Tag Archives: Palestine

Palestinians and their history

by Alan M. Guenther,
Assistant Professor of History,
Briercrest College and Seminary

Christian opinions about the Middle East tend to be polarized. Some see Israel as the homeland for God’s chosen people, the Jews, and the Palestinians as the enemy committed to terrorism and the annihilation of the Israeli state. Others see the Palestinians as refugees who have lost their homes and lands, and the Israelis as the primary oppressors, encroaching on Palestinian territories with illegal settlements and attacking regularly with superior military force. As often happens in cases of such polarized opinions, many other Christians end up in a confused middle space, wondering if there might not be some truth in both positions. Continue reading Palestinians and their history

The Legacy of Supersessionism and Christian Theology Today

by Zacharie Klassen

I am a student of historic Christian theologies of Israel and Judaism and the ways those theologies have informed and continue to inform views of the land of Israel, Jewish people, and the practices of Judaism in Christian thought. I am also a member of a long-standing Jewish-Christian text discussion group that meets monthly to discuss texts of importance to the Jewish and Christian traditions. What I offer below is, I hope, a small bit of insight that I have garnered over the last 7 years of study into how Christians should think about our relationships with Jews today given the complicated history of our relationship over the last 2000 years. Given my reflections, I then end with a very brief suggestion for how we might begin to approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Continue reading The Legacy of Supersessionism and Christian Theology Today

Letters January 2017

Directives On Treating Foreigners

If we read the Old Testament promises to Israel in the way Don Plett has encouraged us to in the last issue [Oct. 2016] of The Messenger, we also need to read the Old Testament passages where God gave very specific directives as to how the people of Israel were to treat the foreigners in their land.

The taking of Palestinian land for Israeli settlements is one example of what has been happening in recent years that does not fit well with the Old Testament’s focus on how to treat the poor, the oppressed, and the foreigner with love, mercy, and justice. We know God had strong words for the His people about failing on that.

Another question I have is can we apply what the Old Testament says about the people of Israel in the Old Testament to the secular state of Israel today? Maybe some Bible scholar can help clarify that for us.

– Irma Janzen, Winnipeg, Man.

A Great Article!

I have just read Paul Walker’s article titled: Resurrecting Our Belief in the Resurrection of the Body [Nov.-Dec. 2016]. How encouraging to find an article like this in The Messenger! He hit it right on when he says that the point is not “going to heaven when we die,” but the resurrection of the body after heaven, when Jesus comes back.

This is the promise of the Father to all who believe in his Son, Jesus. I think that for a long time we’ve largely missed it when we thought he meant eternal life in heaven. That was, at least, what I was taught growing up, and what I also taught our children.

From the very beginning in the garden, Adam was not told that he would go to hell if he ate of the fruit of the tree, but that he would die! His physical body would die. And we’ve been dying ever since.

Eating of the fruit was, I believe, when he took into himself—or fell into the doctrine of—the serpent, the belief that he could have life by his own works, knowing good from evil, and choosing the good, instead of continuing in the life freely given by God, lived in innocence of both good and evil!

Jesus repeatedly said that he came to bring life. Could it be that that life is best lived with the knowledge of our innocence restored, in the death of Jesus, where all sin and death died with him! That that life is not by the law, which is the platform from which knowledge of good and evil operates.

Glory! Thanks for a great article, Pastor Walker.

– Helen Teichroeb, Grande Prairie, Alta.

What To Do With Our Dead Bodies?

I enjoyed the article in the November/December issue [Resurrecting Our Belief…]. I secretly hoped that the author would comment on what to do with our dead bodies. As I anticipate my own demise I wonder if I should opt for economy (very Mennonite) by cremation, or burial without preservation (not pretty or suitable for viewing), which is what a large portion of the world does by necessity and Jews do by custom/faith.  The most expensive form is the embalming and casket route.

Does the disposition of my body affect my resurrection?  I hope not.  The skeletal remains of those in the catacombs I suspect would echo my query.

Great questions to discuss and explore. My first job was at a cemetery, which led me to want to avoid what I saw as excess (cement vaults, carved walnut caskets, large headstones, etc.).

I have yet to decide on options for myself. My family reminds me that my preferences may have no impact on what happens to my body anyway. The topic remains intriguing.

– Gordon Dyck, Steinbach, Man.

Letters October 2016

Seeking Peace in Israel-Palestine

Thank you to Senator Don Plett for raising his concerns about justice in Israel and Palestine [An Ill-Advised Resolution Against Israel]. It is important to discuss these matters if—and perhaps especially when—our views do not agree.

It is important for readers to know some background to the resolution that was affirmed by delegates. Mennonite Church Canada has been engaged in understanding the Middle East conflict for decades. We were asked by Christian Palestinians to advocate on their behalf in their plight. In this regard, it is important to know that we are not conflating all Palestinians into one category.

Certainly there is Palestinian violence against Israel that we do not support, but these acts do not represent the Palestinian Christians we know. We would challenge leaders of other Mennonite conferences and churches to also consider how they would respond to such a request from fellow Christians in light of the Bible’s over-arching call to the faithful for justice and mercy.

We are not seeking to deny Israel or its people the right to exist. Rather, we seek to make Israel the best country it can possibly be. Our own Canadian government and the United Nations have called for human rights for Palestinians. Canada’s own policy statement in regards to Israel states, “Canada does not recognize permanent Israeli control over territories occupied in 1967” (http://tinyurl.com/ygtd6p2).

It is important to not conflate all Israelis, their government, and the Jewish people into one homogenous group acting in unity. There are numerous groups of Israelis and Jewish people who support justice for Palestinians, including Rabbis for Human Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace, and others.

These are undoubtedly complex issues. Readers wishing to learn more about the issue in general and the Mennonite Church Canada resolution specifically (http://tinyurl.com/zrotfxq) have vast resources available to them, such as the Kairos document by Palestinian Christians at http://tinyurl.com/jxz9d7h. Mennonite Church Canada encourages Mennonites belonging to any conference to become deeply acquainted with the subject matter, and to listen with openness.

– Dan Dyck, Director,  Church Engagement-Communications Mennonite Church Canada

Do We Love the Whole Church?

Layton Friesen’s article “Is Your Congregation the Real Church?”(July-Aug.) encouraged us to accept para-church partners under the umbrella of “The Church,” thus broadening our idea and practice of Church. I would like to extend his idea a little.

Christ left no blueprint for the Church save His “walk” and command to “love one another.” Differences in visions of the Body of Christ has splintered the Church into Syriac, African, Roman, Eastern Orthodox, and a myriad of Protestant denominations—all who consider themselves the “true” Church.

Even the earliest Church was split into two camps. The early Jewish believers waited in Jerusalem for the imminent return of the Lord. Ready acceptance of the gospel caused the Hellenistic Jews to be received as equals. Philip who loved the Samaritans also reached out to an Ethiopian eunuch. Jewish purity was being eroded!

Saul, the Great Persecutor, was commissioned to preach to the Gentiles of all things—fodder for early schism. Indeed, Paul had to visit Jerusalem 12 years later to counter the Judaisers and address the growing rift. He later returned to fulfill an oath to the Temple knowing that it would lead to his death.

He literally willingly sacrificed his life for the love and unity of the Church. Not just the Gentile Church that he loved, but the whole Church, the True Church.

Do we love the whole Church? How would that affect our prayers, words, and actions? What are we willing to sacrifice for its unity?

– Ray Hill, MacGregor, Man.