Sabeel’s 5th International Young adult Conference: 12 Days in Israel ~ Palestine July 21st ~ August 1st, Jerusalem 2010 is for young adults between 18-35 years of age with an open mind and ready for a REALITY TOUR of Israel Palestine and an alternative pilgrimage experience to the Holy Land that emphasizes active engagement with NONVIOLENT Palestinian Muslims, Christians and Israeli Jews. Please check it out at http://sabeel.org/
A few of my SABEEL experiences follow.
On November 3, 2006, Reverend Naim Ateek, a modest soft-spoken man, 21st century prophet and the Founder and Director of Sabeel/The Way Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, addressed over 330 international ecumenical Christians who had gathered in Jerusalem in the Notre Dame Conference Center for Sabeel’s 6th International Conference: The Forgotten Faithful.
He sent chills through me when he stated,
“Israel will not survive unless it does justice! The situation is deteriorating and we must frustrate Israel’s plans and actions because they are not built on justice. All we are asking for is that they honor International Law! Israel is afraid of International law and this proves something is very wrong with Israel. We want Israel to live in peace and with security. The only way is honoring International law. That is the bottom line and what we work and pray for.”
Reverend Ateek’s classic Justice and Only Justice laid the foundation of a theology that addresses the conflict over Palestine and explores the political as well as the religious, biblical and theological dimensions. From a position of faith, Reverend Ateek seeks solutions based on justice, peace, nonviolence and reconciliation.
On November 8, 2006 Reverend Ateek spoke again, “In Israel officially speaking of Palestinians is taboo: we are referred to as Arab Christians. When I say the Holy Land I include both Israel and Palestine. Ultimately only God knows about the future of Christianity in this place. We live in the scientific world and God has given us wisdom, knowledge, technology to be used for good and our future and destiny are in Gods hands.
“There are many red lights; external and internal dangers. What can we do at the grass roots level? The Palestinian Christian community must rise above petty denominational differences. The impending dangers force us to ask what can we do, what must we do?
“There is no future in isolation or passivity. Our futures are all linked together. There is an urgent need to articulate and work with other faiths, especially Islam. Our future depends on good relations with all our brothers and sisters. We need a Committee of Christian and Muslim leaders to dialog and work together to confront militant extremist fundamentalism.
“Our relation with Israel is the most important issue for there can be no peace without justice. There can be no effective policy without ending the occupation in accordance with all UN Resolutions. The city of Jerusalem must be shared and there must be a just solution for refugees.
“Pressure on Israel must be done with nonviolent needs and the way is the way Christ taught: nonviolent and forgiving. The achievement of peace is not the end; but the beginning of reconciliation.
The survival of Christianity in the Holy land is through true democracy.
We must avoid the minority complex.
We cannot depend on the good will of people in power.
We want to be protected by a constitution with full citizenship and nationality must be combined. Only in Israel is there a distinction between nationality and citizenship. Only good democracy can guarantee all citizens are treated equally under the same law.”
“What can the West do? There is an urgent need for education about the roots of Christians in Palestine and to challenge the myths. Seek out Palestinian Christians in your midst and relate to them. Be aware of Palestinian concerns for justice and human rights. Work for a just solution of the conflict which is equal human rights for all. Support projects to increase the Christian witness: visit the Holy land and meet with Palestinian Christians. Forge closer links with churches in the West and in the Holy Land.
Challenge Christian Zionism.
“In the beginning the Jesus movement was very small. It began with 12 committed citizens. It began with love and Christ addressed his followers: FEAR NOT little flock! You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. To capture the essence of what Christians should be is to be salt and light. You don’t need a lot of salt to add flavor and even a small light can illuminate the way for many.
“To be salt and light is to be truthful, honest, have integrity and to be of service and do it with humility. Salt affects change: it is active, never passive. To be a light is a global challenge and when the light is seen clearly so is the glory of God. Sabeel means the way, and the way is to love all your neighbors and labor on with God.”
