Jan 14,2018 – JORDAN TIMES –
The most important and strongest statement made by a Christian cleric in modern times should be credited to H.E. Bishop Munib Yunan, head of the Evangelical, Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and president of the World Lutheran Federation. He made this declaration in his speech before His Majesty King Abdullah and a large gathering of Jordanian Muslim and Christian clerics, leaders and notables at the Baptism Site on the banks of the Jordan River, December 18, 2017.
After speaking of the American president’s recent declaration on Jerusalem, about which he said, “All must respect the historic status quo in Jerusalem and no one has the right to tamper with it.” Going on to discuss the differences between Western Christianity and the true, pure Eastern Christianity he continued : ……,”We are faced with a few Christian sects in the world who view what is taking place in the Middle East and Jerusalem within a narrow religious apocalyptic, other-worldly view…[these] Evangelicals view all that is taking place: wars, destruction, human displacement and injustice as a prelude to the Second Coming of the Messiah, but we, the Arab, genuine Evangelicals, differ with them totally, to the letter of the word, for they do not support justice and they politicise religion, some of them having great influence on the American decision-making process…. we Arab Christians view them as representing religious and political extremism…. They do not represent true, pure Christianity nor do they understand or care about justice or human rights…. As Your Majesty washed your hands of extremist, terrorist groups that do not represent real Islam, calling them khawarij (outsiders, heretics), we Arab Christians wash our hands of these Christian groups that neither represent the New Testament nor Jesus, and we consider them khawarij”…” With their literal and mistaken interpretations, they cause harm to the New Testament and to Jesus, Himself, who carried the message of love, dignity and justice to humanity…..”
Should the Jordan Council of Churches as well as the Middle East Council of Churches adopt this honest powerful statement by H. E. Bishop Munib Yunan, a prominent contemporary Arab and world Christian leader, it would serve as a reminder to the world that Christianity is a Middle Eastern religion which is still alive and well thanks to the 2,000 years of perseverance and adherence to the faith, on the part of Middle Eastern Christians who need no help or support from either Europe or America. It would also highlight that these Zionised neo-conservative Evangelicals, with their powerful financial and political support for up and coming politicians like President Trump, have little to do with the spirit of Christianity, or the lofty principles of justice and human rights. If anything, their influence is a travesty of justice, Christianity, democracy and human rights.
In a recent article titled: “Developments in Western Christianity from Martin Luther to Pope John XXIII”, I explained how the opening up of the Bible by Martin Luther and his translation of it into the vernacular paved the way for Zionism’s penetration into Western Culture, leaving the field wide open for the erroneous misinterpretations of the scriptures by groups of ideologically driven zealots, originally itinerant preachers, now “televangelists”. These groups are more like media moguls; controlling large, very profitable TV and radio stations and newspapers; than pastors and priests, and have little if any knowledge or understanding of Middle Eastern diversity or the three major monotheistic religions born here.
The path opened by Martin Luther five centuries ago was further widened by the Papal Encyclical, Nostra Aetate (Our Time) of l965. Initiated by Pope John xxiii who had himself witnessed the Nazi and Fascist atrocities and experienced the climate of hatred, racism and intolerance in the West, it rehabilitated Judaism with Christianity. While rightly condemning Nazi and Fascist atrocities against the Jews, it also emphasised what it called, the common roots of Judaism and Christianity, further emboldening these fanatic “Evangelicals” fired up by the stories in the Book of Revelations like the Rapture and Tribulations, the Battle of Armageddon leading up to the “second coming of the Messiah” to even wilder vision: today, going so far as proclaiming that President Trump is mentioned in the Bible.
What seems to have motivated Western Christianity was not so much the mixture of myth and reality of the ancient Talmudic stories dating back to “the Exodus through the Sinai Desert”, but the dedicated efforts of modern Zionists, who capitalised on some of the more barbaric ideologies of the West.
Of course, the path towards Zionisation of Western Christianity has been paved over many times since the Protestant Reformation, beginning with the American Evangelical Puritan settlers who thought of America as “the Promised Land” and the Jews as “the Chosen People” though Jesus’ mission clearly proclaimed all nations to be “ the chosen people” not only the Jews.
Some Arabs welcomed the reconciliation between Judaism and Christianity as many thought that it would lead to a general reconciliation with Islam, the third great monotheistic religion born in the Middle East. Instead, not only was the old struggle to control the Arab world renewed, but intensified by a constant barrage of Islamophobia propaganda singling out the Arabs for hate campaigns.
It is time to remind the world, and the Jews, in particular, that Judaism has always been accepted in the diverse, mosaic culture of the Arab world and that, true Christians believe that, “Christ who is our peace has, through dying on the cross, reconciled Jews and Gentiles and made them one in Himself.” Making all peoples of all races, henceforward, the “ chosen people”.
The writer is former director of the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies and former foreign minister of Jordan. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.