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‘What’s being done to Palestinians is wrong,’ evangelical Christian says on NPR religion show

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Brian McLaren

Brian McLaren

I have frequently criticized On Being, Krista Tippett’s popular religion show on National Public Radio for avoiding the Zionism question and settling down in the featherbed of Israel support. (Here, here.)

Well, on Sunday Tippett interviewed Brian McLaren, a progressive evangelical Christian involved in the “emerging” Christian movement for what she termed a “provocative” conversation. McLaren spoke of being excommunicated from the evangelical community because of his stand in favor of gay marriage. And then 3/4ths of the way into the conversation, this slipped out (transcript here):

McLaren: It really gets interesting– I got a phone call seven or eight years ago, I was still a pastor– from a rabbi. He said, I represent a group of several dozen rabbis, who’ve read all your books. Which really impressed me. I thought, my wife hasn’t read all of my books.

They said we’d like to meet with you. So I met with some of these rabbis. And they’re having the same problem–

Tippett: Yeah.

McLaren: If you’re a Jew who really thinks that’s what’s being done to Palestinians is wrong in the name of your religion, it’s very very hard to be a Jew who’s faithful to the prophetic tradition. And so we’re all struggling with this. I know Muslims are struggling with this too. And that’s why I think a lot of people are joining the nones. I don’t want any of those labels, I’ll just be a none.

I then discovered that that McLaren has been a bold leader on the Israel Palestine issue. For instance, he endorses the Kairos document and shows Palestinian solidarity, speaking of house demolitions as brutal and urging folks to go to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and bear witness.

We can all serve as witnesses, to tell the truth about what is going on, to refuse to remain silent and complacent when innocent people are mistreated … please join me in praying for peace with justice in Palestine, and please stay alert.

Tippett didn’t follow up on McLaren’s point. But she really ought to have Marc Ellis on to talk about the prophetic tradition of Judaism in an era of Israeli militarism.

P.S. McLaren also praised his Florida neighbors, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers who pick the tomatoes that we all eat in the winter. He’s seen “what they’ve suffered.” And their spiritual understanding goes way beyond a seminary class.


Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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35 Responses

  1. seafoid on March 18, 2014, 12:46 pm

    “Justice Minister Tzipi Livni warned Tuesday that the fourth group of Palestinian prisoners – set to be freed at the end of March as part of the agreement to resume negotiations – will not be released if Israel and the Palestinians have not reached a broad framework agreement by then.”

    This is really rich from the b$tch

    ” Israel does not want barren talks whose only purpose is to play for time and avoid making decisions.”

    So if they don’t accept Israel and a Jewish state they won’t get any prisoners released.
    Take the bots to the Hague

  2. richb on March 18, 2014, 2:37 pm

    McLaren is one of the founders of what is known as the “emerging” church.

    This is a post modern reaction by young evangelicals to the neo-conservative culture wars. Here’s some examples of the evangelical establishment freaking out over the emerging church and its attitudes towards Israel/Palestine, the environment, peace and justice, etc. No longer will evangelicals — particularly the next generation of evangelicals — hear gays and abortion and fall in line.

    “Emergent Church” guru Brian McLaren is a key figure on the Evangelical Left who is trying shift Evangelicals, who are America’s most pro-Israel demographic, into a more neutralist stance. Currently, he is leading a delegation through Israel and “Palestine” to broadcast the sins of Israeli oppression against Palestinians by “listening, learning, thinking, observing, reflecting.” His blog is providing daily updates of his discoveries, all of which confirm his previously often declared bias against Israel.

    The author of my last link is particularly significant to Presbyterians such as myself. Tooley heads the Institute on Religion and Democracy which is funded by a couple of neo-con billionaires. It’s mission is to destroy mainline Protestant churches through using wedge issues like gay marriage and Israel/Palestine.

