Robert Nicholson

Jews, Forgive Us

After years of obsessive activism, a small group of anti-Zionist Christians has succeeded in forcing a major American denomination to divest from corporations that “profit from the Israeli occupation.” Despite some obligatory interfaith language and caveats that the Presbyterian Church (USA) resolution should not be “construed or represented…as divestment from the State of Israel, or an alignment with or endorsement of the global BDS movement,” it nevertheless marks a tremendous victory for Israel’s enemies. Bestowing a veneer of Christian compassion on a hateful campaign to dislodge Jewish sovereignty from the Middle East, this Presbyterian cabal has advanced the global crusade against Israel by leaps and bounds.

As a Christian, I am deeply ashamed. Once again my community has condemned the Jewish people – and only the Jewish people – in the name of Jesus Christ. I cannot overstate my disgrace.

Of course, I could try to distance myself from the PC(USA) like most Christians do when confronted with anti-Jewish activity emanating from the church, saying: I’m not that kind of Christian – those people don’t speak for me. Although it’s true, they don’t (I am not, nor never have been a member of the denomination), such a cop-out at a moment like this is hardly in good taste.

Perhaps I could point out that I, like others, did everything in my power to stop the vote from passing. Or draw attention to the fact that out of 600-plus votes, divestment passed by a mere 7 — that a full 49% of the commissioners were good guys who came down on the right side of history.

I could place the vote in its larger context, showing it as the last gasp of a dying denomination that grows smaller, older, and whiter every year. Indeed, as it stands today the denomination comprises less than two million people and speaks for less than one percent of all American Christians — barely a drop in the bucket when compared to the one billion Christians worldwide.

Or I could point out that the actual financial cost of divestment levied against the three affected companies (a combined $21 million) is hardly enough to cause panic in a board room. Or that, economically, the move will have no impact on Israel at all.

I could make any of these arguments to the Jewish people in hopes of explicating, exculpating, or mitigating the significance of the vote and my connection to it.

But I wouldn’t dare.

To most Jews, the nuances of Christianity and its various doctrines and subcultures don’t mean anything. There was a guy named Jesus, a wooden cross, some inquisitions – bottom line, a lot of Jews got killed.

We Christians cannot distance ourselves from bad behavior in the church by invoking sectarian or political arguments, or by claiming that those people really don’t speak in the name of Christianity. To our Jewish friends, it really doesn’t matter. Professed followers of Jesus are once again attacking them based on their Christian faith.

Instead we must ask the Jewish people for forgiveness in the name of Christianity writ large, acknowledging that we as a community have committed a serious sin.

A sin, you say? Surely I exaggerate. How could principled divestment from a few international businesses constitute a morally offensive act?

It’s simple – the PC(USA) divestment campaign was imbalanced and malicious from the start. It oversimplified one of the world’s most complicated conflicts; vilified Israel as uniquely evil among nations, likening it to apartheid South Africa despite all evidence to the contrary; exonerated Palestinians as innocent victims of Israeli aggression; ignored the blatant corruption, human rights abuses, and ethnic cleansing of numerous state and non-state actors both in the Middle East and around the world, all of which surpass Israel in every measurable indicator of oppression and tyranny; marshaled a range of political, historical, and theological arguments to condemn the idea of Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish homeland; cloaked its hatred in Christian terms; and acted with arrogance and contempt for the Jewish people.

If PC(USA) leaders had divested from every company doing business with every flawed state in the world, that would have been one thing. The fact that they targeted Israel alone demonstrates the pure odium behind their actions.

I cannot imagine a greater desecration of the name of Christ – a Jewish man who lived a Jewish life in a Jewish land, who kept the commandments, and who wept over the city of Jerusalem.

For the dignity of his good name – not to mention the alienation and pain of the Jewish people in this hour – I call upon Christians of conviction to repent for this sin and endeavor to demonstrate their change of heart with more than just words. How each person responds is up to him or her, but the end result should be clear condemnation of the PC(USA) vote and practical efforts to heal the wound it has caused. We must send a message to any other Christians who are considering these kinds of vindictive measures that we shall not stand for them.

This battle may seem marginal, even unimportant, to some; however, I submit that the very credibility of our faith is at stake.

For too long we’ve been telling Jewish people about the beauty and power of Christianity, somehow expecting them to care.

Isn’t it time we start showing them what it’s all about?

About the Author
Robert Nicholson is a recent Tikvah Fellow and former Marine who researches law, religion, and the relationship between Christians and Jews. He holds a JD and MA in history from Syracuse University and a BA in Hebrew Studies from SUNY Binghamton, and has published articles in, among other places, Mosaic Magazine, The Jerusalem Post, and The Libya Herald. He lives with his wife Lyndsey and daughter Brooke in New York City.
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