I just heard on the radio that Joe the Plumber - you know, that star of presidential debate #3 - is going to be reporting from the Gaza strip. I sure hope it's a joke, but I have a feeling it's not.
The situation in Israel and Palestine is complex and confusing. The history of these conflicts dates back thousands of years, or 60 years, or 20 years, or a couple of years, depending on how you look at it. Joe will report on the average Joes, so said the news story. Fine. A personal story can powerfully relate an on-the ground reality. But for average Joes (and Sarahs) over here, understanding the current escalation requires reporting that can put an individual experience into a broader historical, political and yes, religious perspective. Call me a snob, but I have a feeling Joe the Plumber isn't up for it.
In Sunday School last week our High School students and adults discussed the conflict as a community. We watched the church's video Peace Not Walls . Though it's a bit institutionally produced for my taste, it's well worth watching to get background, see a possible strategy for a peaceful solution and hear a convincing argument for why American Christians should care. If you have 28mins, I recommend it.
Based on the video, we discussed whether Islam, Judaism and Christianity all worship the same God and what difference that could make in creating peace; why land and religion are so tied together in Judaism; the significance of walls (from a German who remembers the Berlin Wall); and more.
My oh so insightful comment was "I think the ground rule should at least be: stop killing each other." Yes that's an easy thing to say when I have nothing personally invested and haven't experienced the devastating injustice and violence that each side claims. But there's at least some basis for thinking of that as a good ground rule (see the Ten Commandments, #5). I can't imagine Joe the Plumber is really going to do much better.
For a fresh, folksy, and yes, faithful perspective on the region, thankfully we don't need Joe the Plumber. Half of the bishops of the ELCA are currently there, including Richard Graham, the Metro DC Synod Bishop and Mark Hanson, the ELCA Presiding Bishop. I've never heard either of these men say anything I didn't trust as thoughtful, intelligent, careful, grounded and faithful. For the bishops' blog, click here. And please keep them and the region in our prayers.