current behaviour and what their support actually causes.

        Personally, I’d rather take Galatians 3, as you have, but it tends to close down the conversation or turn it into an unproductive argument.

      • bilal a on October 14, 2012, 11:02 pm

        some argue that Romans 13 is specifically a warning against Jewish Identity Politics/ ethno nationalism within the Christian (Palistinian Jewish) community in Rome:

        “After having argued for the equality of Jews and Gentiles in God’s plan of salvation (Rom. 1:16-11:36), Paul perhaps realized the need to address concerns specific to his audience (Rom. 12). In 13:1-7 Paul advises Jewish Christians, recently returned to the Empire’s capital (after having been exiled by Emperor Claudius) against becoming involved in any {95} Palestinian-Jewish nationalist fervor. Unity among the Roman believers would be impossible in mixed Jew-Gentile communities, were the Jews to be voicing or even thinking anti-Roman (and anti-Gentile) ideas. Culpepper agrees with Borg that Paul’s specific concern in Romans 13:1-7 is that Jewish Christians refrain from joining a revolutionary, nationalistic movement which might undermine the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the Roman Church.15”

        similar to ethno nationaism separating christians from jews in weimar , or in todays multicultural america.

  2. Woody Tanaka on October 12, 2012, 4:44 pm

    I guess Foxman’s position here is, what? If Chrisitians don’t let israel get away with human rights abuses and weapons violations that the Jewish establishment in America is not interested in talking to Christians? This man is a lunatic.

  3. MRW on October 12, 2012, 5:03 pm


    You wrote

    A tipping point has been reached and American Jews in public life will increasingly be forced to defend, or reject, Israel’s actions.

    You’ve got the wrong tipping point: American Jews in public life will increasingly be forced to defend, or reject, American values and interests.

    • bobsmith on October 12, 2012, 5:47 pm

      For the last 64 years American Jews have tried to keep both America and Israel in their hearts and heads, never truly acknowledging the cognitive dissonance between support for a secular democracy on the one hand, and an ethnocracy maintained by martial law on the other. Now they must choose. Both of you are right.

  4. Dan Crowther on October 12, 2012, 6:18 pm

    A lot of these christians are full of it – so unfortunately the “hypocrisy” charge carries some weight.

    • libra on October 12, 2012, 6:46 pm

      Thank goodness you’re here Dan. Otherwise they’d have to wait for Judgement Day before being damned.

      • Dan Crowther on October 12, 2012, 8:37 pm

        Ha! I sometimes think it’s too bad that there isn’t a judgement day, but only for a second.

    • W.Jones on October 13, 2012, 12:34 am


      The $7+ billion a year (whatever the real figure is) means that this is a pretty big problem. If “these Christians” ignore it, it is a big hypocrisy. This is part of the process of stopping hypocrisy.

      Christianity teaches to do good and care about others, but we have seen Christians support segregation in the US, Apartheid in South Africa, and racism in other places. I can think of a good example right now of discrimination they should stop supporting so that they can get away from hypocrisy.

      • Dan Crowther on October 13, 2012, 11:01 am

        And the Israeli’s and their minions will say: So, you decide all of a sudden to take a stand against discrimination when Jews are involved, sure sure we’ve seen this before……

        Foxman an Co. are gonna eat this up.

      • W.Jones on October 14, 2012, 5:46 pm


        I believe Christian organizations in the US have taken strong stands on segregation and South African Apartheid, so it is not just that this is the first time ever they took a progressive stance and this time Jews are involved. As you do know, this latter fact is a typical Hasbara talking point. However, as in the case of US Segregation, the plan to enforce a kind of segregation with occasional largescale bloodshed on the Palestinian population is unfortunately also an American problem because of the especially close relationship between the two countries.

        It’s true that third world dictators are and have been backed by the US, but how many would get 28 standing ovations from everybody in Congress?

  5. Les on October 12, 2012, 6:22 pm

    Foxman’s ADL supports law breakers. These Christians don’t.

