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We Are All Made In God’s Image

September 1, 2020

By William J. Barber II

The Palestinian experience is one we can relate to through our own moral and spiritual experience. We have to address the displacement of native people wherever they are. Truth and justice cannot be found in narrow tribalism, within the lies of colonialism and white supremacy.  

Rev. William J. Barber, II Photo Credit: Repairers of the Breach

The Palestinian experience resonates with my own background. I didn’t grow up anywhere near Israel/Palestine, but the slave masters did treat my ancestors as property. What is required if we are to be human, even against the backdrop of colonialism? The colonial masters who said America was their property saw my native ancestors as savages. The ways some people talked about “God’s people” excluded me. They said it was their manifest destiny to subdue the land that was promised to them, no matter who was already there. The same philosophy that claimed black bodies and called it Christian now justifies the displacement of Palestinian families and calls it “pro-Israel.” But based on ancient Hebrew scripture in Leviticus: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns among you as the native and you are to love them as yourself. You shall have the same law for the sojourner and the native, for I am the Lord your God who honor and loves all of creation.”   

Often when I was young, I heard fellow Christians talk about the nation state of Israel–especially the TV preachers, but I never heard much about the Palestinian people who were already living on that land. I did know about a large number of European Jews who were fleeing terrible oppression who had settled in Palestine. But just as I never heard much about my people in many tellings of American history, I never heard about Palestinian people and their desperate need for equality in that land.  

It was my father, God rest his soul, who was a friend to both Jewish and Palestinian people who taught me this history. It was my father who taught me that faith had to love and speak truth to every community represented in my fusion DNA. He taught me about Palestinians and Israelis. So, in my own faith journey, I learned that I cannot be faithful to who I am if the lies of power, which establish systemic racism, cause us to overlook someone else. 

The Bible I read says we are each made in the Imago Dei, the image of God. What does it mean, if every person is created in the image of God, that we so often write people off because of their nationality, religion, or race? It is not simply an injustice against them. Because it is a violation of God’s moral law, it also obscures my ability to see the truthfulness of the glory of God in the diversity of humanity that God created. 

So, I am where I am today because I believe everybody is created in the Image of God, and it is a truth that is acknowledged by everybody, Christians, Muslims and Jews. I know the deep importance of obligation for everybody who holds to the deep recognition of our Palestinian neighbors as fellow humans who deserve human rights. I am not unaware of the complexities, but we must join the chorus of those who embrace the Imago Dei in every soul and human person. It is not always easy, but it must be done. At the center is bringing people together, because any other way is destructive, and will eventually destroy us all. 

The humanity and the dignity of any person or people cannot in any way diminish the dignity of another person or people. To hold fast the image of God is to insist that the Palestinian child is as precious as the Jewish child. All of God’s children have rights, and we must stand against hatred toward Jews and toward Palestinians, toward Israel and Palestine, and also acknowledge that we have pain and trauma in our past that makes it difficult for us to recognize God’s image in one another. 

There is no one perspective on Zionism. One path of Zionism was a colonialist project from the beginning, according to Theodore Herzl. Leaders like Albert Einstein were always against this project, even though he was clear that the Jewish people had a right to safety from genocide. Einstein asserted, “I am afraid of the inner damage that Judaism will sustain especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our own ranks.” There is nothing anti-Semitic about pointing out the dangers of extreme ethnic nationalism. What is a state’s responsibility to all people? 

I must stand against the policies that institutionalize the lines of division. We must stand up and say “no” if we believe in the Image of God. I am a Christian who honors the One who chose the way of love, not as a fetish or a tactic but as a way of life, even in the face of terrorism or crucifixion. All rights should be available to all. We need a way out of division. It’s just our time. We all have to come together. 

“The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is the president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach. An author, preacher, and professor, he is the chief architect of the ‘Forward Together Moral Movement.’” — Repairers of the Breach

“You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach …” –  Isaiah 58:12
Source – Friends of Sabeel – North America
Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) is a nonprofit, Christian ecumenical organization seeking justice and peace in the Holy Land through nonviolent advocacy and education. Sabeel is an international peace movement initiated by Palestinian Christians, who seek a just peace as defined by international law and existing United Nations resolutions.
What is Christian Zionism?

Where Zionism Leads – The Nassar Family Farm
We invite you to explore the basis for Christian Zionism and to find answers to some perplexing questions. For example, is contemporary Israel the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy? Has God promised the land of Palestine exclusively to the Jewish people as an everlasting inheritance? How should Christians view the Palestinians and especially the Palestinian church?
We welcome you to join us in pondering these crucial issues…

Walter Bruggemann
Too many American Christians are uncritical, unreflective, and naive concerning the deep human crisis that is taking place in “the Holy Land.” That naiveté, moreover, is reinforced by the pressure of Israeli Zionism combined with romantic notions about the Holy Land.

This resource is a welcome one for overcoming such uncritical naiveté and for facing the real crisis there. We have so much to unlearn as American Christians; here is a good reference for that urgent work. – Walter Bruggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
Carole Monica Burnett
This website is a feast for anyone inquiring about the mixture of religion and politics that is promoted by some preachers in their zealous, unquestioning support of the Israeli government’s policies. Every sincere Christian must sooner or later encounter a moment of decision: Does Christian Zionism reflect the values that Jesus taught, or not? Can a Christian be true to his or her faith while supporting ethnically biased policies that deprive innocent people of their human rights? Anyone grappling with this quandary will find an abundance of solid information and well-grounded insights on this website. – Former professor of church history, Ecumenical Institute of Theology
Stephen Hyde
It is possible to visit Israel and return home a confirmed Christian Zionist. However, it is far less likely if your visit includes the occupied territories, and you actually meet some of the people who live there. The jarring reality on the other side of the Wall is one of daily humiliation and injustice. It has been my privilege to experience the beauty of Israel, especially Galilee, and also to know some amazing people on both sides. This vital and much-needed website offers windows into new understanding and hope. – Stephen Hyde, Baptist pastor
K. K. Yeo
The Bible and Christian theology are great resources for spirituality and mission, yet some interpretations of the Bible that are blessings to us have become curses to those living in the land mentioned in the Bible. This website provides invaluable resources for Christians to reflect critically our prejudices in our readings of the Bible, and take seriously the ethics of biblical interpretation. The expanding resources will enable readers to study the Bible in light of its socio-political, literary, canonical contexts while engaging with our modern religious, cultural, and political contexts. –  K. K. Yeo, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary