Monday, October 28, 2013

A bombed church. Gotta be the Zionists' fault.
The Daily Beast has an incomprehensible article that takes a few unrelated facts and half-truths to somehow blame Israel's existence and US support for Israel for the fact that Western Christians are mostly indifferent to the problems of Middle East Christians.

Diarmaid MacCulloch is Fellow of St. Cross College and Professor of the History of the Church, Oxford University. Here's his bizarre thesis:
[O]ne of the silences which I find most frustrating is precisely the lack of noise from Western Christians about the fate of ancient Christianities in the Middle East. At the heart of the problems in the Middle East is seven decades of unresolved conflict between Israel and Palestine, and I notice that when American politicians discuss those matters, they seem to assume that all Palestinians, and indeed all Arabs, are Muslims. Not so: there are Christians there too.... Why this blindness, why this silence?
Given that every single Christmas for over a century there have been articles in major American and British papers about the Christian community in Bethlehem, this first assertion seems not very plausible. (Not to mention that even after seeing two years of Arab upheavals, MacCulloch  still places Israel at the center of all Middle East problems.)

But even if US politicians were uncommonly stupid, isn't this article about the silence of normal Christians? Are they equally unaware that Christians live in the Middle East?

His second unrelated point:
The problem is a Protestant one, going right back to sixteenth-century Reformation. From Martin Luther onwards, many Protestants have eagerly been awaiting an imminent end to the world, the return of Christ in glory. Reading the Bible, it’s easy to link this to the idea that a necessary precondition for Christ to return is that his ancient people the Jews convert to the Christian faith...But by the nineteenth century there was a further thought: the Jews must return to their Promised Land of Israel. In 1846 there was founded a worldwide Evangelical Alliance. One of its main concerns was to return Jews to Palestine and convert them there...
Yeah, we know that. So let's go to a third mostly unrelated point:

Fast-forward to the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. For some years after that, American relations with Israeli governments were dominated by power politics. ... [I]n the 1980s [American politicians] discovered a large constituency emphatically in favour of Israel, precisely for reasons related to the apocalypse....

Now American Evangelicals made common cause with the Jewish community in the United States, and they seemed to care little if at all for the opinions or the sufferings of their fellow-Christians in the ancient Churches of the Middle East. Israeli politicians have not been slow to exploit this political windfall, caring little for the fact that Evangelical apocalypticism expected the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. American foreign policy has for decades seemed locked into hardly questioning its support for the State of Israel, even though the consequences for its relations with the Arab and Muslim world, and with others, are almost entirely negative. They have been particularly dire for the traditional Christianities of the Middle East.
OK, so the US - by siding with Israel to make US evangelicals happy - has caused Arab Muslims to turn against Arab Christians.

Um, what?

This has to be one of the most bizarre anti-Israel arguments I've ever seen, and I've seen some doozies. Although to call it an "argument" seems too charitable. It is more a vain attempt to blame Israel for Christian suffering throughout the Arab world by throwing things against the wall and hoping they would stick.

Exactly how does one draw a line from "US support for Israel" to "Muslims drive Christians out of all Arab countries"? How much can one twist facts in order to absolve Arabs from their actions?

But MacCulloch's theory is even nuttier. He still doesn't give a reason for those crazy evangelicals to ignore their fellow Christians. If they were all Islamophobes, wouldn't they be in the forefront of the campaign to defend Arab Christians from Muslims?  Apparently, somehow, their support for Israel means that they don't have the mental capacity to understand that more than one thing can happen in the Middle East at once. It must be that they are just too stupid.

That's not all. MacCulloch thinks that US Zionist evangelicals are the only Christians on the planet who have the ability to help their fellow Christians. What about non-evangelical Americans? What about the entire continent of South America? What about European Christians? Are they all completely impotent because US Zionist Christians have taken over the entire religion?

What continent is the Vatican in again?

The entire article reveals much more about MacCulloch's mentality than about any reality in the Middle East. Rather than try to puzzle out the illogic of this piece, try this on for size:

1) MacCulloch is upset that Christians have been silent about Muslim persecution.
2) MacCulloch hates Israel and Christian Zionists.
3) Therefore, Israel and Zionism must be at fault for Christian apathy.

The rest is all detail. (And absolving the actual people doing the persecution is obligatory, as long as Zionists can be somehow blamed.)

Even the Daily Beast employee who wrote the subheading of the article can't quite figure out MacCulloch's argument:
Why has the suffering of the Middle Eastern Christian communities not ignited outrage and support from Western Christians? The answer has something to do with Israel and the Second Coming, writes Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch.

(h/t Daniel F)

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