WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

As I watched it on the news, I could hear whistles and shouts of “shame on you” as tents were thrown in to rubbish trucks. This happened when Occupy London Stock Exchange activists were evicted from outside St Paul’s Church in London after many months of occupation by people protesting the excesses of capitalism. This was not the first eviction and obviously not the first time that a government had crushed the voice of the oppressed – of course we heard stories of the Occupy Wall Street, the Occupy Oakland and Occupy Nigeria at the beginning of the year and many more sweeping across the globe, which have mainly dwindled into oblivion. What made this stand out in my mind was a question one of the protesters held high at the beginning of the camping at St. Paul’s – “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?”


In my view, which I am sure, may be nuanced or even crass, all these people had not simply been after the downfall of capitalism and neoliberalism, rather, I saw their actions as acts of prayer – calling on those whom God had put in authority to do some introspection and change their attitude towards the less privileged. I therefore did not see these protests as simply one against capitalism or neoliberalism, but one that was aimed at eliciting a response from all people of God worldwide.

At this stage, I am sure you will be wondering exactly what I mean by prayer. My view is not much different from yours.

PRAYER: MY UNDERSTANDING

I understand prayer to be the practice of invoking the presence of God.  It is that place where pride is abandoned, hope is lifted, and supplication is made.  Prayer is that place of admitting our need, of adopting humility, and claiming dependence upon God.  Prayer is that needful practice of the Christian or the Moslem.  Prayer is that exercise of faith and hope.  Specifically, in Christendom, prayer is that privilege bequeathed to man, of touching the heart of the Father through the Son, Jesus.

Prayer is therefore, not a one-way traffic. It is an action that should elicit a response. Prayer is an action that is expected to provoke a soothing reaction that should equal or overwhelm the expectations of the interlocutor.

Another question that just crossed my mind, and I guess yours, is, who should do the reacting?

WHO ANSWERS PRAYERS AND HOW?

The answer to the WHO is obvious but I think the HOW is one that calls for closer analysis. From Old Testament times, God has answered prayers but I rarely can recall any time he did so without making use of an intermediary. Joseph was used to save his family from famine. Moses was used to liberate the Israelites from bondage and all the miracles that occurred throughout the process came as a direct result of an action by Moses on God’s directives. Different prophets played similar roles, culminating in the coming of Jesus Christ who is the Messiah! He is the liberator! His manifesto can be summed up in the words – “’The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”. How then did Jesus fulfil this mandate in his time? He did this by practically healing the sick and preaching to the people.

And oh! He did not only end there… he was always acting as an advocate for those who could not speak for themselves, the apogee and decisive moment being the driving from the Temple (which coincidentally happens to be the Gospel reading for this third Sunday of Lent). I will not want us to conclude that the people who did the different forms of businesses in the Temple were capitalists. What we can all agree on, however, is that they both represent a class or an ideology that is oppressive and exploitative. But has Christianity been living up to its expectation of being a voice for the oppressed? Can God still use us as instruments for answering prayers? Marx did not think so, and many secularists may agree… but I would not be too quick to concur because we can still use Jesus’ as the Way to direct our actions.

SO! WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

It is my opinion that had Jesus simply preached and healed the sick, he would still have been a thorn in the flesh of the Pharisees and Sadducees but he may not have been killed. The cleansing of the Temple, an episode described in all four Gospels: St. Matthew (21:12-13), St. Mark (11:15-18), St. Luke (19:45-46), St. John (2:14-17) was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. The Chief Priest and his family were making a fortune from the sale of animals for sacrifices and for all the money-changing, which was the only means to obtain the currency to buy animals and birds for sacrifices. Outraged, Jesus made a whip of cords and drove them out of the Temple.”… and he went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold there. He upset the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dealers in pigeons; and he would not allow anyone to carry goods through the temple court. Then he began to teach them, and said, ‘Does not scripture say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it a hideout for thieves.’ (Mark 11:15-17). This singular action was pivotal in Caiaphas’ doggedness that Christ should die, to save the source of the illegal wealth being amassed by his family.

I am sure at this stage it is already obvious what Christ would do in the wake of all the protests against oppression going on in the world. He will make a whip, go in and drive out the exploiters. That is to say, he will show solidarity towards those suffering, not just by speaking from a pulpit but actually confronting the suffering ad radice. This is the surest means of bringing liberation and prosperity to any people. Failure to be Christ-like in our attitude towards the poor and marginalised is to invite criticisms.

Little wonder Nkrumah accused Christianity of being an instrument of transferring the attention of the people from “inside” the universe to “outside” the universe. This is a contradiction to the liberating power of Christianity, which takes effects with the gaze of people fixed on things outside the world, and the things inside the world which conditions the existence of every human being suffering neglect. If Christianity is failing to have an impact in Africa, the problem rather than being too much religion, as secularists would want us to believe, lies with our failure to make credible use of its liberating power.

In conclusion, it is my belief that if our prayers are to be meaningful in bringing about solace in a scourged world, they should be matched by an equal measure of action. God will only answer prayers by relying on you and me to take the right action and condemn the wrong one without fear of retribution. To borrow from Wole Soyinka, “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny” and so Christ dies in all who do not proactively show solidarity with the oppressed.

Britain may be a Christian Country… (nsnbc.wordpress.com)

but its government marches to the beat of another drum

Prime minister David Cameron has told Britain: “We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so.”

He was speaking on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the King James version of the Bible which, he said, had helped to give Britain a set of values and morals that make us what we are today.

And Cameron doesn’t accept the argument about the church not getting involved in politics. “To me, Christianity, faith, religion, the Church and the Bible are all inherently involved in politics because so many political questions are moral questions.”

True, but can our churchmen ‘do politics’? They perpetually fail to get a result even on the Church’s ‘home turf’, the Holy Land.

It’s painful to be reminded that while Israel was planning its murderous 3-week assault on the people of Gaza (including the Christian community there), which it launched three Christmases ago, the Archbishop of Canterbury was visiting the former Nazi camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland with the Chief Rabbi to show joint solidarity against genocide.

“This is a pilgrimage not to a holy place but to a place of utter profanity,” he announced. “How shall we be able to read the signs… that evil is gathering force once again?”

He needed to look no further than the prison camp that the Holy Land has been turned into by the never-ending Israeli occupation. Couldn’t he sniff the stench of profanity besieging the Gaza Strip which, some claim, Israel uses as a warfare laboratory? Hasn’t he noticed a strong whiff of evil in the judaisation of Jerusalem and the expulsion of its non-Jewish citizens?

And when the Archbishop visited the Holy Land in 2010 the Israelis prevented him seeing the horrors their thugs had inflicted on Gaza and obstructed him in his Christian mission there. But he still fraternised with their rabbinate and their President, and paid homage to Yad Vashem and the Holocaust, thus appearing to legitimise the blockade, the persecution of Muslim and Christian communities and Israel’s contempt for international law and human rights.

The Pope fell for the same propaganda trick.

The Church clearly needs the mother of all shake-ups before it’ll be capable of rolling up its sleeves and getting political.

Our not-so-Christian government

Britain as a country may still be Christian but what about its government? Mr Cameron describes himself as a “committed” Christian but only a “vaguely practising” one. What does that mean? Are Christian principles getting in his way?

Or is he sending a coded message of comfort to friends in Tel Aviv and Washington?

For Cameron also claims to be a Zionist.

He voted enthusiastically for the Iraq war, an irresponsible and un-Christian thing to do based on neo-con lies. And look what it has cost in lives and wholesale destruction. Now he and foreign secretary William Hague are upping sanctions designed to cripple the Iranian economy and bring misery to that country’s civilian population. Shades of Iraq… sadistic action once again based on mere suspicion of wrongdoing, not actual proof. Is this proper behaviour for even the “vaguest” of Christians?

The political baggage Cameron has brought with him includes a foreign secretary who has been a member of Conservative Friends of Israel since his teenage years and a minister for Middle East affairs who’s a former officer of that same fan club.

