Skip to comments.Presbyterians Bearing False Witness
Posted on 06/03/2006 9:22:46 AM PDT by bornacatholic
Last October, American soldiers serving in Iraq stripped the dead body of a young man, tied it to the back of a humvee, and dragged it through the city.
No such incident ever happened, of course. To publish such a story would be to slander Americas men and women in uniform, and we would be right to entertain questions about the motivations and prejudices of a person who would not only accept but repeat such a story.
The story, however, is of a familiar type. Stories casting enemy soldiers as inhumane monsters capable not only of desecrating a dead body, but of the indiscriminate shooting of children and adults are probably as old as war.
Atrocities do occur in wartime, of course, but responsible people are very careful about circulating unverified atrocity stories. Which is why it is troubling to read the atrocity stories circulated recently by a Presbyterian minister, Reverend Arthur Suggs of the Union Presbyterian Church in Endicott.
(The Israelis) stripped the dead (Palestinian) body and dragged it completely around the city behind the jeep.
(Israeli soldiers) tend to arrive around 11 p.m. and randomly break into homes yelling and trashing, all with machine guns pointed in the faces of the family.
(The Israeli) level of spousal and child abuse is one of the highest in the world.
Palestinians, because they are so walled off from the rest of society, they are literally beginning to exhibit more birth defects because people are marrying closer in the families.*
These are classic canards, patently untrue statements invented to demonize members of the hated group, in this case, Israeli Jews.
All four false stories, along with a remarkable amount of anti-Israel rhetoric and misinformation, appeared in a letter written by Rev. Arthur Suggs and published on his sons web page while Rev. Suggs was on a tour of the Holy Land organized by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. While I acknowledge that it is possible that Rev. Suggs is the author of these canards, it seems more likely that he was repeating the things he heard from others. The PCUSA-arranged tour travelled primarily in Palestinian Authority controlled areas and listened to speakers who oppose the Jewish State.
This was as acceptable to the participants as it was to the members of the national staff who made the arrangements. Rev. Suggs letters reveal his dislike of
Israeli soldiers (every blasted one of them armed to the teeth, AK-47 and side arm and baton).
He sought out Arabs, informing them that Im an American studying the occupation of Palestine. When invited to
sit down on these persian carpets and talk politics I was in heaven. I was talking only with muslims. (http://www.ktheory.com/, two entries for May 6, 2006)
But this is not a matter of a single Presbyterian minister exercising poor judgment. Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the PCUSA, has not, as Rev. Suggs did, circulated atrocity stories tied to particular alleged incidents. Rev. Kirkpatrick has, however, freely and repeatedly used language portraying Israelis as immoral monsters, accusing Israel of indiscriminate shooting of children and adults on the streets, merciless attacks, violent madness, inflicting terror, invasion of hospitals, rocket attacks on apartment buildings containing innocent civilians, and brutal attacks on Palestinian police and civilians, including women, men and children inhabitants of refugee camps.
That the leader of the Presbyterian Church USA would use, in describing Israelis, the kind of language that angry, intemperate people use of enemies in time of war is shocking. It can, perhaps, be partially explained by understanding that for many years influential members of the church hierarchy have viewed the Middle East through the eyes of Arabs opposed to the existence of the state of Israel. As PCUSA missionary and missionary-in-residence at Louisville Marthame Sanders put it, as regards the Middle East balanced is absolutely not the right approach.
I am unaware of an instance in which an Israeli Jew who supports the right of the Jewish State to exist was invited to address a national meeting of the Presbyterian Church, USA. Several Palestinian Arabs who do not endorse the right of the Jewish State to exist have had that honor, including Rev. Naim Ateek and Dr. Fahed Abu Ekel, who was elected Moderator by the Church in 2002.
The Churchs relationship with American Jews has also been odd.
