Dialogue set up in response to film about Christian Zionism
Dr. Mouw, Jonathan Freund, Rabbi Diamond
Listen to an audio recording of this discussion
President Richard J. Mouw and representatives from the Board of Rabbis of Southern California came together on Tuesday evening, February 28, for a discussion on the topic “Viewing Israel Through a Complex Lens.” Over 60 students and other members of the Fuller community gathered in Payton Hall for this event sponsored by the President’s Office and Brehm Center’s Reel Spirituality.
The dialogue served as a response and Jewish perspective to the film With God on Our Side
—a documentary about Christian Zionism that was screened last fall at Fuller by the Peace and Justice Advocates student group and Reel Spirituality—and the larger trends in perception of Israel that the film represents.
In his opening comments, Dr. Mouw mentioned that Fuller and the Board of Rabbis have partnered together for several years, convening annually for a rabbi-pastor dialogue where common pastoral concerns might be discussed. Mouw recalled that their first discussion, featuring Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector and Professor of Philosophy at American Jewish University, centered on the dangers of contemporary anti-Semitism. “It is so important for us to listen to our Jewish friends,” he said, “lest we fail to support them as the ever-present strains of anti-Semitism keep cropping up.”
Rabbi Mark S. Diamond, executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, gave a few introductory remarks about his thoughts on Israel. “I believe Israel is the Jewish state and Jewish homeland, and the answer to 2,000 years of Jewish prayers,” he said. “Israel is a young, imperfect nation, but is also the beginning of the dawn of our redemption.”
That said, Diamond emphasized that the Bible must not be read as a real estate deed; it is not an ancient source of modern boundary-markers. Further, he said, we need to avoid the temptation to find easy answers and solutions to issues that are complex and in shades of gray. Diamond also emphasized that criticism of Israel is not inherently anti-Semitic—Israeli citizens criticize their government all the time! “But,” he said, “to deny legitimate right to statehood to Jews and not to other people groups is anti-Semitic.”
Afterward, Jonathan Freund, director of the Board’s educational and interreligious programs, gave a presentation that served to critique the film With God on Our Side
. Freund went over misrepresented facts and history in the film, including an incorrect definition of Zionism and a fabricated anti-Arab quote from David Ben Gurion (the filmmaker later posted a retraction of this quote on the film’s website). Further, Freund pointed out the film’s “missing theology,” as it discusses at length the Abrahamic covenant, the Hebrew Bible, and Jewish thought, and yet does not interview a single rabbi or Jewish theologian. Misleading images and non-cited, unchecked facts were also points of Freund’s critique. “People of faith have a moral obligation to recognize the pain of all who suffer,” said Freund, emphasizing the need for a balanced view of the complex situation in Israel.
Later, Rabbi Diamond spoke about different programs that bring Israelis and Palestinians together, and suggested that support of and participation in such programs is an important step in the peace process.
A time for questions and answers, moderated by Dr. Mouw, followed the presentation.
to read a detailed response by the Board of Rabbis to the film With God on Our Side
to view Jonathan Freund’s presentation, including pertinent clips from the film.