Monday, November 27, 2017


Last time, I discussed how perfectly reasonable decisions by the American Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) to minimize issues that divide (notably doctrine) in favor of matters that could unite (fighting for secular political causes) had negative (and linked) unintended consequences.
Most significantly for PCUSA: these choices led to an acceleration of the membership decline the new priorities were supposed to stem. But for the Jewish community, the elevation of politics made the church vulnerable to the blandishments of BDS, a propaganda campaign ready to demand (for years and decades if necessary) that anyone claiming to fight for “social justice” must embrace their anti-Israel hysteria or else.
Another Protestant group – the Quakers – have also embraced religiously inspired anti-Israel animus, with far more vengeance than their Presbyterian brethren. In fact, outside of Muslim organizations or fringe front groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, there are few institutions in the country more dedicated to BDS than the Quakers. But their trajectory towards this position was different than that of the Presbyterians in several subtle but significant ways.
To begin with, Quakerism already experienced membership collapse in the US centuries ago when it moved from serious Protestant contender in Colonial times (when as much as a third of Colonial Americans may have been Quaker) to the tiny sect it is today with fewer than 80,000 members in the country.
Quakerism also reinvented itself in the early 20th century, becoming the religious focal point for political Pacifism, a position that put the group at odds with the American government and public in the run up to World War I. In the face of this hostility, church organizations and members showed courage in standing up for their Pacifist beliefs, volunteering for alternatives to military service that put individual Quakers in harm’s way without requiring them to kill.
But something happened to this pacific sect as the Second World War gave way to the Cold War. For, as this piece describes, Quaker politics (always presented as religiously inspired) moved from condemning all violence from all sides anywhere and anytime, to becoming a critic of US foreign policy and champion of Left Wing causes – including causes whose members refused to give up the gun.
Given this evolution, it’s easy to see how the obsession of today’s Quakers with Israel fits the church’s postwar political framework. But the church’s direct involvement in the Middle East also lent elements of religious bigotry (in the form of Supersessionism) to the brew.
Supersessionism was originally a widespread Christian belief which held that the covenant God gave the Jews at Sinai was passed on to those who accepted Christ’s divinity. This is what allowed generations of Christians over the Millennia to treat Jews among them not as forerunners to the faith, but as has-beens whom God has rejected in favor of believers in the new creed.
Both Catholicism and Protestantism wrestled with their own churchs Supersessionist history and theology, especially given the contributions that belief system lent to historic anti-Semitism and, ultimately, the Holocaust.
Mainstream rejection of Supersessionist beliefs left this theology confined to the religious/political fringes. For the straight-on anti-Semitic Right, mouth-breathing shouts of “You will not replace us!” carry the irony of accusation against a people (You = Jew) whom Identity Christians believe they have already replaced in God’s eye.
On the other end of the political spectrum, chants of “Palestine from the River to the Sea,” spell out who is to succeed whom in the Holy Land, with all the dark consequences for the Jewish state and the Jews who make it up one does not have to imagine. Yet this is the very goal Quakers routinely defend with religious language and fervor, oblivious to the violent history of those they support and the bloodshed their vision of “justice” would unquestionably entail.
If the notion of a Pacifist religious organization enthusiastically supporting (and sometimes leading) the propaganda arm of a violent war against the Jewish state strikes you as incongruous, keep in mind that the leadership of today’s Quaker organizations have nothing to do with the courageous men and women from a century ago who struggled to balance their personal moral beliefs with their commitment to the wider society.
Rather, today’s church is led by partisan charlatans who live off moral capital produced by their forefathers, capital they have chosen to spend by handing the organization’s name and reputation over to violent bigots.
When the self-righteous sell their souls, they tend to inflate the evil of those they fight against in order to justify the corruption they have let loose within their own institutions. So it should come as no surprise that Quakers fearful of the devil they must confront in the mirror put so much effort into convincing themselves and others that the Zionist enemy they have invested so much in attacking must represent not God nor man, but Satan.



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