By Richard Edmondson
Neocon Elliott Abrams has published an article hitting out at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America over its recent passage of two resolutions pertaining to Israel, referring disdainfully to the ELCA as “a church in decline” while accusing it of gratuitous attacks on Israel.
“The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is a church in decline but one whose enthusiasm for attacks on Israel never wanes,” Abrams writes. The article has been published by Newsweek magazine as well as on the website of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Last month I posted an article about ELCA’s resolutions, passed by an overwhelming majority (82%) at its church-wide assembly held August 8-14 in New Orleans. The measures, known as C1 and C2, call for an end to US financial aid to Israel until it ceases building settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and also set up an “investment screen” to ensure that church funds are not invested in companies profiting from the occupation.
The text of both measures can be accessed here.
C1 encourages church members to “call on their U.S. Representatives, Senators and the Administration to take action requiring that, to continue receiving U.S. financial and military aid, Israel must comply with internationally recognized human rights standards as specified in existing U.S. law, stop settlement building and the expansion of existing settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, end its occupation of Palestinian territory, and enable an independent Palestinian state.”
It also commits the church to “promote the protection of the human rights of Palestinians and Israelis and oppose all violence and actions which discriminate against or deny any people their basic freedom, dignity or human rights,” while also urging “steps to assist the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and other Christians in sustaining their endangered presence in the Holy Land.”
C2 directs a “review team” within the church to “develop a human rights social criteria investment screen based on the social teachings of this church and, in the case of Israel and Palestine, specifically based on the concerns raised in the ELCA Middle East Strategy.”
In his article, entitled “Why Are the Lutherans Attacking Israel Again?”, Abrams zeroes in on several provisions within C1, including the call for an end to aid to Israel, first recounting the passage verbatim and then commenting wryly, “End military aid to Israel: regardless of the threats it faces from Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, Iran and other enemies of Israel and us.”
Here, in equating Hezbollah and ISIS, Abrams is donning for himself a rather glorious mantle of disingenuousness, failing to point out that Hezbollah is one of the principle military forces in the fight against ISIS, while also failing to mention that Israel has been providing medical and other support for some of the very terrorists Hezbollah has skirmished with, patching them up and sending them back into Syria.
He also seems to feel the call for an end to settlements is unfair to Jews, commenting, “Stop all construction in East Jerusalem: Well, not really; just construction by Jews.”
Charles E. Carlson of the Christian anti-Zionist organization We Hold These Truths has posted a commentary on Abrams’ offensive against the church, calling it “condescending” and “petty,” and taking note also of a reader comment posted underneath it that calls for the ELCA’s religious tax-exempt status to be revoked on the grounds the church has taken a political stand. Says Carlson:
Council On Foreign Relations member and blogger Elliott Abrams is a long time Washington fixture, and apparently is now a Jewish Zionist trigger man. His statement should be taken as an outrageous attack on the right of any Christians to practice their faith, especially the part about loving one’s brothers. It is a direct assault on every Christian group that stands for “peace” in the Middle East because they believe it is a principal Jesus taught.
In assessing the reader comment calling for a revocation of the church’s tax-exempt status, Carlson opines that it “reads like a convenient Abrams epilogue, an idea too outrageous for Abrams to suggest, and probably planted to frighten Lutherans.”
You can go here to listen to a We Hold These Truths podcast on the matter, and here to access Carlson’s article. Below is a video featuring the comments of ELCA Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. The Bible verse she names as her favorite is actually one of my own favorite verses as well–the story of Mary Magdalene visiting the tomb of Jesus.
By the way, the ELCA has also adopted investment screens in a number of other areas besides the Palestine-Israel conflict. These include screens on tobacco and alcohol manufacturers, military weapons contractors, the private prison industry, and polluters of the environment. None of these previous resolutions seem to have resulted in calls for the church’s tax-exempt status to be revoked.
Again, all of this goes unmentioned by Abrams–although our CFR neocon does harp quite a bit on his assertion that the church is “in decline,” claiming that its membership has dropped by as much as one-fourth since its founding in 1988.
“One wonders,” he muses, “if the last few ELCA congregations, when there has been another 25 years of shrinkage, will pass an anti-Israel resolution just before turning out the lights.”
One wonders if even Israel itself will be in existence 25 years from now–given that no less than a former chief of the Mossad has warned that the country faces an “existential threat” from its own internal divisions.
“Internal division,” said Tamir Pardo, “can lead us to civil war – we are already on a path toward that. If a society crosses a certain line in its division and hatred, it is a real possibility to see a phenomenon like a civil war.”
Whatever the future may hold, the ELCA’s church-wide assembly last month in New Orleans seems to have been a rather resounding success. You can go here to access a photo gallery of the event, and some of the photos provide an interesting glimpse into the group of people who make up this denomination. For one thing it seems the church is very multi-racial:
It also looks like they had a guest of honor show up–Jesse Jackson.
With racial tensions becoming rife in America, does Elliott Abrams really want to attack a church that is bringing blacks and whites together under the teachings of Christ?
Hmm…now that I think about it…perhaps that was his whole idea.