THE SPINE FEBRUARY 1, 2008
The Methodist Church in the United States seems to have embarked on its annual foray into the murky waters where hostility to Zionism and Israel just barely averts anti-Semitism. Or maybe not.The righteous Methodists are once again considering disinvesting from public companies which do business in Israel in general and with companies that somehow help sustain the occupation of the West Bank. This might mean a farm machine company like International Harvester or John Deere or perhaps a seed company. Of course, it depends in which companies Methodist endowment and pensions are invested. But divesting is only a handy and sloppy tactic to put Israel in the dock.It's the fixation of Israel by various "mainstream" Protestant churches that is at issue. They don't seem too much to notice true persecution by other states of large parts of their populations. Anyway, to attack the Jews is a bad Christian habit. And to treat the Palestinians as victims of other than their own follies is both silly and unsophisticated.But what are these churches? And for whom do they speak?Nearly 70 years ago, in 1940, when the US had 100 million people there were less than a million Methodists. Today, when the US has about 300 million people, the Methodists have, well, less than a million communicants. This is not a growing church, and its message has been waning even with this drop in its numbers. The bishops and ministers of Methodism may believe firmly and more than a bit hot-headedly in their politics. But such Methodists as remain give every sign of not noticing. Which isn't bad, when you come to think of it. But the Church is dealing with their money.