Every birth begins with labor and pain
but joy and love follow.
Only when there is justice for Palestinians
will there be security for Israelis.
That will be the beginning of the way
to win the “war on terrorism.”
After saying goodbye to my March 2006, Sabeel group at our final dinner at The Tent Restaurant, I traveled alone three hours away from the Little Town in Occupied Territory of Bethlehem to the Mount of Beatitudes in Israel.
This awe inspiring site sits above the shimmering Sea of Galilee where Christ preached the Sermon on the Mount. The Sabeel Reality Tour had concluded and I needed to be alone and silent.
But I ended up delivering my own Sermon on the Mount!
Four Franciscan Sisters, one each from Syria, Jordan, Malta and Italy care for the shrine and the pilgrim guests at the Hospice Center where I spent two nights and a day of silent reflection of all I had witnessed the previous nine days.
At dinner a Catholic Pentecostal from Scotland introduced himself and asked me why I was there and what church I was from. I responded I have Irish Roman Catholic, Polish Jew, Russian Orthodox and Episcopal roots but that my rock is The Beatitudes.
He looked even more perplexed when I told him I came to the Mount of Beatitudes to decompress and reflect upon my nine days in Occupied Territory. I asked him if he were aware of the work of Sabeel, the Palestinian founded organization that promotes a theology of liberation based on justice, peace, non-violence and reconciliation for all, regardless of faith path or nationality.
He sternly admonished me,
“God gave this land to the Jews! The Bible never mentions Palestine, and that is that! God gave this land to the Jews and that is that!”
I responded just as fervently that the Palestinian Christians are the descendants of those who first followed Christ and they have been denied inalienable human rights by the Israeli government. I told him the Christians in the Holy Land have shrunk from 20% of the total population to less than 1.3% since 1948 and if things don’t change soon, there will be no Christian witness in the land where Christ promised that it is the peacemakers who are the children of God.
He sputtered, “But the Jews have suffered! God gave this land to the Jews and that is that!”
This really got my Irish up and I retorted, “Yes they did because good people did nothing for far too long, and now the oppressed have become the oppressors. In the 21st century good people are unaware, ignoring or are in total denial of the injustice in the Holy Land. And what about all the Hebrew prophets, such as Micah who reminded the Jews of what the Lord requires: To be just, to be merciful and to walk humbly with your God!”
I could NOT shut up although I knew that that Scotsman was trying to get away-he also looked a bit terrified! But, I was on a tear and barely took a breath as I told him that instead of staying in Israel for his entire visit, he should go and witness life in the occupied territories; go and see the effects of The Wall on his spirit and see what it has done to the Palestinian economy.
I told him he should go and tour some of the 58 year old refugee camps and see the ruins of all the uncompensated home demolitions. I brought it on home by telling him that I also doubt that God was ever in the real estate business!
His eyes had bugged out and his mouth had dropped open while the torrent of words spewed out of me. After I finally shut up, he stammered, “But there is suffering everywhere!”
“Yes there is and Christ always stood up for the poor and the oppressed. And he told us what ever we do or don’t do for the least and the outcast; we do it or don’t do it unto God.”
He shook his head and turned and walked quickly away and never again looked my way. Nobody else spoke to me the rest of the evening or the next day. That was fine with me, for I was listening to the voice within and what I kept hearing was Luke 23:34: “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
But when you know, if you are of good will, you must do something. The fastest growing cult in the USA-and also perhaps in Scotland: is the cult of Christian Zionism.
What is Christian Zionism?
Christian Zionism is an extremist Christian movement which supports the claims of those who believe that the State of Israel should take control of all of the land currently disputed between Palestinians and Israelis. It views the creation and expansion of the modern state of Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy toward the second coming of Jesus.
Christian Zionism is a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel. The Christian Zionist program provides a world-view where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it laces an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ’s love and justice today.
What is the Christian Zionist connection with the Holy Land?
