Latest posts on Christian Aid

Why 'Christian Hate?'? An introduction to the blog

Places Christians shouldn't go A quick tour of Christian Hate?'s case against Christian Aid

Christians and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Read all my posts on this topic

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Goodwill to men (Jews need not apply)

There's an important post from Melanie Phillips on British Christian attitudes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

If you believe that the left-liberal worldview is the only game in town - and you're not Jewish - you will almost certainly think her attack on the churches is way over the top, not to say paranoid. In which case I'd like to refer you to the Tablet's opinion poll quoted at the end of the post.

The usual caveats about on-line polls apply. The "sample" is entirely self-selecting, and its composition could have been heavily distorted by other sites pointing their readers to the poll. There is no way of knowing for sure that they were not all Peruvian Scientologists. Nevertheless, I'd say a total of 2,815 responses is not so suspiciously large as to make it doubtful that most of them are genuine Tablet readers.

So we're talking about the high and liberal area of the theological spectrum: Catholics, Roman or Anglo, Guardian and Independent readers to a (wo)man. People who would vehemently reject the suggeston that they are in any way anti-Semitic.

But if look at the responses to just two of the questions we find something that takes us beyond the realm of woolly, well-meaning liberalism. 77.6% agree that the churches should 'campaign for the dismantling of the security wall'. Just 57.3% think they should 'call on the Palestinians to recognise Israel and renounce violence'. The difference between these two figures represents slightly more than a fifth of the respondents who positively support the killing of Israeli civilians by Palestinian militants/terrorists. A shocking statement, but it's a matter of simple logic. They don't think the terrorists should stop, and they don't think the Israelis should be allowed to stop them.

I think there's an urgent need for research on the precise mentality and psychology that's coming into play here. But whatever it may be, the end result is clear. Like the Crusaders who rampaged through the Rhineland in 1096 - themselves the radicals of their day - these people have found their way to a reason why killing Jews is a Good Thing.

I have another piece of evidence that the poll is not an aberration. Two years ago Christian Aid were running their 'Child of Bethlehem' Christmas appeal. In one of my early posts I pointed out how this drew for emotional appeal on the archetype of Christian anti-Semitism: the Jews as Christ-killers.

And emotional appeal it certainly had. In their annual trustees' report and accounts (accessible via the Charity Commission but apparently not on CA's own site - transparency?) CA note with satisfaction:-

'The 2004 Child of Bethlehem Christmas appeal featured Jessica Safar, a seven-year-old injured during fighting in the region, .whose family is learning to live with the Israeli separation barrier.

The appeal used this single powerful case study across all communications . The result was a significant increase in donations - income from churches doubled compared to the previous year.'

Doubled from £1.1m to £2.2m. There's evidently quite a market among churchgoers for the notion that poverty and oppression are especially appalling when they can be blamed on Jews.

Theological liberals tend to be optimistic about human nature (Pelagianism is the technical term). In the political sphere this translates into a confidence that their own enlightened attitudes constitute a gnosis enabling them to discern a simple moral dichotomy of right and wrong, exploiter and exploited, oppressor and oppressed, in the most intractable of political problems. 'If only everyone was like us...'

But when the old Adam peeps out like this from their most passionately held moral certainties, they provide what for me at least is a devastating critique of their own theology. 'We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies', says the Book of Common Prayer, which I am coming increasingly to value.

Just 5.7% of the poll respondents thought the churches should 'not intervene and simply pray for peace'. Perhaps the rest objected to the Tablet's theologically revealing notion that prayer is not 'intervention'. Or perhaps not. There can be no authentically Christian intervention that is not rooted in prayer: prayer for peace, yes, prayer that holds up all sides in the conflict before the Lord, but also prayer that acknowledges our own fallibility and prejudices through which, left to our own devices, we can all too easily make matters worse rather than better.

No comments: