Palestinian Christians Reject Excuses for War Against Civilians

Palestinian Christians are against the killing of civilians in Gaza—and elsewhere. This image is a view of the Swedish Christian Center in the old city of Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of The Commons
Palestinian Christians are against the killing of civilians in Gaza—and elsewhere. This image is a view of the Swedish Christian Center in the old city of Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of The Commons

On Oct. 20, 2023, a little less than two weeks after Hamas’s attack against Israel, Palestinian Christians published “A Call for Repentance: An Open Letter from Palestinian Christians to Western Church Leaders and Theologians.” Seven months later, their Open Letter is as pertinent as ever.

The letter challenged basic and unquestioned assumptions promulgated especially among white evangelicals.

The letter decried the double standard in the West that sets a higher value on Israeli lives than Palestinian lives.

The letter rebuked Western Christians for showing sympathy for only one side in this conflict and invoking God’s name to promote violence and religious nationalism.

The letter noted with horror that church leaders’ uncritical support of Israel was leading to genocide.

The letter pointed out that the stance of some Western Christian leaders toward the violence in Gaza has severely harmed Christian witnesses worldwide.

The letter

  • says that Israel is waging war against civilians, especially against defenseless families and children—while Western church leaders barely notice or protest;
  • accuses Western Christians of refusing to condemn the genocide that Israel has been conducting against the Palestinians for 70-plus years;
  • says, instead, that too many Christians have legitimized Israel’s ongoing indiscriminate attacks, the wholesale destruction of neighborhoods, the denial of food, fuel, water and medicine—and the forced removal of more than one million Palestinians from their homes; and
  • reminds readers that Israel’s military is using extreme violence, including white phosphorus and bombing schools, hospitals and places of worship.

The letter categorically rejects Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians. Sometimes it continues at a slow pace; sometimes the pace of ethnic cleansing is accelerated. The goal of the Israeli government is to create a religious nation state that strangles the life out of the Palestinians, as much as possible cleansing the land from their presence.

The letter refers to how the world condemned the crime of apartheid in South Africa—Israel is doing the same thing.

Then the letter denounces the theological rot in Western theologies that promotes a wide range of Zionist theologies that claim, according to their interpretations, that Israel is key to end-of-the-world scenarios and that if Palestinians are killed en masse, it is just collateral damage and something that God approves.

The letter makes explicit that many prominent Western church leaders’ and theologians’ human-rights-denying ideology takes precedence over their human-rights-denying theology. It’s not theology at all; it is power politics.

And the letter links this ideology to “colonialism.” American Christians don’t like to think of America as a colonial power or as an empire that would act in ways inimical to justice and human dignity. But colonialism thoroughly infects our history.

Colonialism presupposes racial supremacy, cultural supremacy and religious supremacy. It’s not just a European thing. Just look at how we enslaved Africans and practiced genocide against our own Indigenous peoples for hundreds of years.

That same colonial mindset—supported with religious justifications—is driving the American-supported Israeli genocide against its own Indigenous peoples. American church leaders and theologians don’t notice it or talk about it much because they have a giant blind spot. But Palestinian Christians, absorbing the full brunt of American-Israeli violence on a scale that fits the definition of genocide, see things much more clearly.

The colonial mindset, using the just war theory, makes violence by the colonial power as justified and good, but violence on the part of those who are resisting colonization (= dehumanization) as “savage” and “evil.” This monopolistic view of the legitimacy of use of violence favors the rich and powerful, and disadvantages those oppressed by colonial systems.

The Palestinian Christians want American church leaders and theologians to acknowledge that it is Western Christian society that dropped the atomic bombs over civilians in Japan during World War II; it is Western Christian society that destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure and killed untold millions. Our hands as a Christian nation are not clean of blood.

The Palestinian Christians’ Open Letter finishes by pointing out that “entrenched colonial discourse…has weaponized the Bible to justify the ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples.” It goes on to say that colonial theologies are not innocuous—they lead to violence and terrorizing Indigenous peoples.

Western Christians (along with anyone who wants to follow the way of Jesus) need to repent of our complicity in violence and oppression—in our history and up to and including the present war in Gaza.

Regrettably, too many Western Christians across wide denominational and theological groups cling to colonialist and Zionist theologies. It is hoped that Christian young people and others who embrace equality and humanization of all can help us get beyond this horrible cycle of violence that we are in. We need more creative nonviolent resistance that employs the logic of love and justice.


  • Bayard Taylor

    Bayard Taylor is a resident of the 93675 zip code, a nature lover, the author of two books, a former English teacher and a master of divinity graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

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