The world’s lone Jewish state must be singled out for punitive divestment campaigns, while we should at the same time promote economic investment in North Korea, whose government has done absolutely nothing in the area of human rights worthy of specific criticism. And we should take our broad support for sex outside of marriage one step further by advocating to legalize prostitution.
This was the moral vision offered by our United Methodist Church’s apportionment-funded D.C. lobby office, the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) at its Spring 2015 board of directors meeting.
The main business of this semi-annual meeting was adopting, rather hastily, dozens of petitions and resolutions that will be submitted for consideration at our denomination’s 2016 General Conference. The GBCS’s head staffer, since early 2014, is the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, while its board president is Bishop Robert Hoshibata of the Desert-Southwest Conference.
A resolution they adopted on the ongoing conflict in the Korean Peninsula manages to run over 3,000 words while awkwardly avoiding any specific acknowledgement of the brutal human-rights abuses by the world’s most repressive dictatorship, the North Korean regime. The statement purports to “adequately acknowledge the Korean people’s long suffering” but places the blame entirely on “external powers fighting for colonial expansion and military hegemony,” while avoiding acknowledgement of the suffering inflicted by the North Korean government.
At one point, the GBCS resolution goes out of its way to highlight a feel-goody symbolic gesture of unity between representatives of the two Koreas over a decade ago, to help promote a factually selective narrative about both national governments’ commitments to peace and reunification. Meanwhile, this GBCS resolution simply ignores more recent actions of the North, such as its murderous shelling of a South Korean island, its infamous cyber-attacks on an American company, its calling South Korea’s female president a “crafty prostitute,” “bitch,” and “cold-blooded animal,” and its likening U.S. President Barack Obama to “a monkey in a tropical forest.”
Why does the GBCS choose to be silent about blatant sexism and racism when the perpetrators are Communists?
At one point in this resolution, the GBCS even cites the unreliable, uncontrolled Wikipedia open-source website as its sole source of information for a certain factual claim. Such lack of care in getting the facts straight is not limited to this resolution. Other GBCS resolutions from this meeting make very strong, detailed factual claims without bothering to cite any sources.
On the positive side, this Korea resolution, quotes another group “reject[ing] any form whatever of dictatorship” while urging democracy and human rights (albeit without being clear if there are any dictatorships in the region), calls for assistance in North Korean refugees seeking asylum (albeit without calling out China’s horrific treatment of them), and notes as problematic North Korea’s withdrawal from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and the Communist regime’s violation of the 1994 Agreed Framework (albeit while also making a show of even-handedness in casting blame on the United States for other things).
At the insistence of one more conservative director, the resolution was amended to specifically call on the North Korean government “to abide by all internationally agreed principles of human rights and humanitarian law.”
But the GBCS’s choice to avoid acknowledging the Stalinist nature of the North Korean regime serves as a foundation for some ill-informed policy agendas. In this resolution, the GBCS calls “for the removal economic sanctions against” North Korean and encourages foreign investment to economically help that nation. One of the few stated reasons offered for this GBCS goal is that it is “a high priority” of the Communist leadership.
Shamefully, this resolution also uncritically treats the North Korea’s Korean Christian Federation (KCF) as simply a legitimate Christian body rather than acknowledge its true identity as a puppet of the Communist government that serves, with the help of its enablers like the GBCS, to create a false impression of religious freedom existing in that Stalinist police state.
The GBCS’s so willfully turning a blind eye to the brutal ways in which Christians are singled out for imprisonment and torture is mind-boggling. But it follows a sad pattern of this UMC agency using the banner of “social justice” to perversely white-wash and cover for some of the worst human rights abuses in the world. Last year, the GBCS co-sponsored a panel in which a key speaker actually defended the North Korean regime against “demonizing and propaganda.”
I recently wrote about how if the GBCS is unwilling to listen to the cries of tortured North Korean Christians, couldn’t it at least raise its moral vision to the level of stoner comedian Seth Rogen. Is even that too much to ask of a United Methodist Church agency?
Meanwhile, the GBCS continues to pile on in its years-long campaign of one-sidedly singling out the world’s lone Jewish state for critique.
After some dissent by a minority of directors from the GBCS’s usual left-wing echo-chamber culture, directors adopted a petition calling for divestment from the construction-equipment company, Caterpillar, because of how the Israeli government uses its products in managing in maintaining “the occupation.” The resolution also broadly opposes construction of Israel’s security barrier (which has involved disruptive incursion into Palestinian land) without expressing any concern for the Jewish lives it has saved from suicide bombers.
A main aim of another resolution adopted by directors also appeared to be to further advance divestment against Israel, although this specific target was not explicitly named in the resolution. Entitled “Establishing a Screen to Remove and Avoid Investments in Illegal Settlements on Occupied Land,” the resolution would demand all UMC denominational agencies pull out divestments from any companies that operate factories or use resources from “occupied land,” or that have any direct or even subsidiary presence in, are at all involved in construction, financing, or “[p]roviding support services to “an illegal settlement.” Given Israel’s complex political and economic realities, such sweepingly worded restrictions could make it especially difficult to allow United Methodist investment in a number of companies doing business with Israel.
At the last General Conference, the GBCS and other liberal caucuses pushed for divestment from Caterpillar and two other companies (Motorola and Hewlett-Packard) over their business with Israel, and were overwhelmingly defeated. Both a senior officials of the UMC’s pension-investment board and a leading Palestinian activist in the anti-Israel divestment movement have indicated that the human-rights records of these three specific companies are not worse than others in which the UMC invests.
