Two not so wise men
A couple of news items were brought to my attention yesterday. Both have a connection with Iran/Israel.
Moral equivalence at the Economist
The Economist very wisely pulled a cartoon yesterday that in their own words, inadvertently caused offence to some readers. This got me thinking about what cartoonist Peter Schrank may have been thinking when he submitted the cartoon to the newspaper sub-editors. Was it:
- Schrank thought such a small addition would not be noticed by the sub-editors? Truthfully, I wouldn’t have noticed had not there been such a fuss.
- Schrank expected the sub-editors to notice and not care?
- The meme that Jews/Israel/Zionists control America is so accepted among Schrank’s friends, co-workers and associates that it never occurred to him anyone would make a fuss?
Forests and trees
With all the fuss about the two tiny Magen David’s in the cartoon no one seems to have noticed how malignant is the larger message.
Firstly there’s the false moral equivalence between the Congress of the United States and flag burning Mullah’s and Iranian Revolutionary Guards. One is the popularly elected Legislative Branch of a long time democratic government that separates religion and state. It’s members are subject to the rule of law and individually and collectively they can be removed for misbehaviour or simply because the People have changed their mind. Obama is being held back (not really because the deal has been made) by the people and their representatives. The opposite is true on the Iranian side of the chasm.
Secondly there is the false impression that Hassan Rouhani really wants to make friends with America and is being held back by more extreme elements in Iran. While he appears to be demonstratively more sane than Ahmadinejad there is little to show that his anti Americanism is any less sincere than his predecessor. Obama may be naive but Rouhani is not.
It’s worth comparing the replacement cartoon the Economist presented. Obama is being held back by a coalition of Republicans, Democrats, Arabs and (presumably) Israelis/Jews while no one holds back Rouhani except that he, and by extension Iran, want the Bomb and don’t want to give it up. There is something of the small child with his reassuring teddy bear in the caricature.
The award-winning Economist cartoonist draws about many political subjects and inevitably some of them concern Israel. While he could not be considered a friend of Israel (I couldn’t find one positive cartoon online) he seems to have come close but not crossed the Jew Hatred line so far. Israel is not his obsession. Draw your own conclusions.
Fits all Sizers
“[Sizer’s action] demonstrate a mixture of explicit anti-Semitism; implicit anti-Semitism; and complicity with anti-Semites.” Rev. Nick Howerd
I couldn’t be more to the point than Rev. Howerd and probably wouldn’t try. Rev. Stephen Sizer is a major player in the movement in Protestant churches to disassociate from Israel. I guess it’s no surprise that Sizer doesn’t much like Jews.
What was surprising to me was that he took his message of replacement theology† to Iran. However mistakenly he might blame Christian problems in the Palestine Authority and Gaza on the Jews it would be impossible to blame them Christian problems in Iran – or would it?
Return of the Magi
While googling Sizer + Iran I came across an extraordinary article he had written, Thank God for the Iranians‡. The gist of his claim is that without Iran and Iranian involvement in the Nativity story, we would not have exchanged gifts on Christmas Day! By extension, how wonderful the Iranians are for their assistance to Hamas.
Normally I wouldn’t dream of discussing theology but some things just didn’t ring true.
Mostly Sizer’s claim that all the three wise men were Iranians. Partly this is because I remembered Christmas specials that placed these visitors elsewhere.
A little research confirmed this. In the Western Christian church they have been all regarded as saints and are commonly known as:
- Melchior (also Melichior, a Persian scholar;
- Caspar (also Gaspar, Jaspar, Jaspas, Gathaspa, and other variations), an Indian scholar;
- Balthazar (also Balthasar, Balthassar, and Bithisarea, an Arabian scholar.
- Chinese Christians believe that one of the Wise Men came from the Celestial Empire.
In other words Sizer is playing fast and loose with the culture and traditions he claims to represent.
One must wonder whether any of Sizer’s Iranian hosts quietly took him aside to explain their real situation. World Watch List ranks Iran ninth in their ranking of 50 countries where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is most severe. BTW the Palestinian Territories comes in at number #34. Israel, surprise-surprise is not ranked.
His hosts wrote: We hope that his invaluable contribution will bring clarification where theological thought has been manipulated in order to mislead western Christians and demonstrate that expression of God’s redemptive love is not through Israel but through His Church. His book should go a long way in bringing healing among people of all faiths, especially between Islam and Christianity.
Hopelessly naive or hopelessly intimidated?
- Do ‘sophisticated’ Brits at the Economist believe Jews control Washington?CiF Watch, 20 January 2013
- Biblical Magi, Wikipedia
- Stephen Sizer speaks on Christian Zionism at St Pauls Tehran, The Diocese of Iran, 26 November 2013
- Iranian Authorities Cracking Down on Growth of Christianity in Country, Leah Barkoukis, Townhall.com, 2 January 2014
- Iran: Extreme Persecution, WorldWatchList Open Doors, 2014
- The Written Defense of the Rev. Mehdi Dibaj Delivered to the Sari Court of Justice – Sari, Iran December 3, 1993, Mehdi Dibaj, FarsiNet, not dated
It is Five Minutes for Israel policy not to reproduce a graphic that damages Israel without altering it in such a way that the Israel Haters will not reproduce it on the Internet. Feel free to share the modified version.
† Supersessionism, fulfillment theology, and replacement theology are the biblical interpretation that the Christian Church supersedes or replaces Israel in God’s plan, and that the New Covenant nullifies the biblical promises made to Israel. Sizer did not reinvent the wheel. Where he differs from earlier supersessionists is that ancient and Medieval Christian theologians were OK with leaving the Jews to survive as examples of the connection between Old and New Testaments while he couldn’t care less.
‡ I don’t drive traffic to the Hate Israel Lobby. If you want to read the original look for it on Stephen Sizer’s blog.