Believing that God fights on the side of Israel, Christian Zionists call for the unqualified support for the most extreme political positions related to the Holy Land. Christian Zionist spokes persons have attributed Hurricane Katrina to God’s wrath over our failure to stop Israel from pulling out of Gaza. They consistently oppose any moves towards a solution to the conflict which would validate the political aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis.
Who Supports Christian Zionism?
Christian Zionism has significant support within American Protestant fundamentalists, who number between 10 and 20 million. Its reach is broad, by virtue of its favorite themes related to the “End Times” and an Israel-fixated Christian media. Christian Zionism is both a political movement and a way of interpreting current events. Its focus is on Israel and the Middle East, as much an ideology as a “movement.” Its promoters share many beliefs but are not organized through any one institution.
Throughout history Christians have at times twisted scripture to justify violence: for the Crusades, for Anti-Semitism, and for slavery. Too often the church has been slow to respond to these biblical distortions with disastrous results.
Today Christian Zionists ~ particularly those with dispensationalist leanings ~ are at it again. Although their motives are couched in terms of compassion toward the Jewish people based on a literal reading of scripture the political agenda of territorial expansion advocated by Christian Zionists has given rise to injustice against Palestinians and added fuel to the fire of conflict in the Middle East.
For some time, individuals, and theologians have spoken out against Christian Zionism. In the past few years, whole church bodies are adding their official voices to the distortions and injustices perpetuated by Christian Zionism.
The GOOD NEWS is that some mainstream churches have spoken out against this inherently anti-Semitic theology. What follows are but a few words from some of those who have.
The Presbyterian Church in the USA at its July 2004, National General Assembly issued a statement on Confronting Christian Zionism:
“Christian Zionism promotes a theology that justifies grievous violations of basic rights of people who are also made in the image of God, and is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The United Church of Christ in July 2003, at its National General Synod offered An Alternative Voice to Christian Zionism:
“We believe that the tenets of Christian Zionism neither reflect the intention of the teachings of Jesus and the prophets, nor promote peace in the Middle East, and respectfully recommend …an alternative voice to this theology.”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in June 2005 at its Chicago Metropolitan Synod issued a Resolution to Encourage the Study of Christian Zionism:
“the movement of Christian Zionism based on these biblical interpretations seeks to influence U.S. policy toward Israel in a manner that would arguably facilitate mistreatment of Palestinians, continued occupation of the land, opposition to a two-state solution, and exclusive Israeli control of Jerusalem.”
The United Methodist Church, in June 2005 at its Illinois Conference on Unwrapping the Rapture warned,
“Every household should give prayerful consideration as to how God will actually judge us for our silence about and complicity in the crushing of the Palestinian people.”
The Episcopal Church, in November 2004 at its Diocese of Chicago Confronted Christian Zionism: “A partial response to Christian Zionism would be to say that we read Scripture in light of [Jesus’] two great commandments ~ to love God and our neighbor.”
In 2006, The Nation reported that Christians United For Israel/CUFI pressed White House officials to adopt a more confrontational posture toward Iran, to refuse aid to the Palestinians and to give Israel a free hand as it ramped up its military conflict with Hezbollah.
The White House has not revealed the names of the officials who met with the CUFI lobbyists, which is a venomous tentacle from the Armageddon-based foreign-policy view of its founder, John Hagee. Hagee is a fundamentalist, fire-and-brimstone preacher and a leader of the fastest growing cult in America: Christian Zionism, which is inherently anti-Semitic.
While Jewish Zionism began with the hope that all Jewish people would have a safe and peaceful dwelling place, these corruptors of the gospel Christ preached, adhere to a 200 year old convoluted interpretation of disparate scriptures that they have chosen to weave together to support their fear based judgmental narrow minded doctrine.
Hagee has mesmerized nearly 18,000 misled Christians at his Cornerstone Church with his take on whom the anti-Christ is. He also hosts a major TV ministry where he explains his views of how the end times will unfold.