Not deterred by moral consistency, the GBCS not only rushed through the anti-Caterpillar resolution at its most recent directors’ meeting, but in August heavily promoted and took part in a conference where speakers admitted that the push to divest from select companies like Caterpillar was part of a wider agenda of Boycotts, Sanctions, and Divestment, which one speaker defined as “boycotting all things Israeli,” and where another speaker was not above resorting to anti-Semitic stereotypes about greedy Jews. Other highlights of that GBCS-related conference were the conspiratorial claim that the U.S. Congress “is an occupied Israeli territory,” the assertion that “it is not Hamas’s rockets,” and “it is not Hamas’s underground tunnels” that were responsible for “why we don’t have peace right now,” and a speaker refusing to condemn the anti-Jewish hatred and violence promoted in the Palestinian media.
Oddly, the blame-Israel faction of our denomination, with which the GBCS has completely identified, has strongly rejected the path of “positive investment, not divestment” when it comes to Israel, but now advocates that path for North Korea. The difference, according to the GBCS’s moral vision, is that democratic Israel is the one who should be treated as a villainous, human-rights-abusing rogue regime.
At this spring meeting, the GBCS directors went further in its campaign to de-legitimize Israel by approving grants for “Peace with Justice Sunday” (with funds to be collected from United Methodist offering plates on May 31) to help fund, among other beneficiaries, the Nakba Museum Project of Memory and Hope and United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR). The former is devoted to promoting ideologically pro-Palestinian narratives about the “Nakba” (the Arabic word for “catastrophe” which some Palestinians use to refer to the establishment of Israel). The latter is an unofficial caucus of United Methodists for the Palestinian cause, who forbid United Methodists who disagree with their agenda from attending their meetings, but which is now being funded by the GBCS, an agency of the whole church that once again has chosen to act more like a caucus only serving a particular political faction of United Methodists.
The longtime general tendency has been for GBCS to be very pointed and specific in calling out alleged wrongdoing of the Israeli government, without adopting a morally consistent standard of scrutiny for Islamic or Communist regimes.
All in all, directors adopted over 100 General Conference petitions (including many to delete and consolidate older parts of the United Methodist Book of Resolutions), rushing through to get them completely a day earlier than scheduled. At least one director bravely spoke out against the extensive length of these political resolutions the GBCS adopted.
If the super-majority of other directors had taken time to do their work carefully, they may have noticed some more controversial things in the petitions they adopted:
- Blanketly demanding the legalization of “public drunkenness, drug use, [and] prostitution,” as non-criminal “personal conditions or behaviors.” Some of us had hoped that fighting human trafficking could be a common-ground cause for liberal and conservative United Methodists. But now the GBCS has committed itself to a political agenda that effectively empowers ruthless pimps and makes human trafficking harder to legally fight. To be fair, this resolution did say in a separate sentence, “Moreover, individuals forced or coerced into criminal behavior [which would include sex-trafficking victims] should not be criminalized.” But the structure made clear that the very broadly-worded call to legalize prostitution was over and above this more narrowly worded concern for those facing coercion.
- Completely opposing any “discrimination against people with criminal records” without any exception for day-care centers or Sunday-school classrooms doing background checks to screen out individuals with histories of abusing children.
- Ironically, the GBCS also went on record to both broadly call for NO tolerance of ANY “discrimination people with criminal records” and explicitly support a clear form of discrimination against people with criminal records: restricting the gun-purchasing abilities of individuals with violent criminal records. Thoughtful arguments could be made for either of these mutually exclusive positions. But the GBCS evidently was not paying close enough attention to its own work to notice the contradiction, even though the two resolutions came through the same committee of directors.
- Promoting expanded access to elective abortion under the banner of the misleading euphemism, “reproductive health care services.”
- Endorsing the controversial U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, even though probably no more than one or two of the dozens of directors voting in favor of the resolution (if that) have actually read that treaty.
- Endorsing President Obama’s controversial, unilateral 2014 executive order to simply stop enforcing parts of U.S. immigration law.
- Deleting a current official UMC resolution which acknowledges documented abuses by U.N. personnel, such as the “Sex for Food” scandal, and calls for such reforms as “zero-tolerance” policies against such abuses.
- Demanding significant withdrawal of the post-World-War-II U.S. military presence in Japan.
- Insisting that “[c]hildren must never have access to or opportunity to use guns.” While this sounds like a generally good principle, does the GBCS really believe that men must “never” be allowed to take their teenage sons (who are technically still children) hunting in rural areas where that is part of the culture?
- Broadly and helpfully decrying religious persecution, but without any indication that United Methodists should be especially concerned about the persecutions of Christians. Rather, this resolution even-handedly asserts that there is a dangerous rise of extremism “from all of the established and nontraditional religions.”
Another group of resolutions commendably encouraged abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs, and called on UMC institutions of higher education to reduce college drinking. But this concern is expressed almost entirely within a secular public-health framework, while ignoring biblical and spiritual concerns about the sinfulness of intoxication.
That points to a fundamental problem: at the end of the day, how is the GBCS much different from any other secular, partisan political lobby group, other than getting its funding from churches?
The well-documented fact of the matter is GBCS openly ignores and opposes biblical, historic Christian values on issues like sexual morality (supporting both homosexual practice and extra-marital sex more broadly) and abortion that conflict with its secular, partisan political loyalties. In framing its concerns, the GBCS seems too embarrassed to stray too far beyond the language of secular 21st-century, upper-middle-class, American, secular liberal culture into the language of the church. And its attempts to sound more spiritual involve embarrassingly out-of-context biblical proof-texting and non-Christian “Mother Earth” prayers.
Is this really the best we can expect for the social and political witness of our church?Google+