CAMERA Analyst Assesses Presbyterian General Assembly

CAMERA’s Christian Media Analyst, Dexter Van Zile, who has written extensively about Christian anti-Zionism (see also, here, here, here, and here) offers his analysis of the events at the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly which took place in July in an article published in the September issue of The New English Review. The article, titled “Oslo Syndrome Redux?” asks “Have the groups offering praise for the events that took place in Minneapolis deluded themselves into thinking that a fundamental change has taken place in side the PC(USA)? Are they the new ‘Oslo Group’?”

Van Zile’s assessment is that anti-Zionism is still a powerful movement within the PC(USA) but that a growing number of people including movers and shakers within the denomination are starting to recognize the damage it is doing to the church they lead. He writes:

There are still some committed anti-Zionists in this church who are obsessed about Jewish influence on American politics and who want others to embrace this obsession. Their strategy is to turn the legislative bodies within the PC(USA) – meetings of local presbyteries and the biannual General Assembly – into Kangaroo courts where Israel is placed in the seat of judgment and subjected to accusation after accusation while the actions of its adversaries are ignored or downplayed.
What has changed is that people inside the denomination realize just how destructive this process has become and that it is time for the church to figure out a way to advocate for the Palestinians without demonizing Israel.
“We have come to a position of Palestine good, Israel bad. Life is not that simple,” Rev. Susan Zencka, pastor at Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, told the Associated Press on July 10, 2010.

In his piece, Van Zile reports that anti-Israel activists have attacked mainstream Jewish groups in the United States in some pretty ugly ways. In particular, the Israel-Palestine Mission Network of the PC(USA) has portrayed “Jewish pro-Israel activism as the bogeyman of American society.”

Van Zile concludes his piece as follows:

People will be watching the PC(USA) pretty closely for the foreseeable future. The denomination’s peace activists have engaged in some pretty irresponsible behavior over the past several years. They’ve demonized Israel, ignored the misdeeds of its adversaries and attacked Jewish groups in the U.S. in pretty ugly ways. The events in Minneapolis indicate the denomination has found another way to work for peace in the Middle East.
Hopefully for everyone’s sake, this is in fact the case, because as [prominent Presbyterian] Gustav Niebuhr said, “Reputations are hard to win and they are easy to lose.”

The article can be read in its entirety here.

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