On February 9, 2016, the YWCA of Palestine published a Lenten Reflection edited by Rev. Loren McGrail, a pastor in the United Church of Christ.
McGrail works for the YWCA in Jerusalem and her work is supported by Global Ministries, a bureaucracy that serves as the overseas missionary for two mainline Protestant denominations the United Church of Christ headquartered in Cleveland and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), head quartered in Indianapolis. McGrail, who works as a communication officer for the YWCA in Jerusalem, is also supported by the Church of Scotland.
McGrail's reflection promoted a number of falsehoods about Israel that served to demonize the Jewish state. After CAMERA (and The Jerusalem Post) drew attention to hateful falsehoods in the document, the YWCA stopped promoting the text and eventually removed the entire text from its website.
Approximately one day after the YWCA stopped promoting the reflection, Global Ministries, which had been promoting the text to Christians in the United States, eventually removed any reference to the text from its website as well.
CAMERA commended both the YWCA and Global Ministries for their decision.
The text edited by Rev. McGrail was stunningly dishonest and hostile. Promoting such a text to inform the prayer life of Christians was an unconscionable act. The goal of Lent, or the 40 days before Easter, is to promote a longing or hunger for God, not to promote hatred, which is what the document did. Global Ministries and the YWCA in Jerusalem did the right thing by scrubbing the text from the Internet.
Another Hateful Lenten Reflection
The problem, however, does not stop with Rev. McGrail's reflection. Another UCC pastor, Rev. Diane Dulin, who retired from a church pulpit in Oregon in 2014, has written a Lenten Reflection that, like McGrail's, is stunningly dishonest and hostile. (This hasn't stoped the Episcopal News Service from including the text in a list of devotional resources to help Episcopalians observe a holy Lent.)
Instead of challenging her Episcopalian readers to a deeper prayer life in the weeks before Easter, Dulin encourages peace activists to embrace a hostile and merciless attitude toward the Jewish state and its defenders, all in the name of peace and justice.
In Dulin's hands, the New Testament becomes a script that so-called peace activists from churches in the U.S. can follow to demonstrate their moral and ethical superiority over Israeli Jews who have had to struggle with threats to their homeland since its establishment in 1948.
To this end, Dulin's meditation offers a narrative in which Israel's alleged misdeeds are linked thematically to the bad acts and attitudes of first century Jews in Jerusalem who sent Jesus to be crucified. The introduction to the document encourages Dulin's activist readers to view themselves as playing the role of Jesus in a modern-day recapitulation of this struggle. Four of the six meditations (dealing with the first four Sundays of Lent) then describe Israel in anti-Judaic terms, as it is repeating the alleged sins of Jews of first century Jerusalem as described in the Gospel of Luke.
Dulin wrote the reflection while working as a staff member for Kairos Palestine, a group of Palestinian Christian polemicists who first made its debut in December 2009 with the publication of a text titled A Moment of Truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering.
This document, which has been promoted to progressive Christians throughout the world, places singular blame for the Israel-Palestinian conflict on Israel, stating that if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity.
The text, which has been thoroughly condemned by the Central Conference of American Rabbis as superessionist and antisemitic, also uses the theology of land to assess and condemn Israel without offering any criticism of Palestinian leaders. Given her involvement with Kairos Palestine, it should come as no surprise that she has written a hostile document of her own.
Dulin starts off her meditation with a reminder that Christians who follow Jesus are called and also equipped to love God, with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. She also states that advocates for Palestinians are familiar with heartbreak of seeing the Palestinians suffering under occupation and of having their own work subject to defamation. In addition to dedicating her reflections to those who live under the yoke of violence and harassment in Palestine, Dulin dedicates her writing to those who work tirelessly for justice and refuse to give up.
With passages like this, Dulin promotes feelings of victim-hood and self-pity on the part of her activist readers.
In the next for sections of the document which are mediations on the first four of the six Sundays of Lent Dulin encourages readers to view modern Israel through the lens of anti-Judaism.
First Sunday Supporters of Israel Cast as Satan
The meditation of the first Sunday of Lent (March 14, 2016), invokes that day's lectionary reading (Luke 4: 1-13), which tells the story of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the desert. During this confrontation, Satan invokes a passage from Psalm 91 that states angels under God's command will bear you up so that you will not dash your foot against the stone, in an effort to convince Jesus to throw himself from the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem to prove that he is the Son of God. (Jesus responds by saying he will not put God's word to the test.)
Dulin then asks readers to consider what confused Jesus during his time in the desert. Was it the fear that comes from spending a long time in the desert? she asks. Or was the greatest confusion for Jesus the fact that the devil seemed to know scripture quite well and was not shy in quoting? She continues:
How often have we been pummeled with Bible bullets which find a mark within us precisely because we respect scripture? Our desire and practice is not to diminish the power of scripture, even when we disagree strongly with its apparent, literal meaning. Yet, in the lives of those who live in Palestine, the Zionist interpretation of scripture truly has become (in the words of Kairos Palestine) a word of death and not life. (Emphasis added.)
Dulin closes the entry for the first Sunday of Lent with a call for her readers to Walk through the confusion, fear of loneliness of their encounters with life-destroying theologies.
With polemics such as this, Dulin has characterized Israelis and their allies as playing the role of Satan in the desert. She also accuses her adversaries of using Scripture to deadly purpose. Nowhere does Dulin direct her concern toward Islamist ideology and use of scripture, which justifies the murder of Jews in their homeland. In the context of peacemaking, Dulin's silence about jihadist hostility toward Jews and Israel is no innocent omission.
Writing like this represents the weaponization of the New Testament against the Jewish people and their homeland. Dulin has fallen victim to the very sin for which she condemns her opponents.
Second Sunday of Lent
The Lectionary reading for the Second Sunday of Lent (February 21, 2016) is Luke 13: 31-35 which includes a description of Jerusalem as the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!
In her analysis of this passage, Dulin reports that Jesus laments the headstrong rush to ruin which seems to be in Jerusalem's DNA which she includes killing the prophets and stoning those sent by God. She continues:
Jesus' description of the violent nature of the city sounds every bit of the current account of life in Occupied East Jerusalem. Today in real time, Palestinian homes are invaded, stolen, destroyed. Multiple deployments of military and police squadrons descend upon neighborhoods at all times of day and night. Surveillance is constant via land, sky, uniformed soldiers and undercover spies. Skunk water, tear gas, gunshots and human cries of pain fill the air. Targeted assassinations and summary executions seem unbearably gruesome until one learns of atrocities which are even worse: brutal beatings by settlers, merciless force feedings of political prisoners; children, teenagers and whole families set on fire.
The way Dulin frames her litany of atrocities, she makes it appear as if the Israelis are the only people who have done bad things in Jerusalem. Nowhere does she offer any mention of the stabbings, murders, kidnappings, and car attacks that Palestinians have perpetrated against Israelis in recent months. There is no mention of the stabbing intifada that has cost dozens of Israeli Jews their lives since last fall.
This is simply disgraceful. There is no mercy or expression of concern for Jewish life in Dulin's text. There is no attempt whatsoever to acknowledge the humanity of Jews who have been murdered and terrorized in Jerusalem over the past few months (and decades). The apparent goal of the text is to portray modern-day Israeli Jews in the light of New Testament anti-Judaism.
To include such hostility like this in a Lenten meditation ostensibly devoted to peacemaking is abhorrent and inexcusable.
How can the Episcopal News Service promote such a document?
Third Sunday of Lent
The third Sunday of Lent uses Luke 13: 1-9 which includes a discussion between Jesus and his disciples who want to know if people suffer terrible fates because of their sin. Jesus responds by asking if they think that Galileans who died as a result of a tower falling on them were worse sinners than others living in Jerusalem.
In her meditation, Dulin writes:
Those who live in Palestine and those around the world who work for Palestinian justice know well that bad fortune has little to do with God's selective blessings or curses. Day by day, we learn that injustice comes not from acts of God, but rather from the action of human evil. Israel, AIPAC, Knesset leaders, complicit American politicians and the biased American media are strong forces in the current tragic reality of Palestine. Palestinian suffering comes from human sources, false narratives and violent enforcement.
In the following paragraph, Dulin writes that When the false theologies of Zionism, militarism and financial greed start to wear us down, we go to our communities of worship and resistance in order to remember what we know: through our own repentance comes new life with God.
At what point has Dulin encouraged her readers to repent of their sins? By portraying Israel, AIPAC and the Knesset as the singular sources of Palestinian suffering, Dulin is not encouraging her readers to repent, but to view their adversaries with contempt and hostility as an expression of human evil.
Fourth Sunday of Lent
The fourth Sunday of Lent (March 6, 2016) includes the parable of the Prodigal Son, which is told in Luke 15: 11-32. Invoking the celebration that takes place after the return of the son, Dulin writes:
Palestinian community life knows well how to gather in mourning, celebration, protest and worship. Public parades through town for a funeral; open tents of honored welcome for political prisoners who return home for incarceration; joyful parties when a marriage or birth are celebrated; in-home visits to pay respect after a death; public protests which face danger for the sake of freedom --- these are all essential celebrations, although not all of them are happy.
In this passage, Dulin offers a particularly rosy view of Palestinian communal life. There have been many celebrations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinians celebrate after the murder of Israelis by Palestinian terrorists. They also celebrate the release of convicted terrorists from Israeli jails, terrorists who have committed further acts of violence after having been released in prisoner exchanges. And they also incite further acts of violence at public parades and funerals that Dulin tries to portray as a reenactment of the party given in celebration of the return of the Prodigal Son.
Dulin's meditation, is yet another example Israel-bashing and anti-Jewish gibes that has been produced or distributed by the UCC officials, clergy and peace activists over the past two decades.
Hopefully, the production of yet another hateful anti-Israel text by a UCC pastor will prompt responsible members and clergy within the denomination to ask what is happening to their beloved church and why their community has become such a steady source of anti-Israel propaganda into American society.