  6. pabelmont on October 12, 2012, 7:51 pm

    Interfaith dialog has always been, au fond, the top-dogs talking to the other top-dogs. It is wrong to say that Jews and Christians (or merely Protestants) have nothing to talk about, but correct to say that the higher-ups have come to blows over personal matters. The top-dog Jews have a personal (not a Jewish Community) interest in supporting Israel’s crimes, and the top-dog Christians have a (rather late discovered) interest in promoting the ideals of — yes — Christianity: love, humanity, charity, peace, justice — all the things that are anathema to Israel vis-a-vis Palestinians.

    Thus, interfaith dialog has always been a tool for suppressing the expression of Christian ideals inside-and-outside the dialog. “Don’t offend your Jewish friends, now” was the message of the dialog.

    Let’s hope it is behind us, except that a sincere effort should be made to make common cause between Jews and Christians who share a vocation for justice, peace, humanity, et al.

  7. Rusty Pipes on October 12, 2012, 8:09 pm

    There was this guy with a really big table in a grand, well-equipped room who decided to host a lavish symposium with great food and conversation. He sent out invitations to all of the really important thinkers. But slowly regrets began to trickle in — one by one initially — until he was deluged with rejections. Still, this guy was determined to have an interesting symposium anyway. He sent out invitations to all sorts of other people, people who didn’t often get a chance to get their opinions heard or valued at the table. A stimulating evening was had by all, with animated conversations lasting well into the night.

    The next time the guy with the huge table planned a symposium, he invited so many of these other people back that he didn’t have many seats left over for really important thinkers who were interested in attending.

  8. atime forpeace on October 12, 2012, 8:25 pm

    So confrontational, tsk tsk.

  9. American on October 12, 2012, 9:41 pm

    ”When it became clear that Israel as a state wasn’t interested in justice for Palestinians and that Jewish leadership in America was only interested in silencing Christian misgivings about Israeli occupation policies, it was only a matter of time before the Jewish-Christian love fest came to an end.”

    Been telling you all that when the day came that Jewish orgs tried to ‘force’
    US Christians/Churches to choose Jews and Israel over their own religion and values the Jewish state and the Jews would lose. The same thing applies to trying to make Americans choose Israel/ Jews over America on the grounds of their past holocaust, they will lose that one too.
    You have to ask what the hell these people are thinking. We constantly hear from them how the Christians persecuted and hated the Jews and now these Jewish orgs want to poke the sleeping bear they claim was always mauling the Jews by challenging it to a duel on values?
    Plain as day the Christians are fed up with the Jewish guilty tripping and heavy handedness or they wouldn’t have gone so far as to write congress in the name of their Churches…a unprecedented step.
    How the Jewish orgs think they can win this is beyond me…

    • Sin Nombre on October 13, 2012, 5:48 am

      American wrote:

      “How the Jewish orgs think they can win this is beyond me…”

      How anyone can think the Christian organizations are really gonna push this to any serious point is beyond me. After all they’ve kept very nicely silent lo all these years now, patiently not saying anything much through the Nakba, and then the Israeli starting of the ’67 war (a “war of aggression” in Nuremberg terms that they should have condemned like mad), and then through the invasion and occupation of Lebanon for all those years, and the indiscriminate bombing of Beirut, and Sabra and Shatila, and the giant galloping settlements, and the intifadas ….

      But now, suddenly, after you got those 500,000 settlers already in place and it’s already way too late … oh yeah, sure … they are gonna find their cohones. Just you see….


      Where were their principles before, after all? Hiding?

      No, what’s being misunderstood here is the fundamental nature of the leaders of these Christian religious groups. Marinated in Political Correctness, and indeed securing their very status by being PC sock puppets, it’s guilt that’s their stock in trade. And the more the better. “My oh my we Christians are just guilty guilty guilty of … you name it historically.” And no matter how clear it was that the very bonfire of evil that was communism and fascism was fueled by the very antithesis of Christian belief and faith, well, hell, of *course* they would buy into some guilt over that too, couldn’t they? After all “Germany was Christian, wasn’t it!,” the bumper-sticker-shallow fact went, and indeed was more than enough. “And wasn’t that Pope in it up to his eyeballs too?,” goes the refrain, even if the scholarship behind that sort of thing could only at best say “he didn’t do enough,” as if that wasn’t true about everyone.

      Guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt, that’s the tao of most of these people. That indeed is the very chant by which they secure and justify their positions: Telling their flocks—you know, the older masses that actually fought WWII, and opposed Stalin and the Soviets and Mao, and repugnantly repudiated Jim Crow and racism and etc.—how baaad they have been so that they need to be led unto the promised land by these somehow uniquely clear-sighted new, young activists. (Who were probably waving portraits of Ho Chi Minh and Mao back in the Sixties.)

      So what’s the equation? Especially now that it’s too late? Really really stand tall against Israel and advocate … “ethnic cleansing of jews” from the occupied territories? 500,000 of them? Really? And repudiate all that guilt over the Holocaust and everything else including bad breath that’s been dumping on Christianity since the Sixties? That wonderful guilt that is their very claim to fame or at least to their position?

      Nah…. You know what they’ll settle for? Just a tad more twaddle about “the peace process” from the Israelis perhaps, and then it’ll be “gee you know those Palestinians have to *realistic,* and my oh my of course they can’t resort to any *violence*….”

      And when the next intifada/violence comes, as it inevitably will, no matter the deep theological validity of the right of self-defense, because these folks know only the validity of political correct shallowness they’ll run to the nearest dark corner so as not to be noticed for some more decades.

      So no no, you can’t indict “the Right” or “conservatism” or etc. solely for what we see. Despite their responsibility being great indeed in abandoning the idea of democracy, and not having the U.S. go about being the world’s policeman and etc. and so forth. The Left and liberalism has its share of the responsibility to bear here too. When you elect mere polemical sloganeering to be your pole star, well what burns brighter than “the Holocaust! the Holocaust!”?

      Or, to put it another way, what card or even collection cards trumps *that* when laid on the table? No matter if neither the Palestinians nor you had a fucking thing to do with it, and indeed no matter if you were the one to put an end to it?

      • ColinWright on October 14, 2012, 5:07 pm

        To Sin Nombre:


      • john h on October 15, 2012, 12:42 am

        That’s the plain truth, and so well told. It doesn’t just apply to Christians, but to the West, period.

      • American on October 16, 2012, 6:52 pm

        I am not sure you ‘re right SN…. I am seeing stirrings and signs I haven’t seen before.

  10. foresomenteneikona on October 12, 2012, 10:04 pm

    That this letter was sent is an encouraging sign that the mainline churches are moving in the right direction.

    What is concerning is that evangelical churches are, in general, far from following their lead, and they represent the most vocal American Christian voices on issues related to the Middle East. I am thinking especially of the Christians United for Israel crowd, with whom Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren maintain tight connections.

    Especially for Congressional Republicans, it seems that CUFI will more than drown out the reasoned voice of the mainline churches for the near future, no matter how many such letters they write.

    • RudyM on October 13, 2012, 12:52 am

      Yes, this is a problem. I sent my liberal evangelical brother a link to an earlier post regarding the letter from the Evangelical Lutheran church, and he responded by basically saying he wondered why I was so obsessed with Israel and that surely I didn’t really see it as a black and white issue, and that you have to understand that Israel is surrounded by hostile countries, etc. Nothing about whether it might be a good idea to hold the U.S. government responsible to its own laws about the conditions under which arms may provided to other countries. Nothing about either the moral and military asymmetries in this conflict. (Admittedly, his response was probably not so much to this particular link but rather to it and other things I’ve sent lately.)

      Anyway, I’m not sure even most liberal evangelicals are going to be willing to go very far in questioning Zionism.

      • Shingo on October 13, 2012, 5:49 pm

        It amazes me how people continue to justify Israel’s behavior in the assumption that it is surrounded by hostile neighbors when the IP conflict had nothing to do with those neighbors.

        What does stealing land and building settlements have to do with Israel’s neighbors?

      • ColinWright on October 14, 2012, 5:11 pm

        RudyM says: “Yes, this is a problem. I sent my liberal evangelical brother a link to an earlier post regarding the letter from the Evangelical Lutheran church, and he responded by basically saying he wondered why I was so obsessed with Israel…”

        Yeah. That seems to be the latest fallback position. We’re ‘obsessed’ about Israel for the same reason that others were ‘obsessed’ about civil rights, and ‘obsessed’ about Naziism, and ‘obsessed’ about slavery, and so on back to the prophets.

        Evil is wrong, and we shouldn’t support it. That’s not a subtle position.

    • joecatron on October 13, 2012, 11:09 am

      I’m not sure how much more blindingly obvious it could possibly be, but the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is, in fact, an evangelical body.

      So is the United Methodist Church, although I can excuse someone for not knowing that a little more easily, seeing as how it isn’t THE FIRST WORD IN THE NAME.

      • Donald on October 13, 2012, 3:23 pm

        Well, “evangelical” has different meanings. As used in the US today it usually means “a theologically conservative person with social ambitions”, which is my snarky way of restating another snarky definition, which is that an evangelical is a college-educated fundamentalist who wants the secular world to treat him with respect (as opposed to the more hardline fundamentalist, who sees disrespect from secular people as a sign that he or she is standing up for God and suffering ridicule for it) . If I go for a non-snarky definition, an evangelical believes most of the things Protestants have believed for the past several hundred years, but has made some accommodations to the modern secular world. For instance, many though not all evangelicals accept evolution, while others reject it, but still accept that the universe is billions of years old and only the evangelicals who lean towards outright fundamentalism believe the universe is just thousands of years old and was created in six days. Forsomewhatevertherestofhisnameis is clearly using the term “evangelical” to refer to the conservative Protestant bodies as opposed to the mainline Protestant churches (though confusingly enough, some conservative Protestants can take liberal political positions, such as Ron Sider or Anthony Campolo or Jim Wallis.) There are several Presbyterian denominations, for instance, because the theologically more conservative folks split off from the mainline liberal PCUSA and formed their own.

        Evangelicals (the way the word is commonly used now) are usually distinguished from mainline liberal Protestants, though in practice there is overlap. But Methodists, for instance, can be very theologically liberal. (I just deleted an anecdote illustrating this, deciding it wasn’t that interesting.) But liberal Protestant churches have their historical roots in the Reformation, so in that sense they are evangelical and would claim the name. And some members are theologically conservative too.

      • john h on October 15, 2012, 12:48 am

        As I understand it, the term “evangelical” has increasingly become a codeword for CUFI people and their ilk who have Israel as their golden calf. That is, people known as Christian Zionists.

      • RudyM on October 13, 2012, 6:54 pm

        I am not that familiar with the ELCA, but I wouldn’t trust the name to tell me much in this case. From what little I know, I was under the impression the ELCA fits more in the “mainline” slot than in what I think of as evangelical, but I may not know enough. I do think “evangelical” is a pretty slippery term. My Methodist clergyman father embraced both the “mainline” and “evangelical” labels, but I think a lot of evangelicals would have trouble recognizing him as such. I should probably leave it to Christians and social scientists to sort this out.

        (I may come back and respond to your response to my proof-texting earlier. Too tired now, but I admit to having Protestant prejudices, and blinders, about these things, even not being a Christian any longer: I almost embraced Calvinism before bailing out altogether.)

      • ckg on October 15, 2012, 9:58 am

        For the standard classification of U.S. Protestant denominations into mainline, evangelical, and historically black segments, see the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life / U.S. Religious Landscape Survey Appendix 3 . ELCA, PC(USA), UMC, and UCC are all classified as mainline.

      • Rusty Pipes on October 15, 2012, 3:31 pm

        For Europeans, “Evangelical” just means Protestant. Many American churches, like the ELCA, show their European Protestant immigrant roots by having Evangelical in their name.

        Americans have generally used the term, Evangelical to mean “Protestant with feeling.” Most American Evangelicals identify themselves as “born again Christians” or as having “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” Christians with a feeling-identified faith can range across the ideological spectrum — so you can have very liberal and very conservative Evangelicals.

        During the rise of the Christian Right in the 70’s, leaders like the Moral Majority’s Jerry Falwell intentionally used the broader umbrella term of Evangelical to describe their movement because they were aware that calling the movement “Fundamentalist” could alienate some potential allies. With with such spokespeople for the Religious Right dominating the media, other Americans have gotten the impression that all Evangelicals are Fundamentalists.

        The membership in mainline churches ranges from center-right to far left in theology (just as many American families do), including a variety of Evangelical and Liberal Protestants.

    • MRW on October 14, 2012, 9:30 pm

      I am thinking especially of the Christians United for Israel crowd, with whom Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren maintain tight connections.

