The Lott Carey Global Christian Missional Community denounced use of the Bible to justify oppression in the Holy Land in a statement issued as the United States moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Leaders of the African-American Baptist group called on evangelical Christians to “reject theologies that justify oppression and violence” toward Palestinians.
The May 14 statement said misguided views about the Bible lend theological cover for oppressive policies by the Israeli state. It urged African Americans and all Christian people to support the boycotts, divestment and sanctions movement as a form of non-violent protest.
“Palestinian people are, with the exceeding generosity of United States taxpayer funding, systemically disenfranchised and oppressed by policies of the Israeli state,” the group said. “A misguided notion of ‘chosen-ness’ and the errant theological sanction Euro-American Evangelical Christianity lend support to the Israeli government’s use of violence, intimidation and the violation of international law to maintain their dominance.”
A Lott Carey delegation toured the Holy Land in February 2017 to learn more about the Israel and Palestine conflict. According to a background paper, they found systematic oppression akin to Jim Crow segregation and South African Apartheid.
“Many of the young Palestinians endure tensions and angst seen today in many African-American youth who live in fear of violence from law enforcement personnel who are supposed to protect and serve but who are held to little or no accountability when they harass, injure or murder innocent people,” the statement said.
One pastor observed parallels including bias and distrust based on ethnicity, high rates of incarceration and intimidation and brutality by police.
Lott Carey leaders said misappropriating Bible passages to conflate ancient Israel with the 70-year-old modern state “seemingly gives the Israeli government to right to use any means necessary to maintain their existence with impunity.”
The designation of God’s “Chosen People,” they said, “allegedly bestows upon the Jews an indisputable claim to the region’s most contested commodity: the land.” While Christians and Muslims also view their adherents as “chosen ones,” Israel’s claim “is undergirded by the authority of scripture.”
The Lott Carey convention called on evangelicals to “prioritize the Kingdom of God over imperialism.” It encouraged Christians “to engage in justice tourism and pilgrimages hosted by Palestinian Christians rather than investing in tours which support the oppression of Palestinians.”
Founded in 1897 by American blacks to support missionaries on the African continent, the Lott Carey movement today describes itself as “a multicultural, ecumenical, global Christian missional community born of African-American Baptist heritage” that provides prayer, support and assistance to indigenous ministries around the world.
With 2,600 churches and 1.1 million members, Lott Carey is one of the five of largest African-American Baptist communions in the U.S.
Lott Carey leaders said American mainstream media does not adequately report on atrocities committed by the Israel state. “We receive mostly propaganda that depicts Palestinian people as aggressive, antagonistic actors with irrational and unfounded hatred for the Israeli people,” the statement said. “They are rarely portrayed as people longing for justice but subjected to tyranny.”
The group called for “honest theological exploration and conversation” about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict instead of “the misappropriation of selected scriptural texts that contribute to inhumane behavior and justify evil actions.”
“We owe people who live under oppression by the Israeli state with support from the United States government, many North American Evangelicals and members of the Jewish Diaspora to testify to the abuses they endure,” the statement said.
It called “for humane and sustainable solutions that enable shalom — peace, harmony and well-being — for all who live in that land and the region.”
On Wednesday, Pope Francis condemned the killing of Palestinians near the Gaza-Israel border during demonstrations against the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Israeli forces killed 60 Palestinians on Monday, the bloodiest day in Gaza since 2014.
Meanwhile, the U.S. vetoed a United Nation’s Security Council statement calling for an independent investigation into the violence. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley blamed Hamas, a Palestinian resistance movement labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S., before walking out of the chamber as the Palestinian ambassador began to speak.