Presbyterian Elder Dr. Robert H. Stone, retired professor of Christian ethics at the Presbytreian Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, may have reflected the views of other Presbyterian leaders when he told the press, during a meeting with Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2004, that it was easier to dialogue with terrorists than with Jews when it comes to the Middle East.
Church officials have written similarly dismissive words about American Jews. Church leaders have warned Presbyterians that the emotional rhetoric that Presbyterians encounter in conversation with Jews [that] can easily derail the conversation, and advised them to bring the conversation to the level of personal sharing and away from the sharing of positions. American Presbyterians, that is, should not hold serious conversations with American Jews in which they discuss Middle East in terms of facts and policy. This is so because, in the words of Sarah Lisherness, Coordinator Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, unlike those emotional Jews,
as Christians we have received a gift of discernment, not to be controlled by our animal passions, our reptilian brain, fight or flight reaction to conflict.
Suiting actions to words, the PCUSA has avoided serious engagement with American Jews on these issues, and avoided engagement with Israeli Jews almost entirely, while maintaining close contact with Palestinian Arabs. To take just one example, in February 2005 interested Presbyterians concerned about the divestment issue were invited to attend a training event on the Middle East arranged by the national staff. The featured speakers were four Palestinian Arabs who told stories about dehumanizing encounters with Israeli soldiers at checkpoints. One attendee was troubled by the impression that Israelis are cruel oppressors who push women and detain youth with no good reason.
Listening to the voices of those who dispute the right of Israel to exist, too many Presbyterian clergy and leaders have begun to believe that Israelis are, as Rev. Kirkpatrick put it, the kind of people who would indiscriminate(ly) shoot children and adults. In March, 2002 a number of Christians resident in the Holy Land, including five Presbyterians: Christopher Doyle, PCUSA missionary, Bethlehem; Hala Doyle, PCUSA missionary; Bethlehem, Rev. Marthame Sanders, PCUSA mission worker, Zababdeh, Palestine; Ms. Elizabeth Sanders, PCUSA mission worker, Zababdeh, Palestine; and The Rev. Christine Caton, Christian Peacemaker Team, Hebron, signed an Open Letter to US Secretary of State Colin Powell in which they accused Israel of:
indiscriminate shootings by IDF (Israeli Defense Force) soldiers at checkpoints of civilians, including children, women, the elderly and the disabled ,
US-manufactured missiles shower down indiscriminately on civilian areas from US-manufactured Apache helicopters and F-16 bombers, or from Israeli tanks,
and, more generally, of greed and arrogance, violence and death. Like Rev. Suggs allegation that Israeli soldiers randomly break into homes, these allegations demonize Israeli Jews, employing classic wartime stereotypes of a bloodthirsty enemy lacking human empathy and morals. Rev. Suggs makes clear how thoroughly he accepts the racist stereotypes of Jews as brutal murderers when he writes:
Some other time Ill tell you about what it is doing to the souls of the Israelis (sic) as well. Militarism is hard wired into them at a tender age, such that in dealing with a problem thats (sic) the solution they choose first. And The Israelis (sic) murder somewhere between 1 to 2 per week, usually young males.
This is a very problematic statement. For one thing, murder is not the proper verb for killings that occur as part of gun battles between armed men; it is the verb of choice for demonizing a hated other. Furthermore, accusing an Israeli electorate that has not only voted to trade land for promises of peace, but supported governments that have actually made such trades, of always choosing militaristic solutions is to speak from prejudice rather than evidence. But to accuse an entire nation of being hardwired for militarism is a racist statement.
It is troubling to realize that Rev. Suggs and others could have learned to speak of Israelis in this vocabulary of demonization by reading the Presbyterian News Service. Rev. Alexa Smith, reporting** from Bethlehem in 2002, freely published hearsay accounts that They (the Israeli soldiers) are vandalizing everything, soldiers executed three men in the town, put their bodies in a car and ran over the car with a tank, and about the armys refusal to allow ambulances inside the city to gather the dead and wounded, without any indication that she exercised the diligence of reporters who phone military officials, morgues and hospitals to verify that the reports are not mere lies. (See also this.)