      CUFI’s executive director, David Brog, is Jewish. The mainline Christian churches and their far more powerful devotees in important quarters are aware of this.

      So this is wrong:

      Especially for Congressional Republicans, it seems that CUFI will more than drown out the reasoned voice of the mainline churches for the near future, no matter how many such letters they write.

      Why wrong?

      Israel has lost the sympathy of the top military brass this year, because of Netanyahu. The trickle-down from that reaches troop-level military families in Virginia, North and South Carolina, Texas, Nevada, Colorado, California…important military states. The Islamophobia purge that Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Dempsey has been doing since April has been swift and deep. You need to know someone in the military willing to talk to know the effect of it; there’s been virtually zip mentioned in the MSM, it’s all under the radar. The Christian Dominionists and John Hagee types aren’t getting promoted with their Israel uber alles and let’s bomb Iran rhetoric. Generals who promoted it (2007 was their banner year) have been retired. The military is far more disciplined about their message than blogs or print/broadcast. Even the Fox News rhetoric has been dialed down a bit, if you’ll notice.

      I find it instructive to visit bar/restuarants just off the base, the ones where troops take their wives to, and listen. There has been a sea-change in the last 18-24 months. Know what the number one complaint is that I hear? About Israel “spying on the US,” “how can they be our friends?” “we’ve got perfectly good American companies that can make our weapons for us, why do we give it to Israel?”

      • john h on October 15, 2012, 12:52 am

        That’s great news.

      • Rusty Pipes on October 15, 2012, 2:58 pm

        During the Bush Administration, Christian Zionist evangelizing was being assisted in all branches, even at the Pentagon. So, I’m glad to hear that there has been some seachange in Pentagon policy. Still, as Mooser mentions, the dominionists have deep roots in the Air Force and had succeeded in driving many non-Christians and liberal Christians out of that branch already. Do your sources mention whether there have been any significant changes regarding dominionist influence in the Air Force in recent years?

  11. dbroncos on October 12, 2012, 10:07 pm

    Please, Les. I can’t take you seriously when you make comments like this:

    “Foxman’s ADL supports law breakers. These Christians don’t.”

  12. talknic on October 12, 2012, 10:40 pm

    At least half right “Foxman’s ADL supports law breakers … ”

  13. W.Jones on October 13, 2012, 12:42 am

    A caveat: Dialog and close relations between the Christian and Rabbinic communities is important and it’s interfaith, but it’s not “ecumenical”, since that refers to cooperation between Christian groups. An example of a break in “ecumenical” relations would be CUFI saying it will not dialogue or work on joint projects like Crop Walk with mainstream Christian churches because of differences over the State System in the Holy Land.

    At this point I think conservative protestants are still mixed on whether it’s a religious belief for them that they must support Israeli militarism and a one-nationality state.

  14. Walid on October 13, 2012, 1:51 am

    The ecumenical “deal ” began crumbling in 2009 with the Kairos Palestine document that was truly a moment of truth for Christians and Foxman has been on the warpath from that point on. In 2010 he said of the document that “it calls terror a form of legal resistance, it endorses boycotts and divestment against Israel, and it denies any connection between biblical covenants and the Jewish people. ” In June this year, Foxman called a new US response to the Kairos a “poison pill” for Christian Jewish relations and that “the Kairos USA Committee was composed by American Christians some of whom are well known as advocating anti-Israel positions cloaked in the rhetoric of peacemaking.”

    This hasn’t been a good year for Foxman & Co. Last month, the Pope delivered his Apostolic Exhortation in Beirut to all Middle East Christians. The exhortation was the result of the 2 years Bishops’ Synod to discuss the future of Christians in the ME. One of the conclusions that worked its way into the exhortation that Foxman did not digest was summed up in 2010 by Archbishop Bustros:

    “… Ayalon specifically objected to a comment made at the synod’s closing press conference on Saturday by Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros, who’s actually based in Newton, Massachusetts.

    Bustros was commenting on a line in the synod’s final message, which rejected use of the Bible to justify injustice.

    “We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people,” Bustros said. “This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people – all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.”

