Can We Be “Chosen” without Being Jerks?

Benjamin Netanyahu is angry with you. Israel_and_Palestine_Peace

The Israeli Prime Minister considers the vote last week at the PCUSA’s General Assembly “disgraceful.” (this was a vote to stop investing in companies making money off Israel’s continued settling in territories reserved for Palestinians.) He said anybody with morals should recognize it as such and at the very least shouldn’t call themselves “Christian.” He spoke eloquently Sunday about Israel’s unique presence for democracy in the Middle East and invited Americans to come see for themselves all the good Israel does.

Many, many already have. Me too. It is significantly disciples who have traveled to the Holy Land over the last couple of decades to assess the situation who called for our denomination to stop investing in companies who are making fortunes out of what the international community calls “the occupation” that has been going on for a generation now.  Mind you we are not divesting of Israel itself, but American companies. Even a cursory reading of the overture makes clear our denomination’s official support of Israel, re-affirmation of its right to exist, condemnation of violence by all sides etc.

The PCUSA is in the news everywhere because of it. For controversy this may even surpass the vote to permit same gender marriage (also last week). Well, it’s complicated is what we post on-line about relationships sometimes.  Peace talks have been going on for decades and Israel has continued to destroy homes, imprison, kill and deny rights to many Christians and Muslims whose roots in the region far surpass the Jews.’ Millions more refugees result while we “work for peace.” Has our country been complicit in a mess?

I despise the violence Hamas and others have perpetrated. I loath terrorism even while beginning to understand the desperation and oppression fathering it. But I also remember mum telling me “it takes two to tango” and I never hear this acknowledged from the endlessly uncritical, unconditionally Pro-Israel Christian Right voices.  It’s this unpopular critical assessment of our own complicity in injustice  that has me so proud of the PCUSA. Israel-Palestine-conflict-tank

There are theological and psychological reasons for Christians’ immense support for Israel. We owe our identity and a majority of our scripture to Judaism. I just wonder at a sense of entitlement I hear laced throughout many conversations. Entitlement coming I suspect from persecution and fed from reparations begun in the massive guilt and shame following World War II. It really is complicated.

We call the Jews “the Chosen” people. We tie the analogy to our own tradition as disciples of Jesus Christ.  I love this and find great meaning and identity in it.  I feel like I am also “chosen.” But what happens when my chosen-ness conflicts with others’ rights? Whose land is it, really? And where are people who are being treated as less-than-people supposed to go? Might there be some Christians and Muslims in Israel who think of being chosen as well?

Question: Do we give up on calling ourselves “Chosen” by God?” What does conviction that we are “special” cost those around us? What does it cost the world?


One thought on “Can We Be “Chosen” without Being Jerks?

  1. Good work, Don. To take a stab at answering your question in the headline: I think it’s very challenging. The whole “Chosen People” notion is a huge landmine, an open invitation to regard someone, some “other(s),” as “Unchosen.” Unless one bears it in mind as pure metaphor for the unboundedness of God’s love in “choosing” all of humanity as her Beloved and holding it close, it descends into a lure for the ego, declaring an exclusive Chosenness which does not, cannot possibly, by definition, apply to those who oppose us. Hence the invitation to jerkdom. Very troubling, and thus better avoided, I think. Thanks for raising the question.

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