The U.S. Senate refused to stop debate and vote on a bill to overturn the Hobby Lobby decision today, and the usual suspects went ballistic. Apparently the Dark Ages are returning, with women being kept barefoot and pregnant, dogs and cats living together, and mass hysteria on the left. Representative of the reaction is this piece of drivel from the head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:

“It’s disgraceful that some members of the U.S. Senate would rather protect Religious Right zealots than millions of American workers,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Religion should never be used as an excuse for denying essential medicine to anyone, but some misguided senators apparently don’t get that.”

Yeah, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to protect conservative Christians, what with our having repealed the First Amendment and all….Wait, we haven’t? Dang, apparently ol’ Barry has discovered time travel, and zapped forward to a time when he and his anti-religious liberty lobby have gotten their way, and only approved religious groups have any rights.

One might ask lawyer Lynn just when this came to be defined as “medicine”:

One might also asked who in these United States has been denied access to any form of contraception. Seems to me that up until we entered the Gilded Age of Obamacare, most Americans bought their own “medicine,” and those that couldn’t afford it could get it for free from Planned Parenthood. Finally, one might ask when birth control became “essential” to anyone, given that there’s an even more fool-proof way of preventing pregnancy.

Of course, in the space/time dimension inhabited by Barry Lynn, the most important inalienable right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution is the right to sex without consequences any time, any place, any way, and as often as desired, all with your boss–the guy your sex life isn’s supposed to be any of his business–footing the bill. Freedom of religion? You’re kidding, right?

 

I was beginning to wonder if any of the usual suspects were going to express their usual outrageous outrage at the depredations of the Israelis in Gaza. Then, this morning, World Council of Churches General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit finally came through:

We strongly condemn the indiscriminate attacks by Israeli military on the civilian population in Gaza, as we absolutely condemn the absurd and immoral firing of rockets by militants from Gaza to populated areas in Israel.

The attacks by Israel in Gaza are not “indiscriminate,” nor are they on civilians, of course, except in the fevered imagination of Geneva bureaucrats. Israel has been contacting Gaza civilians through various means to let them know that attacks are coming because there are Hamas fighters on the premises or in the neighborhood, and that they should evacuate.Hamas’ response is that they should stay right where they are and die for the sake of turning world opinion against Israel. The use of human shields, like the intentional targeting of civilians, is a war crime, but one that Hamas will never be charged with, nor will it be acknowledged in the cultured salons of Geneva. I do think it’s a nice touch to refer to the artillery fire directed by Hamas at Israel as “absurd,” though.

Since last Monday, Israeli aerial bombardment of Gaza has killed 86 Palestinians and injured more than 550 people. Most of the dead are reported to be civilians, including the elderly, women and children. There are many who are mourning the loss of their loved ones among families and friends. We join them in prayers, so that God bestows his love and mercy upon them and comforts them during these difficult moments of sorrow.

What really bothers Tveit is that Hamas has not succeeded in killing some Jews. If some of Hamas rockets actually found living targets, at least it would be a fair fight. The fact that it is Hamas intention to kill as many Jews as possible with their rocket fire is beside the point. The fact that Hamas has fired rockets at the nuclear power plant at Dimona, a direct hit on which might kill tens of thousands, is beside the point. Human shields are being killed in Gaza, and there are no Israeli casualties to balance the spreadsheet.

Both Israelis and Palestinians require their well-being, security and a just and genuine peace.

Which is never going to happen as long as an organization with the goal of destroying Israel and killing or expelling every Jew from the Holy Land is in charge in Gaza and part of the Palestinian government.

The recent failure of the negotiations and the loss of prospects for a two-state solution and the end of occupation, as well as a just peace and vision of a common future have led to the unbearable and infernal cycle of violence and hatred that we are witnessing today.

