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Where Were All The Christians? – John Kane’s Thoughts on a Denver Vigil against the Israeli Bombing of Gaza

January 4, 2009

Note: John Kane is Professor of Religious Studies at Regis University here in Denver. We’ve met and discussed the situation of Jews and Catholics in America several times. He published a progressive Catholic newsletter. I am not sure if it still exists, but the issues I read I found interesting. The vigil he describes took place on Tuesday December 30 at the State Capitol in Denver. He submitted this piece to the Denver Post. They didn’t print it. I’m glad to. My op ed, submitted to the local media, follows below. I should add a detail in the spirit of Kane’s piece. Before Christmas I was involved in an effort – before the Israeli offensive in Gaza began – to get some local ministers to speak out against the human rights tragedy unfolding in Gaza as a result of the Israeli siege and blockade. I was doing this in conjunction with the wife of a local minister who has gotten involved. But the good ministers were `too busy with Christmas’ to participate, or so they said. Then they were too busy with New Years’. Now I guess they are too busy preparing for Valentine’s Day or maybe Easter… rjp

Where were all the Christians? That was the question that pained me as I stood in vigil with several hundred persons in the cold wind on the West steps of the Capitol this Tuesday evening.

Not surprisingly, the crowd gathered there to protest Israeli bombing in Gaza was mostly Muslim — not just Palestinians and other Arabs, but also Muslims from black Africa and South Asia. They stood under a crescent new moon, as if (to my mind) Allah was blessing their cry of protest.

I was told there were a sprinkling of Jews in the crowd, including at least one counter-protester. And there was a larger sprinkling of Anglos. I recognized some Quakers and a few Catholics ; I assume many of the others were probably Christians of some sort. Yet why, in this city of so many Christians who are still celebrating the star of Bethlehem and the Prince of Peace, were there so few willing to stand with Muslims and Jews to protest the way Israel has made Gaza a killing field?

There are, of course, Christians on the apocalyptic fringe whose absolute support of the Israeli Right probably leads them to celebrate the present killing as part of God’s plan to cleanse Palestine for Jesus’ second coming.

And undoubtedly many other American Christians simply swallow the official Israeli line, supported by the Bush administration and much of the US media, that the present bombings are simply a necessary defense against Palestinian/Hamas terrorism.

Yet most American Christians accept the traditional Christian “just war” teaching — that a war is moral only when it’s cause is just, and that even in a just cause some forms of killing make a war unjustified and immoral.

And surely there are many Christians in this town who see through the veiled hypocrisy of Israeli propaganda. They know that the bombing of mosques, of university classrooms and dorms, and the “collateral killing” of innocent civilians — they know in their hearts that such killing in Gaza is evil.
They know it will not bring peace. They know it will not bring real security to Israel.

Surely there are many Christians in this town who know that it was not Hamas who broke the latest truce. That truce was broken months ago with the increasing blockade of Gaza — restricting water and electricity and food and blockading medical supplies in what has become the largest ghetto prison on the globe. That truce was broken regularly over the years with endless violation of human rights througout Gaza and the West Bank — at checkpoints, in the impunity of growing settlements on stolen land, with unchecked crimes by settlers and by soldiers protecting them, with policies of collective imprisonment and punishment.

Yes, Hamas rockets targeting civilians is terrorism, but such terrorism is the inevitable response of the weak against the state terrorism of the powerful, a terrorism fully funded by our own country.

Surely there are more than a handful of Denver-area Christians who know all this. Yet where were they? Where are their voices during this season of peace. As a Catholic I especially ask where was Denver’s Archbishop and his priests? Where is their leadership for protecting innocent life and working for peace now when it is so needed?

One of the most important achievements of our times has been a growing reconciliation between Christians and Jews here and around the world. Yet it would be worse than tragic if that reconciliation made us blind to the crimes perpetrated in the name of Judaism by the militarists and fundamentalists in Israel.

John F. Kane
Professor of Religious Studies, Regis University

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