Thursday, July 18, 2013

18-Jul-13: When he lionizes child killers, is James M. Wall speaking for mainstream Christians

Source: theoptimisticconservative's Blog
In the past year, we have three times devoted attention to a prominent theologian and commentator on American Christianity, James M. Wall, an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. This is not because of a new found interest in the sorts of issues that keep him busy. Rather it is because he exemplifies, to us, a deeply disturbing trend in the world of ultra-liberal religious thought: the willingness to really, really, really understand and theologically empathize with the people who hate Jews and who do awful things to them. (We will illustrate below.)

Anyone not already familiar with what we said about this troubling individual earlier is invited to see
In the earliest of those posts, we noted that he was editor of a prominent American journal of thought and ideas called The Christian Century for the 27 years between 1972 and 1999. Wikipedia calls that "the flagship magazine of U.S. mainline Protestantism" [source]. On retiring, he remained there as a regular columnist until a few years ago. Though it appears he no longer contributes to its pages, his name remains on the masthead as Senior Contributing Editor. 

And that's what has gotten the attention of some other good people, because it turns out that while he remains on the Christian Century masthead he has developed some collegial ties with some very hateful friends, blogging at a site where anti-Semitism is rampant (to quote the very well-written and readable source, theoptimisticconservative's Blog). 

The Christian commentator Dexter Van Zile, who has an uncommon sensitivity to Jewish issues and especially to the Jewish connection to Israel, has written several penetrating articles removing the mask from the face of both Wall and the journal he led for a generation. You might want to read what he wrote on this just a week ago: The Christian Century’ Must Remove Anti-Semite from Masthead, including this:
Between May 2003 and mid-June 2004, a period in which more than 100 Israeli civilians were murdered by Palestinian terrorists, Wall wrote 15 commentaries, eight of which dealt with or mentioned the Arab-Israeli conflict. All of these commentaries were critical of Israel.
The point of this post of ours is to say that, despite some quite frontal approaches from critics, the management at The Christian Century have considered matters and taken a very clear stand in the face of the evidence of hatefulness and vicious antisemitism in the writings of Wall and the journalists whose company he keeps. David Heim, Christian Century’s executive editor now says explicitly that he will not address the issue. “James Wall did a lot for our magazine... He deserves to be on our masthead.”

And as Dexter Van Zile wrote yesterday, the chairman of the Christian Century Foundation's board of directors has backed that view to the hilt. Rev. Peter Marty, former host of Grace Matters, a Lutheran radio show, and current pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa, emailed the following explanation for why Wall is going to stay on the Christian Century masthead:
The board of directors for the Christian Century magazine holds as its primary objective the advancement of the Century's print and web communications... The board does not assume a role in limiting any past or present editor's freedom of expression, or in determining what they may publish in other forums. [Source]
Our interest in Wall was aroused when we saw a rambling article on his blog entitled “Ahlam and Nezar, A Palestinian Couple Released in The Prisoner Exchange”. In it, Wall makes the argument that Ahlam Tamimi, who proudly takes credit for a terrorist atrocity in 2001 which targeted Jewish school-children and extinguished the lives of 15 people including our daughter Malki, did what anyone would do if they saw themselves at war. What she did was merely logistic. It was therefore perfectly understandable. Murder? Hatred? Deeply visceral antisemitism? Terrorism? Not, it seems, in Wall's lexicon.

Wall, Heim, Marty and the writers of this blog all live in free societies where you can say pretty much whatever you want to say provided no laws are broken. Given that they see themselves as expositors of a particular brand of Christian thinking, we're sure they will be perfectly comfortable with the disdain, rejection and contempt which those of us holding very different views about terrorism and antisemitism feel about their radical opinions and deeds.

Now that we see the firm support given to Wall by the leadership of Christian Century, we wonder whether they would answer the same way if he had been advocating anti-liberal standpoints. We have asked previously whether their views are Christian. Are they? How Christian is it to embrace the unrepentant murderer of children who says she prays for the chance to do it again?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

dear blog, I write as a plugged-in fundamentalist, dispensationalist Christian - mainstream christendom doesn't really care about James Wall nor is its antisemitism of the viscious sort, but is of the more subtle & dangerous sort. That said, the well-intentioned Dexter van Zile does far more harm to the Christian Zionist cause than the malicious, depraved James Wall. And non-Christian pro-Israel groups & individuals allying with the reconstructionist "family" groups (some which I see are deeply infiltrated) also does far more harm. -ER