No statement on the Middle East from the WCC would be complete without a reference to the “cycle of violence,” a cycle that just happens to always get set into motion by one or more of the various Palestinian terror groups. Daniel Pipes noted on NRO this morning that there was a cease-fire agreed to by Israel and Hamas after the last round of action in November of 2012, and that on June 11 Hamas broke it without any provocation whatsoever. Maybe their stock of rockets had gotten too big, and they needed to draw down inventory. Whatever the reason, pretending that this is part of some unending “cycle,” one that flips repeatedly between the two sides, is ridiculous and dishonest. In other words, par for the WCC.

What is happening in Gaza now is not an isolated tragedy. These events have to be seen in the context of the occupation of Palestinian territories that began in 1967. The WCC has always called for an end to this illegal occupation and the continuous blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel. Without an end to the occupation, the cycle of violence will continue.

Please note that apparently nothing of any note happened before 1967. Pogroms against Jews in the Levant in the 1920s and 1930s, the rejection of the United Nations partition plan and five nation invasion of Israel in 1948, the planned invasion of Israel in 1967 that resulted in the occupation–none of that actually happened. The Garden of Eden existed in the region until Israel just took it into its collective head to capture Sinai, Gaza, and the West Bank in 1967, because Jews really like having to deal with the daily headache of ruling over a hostile people. And it can’t be denied that the Garden would be restored if only Israel would leave the West Bank. Then everything would be rainbows and unicorns, and Hamas would be shown to be the community organizing outfit it really is.

I can’t wait.

Anti-Israel activists have in recent years been seeking to strike at one of the basic foundations for support of the Jewish state in the United States, the evangelical community. They have done so in a variety of ways: through emotional appeals on behalf of beleaguered Palestinians, through deceptively blaming Israel and its occupation for all that ails the Holy Land, by ignoring any contrary evidence or denouncing it so tepidly as to make no difference, and by attacking all support of Israel by evangelicals as theologically toxic “Christian Zionism.” (For the record: “Christian Zionism” is a technical term that has come to be applied to the support of Israel that is driven by eschatology informed by dispensationalism. The majority, perhaps vast majority, of American evangelicals who support Israel, myself included, are no more dispensationalists than we are Zoroastrians.)

Luke Moon of the Institute on Religion and Democracy offers a look at some of the evangelicals who have been leading this charge, including luminaries such as Willow Creek Church’s Lynn Hybels, Wheaton College’s Gary Burge, and dreadlocked Philadelphia activist Shane Claiborne. Here’s an excerpt about an organization that will not be getting any further support from me until they lay off the anti-Israel politics, World Vision:

World Vision’s antagonism toward Israel is largely the work of an activist named Tom Getman. Getman served as director of World Vision’s program in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza before being tasked with establishing World Vision’s office in Washington, DC. After he left World Vision, he was able to abandon his veneer of neutrality and joined the boards of the ferociously pro-Palestinian groups Evangelicals for Mid-East Understandings, Sabeel, Sojourners, and KairosUSA. In a brief interview with fellow anti-Israel activist Rev. Steven Sizer, Getman bragged about his connections in the White House and on Capitol Hill. These “friends,” he claimed, would encourage the U.S. government to engage in dialogue with other friends of his, who happen to be leaders of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.

“We have friends… inside the White House, we have friends in the Senate like people in this room today, who are intent on putting steel in the spine so Obama can follow through on what he has said, not only the words but to do. Like our friends Nasrallah [Hezbollah’s political leader] and Sheik Fedlallah [Hezbollah’s spiritual leader] and many others in the Middle East have said to us, the problem with you Christians is you don’t do what’s in the book. So we are trying to encourage Christians within the administration or active Jews within the administration to really stand up and let Obama be Obama in terms of what his heart says in terms of dialogue.”

