A Pastoral and Personal Struggle over Gaza
We left Palestine in 2003. Until 2005, we continued to work on behalf of education and advocacy in the region, though we were in the States. So for three plus years, I have more or less disengaged from the issues therein. I stay informed, I keep in touch with friends, I attend peace vigils and work at building interfaith relationships locally. But I have not said much on the issue for several reasons. The first is personal. I was burned out. I was heartbroken and exhausted trying to work for peace in a region where it seems like it would never actually happen. On top of that, the criticisms we got were deeply personal. If you want to know what I'm talking about, Google my name. You'll get a sense of why I haven't done that in 5 years. The labels stung. They cut me to the quick. I have done my best to be very careful about the language I use and have worked to examine my assumptions about the conflict because I didn't want to fall prey to the horrific traps that others do when advocating for Palestinians. But it didn't matter; the accusations came anyway.
The second reason was pastoral. I am in a new role, pastor of a congregation. I have a prophetic role, yes, but I also cherish this community and the fact that we don't disagree. I am also aware that my voice has an inordinate amount of power in this role, and the possibility of being misunderstood as imposing a point of view looms large.
One member in particular approached me not long after I arrived, expressing concern over my history. This is a member whom I have come to cherish a great deal. I promised them that I would be honest to my conscience, but that I would never ask the church to take a stand on this (or any) issue, since that diversity of voices is so important. And that conversation has kept me grounded. I do not want to be an ambulance chaser, responding to this crisis or the other as a way of doing ministry. But I don't want my ministry to be so limited that I'm not giving theological voice on issues that I think are important, even if most of my congregation thinks they're too secular.
That being said, I'm aware that my preaching about the politics of Palestine is tricky business. It's an emotional topic anyway, and my proximity to the issues (despite my in-depth knowledge of them) means I might lose my perspective.
So when I look at Gaza, my first reaction is horror and disgust. There must be something to be said about all of this. But with the caveats above in place, am I the right person to speak on it? Is it up there on the list of the world's greatest issues and therefore worthy of theological comment?
I remain unsure in the face of it all. But I will blog.