    Some Jews took that line as an expression of theological “Supercessionism,” meaning that the coming of Christ “cancelled” God’s covenant with Israel — a view that the Second Vatican Council and subsequent papal teaching has been understood to reject. Some Israelis likewise saw it as a rejection of Israel as a “Jewish state.”

    Meanwhile Zionist persecution of Christians continues in Israel and the Territories and they wonder why the Christians are now asking for justice for the Palestinians.

    • Walid on October 13, 2012, 2:33 am

      From Israel News, Oct. 11, 2012:

      “… A right-wing religious group has left it’s mark once again on a Jerusalem church. “Jesus, son of a bitch” was found on the front door of the Franciscan monastery on Mount Zion less than a month after the same group vandalized the Latrun Monastery. Some Christians in Israel are getting concerned.

      Similar acts of vandalism have occurred around the country by the group known as “price tag” gang, but only recently did they begin to target churches. The group from Judea and Samaria are known to be frustrated with government policies in the disputed territories.

      … Since January of this year the group has been targeting churches, including a Baptist Church and Orthodox and Catholic church properties around Jerusalem. The motivation for these attacks is unclear. Most likely the group are trying to draw attention to themselves by stirring up religious tensions in the city. This kind of vandalism provokes strong reactions.

      The Vatican’s top official in Israel, Rev. Peirbattista Pizzaballa, called the attack a result of Israel’s derogatory attitude towards Christians. “When you say Christianity to Israelis they immediately think of the Holocaust and Inquisition,” he said.

      • Danaa on October 14, 2012, 5:18 pm

        Actually, Walid, the translation of what was written on the monastery’s wall was “Jesus, son of a whore”. I’ll supply the +972 link later along with my comment.

        The translated graffiti was so bad that MW censored my original comment on the subject on another thread the other day.

      • Walid on October 14, 2012, 10:36 pm

        Danaa, Israel Today is a religious magazine that has a full section on whitewashing anti-Christian feelings in Israel, such as this one about the defacing of the Franciscan monastery door. So I can imagine how much different is your translation. I added it to show that it’s no wonder Christians have had enough of being kicked around by the Zionists in Israel and perhaps one of the reason behind this Christian campaign for justice for the Palestinians. I still haven’t gotten over the huff about the you-know-who whose name can no longer be spoken here and now we have the ongoing lapidation of Greta; Zionists must be celebrating this one too.

      • Danaa on October 15, 2012, 4:36 am

        Walid, yes – the you-know-who-whose-name-cannot-be said is having a good old chuckle (or a major smirk), right now, I’m sure. Deep deep go the ties that bind, in knots they tie all the way to the bony bones. I just hope the Palestinians – and Arabic people the world over – are taking good notes on how proper honor killings are to be done. So what the heck happened to me that I could ever disentangle the shackles and emerge Houdini-like above the water tank? or did I? need to think this through – again – can one ever be really free? (in my case I hope I can still count on certain deeply embedded authority issues – which, of course, means just another- not unfascinating – set of problems altogether. Kind of).

      • Walid on October 15, 2012, 10:50 am

        Must be the charmed life you lead, Danaa. I learned a lot of interesting history from the guy, like the time he was shot at on the Awali by the IDF while he was taking pictures and the other time how the IDF kept baiting the GIs in Beirut. This cat and mouse game-playing must be an Israeli thing, since they again did it after 2006 with the French and German contingents of UNIFIL when they dove at them in a mock attack formation for no other reason than having a bit of fun. The Israeli jets were seconds away from being shot down.

        From an October 2006 Spiegel:

        “Israel versus Germany Confrontation off Lebanon Leads to Questions

        By Christoph Schult and Alexander Szandar

        It started so well. But now, questions surround Germany’s mission to Lebanon. Not only have Israeli planes buzzed German ships, but the naval mission has fewer rights than at first promised. The German parliament is demanding answer.

        An Israeli F-16 buzzes the German ship Alster last Tuesday.
        One thing is certain, when Germany’s Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung visits Israel and Lebanon the end of this week, there will be no shortage of things to talk about. He will want a more detailed explanation from Israeli politicians, for examples, as to why their fighter jets buzzed a German ship last Tuesday and why a German naval helicopter was approached by Israeli jets on Thursday night.

