Willie Jennings: We Need A New Theology of Israel

Today, Stuart posted on the latest developments of the World Council of Churches, and how it now has implicated the nation of modern Israel as the key impediment to the Christianization of the Middle East. In fact according to this document, one would think that only Israel is at fault for not there not being Christians in the “Middle East” (middle of where, east of what? seriously).

Besides the obvious religious differences of Muslims, Christians and Jews being overlooked, the document overlooks the racist history of European Christianity in the region. It is quite convenient, and quite telling. In fact, I would say that the World Council of Churches functions off of supersessionist principles from white liberal theology. It is not supersessionist for criticizing Israel. I am no META-Zionist ala John Hagee. What I mean by this is that the process by which nations are created and peoples are formed based off of ethnicity and whereby land becomes DE-sacralized for the sake of commericalization (the Holy Land made un-holy), is seen by the WCC as an innocent aspiration, that this is part of what it means to be human.

I am arguing along the lines of Willie Jennings, in his work, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. The reason why I criticize critics of Israel who fail to equally chastize Palestine is for this very reason, and up until now, I had not found a way to articulate how I felt, and persons would mistake me for the dispensationalist type. But now, I think I see it more clearly. The construction of a nation-state whereby human bodies are sacrifices on the altars of ethnicity and economic progress is inherently violent. Palestine, in the words of U2, is stuck in the moment and it can’t get out of it–that moment is the Colonial Moment, the very reversal of Christ’s resurrection, that of the victory of death. Like the Portuguese explorers who measured black bodies to be things to consumed, the Palestinians remain trapped in a grid where their fates are determined by Europe more and more, even as they stuggle for the white virtue of autonomy (Jennings, 21).

The document submitted by the World Council of Churches “innocently” says it is working in the name of “peace and reconciliation” but these terms are superfluous at best. What it really means is that the organization is striving toward white hegemony, imperial nation building, and submitting itself to the very temptation that ha satan failed to deceive our Lord Jesus with in the wilderness (this view comes from Jennings’ reading of Bonhoeffer’s interpretation of Jesus [representing all nations] being tempted in the desert in Bonhoeffer’s CREATION AND FALL).

WCC confuses liberation with promoting nation-building, a project that requires for Christians to step outside the story of Israel’s God, YHWH. In this sense, the WCC is supersessionist, and therefore displaying the epitome of Gentile arrogance.

h00die_R (Rod)

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6 thoughts on “Willie Jennings: We Need A New Theology of Israel

  1. i liked this. Thanks for bringing it up. I struggle between what I want Israel to be and what it clearly is. I rather feel that, as “God’s people,” they are in the same boat as Christians, whose core beliefs, imagery, and ideologies have been co-opted by the all-too-secular governments and movements where the majority of the adherents happen to live. God, please rescue your people from your people.

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  3. “WCC confuses liberation with promoting nation-building, a project that requires for Christians to step outside the story of Israel’s God, YHWH.”

    Completely agreed with the first part. But this is something that most Christians have confused for a millennium and a half. Is there any chance you have in your possession some reference to base the liberation (in this context) off of? By that, I mean, how does the god of Israel, yhwh, liberate in this context?

    • Well,

      I am depending on the book I reviewed in the next post after this: The Christian Social Imagination- Theology and the Origins of Race.

      While I have a few disagreements with the book, I think essentially the so-called Christians of Spain and Portugal in the 1400s, had to go outside the story of Israel, meaning they had to find their identity in the construction of a Gentile nation-state and empire in order to justify their enslavement of women, Africans, and First Nations people. Now, the problem with this reading is that there is slavery and empire building by Israel in the Old Testament, a topic which the author of the book avoids. However, one can make a case that things like the monarchy in Jerusalem went against what YHWH, Israel’s God desired.

      I think the way that YHWH liberates in this context, say the building of a Palestinian state, is to keep us from falling into nationalism, establishing our identity in the formation of a country. The problem with the WCC’s call for peace is that it fails to recognize the dangers inherent to that process, if that makes sense.

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