October 12, 2004
Friend of FLAME:
A conference of the Presbyterian Church recently recommended that
the church divest investments it oar that some Episcopalians, Methodists and other religious
groups are discussing similar anti-Israel actions. Lest anyone believe
that this "movement" is a pure-hearted reaction to the extraordinarily
ignominious actions of Israel among all the world's culprits, the
article below provides valuable context. In it we learn that certain
left-leaning religious bodies have long ignored the transgressions
of the world's most brutal countries, choosing instead to condemn
the U.S. and Israel. "When Churches Head Left" was written
by John Leo, a columnist and contributing editor at U.S. News &
World Report, and published by townhall.com. Anyone affiliated
with the churches mentioned below would do well to actively head off
similar misplaced political actions by church leaders . . . before
more damage is done to Israel, to America and to the churches
When Churches Head Left
townhall.com, October 11, 2004
By John Leo
America's mainline protestant churches are in trouble. One sign is
shrinking membership. Another is turning their political policymaking
over to fringe leftists whose deepest instinct is to blame America
and pummel Israel whenever possible. The latest disgrace is the Presbyterian
Church's plan for selective divestment in Israel ending the church's
investment in multinational companies that the church believes bear
particular responsibility for the sufferings of the Palestinian people.
For example, the Presbyterians say they may divest themselves of Caterpillar
stock, because bulldozers made by that company are used to level Palestinian
homes in Israel's antiterrorism campaign. Of course, these bulldozers
can also be used to move debris after Palestinian suicide bombers
have finished blowing up another round of women, children, and other
civilian bystanders in Israel.
How do the Presbyterians go about adopting stances like this? Apparently
they cast a stern moral glance around the world, look for possible
abuses in China, North Korea, and Iran, and seeing nothing disturbing
there, decide to focus once again on Israel. The conservative Institute
on Religion and Democracy (IRD) released a measured and devastating
report on the human-rights efforts of mainline churches and groups--the
United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Episcopal
Church, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), plus the reliably leftist
National Council of Churches and World Council of Churches. The report,
covering the years 2000 to 2003, found that of 197 human-rights criticisms
by mainline churches and groups, 37 percent were aimed at Israel and
32 percent at the United States. Only 19 percent of these criticisms
were directed at nations listed as "unfree" in Freedom House's
respected annual listing of free, partly free, and unfree nations.
So Israel was twice as likely to be hammered by the mainliners as
all the unfree authoritarian nations put together. The fixation on
Israel left little time and inclination for these churches to notice
the most dangerous violations of human rights around the world.
Not one nation bordering Israel was criticized by a single mainline
church or group, the IRD report says. No criticisms at all were leveled
at China, Libya, Syria, or North Korea. Human-rights groups are normally
accorded great respect for the work they do. But the rights work of
the mainline churches is basically a one-sided expression of ideology America
is essentially viewed as a malignant force in the world, while Israel
is seen as nothing more than a dangerous colonial implant of the West.
The IRD report says the mainliners' "pervasive anti-Americanism
is demonstrated time and again in their public-policy advocacy, and
one need not investigate far to find it." Later, the report says,
"When U.S. policy cannot be blamed, the mainline denominations
seem less interested in speaking up for the victims."
Anti-Americanism is an old story in the mainline church bureaucracies.
During the 1970s and 1980s, these churches generally ignored human-rights
abuses in the Soviet Union and focused instead on the United States
as the primary source of abuse. One result was to scorn dissident
movements, such as Solidarity in Poland, which were pressing Moscow
for more freedom. The persistent folly of the World Council of Churches
on this issue made news in July when its former president, Konrad
Raiser, apologized for not supporting freedom movements during the
Cold War. At this rate, a future president of the World Council might
decide he's finally ready to apologize for ignoring severe abuses
in today's vicious dictatorships, oh, sometime maybe around 2030.
The Presbyterian divestment plan seems to be an obvious effort to
get an anti-Israel bandwagon rolling among the churches. The Episcopalians
quickly obliged, letting it be known that divestment in companies
doing business with Israel is now up for discussion. A high-level
group from the church recently toured the Middle East, meeting with
Yasser Arafat but not with any Israeli officials. Par for the course.
The divestment movement is a pretty big issue on some college campuses,
supported by Muslim students and aging professors committed to blaming
the West for all the world's evils. As part of this effort, Israel
is routinely equated with the apartheid regime in South Africa and,
by implication, with the Nazi regime in Germany. Despite all the inflammatory
and one-sided rhetoric, no university has ever come close to supporting
Many Jews see the divestment movement as an instrument of anti-Semitism.
Maybe it is, but the efforts of the woeful mainline churches are better
seen as classic knee-jerk leftism, an expression of hard-core loathing
for the United States and the West, with Israel as a stand-in for
America. The mainline churches believe they still stand for high moral
purpose in politics. They don't. They can no longer be taken seriously
on politics or human rights.
©2004 Universal Press Syndicate
This article can be found at http://www.townhall.com/columnists/johnleo/jl20041011.shtml.