He blatantly corrupts and denies the message that Christ preached. Hagee, Hal Lindsay and the Left Behinder’s are doomsday false prophets who believe that the only way to defeat ~ what they and the Bush Administration refer to as ~ “Islamist fascists” is with a full-scale military assault.
The cult of ‘Christian’ Zionism
is what the concept of the Anti-Christ is all about.
This heretical theology of Premellenial Dispensation worships a god of Armageddon and not the God of love, forgiveness and compassion that Jesus/AKA The Prince of Peace modeled even while being nailed to a cross.
The Left Behind series of fiction is the epitome of what millennium of theologians have always understood to be what the term anti-Christ is truly about.
The term “Antichrist” only appears five times in the Bible, but a cult not based on sound theology has created an urban legend that seeks Armageddon. The term “Antichrist” never appears in John’s Revelation or Daniel, two disparate works of literature written three centuries apart and under very different circumstances, yet the Left Behinder’s weave them together.
The small texts that mention the “Antichrist” were written to attack the Gnostic understanding of who Christ was. A Gnostic relies on intuition and not on dogma and doctrine. Gnostic’s were most certainly free spirits and most all of the writings we have about Gnostics, have been the attacks upon them. That all changed when the Nag Hamadi Library was translated and published, for what had been deemed heretical by those in power in the fourth century can now be read in most every language.
Biblical scholars today agree that many books of the Bible were written by others in the name of an apostle, for the quickest way to gain credibility is to trade on another’s reputation. We may never know if the author who coined the term “Antichrist” was actually the apostle John who wrote I John and 2 John-the only sources where the term appears.
John also says much more: “Dear Children, as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many have come.”~ I John 2:18
“This is how we know who the children of God are not: anyone who does not do right; nor anyone who does not love his brother.”~ I John 3:10
“If anyone has material possessions and see’s his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Let us love with actions and in truth.”~ I John 3:17
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out all fear because fear has to do with punishment [and God is love].”~ 1 John 4:18
The theology promoted in the Left Behind fiction is a theology based on fear and punishment. These misinformed Christians worship a punitive father as God. They do not have eyes to see that nature is God’s primary temple, and war the greatest abomination.
During the time when John was writing about the spirit of Antichrist, Gnosticism was still in its evolution and far from the intricately developed system of the second and third centuries when the church and its institutional hierarchy became firmly established. During the time John was writing against false teachings, the Gnostics were by and large libertines who denied Christ’s humanity. Some Gnostics claimed that Christ only appeared to have a body; others said the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at his baptism and left him when he died.
The Gnostics left no testimony in their behalf, so all we have to go on is what was written against them until the discovery of the Nag Hamadi Library. These Gnostic texts offer no new information, they provide no answers, but they do illuminate us to the fact that 2,000 years ago that follower’s of Christ were very diverse and engaged in lively debates on who he was and what was his purpose.
The Armageddon groupies believe they will be lifted out of the misery of the world, and neglect to reflect upon the Antichrist within their own heart. The term anti/against Christ means to be anti/against his teachings. A neglected and ignored fact is that Christ is quoted in fact Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-29, and Luke 12:10 which are all simpatico with the Gnostic gospel of Thomas saying 44:
Jesus said: “Whoever blasphemes against the father will be forgiven, whoever blasphemes against the son will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven either on earth or in heaven.”
The Holy Spirit has always been understood to mean the spark of the Divine within all beings, for the spirit of God is within all created things. One should wonder what spirit is driving those that want to bomb another, for just who would Jesus bomb? Just who would Jesus torture?
Jesus has been hijacked by right wing fundamentalists and the time has come to liberate him!
Christ was no Christian, in fact, that term was not even coined until three decades after Jesus walked the earth.
Jesus was born, lived and died under a brutal military occupation and remained a NONVIOLENT Palestinian devout Jewish road warrior.
Jesus was a social justice radical revolutionary who rose up[intifada in Arabic] and challenged the job security of the temple priests by teaching the Hebrews they did NOT need to pay the priests for ritual baths or for performing animal sacrifice's to be OK with God; for God already loved them just as they were:
Poor, oppressed, diseased, widows, orphans, prisoners and refugees all enduring under a brutal military occupation.
