I am often baffled by the priorities and ideology of what is supposed to be a Christian church. One might think that the Presbyterian Church (USA) would be outraged by the carnage and depravity unfolding in epic proportions in Aleppo, Syria right now. One might think that the PCUSA would be outraged by the act of terrorism resulting in the murder of 25 Christian women worshipping in a Coptic church in Egypt last weekend.
And, quite honestly, there are many church goers and pastors who are mortified by what they are witnessing, and urging our government to do whatever it can to try to alleviate the genocide going on in Syria. But the formal leadership of the Presbyterian Church USA has been silent on both. Look at the Church’s webpage and news releases. A search in News and Announcements requires one to go back to 2012 to find mention of Aleppo.
But in a week where such horrors are going on, what has the PCUSA’s Stated Clerk (church language for administrative leader) seen fit to speak out on? Not Aleppo, not Egypt, but instead, the Israeli government’s refusal to issue a tourist visa to an anti-Israel BDS activist from the World Council of Churches. This week, the Stated Clerk wrote to the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. “to express our profound displeasure over the indignities visited upon our WCC Associate General Secretary, Prof. Dr. Isabel Phiri, at the Ben Gurion International Airport on December 5, 2016.” The letter was shared as a news release on the Church’s website.
I have to say, I am not surprised by this. It is consistent with the rabid anti-Israel sentiment propagated by the PCUSA over the years. And thus, it makes total sense that the denial of a tourist visa should be at the top of the Church’s priorities. Seriously, I mean, why speak out about Aleppo when you can criticize Israel?
Were it up to me, I would probably have let her in the country. Were it up to me, I’d err on the side of democracy, if just to prevent anti-Israel activists form creating martyrs of those who are being denied entry into Israel (a grand total of one to date). But, it is not up to me. Israel’s sovereignty gives it the right to issue a tourist visa to anyone it chooses. Israel already is quite liberal in not requiring visas before entering the country. Thus, who can blame Israel for turning back individuals from entering the country who come with the goal of promoting anti-Israel activity, and promoting the de-legitimization of Israel.
This episode is simply more evidence of a warped fixation on Israel by some that turns a blind eye to all of the tragedy unfolding in the Middle East. We as Christians can and should do better than that.