His defence secretary Liam Fox, now departed in disgrace, was dubbed “a champion of Israel within the government”. He famously said: “In the battle for the values that we stand for, for democracy against theocracy, for democratic liberal values against repression – Israel’s enemies are our enemies…”

How can it be right for Ministers of the Crown to make such ludicrous commitments to a belligerent foreign power that continually defies international and humanitarian law and, I hear, shoots children for amusement – according to a horrifying article by surgeon David Halpin, The methodical shooting of boys at work in Gaza by snipers of the Israeli Occupation Force’? 

When Cameron became Conservative leader he proclaimed: “You need to know that if I become Prime Minister, Israel has a friend who will never turn his back on Israel.” And once in Downing Street he pledged: “In me, you have a Prime Minister whose belief in Israel is indestructible…I want to be clear, we will always support Israel…”

Supporting Israel means, of course, endorsing the regime’s lawlessness and criminal ambitions. Is that an option for a real Christian? And when will Mr Cameron have time to concentrate on Britain’s best interests in the Middle East, which is the job he was elected for?

Furthermore Britain, like all other countries that think themselves civilised, is under a solemn international obligation to make sure there’s no hiding place for the world’s vilest criminals. It’s a responsibility no Christian should shirk. However, when Tzipi Livni, who was responsible for mounting Operation Cast Lead and for the 1,400 deaths that followed, complained that a warrant had been issued for her arrest in London, Cameron and Hague immediately mangled our Universal Jurisdiction laws to create a safe haven for her and other Israelis wanted for crimes against humanity.

Having ensured that Madam Livni could safely go shopping in Bond Street, the devoted Mr Hague said: “The UK is committed to upholding international justice and all of our international obligations. Our core principle remains that those guilty of war crimes must be brought to justice.”

The Zionist cuckoo in Christianity’s nest

Cameron waxes lyrical about the King James Bible but acts as if he was brought up on the less admirable Scofield version, which has been the standard religious text on the other side of the Atlantic.

Cyrus Scofield, a convicted criminal and described by one American newspaper as “a shyster”, was commissioned to re-write the King James version by inserting Zionist-friendly notes. The idea was to change the Christian view of Zionism by creating and promoting a pro-Zionist sub-culture within Christianity. The Oxford University Press appointed Scofield as editor, and the Scofield Reference Bible has been a best-seller especially in the US for nearly 100 years.

It introduced a new worship icon, the modern State of Israel, which did not exist until 1948 but was already on the drawing board of the World Zionist movement.

American journalist Grace Halsell explained the re-hashed Biblical message: “Simply stated it is this: Every act taken by Israel is orchestrated by God, and should be condoned, supported, and even praised by the rest of us. Never mind what Israel does, say the Christian Zionists. God wants this to happen…

“Scofield said that Christ cannot return to earth until certain events occur: The Jews must return to Palestine, gain control of Jerusalem and rebuild a temple, and then we all must engage in the final, great battle called Armageddon. Estimates vary, but most students of Armageddon theology agree that as a result of these relatively recent interpretations of Biblical scripture, 10 to 40 million Americans believe Palestine is God’s chosen land for the Jews.”

Ultra-literal reading of certain Old Testament texts has persuaded Zionists to believe that Old Testament promises made to the ancient Jewish tribes are transferable to the largely unrelated people that comprise the modern state of Israel. They hope for, and are obviously working towards, the final battle they call Armageddon, in which Israel’s enemies (and God’s, of course) will be defeated. After that Jesus will return as the Jewish Messiah and King to reign in Jerusalem for a thousand years, and the Jewish people will enjoy privileged status in the world.

That is the Zionist dream of world domination in a nutshell.

We see how politicians become eager stooges, but if you are as puzzled as I am how a true Christian could possibly be taken in by Zionism, a short paper on the phenomenon is available from Sadaka http://www.sadaka.ie/Articles/Papers/PAPER-Christian_Zionism.pdf.

An effective antidote is The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, a statement by the Latin Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches in Jerusalem issued in 2006 http://imeu.net/news/article003122.shtml. They are in the front line. They know the score. It is summed up in a single sentence:

We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as a false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.”

Merry Christmas, Mr Cameron.

Source: Stuart Littlewood on nsnbc

21 December 2011

Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine can now be read on the internet by visiting www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk