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After Sharon

Israel/Palestine
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The coffin of Ariel Sharon leaving the Knesset 13 January 2014. Photo by Allison Deger

The coffin of Ariel Sharon leaving the Knesset 13 January 2014. Photo by Allison Deger

This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archives page.

After. Never Again. This time they went too far.

Note how many times these thoughts have been written and discussed in articles, conferences and eulogies.

How many times you and I have thought – after, Never Again, this time they went too far.

So many times it feels like call and response. A liturgical cadence run amok.

Lord, (you don’t) hear our prayer.

Yes I awoke this morning with a liturgical service in my head. Perhaps an alternative post-funeral service, since Sharon, the warrior, thug, war criminal and provocateur has been laid to rest.

Liturgical timelines are partly linear. We’re bound to miss some events. Fill in the blanks.

Liturgical timelines are scrambled. After becomes a blur. Can they ever really go too far?

This time it’s Israel but it could be a number of places in our unforgiving world.

The minister or rabbi begins. The congregation responds.

After the Holocaust.

(Congregation)) Never Again. This time they went too far.

After the creation of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

After the 1967 war and the occupation began.

After Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, the first time, then the second and third.

(Congregation) Never Again. This time they went too far.

Israel invading Gaza the first time, then the second and the third.

Israel building the Wall. Expanding the Wall. Israel making the Wall its border.

(Congregation) Never Again. This time they went too far.

After Sabra and Shatila.

Israel going nuclear. Israel bombing Iraq’s nuclear facilities, threatening to bomb Iran.

(Congregation) Never Again. This time they went too far.

After Sharon. After Netanyahu?

The first intifada.

(Congregation) After, this time it will be different.

The second intifada.

(Congregation) After, this time it will be different.

The Oslo Accords. Kerry’s framework agreement.

(Congregation) This time it will be different.

After Constantinian Christianity – Constantinian Islam – Constantinian Judaism.

(Congregation) Never Again.

After Two States. After One State.

After Palestine.

After Israel.

(Congregation) May this time be different.

So it goes. These random jottings, stream of consciousness ramblings, jumbled history, liturgical dreamscapes – take your pick. Nothing is moving anywhere.

When there is no – real – after. No – real – Never Again. No – real – this time they went too far. Then our outlook has to move beyond where we have been and where we are.

But, then, after Sharon, we remain firmly where we have been, more or less, from the beginning. This is the way he wanted it.

Which means, we aren’t after Sharon at all.

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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4 Responses

  1. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    January 15, 2014, 2:59 pm

    After Constantinian Christianity
    (Congregation) Never Again.

    Constantine is a saint according to Palestinian Churches. With the spread of Christianity in Rome it became very likely an emperor would accept it. Without that correlation of historical factors, perhaps 98% of the world or more could be pagan and the nations would not have the Bible.

    I understand that for some folks of course that is perfectly fine, but I think it is not all bad.

    If Constantinian Christianity is Constantine’s version of Christianity, a religious philosophy that does not make earthly politics a doctrine, then I think it is not so bad either.

    The idea of accepting a government’s authority is found in Jesus’ ideas as well as Paul’s, along with other ideas that immoral decisions by the government need not be followed either. Thus there were times when ancient saints in the “Constantinian” Church opposed or even prevented executions from happening under the Byzantine “Christian” empire.

    To hold up an earthly political system as the apocalyptic Kingdom of Heaven and equate it with redemption or salvation would contradict “Constantinian” Christianity. Nor do the doctrines and canons of the old school “Constantinian” Churches require supporting a theocratic form of government.

    At most, “Constantinian Christianity” would refer to the version of Christianity during the era of Constantine, which is basically the Christianity that all mainstream Churches claim to accept, with some exceptions like ideas about communion and the role of oral tradition.

    Anyway, Judaism was the state religion in Israel during the Temple eras, and probably since the time of Moses. With the conquest of the Holy Land by Joshua, it became the religion of a state within a definite territory. Why not refer to “Joshuan Judaism”, rather than “Constantinian Judaism”? Ever since Joshua became the ruler, there were all kinds of regional alliances, politics, and conquests made.

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      January 15, 2014, 3:17 pm

      The fact that the religion of Constantinian Christianity does not require belief in an earthly state is a reason that Catholics do not demand that the Vatican, their spiritual leader’s state, be more than a city state. In fact, if the Vatican did not have its own state any more, it would not be a major blow to the Catholic religion, whose doctrines continue those of Constantine.

      Perhaps you use the term “Constantinian Judaism” because you are looking for a precedent? But why look to Constantine for the idea of a state’s endorsement of a religion and militant and political conquest, when such policies can be found even more clearly in more ancient centuries?

      I am not boxing you in, saying that Judaism must teach conquest or state power. It seems from the Bible that having a king, Saul, was not really seen as a perfect ideal, but rather something people were asking for that was allowed. Within both “Constantinian” Christianity and in Judaism one can make arguments in favor of anarchist social arrangements.

  2. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    January 15, 2014, 3:36 pm

    In reality, what happened was that the nationalists who set up the new State in the Holy Land looked to the intense nationalist movements of Europe, and did not think much about religious doctrines. The Rabbis at that point did not focus on a state in the Holy Land. So the whole movement to make a state there came from European political nationalism, and this itself was not really a corollary of Christianity either. Had they all been pagans in Europe they would still have been nationalist, and perhaps more so, as in the case of German occultism.

    Thus, the subject of your critiques- policies in the Middle East and religious ideas that one must strongly support the state’s system, are better referred to as “European nationalist Judaism”, rather than “Constantinian Judaism.”

    I can’t remember anyplace that Constantine’s Church said that having a state dedicated to only one community must be a goal of the Constantinian religion’s members.

    • puppies
      puppies
      January 18, 2014, 4:43 am

      No, he just personally chaired the meetings where he defined that one community, to the smallest details of how to think, then proceeded to weed out all the nonconforming. And think that he wasn’t yet baptized himself. Apart from that, agreed.

      Beautiful piece by Ellis.

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