    With financing from a handful of conservative donors, including the Scaife family foundations, the Bradley and Olin Foundations and Howard and Roberta Ahmanson’s Fieldstead & Company, the 23-year-old institute is now playing a pivotal role in the biggest battle over the future of American Protestantism since churches split over slavery at the time of the Civil War.

    Now Tooley is freaking out over what he anticipates in our next GA.

    Activists have promoted a three-pronged strategy of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, specifically calling for church agencies to divest themselves of holdings in Motorola Solutions, Hewlett Packard and Caterpillar, which all sell non-lethal equipment used by the Israeli military.

    He should be:

    Whether it’s mainline or evangelical Protestants, the Zionists will be looking over their shoulders.

    • ritzl on March 19, 2014, 12:53 am

      Thanks, richb. For this and all your comments. Very informative.

      And this is what an organic, bottom-up, grass-roots, moral movement looks like, as opposed to the top-down CUFI purpose-driven manipulation.

      Thanks again.

    • LeaNder on March 19, 2014, 12:01 pm

      Great work, richb. I have to admit that I find the use of religion by the neoconservatives highly interesting too. in a nutshell, religion and politics with a dash of Machiavellism. What I do not quite understand about this Tooley, has he studied theology at all. Or is that not really necessary for someone who seems to have been a former CIA agent.

      • richb on March 20, 2014, 11:48 pm

        Some more background. IRD came out of the CIA disinformation campaign in support of Reagan’s Central American policy. Mainline Protestantism was blocking this so they used the democratic process in the denominations to block it. See this for more. (I highly recommend this site for tracking the theocrats in general and the IRD in particular):

  3. Talkback on March 18, 2014, 2:50 pm

    This statement is neither good for Zionism, nor for its propagandists. So it’s by default antisemitic. LOL.

    • richb on March 18, 2014, 3:02 pm

      That charge has been used so often and so stridently it has no moral force anymore. As a result, Zionists are losing the support of progressive Christians. This is despite the common cause of fighting (real) anti-Semitism. What McLaren and other evangelical anti-Zionists are showing is this defection is also amongst moderate and even conservative Christians.

      • Ellen on March 18, 2014, 4:45 pm

        richb, I have heard from Evangelical Christians that “if Israel were not to exist, it would be the end of the United States.” These are the same who believe themselves to be patriots, adorn their homes with US Flags, and have mixed nationalism with religion or spirituality. They strongly believe that the US and Israel are one, and that without Israel their doom awaits.

        The irony is that if they were,indeed, true “Patriots” they would never mix religion and nation — a fundamental tenant of the founding of the US. They would not possibly confuse the purpose and future of the US with that of a late 19th century European nationalist ideology — Zionism.

        Can you explain why it is that so many, if not most, Evangelical Christians deeply believe their future, the future of the US is completely linked with that of a foreign country ?

        What is going on? What happened?

      • richb on March 18, 2014, 6:22 pm

        Dispensational Theology. Not only does it split history into 7 dispensations it also splits the people of God into two. Christians get Grace. Jews get the Law. Christians get Heaven. Jews get the Land. Helluva deal.

        Matthew 24 is known as the Olivet Discourse. In it Jesus predicted “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

        Dispensationalists interpret this as applying to the generation that returns to Israel. If a generation is 40 years then the first broken prediction was that Jesus would return in 1988 (1948 + 40). This was one the “88 Reasons for the Rapture in ’88”. The followup prediction was 2007 (1967 + 40). That didn’t happen either. Instead of giving up on Dispensationalism, Christian Zionism still is in place to this day. Note that the traditional conservative interpretation was Jesus was talking about the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Traditional liberal interpretation was Jesus was mistaken.

        Bottom line is for Dispensationalism is the nation-state of Israel is the immediate precursor of Jesus returning when the “good Christians” are beamed up away from a society they find increasingly hostile.

      • Ellen on March 18, 2014, 10:08 pm

        Thank you richb. All I can say is wow…that is breathtaking and has zip to do with Christianity or any theological thought. It is cultism, playing upon the ignorant and fearful, giving dates and times for imagined future events …end of world stuff to give order in a life.

        What is frightening is that this Dispensational “Theology” has a direct influence on US policy. No wonder ….

        All Zionists and their paid off stooges should answer questions on this Dispensation ism head on to be exposed as kooks or stooges they may be.

      • W.Jones on March 19, 2014, 12:25 am

        Rich B,

        If someone really does read Mat 24 in a sympathetic and close way, it turns out that Jesus was not talking about the apocalypse and thus was not mistaken. (Your comment reflects a very common mistaken impression about the verse). He talked about the temple’s destruction and a few other things and people asked when “these things” would happen and then he answered them that the generation would not pass away before that.

        He also talked about the moon turning red and the earth being ruined, but obviously he was not saying that the Earth would be destroyed before the generation ended. Obviously if that generation was around, it would end before the earth did! So in Matthew 24 Jesus did not mean the apocalypse by “these things”, but only “these things” that the disciples were asking him about around the beginning of the chapter, which was far more circumspect.

      • Citizen on March 18, 2014, 10:55 pm

        @ Ellen
        Scofield wrote his explanation of the bible passages, is what happened. The fundies take selected passages literally. Connections between various biblical passages are given and explained by the Scofield bible. At bible study, the teacher guides along this path. Context is piecemeal. “Israel” for them is the same in the bible as it is now, the state of Israel. They always point to the passage in the bible that says if you don’t support Israel, the Jewish people, God’s chosen people, you won’t go to heaven. No matter how much evidence you give them about the lobby and what the state of Israel’s track record is re the Palestinians, the answer is, “There’s always a few rotten apples in every barrel.” And sometimes they say, get exasperated, and say, ” Why are you so concerned about the Palestinians? Is your girl friend a Palestinian? A friend?”

      • Pamela Olson on March 19, 2014, 3:08 pm

        Makes sense. I distinctly remember Jesus saying, “Love your neighbor. Unless he’s a Palestinian or something, yuck!”

        Er… nevermind JESUS HIMSELF WAS A PALESTINIAN. And the first Christian community was Palestinian. And the living church in Bethlehem and Jerusalem and Nazareth… is Palestinian.

        *deep, deep, deep sigh…*

      • Walid on March 21, 2014, 4:14 am

        “Makes sense. I distinctly remember Jesus saying, “Love your neighbor. Unless he’s a Palestinian or something, yuck!”

        Yes, that’s exactly how it started, as Pam said, Jesus wanted no part of any that were not Jews or wayward Jews, at least he was that way categorically at the very beginning and it continued for a while until he started mellowing toward the end of his short 3-year mission. He changed his anti-gentile stance after an encounter with a non-Jewish woman in Lebanon (where else?) that had a possessed daughter that had to more or less twist his arm to get him to exorcise her, which he did of course. And years after Jesus, there were still ongoing Jew-gentile arguments between Paul and Peter about breaking bread with non-Jews. Paul was the ultra progressive marketer that wanted to fling the doors of the church wide open to any and all people by doing away with Jewish customs while Peter was more of a Jewish fundie that wanted to limit his apostolic mission to the Jews. Paul won and the church started to grow exponentially.

      • richb on March 21, 2014, 10:46 am

        W. Jones, I included the preterist interpretation as the conservative interpretation above. I believe the partial preterist interpretation has been the most popular historically. The partial preterist interpretation is that Jesus conflated the answer to two questions: the destruction of the Temple and the signs of the end of the age. Dispensationalists claim that their interpretation is the historical and conservative interpretation and it is neither.

      • just on March 18, 2014, 10:59 pm

        It’s springs from ‘the endowed with great wisdom’ preachers/pastors/proselytizers who hold their incurious congregants in thrall by picking and choosing words written by mere mortals.

        Sorry. It’s true. And then they give a great ‘Amen” and ‘God Bless America’ and perhaps a ‘go forth and sin no more’ (today) while celebrating the grand success of preaching/following and doing some ‘lip- service’ to being good folks.

        And they get to hold their head up high, because the rapture is a- coming!

        Now, lots of religions are contorted by ‘leaders’ and do similar things, but I find the Christian/Zionist thingy so freaking weird…………….Who is exploiting who, and why? Are they just natural allies in the new age of Islamophobia?

      • Citizen on March 18, 2014, 11:07 pm

        @ Ellen

        Here’s Hagee’s “seven solid reasons” from the bible as to your, “What is going on? What happened?”

      • just on March 18, 2014, 11:20 pm

        Thanks to Brian McLaren for standing up for the people of Palestine.

      • Ellen on March 19, 2014, 12:23 am


        This is so frightening . Hagee (who is a bigoted anti Catholic and obviously anti Jewish freak) starts off with “Everything Christians do should be based upon the Biblical text. ”

        The stories of the bible are only that — metaphor, symbolic to relate ideas, truths. The Bronze Age mind did not think with the concept of literal text. Literal interpretation of text is modern, not how the mind ticked 2000 years ago. Bible worship is not even Christian (Jesus never wrote anything.)

        So we have the freaks like Hagee and their zombie followers who can’t think, but only follow a distant and diffused Bronze Age text, pulling the strings of US policy. The country is doomed.

      • richb on March 19, 2014, 1:00 pm

        There is mutual exploitation between Israel and Christian Zionists. When I visited Yad Vashem on a Christian Zionist tour our Israeli Guide pointed to the Jerusalem Forest pictured here:

        He went on that this “forest” was created through the help of “righteous Gentiles”, implying — and even directly stating — that people who are not Zionists were silent collaborators of the Holocaust. Funny he didn’t mention the Deir Yassin Massacre, though.

        Exploitation also goes in the other direction. On the same trip I experienced a fundraising pitch for Christian Friends of Israel at a Jerusalem hotel. They ridiculed as anti-Semitic the vast majority of Christians who are not Dispensationalists because they practice so-called “replacement theology”. After my trip I got very disturbing propaganda from them concerning Iran. I described that experience here:

      • richb on March 19, 2014, 8:14 pm

        Pamela, I had to fight to meet Palestinian Christians on a Christian tour of the Holy Land! They put their American brothers and sisters to shame. Their dedication to justice, non-violence, and peaceful co-existence was truly humbling. Everyone said the “clash of civilizations” meme was a myth and the best way to support them was BDS.

      • MHughes976 on March 21, 2014, 10:12 am

        Walid’s interpretation of Jesus’ progress is interesting, though we should note that the encounter with the Syrophoenician (Lebanese!) woman, the only person who defeats Jesus in argument, is in Mark’s Gospel, ch.7, whereas the 3-year career, giving Jesus time to mellow, is only in John. Mark has a meteoric 1-year story. In John, Jesus is quite friendly to non-Jewish Palestinians (at least in the guise of Samaritans) from quite an early stage.
        The Good Samaritan story in Luke is perhaps another indication both of how controversial the interpretation of the command to love neighbours was in the pre-70s era – ‘who is my neighbour?’ – and of how the Samaritans in the post-70 era may have formed a big part of the cohort of new Christians. Jewish and Christian neighbours have wrestled with the problem ever since.

      • richb on March 21, 2014, 10:58 am

        Dispensationalists believe their theology is somehow a cure to anti-Semitism but it is the exact opposite. If the events in Revelation and the Olivet Discourse are primarily in the past then today’s Jews are not “Christ killers” contra Constantine’s hijacking of our faith.

  4. seafoid on March 18, 2014, 5:30 pm

    “As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people”

    Netanyahu and Gaza

    Christ, and this is what Judaism is all about, is it ?

  5. American on March 18, 2014, 7:22 pm

    ” But she really ought to have Marc Ellis on to talk about the prophetic tradition of Judaism in an era of Israeli militarism”

    I have never understood what the prophetic tradition of Judaism is but whatever it is what does it have to do with Israel?….I assume when you say prophetic tradition you arent talking about ‘God gave us this land’ bible stuff.

  6. kalithea on March 19, 2014, 3:15 am

    Evangelical Zionist Christians see the West Bank filling up with Jews and they’re salivating for the end of times. They know how the story ends. They know that the Messiah will return to destroy the Jews, except for a few who remain faithful to God, when they all or mostly all return to Israel. So this unholy union of Zionist Christians and Zionist Jews is so hypocritical, so twisted and frankly so…not Christian. It’s like these “Christians” are encouraging Jews to go over a cliff or as an extreme example walk into the “home” and come out as Soylent Green for the perpetuity of Christianity – that’s about as sick of an analogy I can think of to explain just how twisted this relationship is. And the thing is that these Zionists know, but they don’t care; they’re just using these Christians as a cover for all the evil done on behalf of Zionisn. It’s all Zionism; Zionism has this effect on people.

    How ignorant can one be as to imagine that they can induce the end of times by encouraging Jews to go steal some more Palestinian land and kick Palestinians out of their homes?

    No one knows or is supposed to know when and no one should be tempting fate. And both Zionist Christians and Zionist Jews are tempting fate each with their own very selfish, twisted agenda.

    But I am heartened every time I hear that more Christians are speaking out against the injustice of Zionism and oppression of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. This is the right way.

    • Citizen on March 20, 2014, 7:38 am

      @ kalithea
      “They know that the Messiah will return to destroy the Jews, except for a few who remain faithful to God”

      Maybe they reason that every Jew in the End Times they envision has a choice to be one of the few “who remain faithful to God”? Would seem to fit the Evangelical notion of everyone having a choice to believe in Jesus as their saviour, and hence be “saved”?

  7. Boomer on March 19, 2014, 7:18 am

    “settling down in the featherbed of Israel support”

    A nice turn of phrase, Phil, an excellent play on/with words. That bed has been excessively stuffed by Americans for too many years.

  8. Mark E-W on March 19, 2014, 12:24 pm

    Brian McLaren will be speaking at the Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) Northwest regional conference titled “Seeds of Justice and Hope for Palestinians / Israelis: What is required of US”, April 4-5, 2014 in Portland, Oregon.

    McLaren will participate in two plenary sessions … a panel “Religious traditions and the Palestinian justice issue” ~ Rev. Brian McLaren, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Shakeel Syed and give a closing keynote titled “The prophets and the gospels: Christian responsibility for Palestinian justice”

    Complete conference information is available at

    Other featured speakers include Max Blumenthal, Miko Peled, Phyllis Bennis, Pam Olson, Mark Braverman, Don Wagner, Mads Gilbert, Lynn Gottlieb, Josh Ruebner, Steve Niva, Cindy and Craig Corrie, Naim Ateek and more!

  9. belewlaw on March 19, 2014, 1:26 pm

    I don’t think that’s what’s meant by “prophetic tradition” but rather on the teachings of prophets who taught justice and compassion or who were critical of their society and counseled repentence. But there various perspectives in the Hebrew Scriptures.

  10. Pamela Olson on March 19, 2014, 3:13 pm

    Christians have an idea of what “Christlike” people should be like — effortlessly loving, forgiving, welcoming, kind, and open to all comers. I have never met a group of people who fulfill that idea more than Palestinians. They of course aren’t perfect, but as humans go, they are some of my favorite I’ve ever had the privilege of living and traveling among.

    • Citizen on March 19, 2014, 6:29 pm

      I’d settle for just people who don’t directly or indirectly steal from others, and don’t go along with any system, state, or tribe that does so in the name of humanity or any state or god. That does leave out the ruling elites in every county in the world, doesn’t it?

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