I leave for GA in a little over 40 hours and the whole experience is seemingly overwhelming. As my stuff is spread out across my dining room table, my sandwiches are made and sitting in the freezer, I am contemplating the issues that are going to be discussed. This includes the ones that I don’t care about, mostly having to do with edits and clarifications, the ones that I deeply care about like Gay Marriage, and the ones that I find frustrating as all get-out like the BDS.
Being on the committee discussing BDS is really helping me to see the fundamental issue of the Presbyterian Church. I worry that we have moved away from education as the reasoning and have moved towards emotion as the main factor in our decision-making. I have come to this over the past few weeks as I have read and researched issues related to the committee that I am on and the General Assembly in general.
Two months ago I had no clue how I was going to get ready and just after Easter when I found out what committee I was on almost instantaneously I felt overwhelmed. The issues surrounding the Middle East can do that to you! But I diligently sought out information and also had the joy of others coming to me sharing their insight. It has been interesting, especially in how emotional the responses are, but when pushed go nowhere.
Take BDS for example. For a boycott to work, you have to have an overwhelming support and resolve of the organization and you have to commit. This means that while you might get 51% on an issue like this, unless you have the resolve of the whole body, because the other 49% are not “sold” on the idea the energy to actually move on the issue will get mired down.
Secondly, who’s really fighting the battle? When I first read through this I thought this does not seem to be very Presbyterian. I know that is pejorative, but . . . As I looked I learned that this was something that has a life outside the church, to be honest 10 years ago when I had my first discussion on the issue with a rabbi friend I thought it was. The group that is behind it is a very pro-Palestinian group that is fighting for a Palestinian one-state solution for the Middle East. As Presbyterians, our calling card has always been that we are people of the middle way.
There is an old joke about Presbyterians that says “Presbyterians are republican congregations lead by a democrat pastor.” As with all jokes there is a bit of truth in that, but what this one hits on is that while we have differing points of view we find ways to work together, because liberal, conservative, or whatever we accept that the real answers can be found only when we work towards a solution together. From the looks of it and the previous resolutions there really has not been any work to try and come to a joint solution or understanding. Creating what we Americans love, a fight with a winner and loser, but is probably the most un-Christian thing imaginable.
Thirdly, BDS seems to be a Bully type of a move. A Bully is one who puts someone else down so they can feel good about themselves. Often times a bully will approach someone directly, but just as often they will use a go-between to do their dirty work. Either way, the bully is never in the position to get hurt directly. When looking at the overtures, and reading the rationales, the people who are pushing these have no skin in the game. Two of the companies that are being divested from are not within the borders of the Presbyteries. Moreover, if successful the jobs that would be lost would not be the Jobs of the people so passionate about the issue.
You could see the glaring difference when you contrast that with the Gay Marriage and Gay Ordination debate. Many pastors and elders have had to take bold and brave stances on Gay Marriage and ordination, which lead to some losing positions and in some cases being asked to set aside their ordination. Churches have lost members and individuals in congregations have even lost friends.
I guess the whole spawn of this letter, or rant as one might say, is that someone equated holding an anti-BDS position as being akin to supporting the Jim Crow South. I find that sad, since I know the people fighting against BDS desire peace just as much, they just have different views of how to get there.
My hope is that we can somehow find our way back to a place were we can accept the middle ground and be excited to support things that can make us proud to call ourselves Presbyterians taking bold stances and making a real difference.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen