In his latest posting on the subject of this week’s US Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) General Assembly (GA), Will Spotts talks about the wall surrounding the hearts of too many people in the Church which seals them off from comprehension of the harm their activities over the years have caused, and the hatefulness their words and deeds represent.
Previous to this, he talked about not a wall but a gap, notably the enormous chasm between the absolute evil they assign to the Jewish state (best represented by the “Apartheid” label which, in effect, accuses Israel of being a nation of racist murderers – making Israel’s supporters in the Jewish community accessories to racism and murder) and the triviality of the steps they want to take to deal with this perceived evil.
This walling off from reality and gap between word and deed makes sense once you realize that the church is desperate to find a way to look as though it is doing something important and virtuous without actually doing anything that would involve a genuine act of self sacrifice.
I tend not to use the “Well if you’re going to boycott Israel, you might as well throw your computer away” argument (if only because others have used it better than I could). But it’s worth noting that the entire BDS effort is designed around providing options for organizations like PCUSA that require no one in the organization to deprive themselves of anything they find useful or take for granted in their day-to-day lives.
Remember that the BDSer’s goal is to get an institution like the church to take a position, any position, which would allow the boycotters to brag in their next set of press releases that “PCUSA agrees with us that Israel is an Apartheid state, which is why you should boycott Israel too!” So providing them an easy on-ramp to such a decision, one in which the price gets paid by people other than the decision makers, is a cornerstone of BDS strategy.
And who will pay a price if a divestment vote is passed during the upcoming GA?
Not church leaders or the BDS activists (both inside and outside the church) supported by these leaders. For they seem to be able to avoid responsibility for their behavior year in and year out (which is why they keep doing what they do GA after GA since, simply put, there is no price to pay). And, surprisingly, not Israel which has managed to weather this kind of abuse for years while maintaining a civil society, growing an allegedly “boycotted” economy and defending itself when necessary.
No in this instance, the price will be paid by church members outside the small circle of Presbyterians who have made getting the church to boycott Israel their life’s work.
Many of these members have made it clear in votes taken in 2006, 2008 and 2010 that they don’t like the church’s lopsided Middle East policy (even if they have no particular love for the Jewish state). For these people, the leadership is yet again making it clear that an embrace of BDS takes higher priority than the opinions of the people in the pews.
The price will also be paid by those in the church who value inter-faith dialog and relationships, especially if the Jewish community finally decides to cut ties to PCUSA, rather than continue to live with the bi-annual slaps in the face during GAs dedicated to unending Israel bashing.
The price is already being paid by Presbyterians worried that the church no longer seems to carry moral weight in the wider society. (When, after all, was the last time you saw the media calling on a Presbyterian leader to discuss the moral dimensions of the issues of the day?) And how could church behavior over the last decade – which has included ongoing abuse of friends, ignoring of member concerns, and the making and breaking promises to both Jews and Presbyterians looking for more even-handed church policy – do anything but wreak havoc on the church’s reputation for honesty and integrity?
In fact, the ultimate price seems about to be paid by the church as a whole which (like the Romans who decided to engage in one civil war after another just as their empire was collapsing) looks ready to continue to divide into smaller and smaller units, just so one part can join the BDS movement without being bothered by those pesky Presbyterians who have other opinions.
With church membership both plummeting and aging and a church polity ready to turn division about secular political issues (including the Middle East) into a new set of formal and permanent schisms, I can envision a day when a smaller, older and even less relevant church finally passes a divestment resolution which no one else notices and cares about. And it may very well be that this day will arrive sometime in the next two weeks.