Glory to God in the Lowest: Dr Donald Wagner

This is a truly inspirational story of how a young conservative white evangelical Christian became a passionate life-long campaigner for Palestinian rights. 

The book reveals the heavy price Don has paid for his commitment to justice, peace and reconciliation. Don clearly stands in the subversive but non-violent tradition of Mohandas Ghandi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandella. 

I simply could not put this book down. It is a compelling, detailed, eye-witness commentary on the unfolding tragedy of Palestine over the past 40 years. It is also a searing indictment of the failure of the West, tragically with the complicity of the Church, to hold Israel accountable to its obligations under international law and repeated UN Resolutions. 

Don does not mince his words, describing Zionism for what it has become, a “brutal Israeli Apartheid-settler colonial regime.” p. 20.

At the same time, the book records the pioneering role Don and others have played in galvanising mainstream Western Christian engagement in the Middle East and in particular, advocating for, and partnering with, Palestinian Christians. 

I have known Don personally for over 25 years and it has been a privilege to accompany him on several significant journeys to Palestine. Indeed, his early writings were the inspiration for my own PhD which examined the history, theology and politics of Christian Zionism. 

Although I am confident this book will sell many copies, I am sure that what matters more to Don will be the extent to which readers are motivated to engage in the struggle for truth, justice and peace. For this is also a practical book. It is a call to action, indeed, a ‘Cry for Hope’. In the concluding chapters Don helpfully draws attention to numerous resources and initiatives which will enable readers to advocate and connect with fellow Christians in Palestine.  

There are so many excellent quotes. I’ll restrain myself to one: “Palestine becomes at once a metaphor and a living reality of a people rising from the ashes of defeat to claim what is rightfully theirs – justice and only justice.” p. 20.

After serving for five years as a pastor in a remarkable Black church, Donald Wagner comes to fully understand the original sin of racism. As his journey continues, he encounters another marginalised people the Palestinians and witnesses their struggle for justice and equality. Touched by their resilience and fight against injustice, he leaves the pastorate to assume full time work as an advocate for Palestinian political and human rights.

The memoir begins in mid-September 1982, with a gut-wrenching day interviewing survivors of the Sabra-Shatila massacre in Lebanon, as they wept and waited for the bodies of family members to be pulled from the rubble. Donald Wagner’s conversation with the local Imam ended with a challenge: You must return home and tell what you have seen. This is all we ask. Go back and tell the truth.” Glory To God in the Lowest is a metaphor for his counter intuitive journey with the victims of the “chosen people” in the “unholy land”.

I am sure I am not alone in acknowledging a deep debt of gratitude to Don for his unflinching example of what it means to follow in the footsteps of Christ.

Palestinians and Israelis: A Short History of Conflict

Michael Scott-Baumann’s book on the history of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is the most useful I have read in a very long while. The book is a literary equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife. In 258 pages, broken up into ten easy to read chapters, the author provides much more than a concise history of the conflict. The value of the book is enhanced significantly by the inclusion of an index, a helpful glossary of key terms and people, a chronological time line and a bibliography for further study. The book will also prove useful for interactive group discussion as each chapter begins with key questions answered and concludes with personal testimonies to illustrate the human impact of the conflict. 

Over seventy years old, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now the longest unresolved dispute in the hands of the United Nations. It is also the subject of more UN Resolutions than any other dispute in the world. Michael Scott-Baumann’s book explains the reasons why and puts in context the futile attempts at resolving the conflict, or indeed to diffuse the simmering tensions which all too frequently erupt in violence and death, invariably of Palestinian civilians.

Continue reading

Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) Webinar on Christian Zionism

ICAHD USA hosted a webinar on 7 November entitled ‘Christian Zionism: What Is It, How Does it Impact on the Palestinian Question, and How Do We Combat It?’ The three guest speakers were Jonathan Kuttab – Executive Director, Friends of Sabeel, North America, Dr Don Wagner – Author, co-author of five books dealing with Christian Zionism and Christian history in Palestine / Israel, and myself. Here is a recording of my presentation:

“The very being of the church, the integrity of the Christian faith, and the credibility of the Gospel is at stake.  We declare that support for the oppression of the Palestinian people, whether passive or active, through silence, word or deed, is a sin.  We assert that Christian support for Zionism as a theology and an ideology that legitimize the right of one people to deny the human rights of another is incompatible with the Christian faith and a grave misuse of the Bible.” (2020 Kairos Palestine: ‘Cry of Hope’)

Watch a recording of the full webinar here

A Biblical Critique of Apartheid

What does the Bible say about apartheid? How has the Bible been used to justify supremacism, segregation and racial purity? How is apartheid easily refuted from the Bible? This presentation will provide some answers. The introduction gives a brief historical overview showing the lineage of European supremacism, slavery, segregation and apartheid. It also examines why apartheid has been designated a crime against humanity, and shows the similarities between the South African and Israeli variants.

Download a copy of this presentation here

Continue reading

Sabeel-Kairos UK: A Christian Response to Israeli Apartheid

During the annual Sabeel-Kairos UK conference held in September, I led a short bible reflection on Apartheid based on Isaiah 56. I also led a workshop for which I prepared a research paper as well as a Bible study for personal as well as group discussion.

The following statement, presented by the Sabeel-Kairos UK trustees with the support of both Kairos Palestine and Sabeel Jerusalem, was endorsed by conference participants.

‘Having considered a Christian response to Israeli apartheid, we affirm that all people are created equally in the image of God; we commend the B’TSelem and Human Rights Watch documents designating Israel as an apartheid state; we repudiate all forms of racism and discrimination; and we recommit ourselves to working for justice, peace and reconciliation in Israel/Palestine.”

A Christian Response to Israeli Apartheid

Although we would love to meet in person, this year we have made the decision to keep our conference online in the hope that as many of you as possible are able to join us.

This year our theme is ‘A Christian Response to Israeli Apartheid’. We will be hearing from two excellent speakers about apartheid in both the Palestinian territories, and inside Israel itself.

Alongside this we will be joining together in worship, reflection, and action, and we will be hosting a number of workshops in breakout rooms, looking at how we can work within our Churches and communities to combat apartheid.

We will also be hearing direct from our partners Sabeel Jerusalem and Kairos Palestine about their work on the ground in Palestine/Israel, and the highs and lows of the last year!

We are very much looking forward to this event, and hope that you can join us.

Sabeel-Kairos UK