Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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The Lutheran Church Attacks Israel, Again

by Elliott Abrams
August 16, 2016


The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, or ELCA, is a church in decline–but whose enthusiasm for attacks on Israel never wanes.

The decline is very clear in the numbers. The ELCA when formed in 1988 had over 5 million members, but is now down to about 3.8 million– down over a fourth. The number of member churches is similarly in decline.

At its triennial convention this past week, the ELCA built on previous anti-Israel resolutions to demand an end to aid to Israel from the United States. What passed is a resolution to:

–call on the U.S. President, in coordination with the United Nations Security Council, to offer a new, comprehensive and time-bound agreement to the governments of Israel and Palestine, resulting in a negotiated final status agreement between Israel and Palestine leading to two viable and secure states with a shared Jerusalem;
–To urge this church’s members, congregations, synods, agencies and presiding bishop to call on their U.S. Representatives, Senators and the Administration to take action requiring that, to continue receiving U.S. financial and military aid, Israel must comply with internationally recognized human rights standards as specified in existing U.S. law, stop settlement building and the expansion of existing settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, end its occupation of Palestinian territory, and enable an independent Palestinian state; and
–To encourage this church’s members, congregations, synods, and agencies to call on the U.S. President to recognize the State of Palestine and not prevent the application of the State of Palestine for full membership in the United Nations.

A time bound agreement– so facts on the ground, for example the strength of Hamas or even ISIS in the Palestinian territories would be irrelevant. Stop all construction in East Jerusalem–well, not really; just construction by Jews. “Enable” an independent Palestinian state, as if the only worry about such a state, and its only problems, come from Israel–not poverty, terrorism, corruption, and repression, for example. End military aid to Israel, regardless of the threats it faces from Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, Iran, and other enemies of Israel’s and ours.

And of course, these standards and these requirements apply to one single country: Israel. In a world awash in repression and human rights violations, only Israel.

This resolution was passed by 82% of those voting. One wonders if the last few ELCA congregations, when there has been another 25 years of shrinkage, will pass an anti-Israel resolution just before turning out the lights.


Post a Comment 12 Comments

  • Posted by Andrew T. Halmay

    Whenever a religious group starts to meddle in politics of any sort it loses its categorization of being a religious organization and must lose its tax status. Islam by its very established rules dating back 1400 years must be categorized as a political organization. At this point, the Lutheran Church falls into the same category.

  • Posted by Gerald Iversen

    Under the right of free speech granted in the US Constitution, members of the ELCA in national assembly have passed many Social Statements that have political ramifications. Condescending remarks about “meddling in politics” do not change the ELCA’s status as a legitimate religious organization. By the way, the Lutheran Church celebrates its 500th birthday in 2017.

  • Posted by Be@yahoo.comnjamin Willkie

    The ELCAs urge to stop West Bank settlement building by the Israeli government is consistent with US foreign policy and United Nations Security Council resolutions. Of course there are more repressive governments than Israel, but unto much is given $3.1 billion in US aid with few strings attached, 100% delivered at the start of the fiscal year unlike aid to other countries which is which is granted over the course of the year.

    Mr Elliott can do better than criticizing the democratic voice of a very well respected American Church focused on a more peaceful world consistent with teachings of their religion. Selectively pondering “One Wonders…” and linking their future to this single issue is well below someone of Mr Elliott’s vast experience and salary.

  • Posted by Tony Marche

    Thanks Eliot for pointing out that there still is some independence and decency in our churches and that not all have been assimilated by the bankers mafia ruling the world. Now I can begin to attend church again Lutheran it is.

  • Posted by Samuel Delaney

    The ELCA is one of many institutions that have adopted some of the most radical policies of the progressive movement. Does the ELCA leadership and its members understand if Hamas and Hezbollah are successful in destroying Israel, which is what both terrorist organization are calling for, Christians and Jews around the world will have no access to the Holy Lands. Muslims do not allow non-Muslims to practice their religion. Muslims murder homosexuals by throwing them off of rooftops. Woman are second-class citizens and there is no freedom of speech.

  • Posted by Joseph Rosen

    1- Christian priest tells UN: “Israel is the only Mideast country NOT persecuting Christians”

    2- And now, please compare TWO points of view about the civilization in which we live.

    * The Jewish one exemplified by Albert Einstein:

    * And the Muslim one exemplified by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi:

    Of course, everyone can understand what he wants…!

  • Posted by Stacie

    Type your comment in here…what a biased piece of *journalism*.
    I’m so thankful that the ELCA joins 9 other Christian denominations that are standing for TRUTH & JUSTICE!
    The State of Israel not only violates international law by its apartheid policies toward Palestinians, it also violates THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST by stealing land, uprooting olive trees that are in Palestinian territory, of using snipers to shoot & kill unarmed protestors, of using skunk water & tear gas against school children in the West Bank …the list is endless of the war crimes Israel has committed!
    CHRISTIANS in America are waking up & are no longer standing with the State of Israel…& are no longer buying Israeli propaganda & will no longer be bullied by those who use the “anti-Semite” card….especially when Israel bombs its Semetic neighbor’s!

  • Posted by Dan

    The ELCA is holding Israel to standards that it requires of no one else. The ELCA exaggerates and fabricates about Israel and actual atrocities perpetrated against the Jewish state are met with silence while the ELCA demands Israel capitulate to those parties. The ELCA policies are anti-Jew.

  • Posted by Bradley

    There’s certainly an argument for and against what the ELCA did, but when one starts attacking them for “being in decline” and how they are on the brink of extinction, it’s no longer actually engaging in argument. It’s just being petty.

    If they are in decline and on the way out, why even waste the space talking about something so beneath you? Something doesn’t smell right here. Either they are legitimate and worth your time, or they aren’t… Looks from here, like they are still a powerful enough force to be worth your time/energy/concern.

  • Posted by Scott Alan Johnson

    The resolutions passed by the ELCA can hardly be considered anti-Semitic.

    First, should Israel abide by internationally recognized human rights principles, and cease its illegal settlements in land occupied by Palestinian non-combatants, the resolution says US aid to Israel may continue.

    Second, investment screens are a means by which organizations may strive to ensure they are not receiving profits from companies involved in abusive labor and political policies.

    Third, the modern state of Israel is a nation state, not a theocracy and certainly not the reincarnation of the Biblical kingdom of Israel. One can call for accountability from the state of Israel without being anti-Semitic, just as one can (and should) call for accountability from Saudi Arabia without being anti-Arab.

  • Posted by Steve chosen

    Help me understand why any entity should make peace with a group whose mantra is to destroy that entity and the followers around the world?

  • Posted by henry

    Just like the Greeks-Romans and Nazis who all persecuted the Jews and have disappeared, so will the ELCA. Your not so subtle anti Israel stance will gain you nothing and your falling membership is just reward for your bias. Goodbye Evangelical Lutherans.

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