Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Mediocrity of James Rhodenhiser

Late last month, Henry Herskovitz of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends extended an invitation to the Rev. James C. Rhodenhiser of St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church to meet with him and other critics of JWPF's vigil. The specific occasion for the offer was the visit to Ann Arbor of Dan McGown and Paul Eisen of Deir Yassin Remembered. After the invite and an explanation Herskovitz wrote, "We would certainly be willing to listen to what you and other invitees have to say." Below, via Herskovitz, is Rhodenhiser's response in toto and unedited except for the addition of one hyperlink.
Henry, can't get the mayor or Ken early Saturday a.m. To hear why scapegoating is a good idea. apologizing would be the way to get Jewish community attention and door to actual dialogue, not posters advocating overthrow of Israel or blaming Zionism for Nazism. Peace is always the result of mutuality not hostility. Ken and I are willing to put up an Israeli flag at our places if you wanted to give Beth Israel a break those weekends, we could make up a schedule together. God bless, james
Reading this, one wonders if Rhodenhiser is really so ill-informed or ill-educated that he actually believes there is any scapegoating going on. Merriam-Webster defines a scapegoat as "a person who is unfairly blamed for something that others have done". However, Beth Israel Congregation (BIC) has never been blamed "unfairly" nor for what "others have done".

BIC is fairly subject to protest for their own public support for the Jewish state that was created by force by a minority population in someone else's homeland. BIC is fairly subject to protest for indoctrinating children into militant Zionism. BIC is fairly subject to protest for its cheer-leading when Israel goes to war. BIC is fairly subject to protest for its toleration of its senior rabbi's apologetics of torture.

Rhodenhiser writes about opening (?) the "door to actual dialogue". He would do well to read read "When Dialogue is NOT our Hope" by Joseph Phelps in the Mennonite journal, Conciliation Quarterly.Here's part of what Phelps writes:
We cannot dialogue when: ...

When an issue of justice is involved.

This is the most complex reason for halting dialogue. Some conflicts are more than a difference of perspectives. As Martin Luther King reminded us, sometimes there are reasons "why we can't wait." People of God cannot be content to engage in dialogue with perpetrators of evil and injustice. We must be hesitant and cautious to place such strong labels on an individual or group, but sometimes we must.

There are times when action must take precedence over talk, when conflict should be pursued in place of a false peace. This what Jeremiah (6:14) accused the prophets of Jerusalem of doing: "They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, 'Peace, Peace,' when there is no peace." A dialogue between Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus company which tried to force her to give up her seat in the 1950s was not in order ... Clearly, the time for talking had passed. An act of resistance, a shifting of sentiment, and a redefinition of power was necessary before honest dialogue could resume.

Jesus reminded us that there would be issues worth (non-violently) fighting over: "Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather dissension" (Luke 12:51). His stance for justice and true holiness put Him in constant conflict with those who preferred the status quo. The conflict exposed the need for radical change. To have quelled the conflict through dialogue would have been to neglect the work for which He was sent ...
Yes, a talking shop would be much easier and more comfortable than actually taking a decade-long public, prophetic stand but JWPF is not a dialogue group; it is a peace and justice action group. Here is its position:
Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends will end the vigils if Beth Israel satisfies our three previously stated requests or if equivalent goals are achieved through negotiations with Beth Israel: committing to work for the equal rights for the Palestinian citizens of Israel; committing to work for the end of the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem; and committing to work for the right of Palestinians to return to the homes from which they were forcibly removed in what was to become Israel.
The above words were written by a JWPF founder, the late Sol Metz (they are erroneously and mysteriously attributed to someone else on the MLive web site). No dialogue with BIC is necessary or warranted. Just as the Montgomery bus company ended its support for segregation, BIC can ends its support for Jewish supremacism in Palestine. However, I suspect the folks at BIC are far more devoted to their racist cause than the owners of the bus company ever were.

I've never met the Rev. Rhodenhiser. I know of him only through the little that I've read by him and about him. Based on that small sample though he strikes me as the kind of cleric the Rev. William Sloane Coffin had in mind when he said: "I think the bright flames of Christianity are now down to smoldering embers, if not ashes, of feeling comfortable. The church is pretty much down to therapy and management. There's really little prophetic fire ... we have mediocre politicians, and the clergy is pretty mediocre also."

I can easily imagine a long ago version of Rhodenhiser scolding the prophet Jeremiah as he stood "in the gate of the LORD'S house" and rebuked Israel (Jeremiah 7). I can see him chastising Amos for telling Beth Israel in the Lord's name: "I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies" because the Israelites had turned "justice to wormwood" and brought "righteousness to the ground." Look, there's James Rhodenhiser denouncing Isaiah to the city officials for telling Israel they are a "sinful nation, [a] people laden with iniquity" whose "hands are full of blood".

And, hey, isn't that the Rev. Rhodenhiser admonishing Jesus of Nazareth, wagging his finger and telling him "Peace is always the result of mutuality not hostility" after, all in one episode, Jesus: Drove the money-changers from the Temple; provoked the elders and chief priests to anger with his defiance and teachings; called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, blind fools, snakes, and vipers; and condemned the Holy City saying "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!"? Jesus wasn't much for Rhodenhiser-style dialogue, it would seem, and Rhodenhiser isn't much for Jesus or Coffin-style prophetic fire.

Labels: , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?