Because World Vision is a trusted organization in most Evangelical churches, it is very easy for them to promote the one-sided message that Israel is 100 percent to blame for Palestinian suffering—especially that of Palestinian Christians. This issue is particularly emotive, and thus one that pro-Palestinian Evangelicals constantly emphasize. In 2011, for example, World Vision started the Palestinian Christian Engagement Initiative (PCEI). According to Steve Haas, Catalyst Officer for World Vision, the purpose of the initiative was to bring together Palestinian churches in order to address the problem of Palestinian Christian emigration. Haas parrots the typical explanation of such emigration, saying, “Christians particular to this part of the world were emigrating very fast, a lot of it simply due to the impact of the occupation and the bad economy it was creating for Palestinians here.” It is true that Christians in the Middle East are emigrating very rapidly. The main reason, however, is not Israel, but Islam. In fact, since 1967, the number of Christians in Israel has increased while the number of Christians in the West Bank and Gaza has plummeted.

World Vision’s focus in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza is based on the noble work of providing assistance to children and families trapped in abject poverty. But its funding for conferences like “Christ at the Checkpoint” and “Impact: Holy Land”, which are created to subvert Evangelical support of Israel, undermines its pledge of neutrality.

Read it all.

 

Over time, the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and prominent left-wing political activist, has devolved from principled ideologue to ideological thug. His speech at the most recent Wild Goose festival, an annual gathering of Christian leftists and old hippies in North Carolina, stands as Exhibit A for the moral and intellectual bankruptcy at the heart of so-called “Christian progressivism.” Alexander Griswold of the Institute on Religion and Democracy reports in the Daily Caller, and you should read the whole article, but I want to focus on a couple of quotes at the end:

Wallis earned the loudest applause of the night with his statement that the Tea Party only existed because Obama was black. “Barack Obama does not make this a post-racial society. This is the first friend I had who has become president. He has been stunned by the reaction to him. There would not be a tea party in America, I will this say this, if there wasn’t a black man in the White House.”

Wallis quickly clarified that you could disagree with Obama and not be a racist, noting that he had disagreements with him over immigration, poverty, and drones. Apparently, criticizing Obama from the left is not racist. “But [the Tea Party’s] disagreement with him is not about policy. It’s about who he is as a black man because he represents the future of America, and that makes a lot of white folks really angry and really scared.”

So apparently one of the most important national leaders of the allegedly evangelical left has never heard of any of the stuff the Tea Party actually objects to. He’s never heard the protests over Obamacare. He’s never heard the denunciations of excessive taxation and regulation. He’s never heard the outcry over violations of the separation of powers, the trampling of religious freedom, or the demonization of dissent. He’s never heard the accusations of lawlessness, knows nothing of the ever-burgeoning number of administration scandals, can’t fathom why anyone objects to Washington grabbing more and more power and control over people’s lives. He knows nothing of any of that. And since he’s ignorant of everything that actually brought the Tea Party into existence, and since he is unable to conceive of why anyone could possibly object to any of this, there is only one possible reason why anyone to the right of Barack Obama could ever object to him.

It’s because he’s black.

We can safely ignore the fact that Tea Partiers were the main supporters of Herman Cain’s presidential bid, because everyone knew he didn’t stand a chance to win anyway. We can also ignore their vocal support of Sen. Tim Scott in South Carolina, because he’s just a “ventriloquist’s dummy.” In fact, we can ignore pretty much any evidence that the Tea Party is not motivated by racial prejudice, because Jim Wallis knows the hearts of those who disagree with him, and knows that they are motivated by “anger” and “fear,” and that such emotions can only come about because they are triggered by racism.

The great thing about this kind of nonsense is that it works both ways. See, I can tell you that progressive Christians like Wallis are all anti-Semites, because they take positions on Israel that differ from mine, and nothing could produce those positions except hatred of Jews. I can tell you that progressive Christians like Wallis hate the poor, because they support a minimum wage increase that will result in many of them losing their jobs, and that kind of policy disagreement can only come about because of hate. I can tell you that progressive Christians like Wallis hate children, because they are in favor of abortion (I know Wallis claims to be against abortion, but that’s not possible, because I know that all progressive Christians are in favor of abortion, so he must be lying about his actual position). I can peer into Jim Wallis’ black little heart, and tell him exactly what he thinks about pretty much anything and why, because I have the same kind of superpowers that he has.

