Israeli lobbying organizations, including Unity Coalition For Israel, the Anti-Defamation League, and The Simon Wiesenthal Center have suggested that the PCUSA committee producing the “Zionism Unsettled” (1) Study Guide and DVD is a “hate group” for its effort at what the church group calls the “cause of just peace.” (2) The Wiesenthal Center stated it might “divest all contacts from this institution and call on other Jewish organizations to do the same.”
The Presbyterian Church USA refers to “Zionism Unsettled” as, “A Congregational Study Guide 76-page booklet with a free companion DVD.” PCUSA stated on January 21st, “Released to immediate critical acclaim, Zionism Unsettled is aimed bring about an end to the silence surrounding the impact of Zionism and to encourage open discussions on the topic in church and society. This study guide is a condensed version of a book entitled Zionism and the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land, which will be published in 2014 by Pickwick Publications.”
We Hold These Truths has for many years voiced similar aims. Our 2010 video, Christian Zionism, The Tragedy And The Turning, Part 1 (3), 32-minutes, won an award for one of the best foreign films presented at the Ammar Popular Film Festival (4) in Tehran, Iran in January, 2014. We concluded that film with the statement that the “Turning” away from war and Zionism in churches would take place when Traditional churches joined in the call for Peace and Justice for the Philistines. The last scene of The Tragedy and The Turning concludes with this plea explaining our aim:
“WE IMPLORE YOU TO SHOW THIS FILM TO EVERY MAINLINE PASTOR…AND ALL INFLUENTIAL GROUPS OF CHRISTIANS, MUSLIMS… AND JEWS… IF THEY’LL LISTEN.”
“TRADITIONAL AND ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCHES DO NOT BELIEVE THAT GOD ORDAINED THE STATE OF ISRAEL…SO THEY WILL LISTEN.”
“THEY NEED TO GO FURTHER IN UNDERSTANDING THE ROOTS OF CHRISTIAN ZIONISM…SO THEY CAN DO THEIR PART IN RECOVERING AMERICA FOR GOD.”
We concluded this from our own experience in openly and publicly challenging many dispensational, Christian Zionist churches over a period of 9 years, to their prevalent blindness to the plight of the Palestinians. We stated that only the Mainline Traditional churches (including PCUSA) could and would be the key to freeing 3.5 million Philistines from occupation.
Our conclusion was and is based on our own, Christ Followers definition of Christian Zionism; It is and always has been the contrived belief that, “the modern political state of Israel is the fulfillment of Biblical Prophesy.” Mainline or Traditional churches, including PCUSA, do not believe this is Biblical; but Zionist churches accept this by definition. We think our prayer is coming true in front of our own eyes with the beginning of an awakening by many moral and honest leaders, and laymen within several of the largest, and oldest, mainline church denominations, including PCUSA, that has taken a stand and is being attacked for it, as has whtt.org and this writer. The attacks go with telling the truth and can not be avoided, and we have not seen PCUSA flinch yet. This author will in due time provide a full review of both the film and text. Meantime we urge you to watch Tragedy and Turning, which has been made free.
Responses to the PCUSA release from Zionist supporters of Israel are radical and virulent. One of these is Israeli controlled Unity Coalition For Israel (UCFI). (2)
Long ago WHTT studied UCFI and learned that it is essentially a lobby, directly controlled by an all Israeli director team, an equivalent to AIPAC for Churches. It is also the godfather of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), headed by American pastor, John Hagee, and others, who ostensibly control it from their positions within prominent, Zionist leaning, evangelical churches in America. We have yet to find any mainline churches that participates in CUFI, though Zionist influence can be found inside almost any church, including Roman Catholics.
Literally dozens of inflammatory, Zionist internet attacks have been leveled on PCUSA in recent days. So many are there, we had to look twice to find its website, (pcusa.org) among the attackers. Here are a few excerpts from UCFI, planned I think, to frighten church members into withdrawing or downplaying the Study Guide and DVD, and to intimidate other churches from using Zionism Unsettled.
UCFI writes: “WASHINGTON (JTA) — A study guide on Zionism published by an arm of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is drawing expressions of outrage from Jewish groups.
The guide is “worthy of a hate group, not a prominent American church,” said Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “
“The study guide by the church’s Israel Palestine Mission Network is titled “Zionism Unsettled.”
