PCUSA – Zionism Unsettled

This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series Presbyterian Church 2014

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Alongside the centralization problem I mentioned yesterday, the Presbyterian Church also faces a problem of bureaucratization as leaders of the organization try to establish policy through various committees with different levels of accountability to the church and its members.

This growing corporatization tends to run head-on into the historic governing structures of PCUSA where decisions are supposed to be made by local churches (i.e., Presbyteries) voting at bi-annual General Assemblies (GAs).

The fact that any Presbytery can make a motion (called an Overture) that can get brought up at a GA is one of the reasons why divestment continually makes it onto the agenda.  But with many Presbyteries often submitting overlapping or contradictory Overtures on the same topic, it’s left up to committees to prioritize, combine and prune so that votes can be taken on measures that allegedly take into account the needs of as many people as possible.

The trouble (as you might guess) is that these committees are vulnerable to stacking, especially when the leadership of the organization is ready to overlook excess if the result is them getting their way.

We saw this in 2010 when a committee charged with trying to bring balance to the church’s lopsided approach to the conflict quickly became infiltrated by BDS activists, to the point where the token anti-divestment member left in disgust.  And when a group of boycotters find themselves in control of a decision-making body, they tend to lose control over their own worst impulses.  Which is why the unbalanced, anti-Israel, tirade-laden documents these groups tend to produce often become one of the reasons why divestment ends up being defeated.

So have the boycotters learned their lesson?

Exhibit A (through Z) is Zionism Unsettled (ZU), a “study guide” created and distributed to churches through PCUSA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN).

One would have to work long and hard to come up with a way to offend every Jew (outside of a JVP square dance) and Jew-friendly Christian that would outdo this odious document (which is accompanied with a helpful CD-ROM!).  While other PCUSA statements have ignored Jewish and Israeli concerns in support of a “Palestinian Narrative” that assumes Israel to be guilty of all charges (including ones they haven’t come up with yet), ZU finally goes for broke by establishing Zionism as the source of ultimate wickedness, an evil (and racist) movement that by its nature kills and wounds “The Other” while militantly suppresses dissent (apparently of a “Silent Majority” ready to embrace ZU’s anti-Zionist agenda, if only given the opportunity to do so).

Not content with dragging together every anti-Israel cliché and using that material to attack the national movement of one and only one people (guess who) while declaring the nationalist movement of another people (again, guess who) sacrosanct, ZU also wants to “expand” how we think about the Holocaust in order to include other human rights catastrophes (including the Palestinian Nakbah) under that rubric.  The notion that such an arrangement puts today’s Jews on par with those that sent their parents and grandparents to the gas chambers does not seem to have occurred to the many people whose fingerprints are on Zionism Unsettled.

But figuring out who owns those fingerprints turns out to be a challenge.  For once Jews and non-Jews (including many Presbyterians who continually have to deal with the excesses of groups like IPMN) expressed their outrage over the publication of such a “guide,” suddenly IPMN became some distant third party, despite the fact that the Presbyterian Church charters the organization, runs donations to the group through their books, and clearly incorporates their world view into virtually all their Middle East political work.

If nothing else, Zionism Unsettled (which at least garnered support from David Duke) demonstrates to the world the true face of those driving BDS within the church, just as church leader’s unwillingness to come clean about IPMN’s role in their Middle East decision making exposes the underlying corruption and dishonesty infecting the highest reaches of the PCUSA org chart.

I’ve often wondered if the constant demonstration of excess that boycotters provide (including the public temper tantrums they throw whenever they don’t get their way) will ever seep so deep that voting church members will understand what they’re truly dealing with before they arrive for the next BDS circus, formerly known as the Presbyterian General Assembly.

I suppose we’ll find out later this year when a group of people who should now be aware of what the church did (yet again) in their name gets together to decide on whether such behavior should be shunned or rewarded.

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