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 after nine days in Occupied Territory. I asked him if he were aware of the work of SABEEL, a 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 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!"
I responded, "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 about the injustice in the Holy Land. And what about all the Hebrew prophets, such as Micah who reminded the Jews of what God requires: To be just, to be merciful and to walk humbly with your Lord."
I could NOT shut up although I knew 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 tell him 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 tell him he should go and tour some of the 57 year old refugee camps and see the ruins of all the uncompensated home demolitions. I bring 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 flowed 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 looked my way again. Nobody else spoke to me the rest of the evening or the next day. All I kept hearing within was Luke 23:34: "Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."
Until I leave for Tel Aviv in a few days, I will be blogging about the fastest growing cult in the USA-and also perhaps in Scotland: 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 worldview 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.
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