Presbyterians not employed by the national PCUSA often exercise greater caution. Rev. Charles Henderson, also visiting Bethlehem, told of a Palestinian Arab family whose car was riddled with hundreds of bullets and, before the firing stopped, Georges daughter, Christian, age ten, was dead. He does not, however, accuse Israeli soldiers of random or indiscriminate violence. Young Christine, Rev. Henderson explains, was the innocent victim of the Israeli governments policy of targeted assassinations. The Israeli soldiers had mistaken George and his family for terrorists simply because their car was similar in appearance to one the terrorists were known to be driving. Rev. Henderson in his report home avoided unsubstantiated accusations and the language of demonization, showing that it is possible to discuss the situation in the Middle East, and even to advocate for the Palestinian position, without sliding into demonization and unthinking hatred of the other.
Too many Church publications slide easily into the casual demonization of Israeli Jews. To take one last example, a poem entitled Land Holy, was published in inSpire, a publication of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, PCUSA. The editors understood the qustionable nature of the language in the poem, and added a notation that reads:
The editors realize that some of the language might be offensive to some readers. However, we hope that readers will agree that the obscenity of the violence it describes is the real obscenity to be concerned about.
The editors apear to be concerned that they may offend by using a four-letter word, not that accusing Israeli soldiers of shooting people like wild dogs, murdering a child, not believing in God, and stating that the life of an Israeli Jewish child is worth less than a single freckle on the cheek of a Palestinian Arab child might offend.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the poem is that it was later established that the incident the poem describes the deliberate targeting of a Palestinian child by Israeli soldiers never took place.
To date, inSpire has failed to publish a note to that effect.
Here are lines from the poem:
they were shot down in the streets like wild dogs
anti tank missiles fired into buildings, crowds, into families and bodies?
His father reduced to a human shield begging.
we watched this little boy murdered
justifications and the dragging of feet over his blood on the ground
even the ambulance driver who ran to reach him was killed
And fuck an eye for an eye. The body of a twelve-year-old Israeli
boy will not equal one freckle on Ramis cheek
I will remember this little boy murdered in Palestine by those who donot believe in Godthe story on repeat two thousand years after acarpenter was crucified for his magic.
Whether we dismiss this hate-filled poem about an alleged atrocity that never actually ocurred as wartime propaganda, or condemn it as hate-speech because of its vicious language, or excuse it on the grounds that poets take poetic licence, questions remain about why a Prebyterian magazine published such a hate-filled poem, and why Presbyterians officials and clergy continue not only to use the language of demonization when speking about Israel, but to publish false accusations against Israeli Jews.
* The accusation that Israel is causing birth defects by walling off Palestinian Arabs is a politically inspired distortion of the fact that the cousin marriages so highly valued in Arab societies cause a tragically high incidence of birth defects in Arab countries, not only among Palestinian Arabs.
** for more on the language used by the Presbyterian New Service, see this.
That the the" left wing" of the Catholic Church is somehow more liberal than any other bunch of churchmen. Even the Cardinal of Los Angeles is not as liberal
as the recently elected head of the ECUSA in California. If you are talking aboiut postures toward Israel, one of the most pro-Arab cardinals just got his wings-clipped.
"Completing a five-day fact finding mission throughout Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, a group of eleven Presbyterian Church (USA) leaders announced on Monday that the Church's current policy to divest its $7 billion pension fund against the State of Israel is flawed. They called on the PCUSA's over 500 voting commissioners to rescind the policy at its upcoming General Assembly June 15-22, 2006 in Birmingham, Alabama, and to replace it with a positive strategy to bring about genuine peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike. "While adoption of the divestment policy in 2004 created an important focus on the struggle for achieving a solution to the Middle East conflict, it is now time to put aside this one-sided, negative and counter-productive policy that threatens to cause great harm to both Israel and the Palestinians while creating unnecessary polarization within our own denomination," stated NCLCI Executive Committee member Dr. John H. Cushman who is Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Roses in Santa Rosa, California..."
