I recently received an email from a pastor in Michigan, from the church I used to attend while in grad school. He was inviting me to join the church on a trip to Israel, promising to “bring the Bible alive” from the windows of a bus tour, fine hotels, and a guide who would share the history of the area.
These “Christian” tours are common among evangelicals in the US, though I’ve only recently understood why they can be so disturbing. Touring a war-ridden region from the air-conditioned confines of comfort does not awaken the teachings of Jesus, nor the love, compassion, and justice of the Abrahamic religions.
To truly teach Christianity in the holy land would require that tourists leave their buses and visit the refugee camps, the ghettos of Hebron, the amputees in Gaza, the war resisters in Israel, all who work for peace and justice in this region and elsewhere. We must learn from the people and the spirit of the place in an approach of honesty and humility–not entertainment and photo shots reminiscent more of The History Channel than reality of life in the region.
I suspect that Sabeel’s upcoming conference will be a better way to bring the Bible alive than a Holy Tour of Israel, with its many Bible studies; workshops for creative peace, action, and community; and in-depth examination of love of self, love of others, love of “The Other” and, of course, love of God (which I may argue is the combination and source of self, others, and everything…).
Also, from Pam Rasmussen, some interesting articles in the news:
In Sunday’s Washington Post, an op-ed by Jimmy Carter.
Plus, though public support for Israel in the US resurges, the US Gov’t continues to rebuke Israel for its construction of illegal settlements.