Jesus was crucified for disturbing the status quo of the occupying forces of Rome by teaching subversive concepts such as: all people are equal and that God preferred the poor, oppressed, diseased, widows, orphans, prisoners and refugees above the elite and arrogant!
Christ taught that to be his sister and brother one must forgive to be forgiven and that one must love ones enemies.
He modeled that one must always work for peaceful resolutions, even to the point of returning violence with forgiveness and compassion as he did while being nailed to a cross.
Christ always dealt compassionately with sinners and outcasts, but hypocrites received his wrath.
Compassion, which is sorrow for the suffering of others accompanied by the urge to help, is what should define the Christian attitude.
If there is no compassion within a Christian, then it is the spirit of the Antichrist that rules. Christian Zionists desire to convert the Jews to Christianity or leave them behind to perish in a nuclear holocaust, for they believe that is Gods desire.
A short history on where this corruption of Christ’s message came from:
In 1891, Christian fundamentalist and lay-preacher, William Blackstone appealed to President Benjamin Harrison to help establish a Jewish state in Palestine. Blackstone was a disciple of Dwight L. Moody and they both were influenced by the father of premillenial dispensationalism, John Nelson Darby.
Darby had great success in connecting with the post-Civil War survivors and was able to transmit his new heretical theology into the heartland of America. Despite the horrifying news of Czarist pogroms that could have been the catalyst to establishing a Jewish state before the Holocaust, the Christian fundamentalists moved onto the Scope’s Trial and forgot about the Jews for a while. OIY!
Fifty years later and after six million innocents were cold bloodedly murdered because good people did nothing for a very long while-and only after the British Mandate ran out, Israel was born.
Most evangelicals interpreted the establishment of Israel to be the fulfillment of ~ how they understood and interpreted ~ certain prophetic scriptures. They interpreted the Israeli victory in the 1967 War and the capture of Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and the Golan Heights to be an act of God and never considered the fact of Israeli superior military might and USA Intelligence.
The American Bi-Centennial in 1976 was a watershed year for the religious right. While mainline churches declined evangelical fundamentalist churches became the fastest growing sector of American Christianity. TIME magazine named 1976 as The Year of The Evangelical and suddenly they became a legitimate political and religious force.
Following the War of 1967, Israel gained an increased portion of USA foreign aid and military budgets, becoming the ‘western pillar’ of the USA strategic alliance against Soviet incursion into the Middle East...During this period AIPAC and other pro-Israeli lobby agencies began their ascent to power in shaping USA foreign policy.
The Roman Catholic Church and mainline Protestant denominations began to develop a more balanced approach to the Middle East, bringing them closer to the international consensus on the Palestinian question. Pro-Israel organizations interpreted this shift as being Anti-Israel and in turn began to court the conservative Christians.
In 1977, when President Carter stated “The Palestinians deserve a right to their homeland,” the Christian fundamentalists and Israeli lobby responded with full page ads stating: “The time has come for evangelical Christians to affirm their belief in biblical prophecy and Israel’s divine right to the land...and affirm our belief in the Promised Land to the Jewish people.” [Ibid]
The Reagan White House hosted a series of seminars from the Israeli lobby and Christian right. This was when Hal Lindsay, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and the Moral majority infiltrated the West Wing.
Falwell received a Lear Jet from the Israeli government for his personal travel...When Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear plant in 1981, Prime Minister Begin called Jerry Falwell ~ before he called Reagan ~ to ask him ‘to explain to the Christian public the reasons for the bombings.
In 1996, Netanyahu and Likud ideology dominated Israeli policy and 17 evangelical USA pastors pledged their support of the illegal colonies in the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and full support for a Jerusalem under sovereignty of Israel.
The Christian Zionists launched a PR campaign under the banner: “Christians Call for a United Jerusalem.” They ignored the fact that they were in conflict with American policy and the Oslo process as well as a direct attack on Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant unity with the Churches for Middle East Peace that called for a Shared Jerusalem.
“The coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty,” Hagee wrote in 2006, in the Pentecostal magazine Charisma. “Israel and America must confront Iran’s nuclear ability and willingness to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons. For Israel to wait is to risk committing national suicide.”
The theology of the fictional Left Behind series is the epitome of the spirit of the anti-Christ: which is the evil within ones own heart that leads one to fear “the other” and compels them to violence.
Thomas Jefferson did America and the world a great service when he penned The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth which illuminates just how far these Christians have strayed from the message Christ delivered and modeled with his life:
Which was consistently compassionate and nonviolent and to be just: for justice comes from virtue which comes from the heart.
To treat people the way we want to be treated.
To always work for PEACEFUL resolutions, even to the point of returning violence with COMPASSION.
To consider valuable the things that have no material value.
Do not judge others, do not bear grudges, be modest and unpretentious.
To give out of true generosity, not because we expect to be repaid and that being true to ones self is more important than being loyal to ones family,
And those who think they know the most are the most ignorant.
According to Christ, to be his follower, one must do what the Father requires. The Hebrew prophet Micah summed it up best: “What does the Lord require? He has already told you o’man: Be Just, Be Merciful and walk humbly with your God.” ~ Micah 6:8:
To be just is to be fair and reasonable.
To be merciful means to treat all people the way we want to be treated.
To be humble is knowing oneself; the good and the evil, for both cut through every human heart.
Christ taught that the only way to resist evil is with good and he modeled that one must always work for peaceful resolutions, even to the point of returning violence with compassion and forgiveness. Jesus did just that, even after being mocked, whipped and nailed to a cross for he prayed: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
For more on the Christian Zionists:
by Rev. Naim Ateek
Dwight Eisenhower understood that
"people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our government. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days, governments had better get out of their way and let them have it!"
One of those people on the forefront is the Anglican Reverend Naim Ateek, who has been seeking peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land by seeking justice; an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and equal human rights for all people.
The Palestinian Ateek, became a refugee in 1948. He founded the Jerusalem based and internationally supported SABEEL organization in response to his experiences in 1948, the 1967 War and the first intifada [translates to: rise up and cast off] that erupted on December 9, 1987.
The theology of Sabeel is a theology that arose from the oppression of Palestinians under the state of Israel and also a theology of liberation from the watered down theology that keeps many Christians too comfortable.
Sabeel's liberation theology is rooted in righting the injustices inflicted upon the indigenous people of the Holy Land.
Sabeel offers an ecumenical and interfaith theology that seeks to unite the World Wide Body of Christ to the suffering of their sisters, brothers and cousins in the family of Father Abraham in Israel Palestine.
Sabeel is supported by Christians, Muslims and Jews who work together for peace in the Holy Land by seeking justice; equal human rights for all and an end to the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.
Rev. Ateek speaks of how-when the Bible is correctly read- points to a God of justice. Ateek seeks the liberation of all people, in particular those Christians who have been misled and misinformed by the heretical and anti-Christ theology of Christian Zionists who seek Armageddon and who support the illegal settlers but not their sisters and brothers in Christ: the forgotten faithful, the Palestinian Christians.
Jesus promised it is the Peacemakers who will be called the children of God and not those that starve, bomb, torture or occupy others.
Sabeel's theology is based on Jesus' example of non-violence and on what he taught; that one must forgive to be forgiven, one must pray for and do good towards ones enemies; and NOT to impose sanctions upon innocent people, not to starve, bomb, torture or occupy any other-but to see The Divine in all people and all situations.
When Jesus went to the cross he was saying: ENOUGH! The violence of man against man stops here with my broken body!
Over a thousand years prior, in Genesis 9: 5-6, it was written:
"And from each man, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has man been made."