        And from Charles Ayoub in 2006:

        On 31 October 2006, eight Israeli F-15s flew over many areas of Lebanon, including Beirut.[41][42] The jets also flew over a French position in Lebanon. According to the French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, the planes came in at what was interpreted as an attack formation, and the peacekeepers were “two seconds” away from firing at the jets with an anti-aircraft missile.[43][44]

        … On September 6, during a European Union meeting in Brussels, the French Defense Minister announced that the Israeli Air Force had stopped mock air attacks over UNIFIL positions. On November 17, two IAF F-15s overflew UN positions at low altitude and high speed, and two Israeli reconnaissance planes circled the headquarters of the French battalion. French peacekeepers responded by readying their anti-aircraft batteries, and warned that Israeli warplanes conducting mock attacks could be fired on.[46]

  15. Betsy on October 13, 2012, 9:56 am

    to build long term, progressive coalitions for the future, with faith communities, it’s helpful to understand long term trends & distinctive trajectories of those communities. The emerging roles of Presbyterians (e.g., PC(USA) which is the ‘liberal’ Presbys) is not “new”. It’s more a return to “social gospel” public roles — which were very strong in 19th c & up to mid 20th, but have been suppressed for several reasons: a) the political rise of Far Right in 1970s-1990s dominated what the public thinks of as “Christian”. So, for instance, PC(USA) regularly sends letters to Congress on all sorts of things, but noone notices, because ‘liberal’ churches do not fit current corporate media memes — e.g. google the website under “letter to congress” and b) this is not an example of PC(USA) “going international” recently because free of a priestly caste — since early 19th c. there have been close relationships between the church & Christian & other faith communities in the Middle East. Individual congregations, synods & others had a lot of back & forth communication & exchange — especially in connection w/ the many high schools & some colleges that were staffed & funded by lots of American congregational support (like American University of Cairo). There were various theological exchanges — e.g., thro Near East School of Theology in Beirut. These strands of Protestantism in US might have gotten started from evangelical fervor but increasingly by last 19th c. became strongly intertwined with strongly internationalist, pacificist, social justice, and ecumenical commitments & callings — as the cross-cultural, border-crossing relationships & collaborations deepened. if you hang out in PC(USA) assemblies & seminaries you can feel the strength of this, altho It has weakened as the central offices & agencies have dramatically lost money in past several decades. All through the 1950s & beyond, the dreadful situation of Palestinian refugees in dreadful camps, was of much concern & congregational campaigns for disaster relief & medical services.

    One particularly problematic meme that has been promulgated by the attacks on PC(USA) is this idea that somehow our faith communities are isolated & have no history in the Middle East — and therefore, that official Jewish organizations have a unique right to speak about the Middle East. This is false & destructive for many reasons. It ignores international fellowship & relationships of liberal Christianity (thereby implicitly strengthening the public voice of Right Christianity, e.g., see It ignores the richness & diversity of Christian communities in Middle East & their relationships with American Christianity (note that the article I just sited on Far Right Christians in Jerusalem, makes NO MENTION of indigenous Christian communities there, and only one comment re/ Palestinians).

    The leadership of organized Jewish communities have said terrible things re/ PC(USA) — even as laity in Jewish & liberal Christian communities I know have terrific working collaborations in common social justice labors in our hometowns that are very meaningful & we don’t want to lose. The inability to hear how Presbyterians understand our own religious experience — that God has been calling us through very long histories of engagement that transcend what Isaiah would call “the nations”…part of this involves repentence for past historical sins, but also celebration or past historical solidarities. There is a long Protestant history of solidarities in the Middle East — that have been suppressed in national American public awareness.

  16. Nevada Ned on October 13, 2012, 11:40 am

    Since the ADL and similar organizations have walked away from dialogue with Christian churches, let me suggest that the churches invite the Jewish Voice for Peace (and similar organizations) to take the place of the ADL in interfaith dialog.

    You may say that JVP is a pretty small organization. Well, how big is ADL? It’s a one person show – Abe Foxman. A few year ago, the NY Times asked ADL if there was anybody besides Foxman who could be interviewed. The ADL said no, they couldn’t think of anybody.

    The walkout by ADL proves that ADL really works for Israel, a foreign country. ADL has almost no domestic agenda. Once upon a time, many decades ago, the ADL really was a civil rights organization. Now they’re just another branch of the Israel lobby. Their stock-in-trade is accusations of anti-semitism. Which is a slander, defamation. The ADL really ought to be called the PDL. the Pro-Defamation League.

