Here is an article about Pope Benedict XVI’s impending visit to Israel and to the Palestinian territories, and about the various controversies which are consequently arising. I am going to summarize the article and then provide a few words of commentary. If you have read the article feel free to skip the summary.
This visit of the Pope deserves the attention of American Christians of all denominations. This event has great potential, not just for controversy and subsequent controversial blog posts, but potential for either a huge advancement of the Kingdom of God, or a huge step back.
What the Pope says while he is at the official holocaust memorial in Israel will be widely scrutinized and may either make or break the Vatican’s relation to the Israeli state. What the Pope says in Palestine may have more far reaching implications for the future of Christianity’s witness of the Gospel, and mandate to spread the Kingdom of God.
Somebody in the Christian world needs to stand up for the Palestinians! First of all, there are thousands of Palestinian Christians whose lives are made hell by Israeli occupation on the one hand, and Muslim extremism on the other. It is a travesty and a grave sin indeed that we in the West have abandoned our brothers and sisters in Christ in favor of either indifference or blind Christian Zionism.
Don’t misunderstand me, violence is wrong, and I hope the Pope squarely and definitively condemns Hamas’ acts of terrorism against Israel. But if he does not also acknowledge and condemn the shocking acts of terrorism, injustice and bigotry that have been perpetrated against the Palestinian people he has failed the liberating message of the Gospel.
What Israel is doing to the Palestinian people is wrong. It breaks the covenant that Abraham, Moses and David made with God in so many ways that I think it would even take the prophet Jeremiah by surprise if he were around to condemn it. But what is more detestable is the way that Western Christianity has condoned Israel’s actions simply because of a unique combination of flawed eschatology and skewed OT theology.
Because of the Holocaust controversy it is, in many ways, unfortunate that the Pope has chosen to go to Israel and Palestine at this time. Any critique that he might make of the way Israel has treated our brothers and sisters in Palestine might just be construed as more anti-Semitic sentiment from an already suspect Pope. On the other hand, it is possible that he may not condemn injustice at all. That would be hugely disappointing, and not very helpful, or faithful. He may not be the best man for the job (given the controversy), but he’s already bought his plane tickets, so I pray he does the right thing.
This visit should highlight the fact that more Christian leaders need to go Palestine and stand in solidarity with our Christians sisters and brothers there. Even those leaders who don’t fall into the “creepy Christianity” camp (i.e. Christian Zionists, crazy “prophetic” book-and-DVD peddlers, late-night TBN Bible expositors, etc.) have failed to adequately speak up on the behalf of Palestinians like they should. So, I say: God Speed Pope Benedict! Be a true vicar of Christ and stand up against oppression and injustice in Palestine!