So please help me let the world know that Jim Wallis and his cohorts on the left are all anti-Semites, all support abortion, and all hate the poor. Because I don’t have a platform like the Wild Goose festival to parade my thuggery, so I have to rely on my handful of readers to spread the word. Thank you for your support.

I doubt that this is news to anyone, but Frank Schaeffer, the late Francis Schaeffer’s wayward son, is now being fitted for a straight-jacket. He has officially joined the people who think the government is hiding aliens at Area 51, that the CIA developed AIDS to destroy black America, and that the CDC is even now planning the zombie apocalypse to relieve over-population. We’re talking serious mental illness possibilities, folks.

Schaeffer, long a scourge of religious conservatives, has loped into conspiracy theory territoryover the Hobby Lobby decision. The title–“Hobby Lobby Verdict is a Victory For Ultra-Right Roman Catholic Co-Conspirators With Chuck Colson’s Ghost”–says it all. Apparently the late Chuck Colson and Princeton’s Robert George are responsible for Antonin Scalia’s installation of a cabal of right-wing evangelicals and medieval Romans Catholics in complete control over the bodies of every female in the United States:

Pope Francis must have vomited when he heard the Hobby Lobby news. Nothing could undo the good he has recently done the Church’s image more than yet another case of anti-woman lashing out by a cabal or far right Roman Catholic activists– this time in the Supreme Court.

Alarmed by the Supreme Court pandering to the extreme religious right in the Hobby Lobby case, the new pope might ask “Who is responsible for this?” The answer is: Many people. However two people are the real instigators: the late evangelical far right activist, Charles Colson, and Roman Catholic far right ideologue and anti-gay activist, Princeton Professor Robert George. Their tool has been Justice Antonin Scalia and the other Roman Catholic members of the Court.

George is a close friend and co-conspirator with fellow ultra-conservative far right Roman Catholic ideologues including with Scalia who became the ringleader of the GOP’s Court-driven Hobby Lobby lunge into theocratic politics. George is the de facto father of the twinned war against gays and war against women. Scalia is his follower and close friend. And George has the support of the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, the Mormon leadership and the most conservative of the evangelical leaders. Charles Colson was George’s close confident. Together they hatched the plan that in the end (and after Colson died) became the Hobby Lobby case.

There’s a lot more–Schaeffer manages to bring in the Manhattan Declaration, Karl Rove, the Becket Fund First Amendment law firm, sociological researcher Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, and the National Organization for Marriage. He no doubt wanted to include the Knights Templar and the Illuminati but had space constraints.

Fisking nonsense of this sort is pointless, just as arguing with paranoid schizophrenics about whether the government is really using mind-control rays on them is pointless. But what does it say about the religious left in this country that Frank Schaeffer continues to be treated as though he has something meaningful to say?

That anti-Semitism has penetrated the mainline churches in general, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) in particular, is no secret. (I’ve written about it many time, for instance here.) While some of it is open to public view, much of it is not. Now, NGO Monitor, an Israel-based organization that seeks to both expose anti-Semitism in so-called “human rights” and “humanitarian” organizations and hold them accountable for ignoring their own principles, has ripped the mask off of the lead agitator against Israel within the PCUSA. In a devastatingreport, it gives us a picture of the non-public face of the Israel Palestine Mission Network and its allies in the PCUSA and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

After Viola Larson of Naming His Grace, Ethan Felson of the Jewish Public Affairs Council, and I exposed the Facebook page of the IPMN and its habit of linking to anti-Semitic web sites such as Veterans Today, the page was taken down. Not long after, a new Facebook page was established as a “closed but not secret” page. That meant that only those who are approved by the moderators, including Noushin Framke, the prime public face of IPMN, may post or read what’s on the page. According to NGO Monitor, the page has 289 members, including:

Paid staff of the Presbyterian Church (USA):

•Bill Somplatsky-Jarman, Coordinator, Social Witness Ministries at the Presbyterian Church
•Greg Allen Pickett, General Manager, World Mission at Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
•Rev. Kate Taber, Facilitator for Peacemaking and Mission Partnerships at Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Mission Co-Worker in Israel and Palestine

Presbyterian and Protestant academics:

•Jeri Parris Perkins, Dean of Religious Life at Presbyterian College
•Joshua Ralston, Instructor of Theology at Union Presbyterian Seminary
•Laura Brekke, Director of Religious Diversity at Santa Clara University

Jewish Voice for Peace:

•Rabbi Alissa Shira Wise, JVP’s Co-Director of Organizing
•Rabbi Brant Rosen, Co-Chair, JVP Rabbinic Council
•Rabbi Lynne Gottlieb, Co-founder of Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence, Berkeley, CA, Member of JVP Advisory Board and Rabbinic Council
•Sydney Levy, JVP’s Director of Advocacy

Others:

•Rick Ufford-Chase, for mer PCUSA Moderator and Executive Director, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (an independent body).
•Walt Davis, a key author of Zionism Unsettled and education co-chair of IPMN
•Anna Baltzer, National Organizer at US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
•Jeff Halper, Director of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
•Dalit Baum (“Dov Baum” on the IPMN page), Israel-Palestine Program Director in San Francisco of the American Friends Service Committee

In other words, this page is not made up of anonymous crackpots from the sewers of the Internet. It has a lot of members whose names are well-known in the PCUSA, in mainline circles generally, among anti-Israel activists, and in academia. Obviously the moderators have enough control over the page that, where discussion gets out of the bounds of civilized conversation, and veers off into bigotry, hate, or anti-Semitism, they would be able to delete posts and expel the offenders.

Though they have that control, it would seem that the bounds of civilized discussion at “Friends of IPMN-PC(USA) Israel Palestine Mission Network” are extremely elastic. I can’t get on to the page, but NGO Monitor did, and here’s some of what has appeared without any approbation from the moderators:

 

Not content with declaring that Zionists aren’t Jews, things get down to the Stormfront level when IPMN members decide that Jews aren’t Jews:

And now we’re into Louis Farrakhan “Judaism is a gutter religion” territory. Of course, that “tribal god” line is also used in the “Zionism Unsettled” document, so that’s nothing new for these people.

There’s more, and you’re welcome to take a look at the link to the NGO Monitor report, but I think you get the idea.

As I said above, the moderators from IPMN have more than enough control over this to toss bigots and delete anti-Semitic postings. Why don’t they? Has to be one of two things: either they don’t see, e.g., questioning the Jewishness of millions of Jews as anti-Semitism, or they agree enough so that they have no problem letting it stay there. It’s also interesting that none of the PCUSA leadership, academics, BDS leaders, or Jewish (!) activists have protested any of this. (They can say they have, but that’s meaningless until the page is opened up for public scrutiny.)

So now that these cockroaches have been flushed into the public square, Gradye Parsons and his band of merry pranksters have a choice. They can denounce the IPMN for the anti-Semites and anti-Semite enablers that they are. They can sever all ties between the denomination and the group. (Despite protests to the contrary, PCUSA and IPMN are linked–IPMN gets space on the denominational web site, donations are run through the denomination in order to be tax exempt, the group calls itself the “Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA),” etc.) They can apologize for enabling this hate group to flourish under their wing for so long. They can demand that all material suggesting a connection between PCUSA and IPMN be removed from the latter’s web site and propaganda.

They can do all of this. And I predict that they will do none of it. Because deep down in their black little bureaucrat hearts, Gradye Parsons and the Louisville Mafia agree with the IPMN.

I dare them to prove me wrong.

(Hat tip on NGO Monitor: Viola Larson.)

