By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Methodists’ anti-Israel campaign

Michael Paulson reports in the Globe that the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church is urging fellow Methodists to divest from companies that are supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

The Methodist statement begins even-handedly enough:

Despite renewed talk of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the hard reality is that Israel’s actions on the ground in the region, as well as Palestinian militant attacks on Israelis, place enormous obstacles in the way of progress toward peace.

So why does the conference propose punishing Israel alone? This is nasty business. Someone should ask Hillary Clinton, a Methodist, where she stands.

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  1. Steve

    I am a 50-something American, liberal, pro-Zionist anti-Likud Jew. I have longed for peace between Israel and their neighbors all my life – a peace that must be grounded in justice, but must maintain the Jewish primacy in Israel. Oh how this longing has suffered. I am skeptical that the Methodists’ action will bring about this result. But they will do what they will do. It’s not going to affect the situation very much.All that said, I must confess that the differentiation between Protestant sects, beyond an understanding of their origins, eludes me. I had not known, until this post, that Hillary Clinton is a Methodist. I don’t know what tradition Bill Clinton follows. I don’t know what Dan Kennedy’s faith is. Church politics is *way* beyond my ken. Most sects of Judaism have very little central authority. The Catholic Church has a lot of central authority. Where on that spectrum is “the Methodist Church”? Does the Methodist Church require obedience of their membership, as the Roman Catholic church seems to require obedience to certain of their precepts?But I take your (unspoken) point – why should Catholicism and Mormonism and Judaism be an issue, and not Methodist Protestantism?BTW, if you’re Googling for info about this, be aware that The Jewish Advocate’s article “HRC holds a Bat Mitzvah for three” does NOT refer to Hillary Rodham Clinton, but instead to the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center.

  2. Peter Porcupine

    I never thought I would have to say this, but – I wouldn’t try to question Hillary on this.I am a Methodist myself, and I am thunderstruck at this idiocy. I read through the links, and it appears we are merely following our good friends, the Presbytyrians, as THEY jump off the bridge, but this is pernicious nonsense. I note the task force was comprised of 8 individuals, from 5 states, but the entire body had to vote on it.One note of sense – “It is important to note that the resolution does not call for divestment from Israel. Manycompanies that profit from the Israeli occupation are American and international firms. Selective divestment as a tool to end the occupation is supported by the World Council of Churches and a number of Israeli and international Jewish organizations.”When I when to my church for a prayer service, on the evening of 9/11, our then-minister had us read the Methodist Social Collect, and talked about how it was clear that we were reaping the fruits of our militarism. I didn’t go back for months. There is an ultra-liberal element in our clergy, and they have seized this foolish opportunity.I didn’t attend this year, and had expected the hot issue to be gay marriage, which was not sanctioned in 2003, but the vote was close. This is much worse, and I will work to undo it.

  3. Steve

    I don’t know if it’s the same as the resolution that actually passed, but for a journalistic comparison, a Jewish Advocate story about the proposal as of 7/13/07 can be found here.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Steve: Since you asked … Bill Clinton is a Baptist. I’m a Unitarian Universalist — a denomination with Protestant roots, but which has long since diverged. Only about 10 percent of UUs say they’re Christians, and I’m in the other 90 percent. I’d like to think the UUs, who as a denomination are extremely liberal, have stayed away from these anti-Israel actions because many members are Jewish — lots of mixed marriages.I hardly think Hillary Clinton should be held responsible for what the United Methodist Church does, especially just one regional group. But she — like all the candidates — is running around talking about her faith. Let her take a tough question about her own denomination. I have no doubt she’ll criticize the Methodists, and that will be the end of it.