"Completing a five-day fact finding mission throughout Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, a group of eleven Presbyterian Church (USA) leaders announced on Monday that the Church's current policy to divest its $7 billion pension fund against the State of Israel is flawed.
They called on the PCUSA's over 500 voting commissioners to rescind the policy at its upcoming General Assembly June 15-22, 2006 in Birmingham, Alabama, and to replace it with a positive strategy to bring about genuine peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
"While adoption of the divestment policy in 2004 created an important focus on the struggle for achieving a solution to the Middle East conflict, it is now time to put aside this one-sided, negative and counter-productive policy that threatens to cause great harm to both Israel and the Palestinians while creating unnecessary polarization within our own denomination," stated NCLCI Executive Committee member Dr. John H. Cushman who is Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Roses in Santa Rosa, California..."
This website contains information about the money being spent by the Presbyterian Church USA in their promotion of the anti-Israel agenda.
Well, Alex, since, e.g., Prebyterians reject apostolic succession, reject the idea of the priesthood per se, and reject transubstantiation or anything close to it, there's really not much chance of a Presbyterian Eucharist being a valid Catholic sacrament. Sacramental validity requires a valid minister, valid matter (bread made from wheat only, wine mixed with water), valid "form" (the words that are said, and valid intent (the intent to do what the Catholic church does). Unless your Presbyterian minister is a former Catholic or Orthodox (or perhaps Anglican) priest, he's not a validly ordained minister. He probably doesn't have a valid intent, either.
sanctification will never occur, and the Protestant, if he is saved at all, will have to undergo a much longer period of time in Purgatory, to be purged of the effects of sin, than the Catholic will. Do I understand all this right?
Not exactly. You have to remember that God is not bound by the sacraments, in the sense that he is free to save people apart from them. (He is bound by them in the sense that they bind him as oaths -- that what the word "sacrament" means -- but that has nothing to do with what he chooses in regard to someone who doesn't receive them, only with the obligation he imposes on himself with regard to those who do.)
In general, I think it's a good idea to call people to repentance, conversion, and Catholic faith. It's a bad idea to speculate about what happens to them if they don't hear that call, or if they hear it and don't take it to heart. That's not really our problem, after all; it's between them and God.
That's pretty much how I understood the Catholic doctrine on the subject - thank you for confirming it for me. Please note that I'm not trying to debate it (at least not at this time), I'm trying to make sure that I, and the other lurkers, understand it in comparison to Protestant doctrine on the same subject.
You have to remember that God is not bound by the sacraments, in the sense that he is free to save people apart from them. (He is bound by them in the sense that they bind him as oaths...)
Just to confirm what I'm reading here - you're saying God saves by the sacraments, i.e. the (valid) Eucharistic wafer, through transubstantiation (making it Christ's flesh, sacrificed on our behalf) becomes the vehicle/mechanism by which salvation in whole or part is communicated to the believer?
It's a bad idea to speculate about what happens to them if they don't hear that call, or if they hear it and don't take it to heart. That's not really our problem, after all; it's between them and God.
I can more-or-less agree here - speculation can only go so far, stacking "what ifs" on top of "what ifs". What I was hoping to discover is whether this particular belief - salvation outside the Mother Church - is itself a "what if" or whether the Church has ever proclaimed someone a saint who was outside of the Church (since, as I understand Catholic doctrine, of all believers, only saints are held to be assuredly in the presence of God after death).
Interesting that today is the memorial of Charles Lwanga and the other martyrs in Uganda between 1885 and 1887. Not all of them were Catholic, I believe the first was the Anglican bishop.
One of my favorite memorials. The account of their deaths is stunning. Similar to the martyrs at Nagasaki running to their crosses. It seems obvious, to the believer anyway, that there is something other than ordinary human behavior involved.