"You shall not murder." ~ The 6th Commandment
"From Moses to Jeremiah and Isaiah, the Prophets taught...that the Jewish claim on the land of Israel was totally contingent on the moral and spiritual life of the Jews who lived there, and that the land would, as the Torah tells us, 'vomit you out' if people did not live according to the highest moral vision of Torah. Over and over again, the Torah repeated its most frequently stated mitzvah [command]:
"When you enter your land, do not oppress the stranger; the other, the one who is an outsider of your society, the powerless one and then not only 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself' but also 'you shall love the other.'" - Rabbi Lerner, TIKKUN Magazine, page 35, Sept./Oct. 2007
Sabeel reminds us that God is not a racist; God does not play favorites, chooses or loves any ethnic group over any another.
Sabeel sees Jesus in his divinity and in the fullness of his humanity as a Palestinian devout Jewish road warrior, who was born, lived and died under the brutal Roman Military Occupation and who only responded to evil with good.
"Sabeel develops an anti-imperial theology. It stands in the tradition of the anti-imperial theologies of Hebrew Scripture and the New Testament, and applies this critique of ancient empire to modern empires, such as the American empire. It rejects a Son of David imperial Christology, rooting itself in a Suffering Servant Christology of the early Church, in its non-violent way of the cross.
"It is a theology that aims at reconciliation and peace, through a social, economic and political transformation of relationships between Israel and Palestinians that makes it possible for these people to co-exist in genuine justice." ~ Author and Feminist Theologian, Rosemary Radford Ruether
In November 2008, I attended SABEEL's [Arabic for The Way] 7th International Conference in the Holy Land: THE NAKBA: MEMORY, REALITY AND BEYOND, Read more...
Reverend Ateek shepherded my group through his boyhood village and told us how the Zionists came and forced all the Palestinians to flee under threat of death.
His father the town's only and very successful Jeweler response to the Israeli soldiers who ordered all the townspeople to vacate their homes and board a bus that would make them into refugees, "Naked I came into this world and naked I will leave it."
That spirit without any bitterness was also expressed by Rev. Ateek and his family members who walked my group through the streets of their once thriving Palestinian neighborhood that had become 100% Israeli in 1948.
It is Reverend Ateek's faith that enables that spirit to rule and fuel his desire for justice and reconciliation between the cousins in the dysfunctional family of Father Abraham via a paradigm shift:
"The Christian faith…points to two superior levels that can lead to reconciliation and forgiveness…repentance is a precondition; it must precede reconciliation and forgiveness…Repentance calls for the admission of guilt, crime and injustice…In the conflict between Israel and Palestine, repentance would correspond to an admission of guilt by the government of Israel of the injustice it has dealt to the Palestinians in its confiscation of land, violation of human rights, and its systems of domination and oppression…there is the divine paradigm of revolutionary forgiveness even when no admission of guilt [is expressed]. Christians are suppose to practice forgiveness of others because it is how God deals with us: as God forgives continually, we must forgive others. [Ateek, Page 183-184]
That kind of forgiveness is radical and revolutionary and exactly what Jesus demonstrated as he hung upon the Roman Empire's Cross of Corporal Punishment.
After he quoted from Psalm 22, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Jesus ended with a plea for reconciliation: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they are doing." [Luke 23:34]
For decades, Naim Ateek has been crying out for JUSTICE and only JUSTICE as the only way to peace and security for all the people of the Holy Land.
"Justice is done when international law is implemented…
So long as the injustices persist,
hate and its derivatives have the upper hand…
justice and peace begin when the oppressor
becomes aware of its violations
of the other's humanity.
Justice is done when the international community,
through nonviolent methods,
forces Israel to put an end to its injustice…
justice tempered by mercy and compassion.
The doing of justice must not crush the enemy
but hold the enemy accountable…
no hope for change is possible
until the occupation ends."
[Ateek, Page 185]
Israel has no constitution but does have a Declaration of their Establishment:
"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." ~ May 14, 1948.
Imagine what a world it would be,
if Israel held to its own declaration!
The ancient Hebrew prophets were never valued in their day, for they provoked the people to remember God as they pointed out danger.
