The Presbyterians’ Gradye Parsons On Gaza

I recently reloaded a Tweetdeck App I used when tracking activity during last month’s Presbyterian GA, where a tweet informed me that Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk for PCUSA, released a statement on July 16th calling for an end to the conflict currently underway in Gaza and in the skies over Israel.

Now normally, I might be tempted to critique this statement, making note of the Mr. Parson’s choice to devote a quarter of his document to list every Palestinian victim by name, the use of the passive voice (are Hamas rockets “indiscriminately fired” or does Hamas indiscriminately fire them – and at who?), or the tendency to trace all conflict back to that metaphysical entity: “the illegal Israeli occupation.”

But given that PCUSA decided to add calls for an end to rocket fire and suicide bombing (or, at least in the latter case, their condemnation – although an end to those would kind of be good too), I’ve decided to lay off a line-by-line analysis in favor of seeing just how widely this call has been listened to now that the church decided to make its moral voice heard through last month’s divestment votes at the 2014 General Assembly.

I began with a Google news search which allows me to sort by date to see if any news sources had picked up on what the Stated Clerk no doubt felt was an important and newsworthy statement from an institution that made all kinds of news just a few weeks ago when they passed their divestment policy.  Strangely, nothing seemed to show up regarding news coverage of the church’s Gaza statement.

Knowing full well that such an online search was just a starting point, I repeated my search with other search engines (Bing, Yahoo and the meta-search engine Dogpile).  But even here, no media coverage seems to show up (even in papers that covered divestment with at least one story).

Undaunted, I went directly to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN and Boston Globe web sites and did individual searches there.  Again, nothing.

Finally, I went back to Google which allows you to search the entire Internet with a date range to see if anyone picked up on the story.  And, outside of the Presbyterian publications Presbyterian Outlook and The Layman, not one non-Presbyterian media outlet seems to have noticed the church taking a stand on what they have decided is their A #1 top international priority: the Arab-Israeli conflict.

How can this be?  After all, the church has decided to put at risk its relationship with every Jewish organization in the nation – secular and religious – outside of Jewish Voice for Peace in order to establish its moral bone fides on this issue.  Supporters of the churches old/new divestment policy have spent days on end congratulating the organization for its moral courage and insisting that last month’s votes put the group on the right side of history. So shouldn’t someone take heed of what a group on that right side has to say about the very topic they decided was the most vital of the day?

Unless, of course, last month’s GA choices simply generated a week of “man-bites-dog” stories, after which the public fell into the default mode of ignoring the pontifications of a church that seems more interested in listening to anti-Israel partisans outside its ranks than to its own membership (which, you should recall, voted down divestment four times before finally giving those partisans the answer they wanted).  And, perhaps calls to stop raining rockets down on Israeli cities might have had more impact had they been made when the Presbyterians were all together making statement after statement and passing resolution after resolution about the region, rather than waiting for Israel to return fire before finding something to say after a near decade of rocket fire/war crimes directed against the Jewish state.

To be fair, perhaps this statement was directed at the parties to the conflict, rather than the press.  In which case, I think Israel’s Prime Minister succinctly expressed a view of church political opinion shared by not only his countrymen but a majority of American Jews and Christians (including Presbyterians).

And if Israel’s supporters now look at PCUSA as an organization that cannot be trusted, the Palestinians know it can be trusted – to only take action in support of their positions, offering everyone else generic prayers, Zionism Unsettled, and demands that their open partisanship be treated as acts of love.

So, after a decade of demanding that divestment must be the policy of the organization, PCUSA finds itself distrusted by one side in the conflict, taken for granted by another, and utterly ignored by everyone else as they slide their way towards physical oblivion that matches their non-existent moral footprint on the world stage.

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