  5. Steve

    Hmm. No offense, but I did not ask. And I don’t know if it’s relevant here (except to provide a degree of familiarity about doctrine, to which I have confessed ignorance).Certainly Hillary isn’t responsible for the views of the Methodist Church, but I’m wondering if the question matters.Has Hillary been running around talking about her Church or about her Faith? And if she’s at odds with her Church, is she free within the bounds of her Church’s doctrine, to disagree? What’s the “punishment” for disagreement?For instance, Kerry’s Catholicism mattered, because being at odds with the views of the Roman Catholic Church caused the RCC to deny him the opportunity to practice his faith. This apparently depends upon which precepts you’re at odds with, of course.Romney taking a position at odds with the Mormon Church would be similarly risky, I guess.If Hillary and the Methodists disagree, what’s the cost to her if she expresses it? And what will the Methodist Church care? If you’re looking for a “Sister Souljah” moment here, it’s going to be pretty weak, isn’t it?

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Well, Steve, neither did I!Campaigns consist of big moments and little moments. This is a little moment, but Hillary still ought to be asked, just to see what she’ll say.And you’re right, there are zilcho consequences for her not adhering to church doctrine. I’m not even sure there is any church doctrine to speak of.

  7. Peter Porcupine

    Dan – Hey! You can’t have it both ways!First, trammeling us for a NEW doctrine, and then saying we don’t have any anyhoo?Steve – Unlike the Roman or Mormon Churches, we don’t have much in the way of enforcement mechanisms – in fact, we deliberately allow laity to make decisions. But we do have a stated and voted upon – by the general membership, not the clergy – statement of beliefs and practices, going back to John Wesley and the Book of Dicipline. Open table, belief in grace, works as effect, not cause, of salvationetc. Merely not being spiritual bullies or dictators doesn’t mean we have no core of belief.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    PP: I hardly consider the New England Conference’s opinion to be doctrine, either for the Methodists or anyone else. From Paulson’s story, it sounded as though it’s something Methodists are free to ignore as they please.

  9. Anonymous

    “Why are the punishing Israel alone?”It is their effort to apply pressure, however futile, to have Israel lessen its illegal occupation which included settlements on privately owned Palestinian land. Isn’t that the point of such an action?In any case, we already know exactly how Clinton would answer the question, so why bother?

  10. Steve

    Someone should ask John Edwards, Methodist, as well, no?I found the following list of the candidates’ religious preferences in a Mike Allen article at Politico:DEMOCRATS:Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden: Roman CatholicNew York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: MethodistConnecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd: CatholicFormer North Carolina Sen. John Edwards: MethodistOhio Rep. Dennis Kucinich: CatholicIllinois Sen. Barack Obama: ChristianNew Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson: CatholicREPUBLICANS:Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback: CatholicFormer New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani: CatholicCalifornia Rep. Duncan Hunter: BaptistFormer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: Southern BaptistArizona Sen. John McCain: EpiscopalianTexas Rep. Ron Paul: BaptistFormer Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: MormonColorado Rep. Tom Tancredo: PresbyterianFormer Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson: Southern BaptistFormer Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson: Catholic

  11. Don (no longer) Fluffy

    So, Hillary is still a Methodist, even though she’s married to a serial adulterer. Does the pastor know that?

  12. Peter Porcupine

    Don- she can hate the sin and still love the sinner!BTW – this would apply to Tancredo too, since according to the links Dan posted, this was the Presbytyrians bright idea in the first place!

  13. Don (no longer) Fluffy

    Porc: All she loves is the political clout.

  14. Chucho

    Ew. Politics AND religion! My take: Who cares what the Methodists think about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Personally, I think it’s weird that Israel is building residential complexes in East Jerusalem for its citizens when everyone agrees that the two-state solution involves Israel not occupying East Jerusalem. And considering the billions of dollars in welfare we send to Israel each year, I’m not too worried about anyone punishing Israel anytime soon. So, again, who cares what the Methodists think? With the exception of the ultra-right, most Christians will back Israel no matter what it does. I guess that makes me an anti-Semite or whatever.

  15. Anonymous

    Guess what folks? George W. Bush is also a methodist. why ask him how he feels about this too?

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