The Presbyterian Church (USA), having just taken a series of actions to demonize Israel as the source of all evil in the world, now wants American Jews who support Israel to turn the other cheek. The leadership has published “An Open Letter of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to our American Jewish Interfaith Partners” in which they patronize, obfuscate, and desperately seek cover for the tolerance of anti-Semitism in the denomination’s ranks:

We are reaching out to you after our General Assembly’s action, by a 310-303 vote, to recommend to the Presbyterian Foundation and the Board of Pensions to divest from three North American corporations following extensive corporate engagement. The assembly concluded that further engagement would not bring an end to their pursuits that further the Israeli occupation in Palestine. Many of you were with us in Detroit, and your presence and voices were significant. From your presence with us, it was clear that if the assembly acted on divestment, it would deeply affect your communities as well as impact some of our most longstanding interfaith relationships. The assembly’s action came about through much prayer and discernment.

Actually, PCUSA divestment will not end the corporate activities of those companies, either. But it does make the self-righteous Israel-haters feel very good about themselves. As for their “prayer and discernment,” what they actually meant was “political lobbying, one-sided debate, and open demonization of the Middle East’s only democracy.” Whatever.

Of central importance in our deliberations was our continued concern for Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace. How selective divestment may affect the many significant Jewish and Christian relationships at the congregational and national level was also part of the discussion. The close nature of the vote revealed how deeply Presbyterians care about both Jewish and Palestinian neighbors and the assembly’s struggle to make this decision. The assembly explicitly stated that our action to selectively divest was not in support of the global BDS movement. Instead it is one of many examples of our commitment to ethical investing.

What a load of crap. It doesn’t matter how “explicitly” they said they weren’t supporting the BDS movement. That, in fact, is what they did. Words don’t matter, actions do. Their actions, celebrated by BDSers far and wide, were predicated on support for that movement.

As far as their “commitment to ethical investing” goes, here are a few questions for them: do they invest in companies doing business in China? Beijing has occupied Tibet for over 60 years, and done so with far more brutality than Israel would ever hope to muster. Do they invest in companies that do business in Turkey? What do they say about Cyprus? Did they even notice that in the weeks leading up to their recently concluded General Assembly, Russia occupied and then annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine? Did they say a word about it (answer: no)? What about Morocco? It has occupied Western Sahara for forty years, and the PCUSA has just gotten around to thinking about whether they’ll say anything about it. But to PCUSA, none of that matters, because the only real evil that must be confronted world-wide is that of Israel.

The assembly was explicit: our selective divestment of American companies engaged in non-peaceful pursuits that furthers the occupation does not constitute divestment from Israel itself.

Nor does this indicate any desire for the PC(USA) to walk away from our deeply held, multilateral Jewish-Christian relationships. The action included an affirmation of continued interfaith engagement with the Jewish community. We are committed more than ever to sitting at the table and living in community with you.

Yes, they want to continue to talk to Jews, so that they can continue to spit in their faces. At the same time, they continue to harbor in their midst the Israel Palestine Mission Network, a noisy collection of some of the most vicious Israel-haters and, yes, anti-Semites in all of mainline Protestantism. (More on them Monday.) Sure, I can see why Jews should take their protestations of filial feeling seriously.

We believe that being in relationship with the American Jewish communities in authentic ways are central to our Christian values and our shared religious history.

And Jews should care why?

We recognize the hurt that these decisions have caused. We ask that you remain open to us as we participate with you in all our shared spheres of interfaith relationship: our houses of worship, our shared neighborhoods, our workplaces, and even our interfaith families.

They “recognize the hurt.” Big deal. They were warned ahead of time, and they did it anyway, and from all accounts stacked the deck to make sure it happened. The Jewish community should tell them to pound salt.

They then conclude by quoting the full text of resolution 04-04, “On Supporting Middle East Peacemaking.” They did not quote, or refer in any way, to either 04-01 (which calls for PCUSA to ponder the possibility of dropping the mask and calling for a single, Palestinian-dominated state) or 04-09 (which calls for “equal rights” in Israel and the West Bank, without uttering a syllable regarding Palestinian human rights violations or the latter’s desire for a Judenreinstate), both of which passed with large majorities.

With regard to its relationship with American Jews, the PCUSA has made its bed, and then soiled it. It should be made to lie in it until the smell gets overwhelming.

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