What's the fuss? Lots of people don't believe that the Israeli's are examplars of truth and justice or models of decency. Are all Presby's expected to mirror the preferred image?
Interesting - am I to understand that these Anglicans were actually canonized (is that the verb form of being declared a saint?) by Pope Paul VI?
I don't think Israelis carry AK47s ... but the Islamofascists world-wide do.
I believe that's correct. They were formally recognized as martyrs, as such they gave the 'supreme witness', united with Christ:
2473 Martyrdom is the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death. The martyr bears witness to Christ who died and rose, to whom he is united by charity. He bears witness to the truth of the faith and of Christian doctrine. He endures death through an act of fortitude.
I believe the Anglican bishop was held for a month before he was executed. He had plenty of time to renounce his faith. I think they all had opportunities to renounce their faith.
Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism(124) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved
*You seem to have a pretty good understanding of what we believe.
As to the other question about odds, who knows? I'd not be willing to bet. I'll post a link to a gentleman who summarises the arguement far better than I can
Virgin and martyr, d. at Rome in the third century. The old Itineraries to the graves of the Roman martyrs, after giving the place of burial on the Via Nomentana of St. Agnes, speak of St. Emerentiana. Over the grave of St. Emerentiana a church was built which, according to the Itineraries, was near the church erected over the place of burial of St. Agnes, and somewhat farther from the city wall. In reality Emerentiana was interred in the coemeterium majus located in this vicinity not far from the coemeterium Agnetis. Armellini believed that he had found the original burial chamber of St. Emerentiana in the former coemeterium. According to the legend of St. Agnes Emerentiana was her foster-sister. Some days after the burial of St. Agnes Emerentiana, who was still a catechumen, went to the grave to pray, and while praying she was suddenly attacked by the pagans and killed with stones. Her feast is kept on 23 January. In the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum" she is mentioned under 16 September, with the statement: In coemeterio maiore. She is represented with stones in her lap, also with a palm or lily.
"Catechumen," in the early Church, was the name applied to one who had not yet been initiated into the sacred mysteries, but was undergoing a course of preparation for that purpose. The word occurs in Gal. vi, 6: "Let him that is instructed in the word, [ho katechoumenos, is qui catechizatur] communicate to him that instructeth him [to katechounti, ei qui catechizat] in all good things." Other parts of the verb katicksein occur in I Cor., xiv, 19; Luke, i, 4; Acts, xviii, 24.
Pretty close. Let me adjust or amplify slightly. "God saves by the sacraments" in the sense that the sacraments are the instrumental cause of our salvation. The meritorious cause is Christ's death.
If I gave you a monetary gift in the form of a check, that check would the instrumental cause of your increase in wealth. The meritorious cause would be my generosity. Notice that nothing implies that I can't give someone else money or tangible wealth without writing them a check; I could use a different instrumental cause.
Sacraments confer sanctifying grace on those who put no obstacle in their way. Sanctifying grace is the indwelling created participation in the divine life of the most Blessed Trinity. It's a sine qua non for salvation, such that you can call it "salvation" itself if you wish.
What I was hoping to discover is whether this particular belief - salvation outside the Mother Church - is itself a "what if" or whether the Church has ever proclaimed someone a saint who was outside of the Church
No, she hasn't.
(since, as I understand Catholic doctrine, of all believers, only saints are held to be assuredly in the presence of God after death)
This isn't correct, if by "saints" you mean "canonized saints". Canonized saints are those Catholics who are recognized (infallibly) by the Church as being in heaven, and are held up to the faithful as examples of heroic virtue to be emulated.
Everyone in heaven is a saint, but there are certainly some and probably very, very many in heaven who are not canonized saints, and never will be. They are the saints whom we commemorate on November 1, the Solemnity of All Saints.
The Jimmy Akin article bornacatholic linked to in #36 is a very good, if somewhat long, explanation of the issues.