“… is impossible to separate the toxic actions of IPMN from the PCUSA …The Simon Wiesenthal Center warned …“If this book reflects the feelings of the PCUSA…it will divest all contacts from this institution and call on other Jewish organizations to do them same,” (the center said in a statement)
“The guide was released ahead of the church’s biennial General Assembly, taking place this June in Detroit. The gathering will once again consider recommendations that it divest from companies that deal with Israel’s military. Similar resolutions have been narrowly defeated in the past.”
The attacks on PCUSA and any church that recognizes the human right of the Philistines will be relentless and and angry. However this time I do not think intimidation tactic will work because other mainline churches are already on the same path of understanding as PCUSA. We wrote of this growing movement in our letter to Christian Zionist pastors last August, “Church Leaders Join The Call For Peace In Syria.” In it, we discussed fifteen mainline church denominations that joined in the call to investigate military aid to Israel, because the aid led to the deaths of Palestinian children. This list included leaders from Evangelical Lutherans (ELCA), United Methodists, Presbyterians (PCUSA), and The United Church of Christ, and others, who wrote to Congress in November 2012.
The PCUSA bookstore (1) sells the Study Guide, with a DVD, at pcusa.org for $10.00. In part they write:
“Zionism Unsettled: This study guide is produced by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN), a grassroots organization of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) established in 2004 with a mandate from the denomination’s General Assembly for the purpose of encouraging wider and deeper Presbyterian involvement with Palestinian Christians and advocating for the human rights of Palestinians under military occupation. As part of its mandate, the IPMN speaks to the church not for the church.”
“It provides a leader’s guide for congregational study of Christian, Jewish and Muslim perspectives on the development of Jewish Political Zionism, liberal Protestant Zionism, and Evangelical Christian Zionism. It examines controversies about Zionism among Israeli Jews as well as diaspora Jews, and gives helpful guidance on how you and your congregation can contribute to the cause of just peace for the people who share the Holy Land and promote more truthful relationships among followers of the three Abrahamic religions.”
We Hold These Truths is not the only group to appreciate this effort or to think it will bring results. Medill Reports,(5) from Chicago, Northwestern University, has this to say about Zionism Unsettled, quoting from Dr. Francis Boyle, University of Illinois, international law professor, who said, he “has much respect for the Presbyterian Church and he is ‘pleasantly surprised’ the IPMN has decided to grapple with this difficult issue.” Boyle said in a prepared statement, “The nationalistic, exclusionary and racist ideology of Zionism is the exact antithesis of the core spiritual values and moral teachings of all three of our shared Abrahamic denominations. This path-breaking guide and related materials explain precisely why that is true and point the direction toward achieving real peace.”
We thanks the dedicated few within PCUSA who are responsible for this effort, and we are grateful to those who have helped WHTT to have a part in restoring churches to being Christ Followers.
(1) “Zionism Unsettled,” Israel/Palestine Mission Network, 2014: http://www.israelpalestinemissionnetwork.org/main/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=256. Also, “Presbyterian network opens new dialogue on Zionism,” PCUSA, 1/21/2014: http://www.pcusa.org/news/2014/1/21/presbyterian-network-opens-new-dialogue-zionism/
(2) “Jewish groups condemn new Presbyterian study guide on Zionism.” Unity Coalition For Israel, 2/13/2014: http://unitycoalitionforisrael.org/uci_2014/?p=6027
(3) Christian Zionism: The Tragedy & The Turning, Part 1, WHTT, © 2010: http://vimeo.com/59933668
(4) WHTT video wins award at Ammar Popular Film Festival: https://whtt.org/tragedy-turning-wins-award-at-amman-film-festival/
(5) “ADL denounces ‘Zionism Unsettled’ pamphlet released by Presbyterian group,” Medill Reports, 2/13/2014: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=227980
Rabbi Brant Rosen defends “Zionism Unsettled:” http://rabbibrant.com/2014/02/19/reconsidering-zionism-unsettled-an-open-letter-to-reverend-chris-leighton/
“Presbyterian Church Attacked For Publishing ‘Zionism Unsettled,’ Others Applaud” – WHTT podcast on “Zionism Unsettled:” http://whtt.podbean.com/2014/02/18/presbyterian-church-attacked-for-publishing-%E2%80%9Czionism-unsettled%E2%80%9D-others-applaud/