Thursday, January 23, 2014

Palestine: enough with 'the Lutheran both/and' already . . . !

"Both/AND"? Aw, Daveyyyyy . . . !
I'm excited to be working with a large group of other Lutherans who are focused on issues of justice in Israel/Palestine.

There is no question in my mind that justice in Israel/Palestine is fundamental to peace and justice throughout the Mideast, and in the world.

And there is also no question in my mind that, just as it was a group of people who considered themselves very serious about the Bible that got us into the present situation in Palestine, it is those of us who have inherited that tradition of seriousness about the Bible that need to "own" the consequences of our tradition, and work for a rectification of wrongs we have inherited.

The Lutheran denomination -- and here I mean the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) -- has done some important work towards justice in Palestine. In particular, I would point to the October, 2012, letter from our then presiding bishop Mark Hanson and others calling on the U.S. government to halt the sale to Israel of any arms being used in the Occupation.

At the same time, the 2.5 million Lutherans nationwide could be doing a whole lot more to bring about real change.  The problem, I fear, is a Lutheran tendency to go slow, to cautiously creep up on all sides of an issue -- a fondness for what is often referred to as  'the Lutheran both/and'.

In other words, we Lutherans are careful not to make rash choices, preferring instead to eat our cake and have it, too.  We avoid either/or choices -- which sometimes are false choices -- in favor of the good old  'Lutheran both/and'.

Shall we have traditional worship or contemporary? Both/and! Should we do a Bible study or a book group? Both/and! Is it going to be coffee or tea? Both/and! You get the picture . . . .

In the context of the Israel/Palestine situation, this preference for "both/and" sometimes leave us in a "on the one hand ... on the other hand ... " limbo: a feeling that we can't give consideration to one set of facts (e.g. the injustice experienced by Palestinians) without an a priori expectation that those facts will be offset by some equal and opposite set of facts (injustice experienced by Israelis, and Jews in general).

Rabbi Brant Rosen and the Rev. Naim Ateek, Director, Sabeel
Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center

I found a healthy antidote to this in a talk by Rabbi Brant Rosen. I recently watched a Youtube video of Rabbi Rosen speaking in Evanston in early 2013. His talk provides a wonderful overview of the issue, and deals in particular with the moment when he finally said, “It’s time to take a stand.” (December 28, 2008, to be exact – the day he wrote a blog post about the Israeli operation called “Cast Lead,” carried out against the Palestinian inhabitants of Gaza.)

In the video, Rabbi Rosen talks about the “mantra” of “It’s complicated . . . ,” the idea that it's not possible to take a stand against the injustice Palestinians are subjected to because the subject is "complicated." Rosen suggests, however, that the only thing that is “complicated” is the way we, ourselves, have become part of the oppression. “That,” he says, “is painfully complicated!”

We have invited Rabbi Rosen to speak at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Logan Square on February 16, 2014. He'll be talking about his book, Wrestling in the Daylight, and we are encouraging people from throughout the Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the ELCA to take this opportunity to come, listen, and engage in conversation with him.

If anyone can embolden us -- if anyone can give us the confidence to say "enough with 'the Lutheran both/and' already!" -- it is Rabbi Rosen.

Related posts

"Inhumane treatment of young men and boys, arrests under cover of night, unjust torture while in police custody, missing husbands and brothers and sons, children stripped of internationally agreed upon human rights. For these Palestinian boys and men, we weep with the women."

(See Palestine: The Women Weep (34th Annual 8th Day Good Friday Justice Walk) on the Working Group on the Middle East, Metropolitan Chicago Synod, ELCA blog.)

There is a need for a much broader effort to tackle the issue of Palestine, particularly among faith communities (congregations). Why not start in December, when all eyes turn toward Bethlehem?

(See Faith Communities Need to Get Active Working for Justice in Palestine)

There are some people who say, "Why does it take the sacrifice of an American to get people to care about the many people who have died and suffered in Gaza and other parts of Palestine and Israel?"

(See Where were YOU on April 10, 1979?)

Read more about the December, 2013, adult education on Palestine at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Logan Square, Chicago.

(See Adult Education During December: Palestine in The Messenger blog of St. Luke's Logan Square)