Analysis: Christian group reveals total bias

By Simon Rocker, July 8, 2010

The Methodist Church's report, "Justice for Palestine and Israel", was bound to raise strong Jewish reaction on any number of grounds.

It blames Israel almost wholly for the impasse in the Middle East peace process with only a glancing reference to Hamas and no mention of its pledge to destroy the state. It offers a history of the conflict derived from sources largely critical of Israel. It says that some Methodists even support a "total boycott" of Israel until "the occupation ends".

But just as troubling is its call to review the validity of Zionism.

The report, for example, reopens the question of supersessionism - the traditional belief held by some Christians that the Church represents the "New Israel" which inherited the promises made by God in the Hebrew Bible. Although recognising that such teachings led to an "ugly legacy" of anti-Judaism, the authors did not reject the doctrine of supersessionism out of hand.

While noting God's promise of Israel to Abraham, they say, "it sits uncomfortably with many modern Methodists to imagine a God who singles out individuals or groups in order to promise possessions."

This theme was picked up during last week's Methodist conference by one of the report's authors, the Reverend Nichola Jones, who remarked that Jesus never speaks of the land as part of God's promise. "He teaches us that God is not a racist God who has favourites."

The authors are certainly troubled by "Christian Zionism", calling for investigation into its role in "the ongoing problems of the Middle East". They say the majority of the US pro-Israel lobby is made up of Christians whose reading of the Bible leads them to believe that Israel is beyond reproach.

The creation of the state of Israel has certainly posed theological questions to Christians, in particular those who saw Judaism as a fossilised religion which had been transcended by the advent of Jesus.

But surely there is a place for a more nuanced form of Christian Zionism able to accommodate both support for a two-state solution and the enduring attachment of Jews to their ancient homeland.

Last updated: 2:26pm, November 8 2010