    • annie on October 13, 2012, 12:59 pm

      You may say that JVP is a pretty small organization. Well, how big is ADL?

      it’s not the size of it, it’s that it portends to speak for the jewish community or be its gatekeeper. very similar to what’s being discussed by alterman

      it’s time for alternatives to ADL to surface. great suggestion of jvp replacing them. i’d follow the lead of Rebecca, Cecilie and Sydney over foxman anyday. we desperately need a changing of the guards.

      • American on October 14, 2012, 2:56 pm

        Actually we don’t need alternatives or the guards.
        ADL, and all like it, need to pack up their tents and fade away.
        There should be no special orgs for anti semitism, it should be simply part of all other bigotry covered by laws against it.
        As long as they operate they will encourage resentment of Jews, not discourage it.

      • on October 14, 2012, 2:58 pm

        “it’s time for alternatives to ADL to surface. great suggestion of jvp replacing them. ”

        Wow, already speaking of replacing that instead of destroying it. Was that serious?

    • Mooser on October 14, 2012, 1:15 pm

      “You may say that JVP is a pretty small organization.”

      Smaller by one whole city, Berlin.

  17. dbroncos on October 13, 2012, 1:37 pm

    ‘… the political rise of Far Right in 1970s-1990s dominated what the public thinks of as “Christian”.’

    This transformation utterly changed the politics of Colorado Springs where Christian leaders decided to hang out their corporate Christian shingle (Focus on the Family, et al.) Christian leaders, many from out of state, moved in to do “God’s work” and, most importantly, to MAKE LOTS OF MONEY. Springs residents, including many who are an already conservative crowd of libertarians, and military personel ( Air Force Academy, Kit Carson Army base), watched with dismay as James Dobbins, Ted Haggard and others established their corporate mega churches and started to define the city as an epicenter of “Christian Values”. You’ll remember Ted Haggard’s fall from grace as Bush Jr.’s spiritual advisor to a despirate man in search of meth and illicit sex with male prostitutes. To the credit of some Springs residents, there has been some push back on their influence in the form of political leaders who have called attention to the hubris and hypocrisy of Christianity Inc., Colo. Spgs.

    • Mooser on October 14, 2012, 1:21 pm

      “Springs residents, including many who are an already conservative crowd of libertarians, and military personel ( Air Force Academy, Kit Carson Army base), watched with dismay as James Dobbins, Ted Haggard and others established their corporate mega churches and started to define the city as an epicenter of “Christian Values”. “

      Oh please. The US Air Force is a veritable center of conservative evangelical Christianity. Why don’t you Google “Mike Weinstein, Air Force Academy”
      Why the desperation by some Mondoweiss commenters to include the military among the defenders of civil liberties I’ll never understand.

  18. Mooser on October 14, 2012, 1:13 pm

    “‘Ecumenical deal’ crumbles as Christian denominations press on US aid to Israel'”

    Okay, that’s it, I’ve had enough. Next time I go past a church, I’m spitting on the ground.

  19. RoHa on October 14, 2012, 10:09 pm

    “Foxman has gone incommunicado, will Church leaders cave?”

    Foxman has gone incommunicado, why should Church leaders care?

  20. piotr on October 14, 2012, 10:34 pm

    Not being a person of faith, I have but a feeble understanding what is at stake in “interfaith reconciliation”. Since atheism is a negative quality, there are no major organizations that could demand their place in interfaith gatherings.

    I guess one of the benefits of religion is to avoid eternal damnation provided that your beliefs are correct. So the idea of interfaith is to be nice to each other while we expect our friendly interlocutors to fry in the Lake of Fire. Suddenly it transpires that Jews find some Christian theology anti-Semitic. Like the Lake of Fire bit. Or not sharing the belief that Canaan is an eternal property of Jews and any real estate transaction giving property titles there to non-Jews are null and void. So these Jews would like to reform Christian theology.

    It is particularly ironic when Reform Jews whine like that. Orthodox clergy view them as damned heretics. It used to be that Reform viewed Orthodox as heretics, now it is hard to tell what their views are.

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