In A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, Ateek spins a few ancient stories of Hebrew prophets for the 21st century.
Ateek names Samson: The first Suicide Bomber
Jonah: The first Palestinian liberation Theologian.
The word martyr is understood as one who chooses to suffer even die rather than renounce their principals.
A martyr is also one who has given themselves up as a WITNESS!
The essence of Christianity is to bear witness to what Jesus was always on about; forgiveness and love.
"Christians must condemn violence and terrorism whether it is recorded in legendary stories or in history being written today…We condemn suicide bombings as a crime against God. It is a crime to shed another's blood, it must also be equally criminal, if not more so, to shed ones own blood…Those who love God do not kill themselves for the sake of God…nothing justifies the killing of people. "[Ateek, Page 123-124]
"Jonah, an ardent nationalist who harbored deep contempt for the Assyrians, wished for their total destruction. As an Israelite nationalist…Jonah wished to celebrate [their] destruction…God had to teach Jonah the great lesson of obedience…
[The book of Jonah's] "deeper meaning emphasizes God's care and concern for Jews, but equally for non-Jews-in other words the inclusive nature of God… radical and revolutionary… no one can hide from God… there was no place in the universe where Jonah could escape the presence of God… Gods love encompasses all of humanity... the story of Jonah is a description of God that critiques any narrow or nationalist understanding." [Ateek, Pages 69, 71, 72, 74]
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." ~ Jeremiah 19:11
"HOPE has two children.
The first is ANGER at the way things are.
The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it."
~ St. Augustine
"No hope for change is even possible until the occupation ends...
the first step is to confront and analyze the roots of the conflict and its development…
to move toward a solution in Israel-Palestine,
the illegal Israeli occupation must come to an end
and Palestinian violence must stop…
Justice [will be] done
when international law is implemented…
Once justice is done,
peace will not be far off."
[Ateek, page 185]
Godspeed on it!
"Love is not the starving of whole populations. Love is not the bombardment of open cities. Love is not killing......Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers." ~ Dorothy Day
About 2,000 years ago, when Christ was about 33, he hiked up a hill and sat down under an olive tree and began to teach the people;
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven."
In other words: it is those who know their own spiritual poverty, their own limitations and sins honestly and trust God loves them in spite of themselves who already live in the Kingdom of God.
How comforted we will all be, when we see, we haven't got a clue, as to the depth and breadth of pure love and mercy of The Divine Mystery of The Universe.
God's name in ancient Aramaic is Abba which means Daddy as much as Mommy and He/She: The Lord has said, "My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are not yours." ~ Isaiah 55:8
Christ proclaimed more: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."
The essence of meek is to be patient with ignorance, slow to anger and never hold a grudge. In other words: how comforted you will be when you also know humility; when you know yourself, the good and the bad, for both cut through every human heart.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be filled."
In other words: how comforted you will be when your greatest desire is to do what "God requires, and he has already told you what that is; BE JUST, BE MERCIFUL and walk humbly with your Lord."~ Micah 6:8
"Blessed are the merciful, they will be shown mercy."
In other words: how comforted you will all be when you choose to return only kindness to your 'enemy.'
"For with the measure you measure against another, it will be measured back to you" Christ warns his disciples as he explains the law of karma in Luke 6:27-38.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they see God."
In other words: how comforted you will be when you WAKE UP and see God is already within you, within every man, every woman and every child. The Supreme Being is everywhere, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. Beyond The Universe -and yet so small; within the heart of every atom.
"Blessed are The Peacemakers: THEY shall be called the children of God."
And what a wonderful world it would be when we all seek peace by pursuing justice; for there can be none without the other.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires, theirs is The Kingdom of Heaven."
And one fine day the lion will lie down with The Lamb and man will make war no more and that is the Kingdom of God.
Only in Solidarity do "we have it in our power to begin the world again." ~ Tom Paine
Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org
A Feature Correspondent for Arabisto.com
Author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory"
Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu"