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Truth in Palestine

Your June 2008 article “CRC Leaders Visit Palestine” gives a glimpse of what is happening in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. We are grateful the Christian Reformed Church has been interested in learning what our news media will not tell us. Simply put, that it is apartheid and ethnic cleansing, made possible by grants of billions of dollars a year from our government to support the occupation army. Polls show that a small majority of Jewish people in Israel and the U.S. do not support the occupation. More than 100 Jewish organizations are actively working to stop it. But it continues, and very few Americans know what is happening because our news media are silent about it.

Please ask the people who made that trip to share more of their experiences and insights.

—Jake TerpstraGrand Rapids, Mich.

I was disturbed by what I saw as half-truths and misrepresentations in this article. On a positive note, I agree with those quoted that life in the disputed territories is hell on earth and a humanitarian disgrace. And I agree that the modern state of Israel is “not chosen of God” or in need of saving for some end-times purpose. My disagreements are not influenced by Zionist preachers, but simply by my heart and brain.

For example, the Palestinians are kept in subhuman conditions for political purposes. Does anyone find it ironic that the wretched people they observed are “brothers and sisters” to some of the wealthiest nations and kingdoms on earth that surround them? These countries literally have wealth pouring out of the ground, yet find it more convenient to keep the Palestinians in the world’s first multigenerational refugee camps to show the TV cameras and tour groups how cruel the Israelis are.

—Marc PetersonGrand Rapids, Mich.

Belhar Marxist?

The article “Marxism Comes to the CRC?” (IMHO, June 2008) is remarkable for a number of reasons:

  1. Its absence of argument. If the author wants us to accept his essay as anything other than slander, he needs to show us how the Belhar Confession promotes socialism “by demanding obedience to the Marxist ideology of class struggle.” He offers no such proof, only a long chain of charges and accusations.
  2. Its embarrassing resemblance to white supremacy.  One of the main rationales whites in authority gave for the apartheid system and the brutal suppression of black protest in South Africa was that it was necessary to defend the country against the onslaught of communism (or “Marxism”). It seems that this author borrows the same bogus rationale in an effort to suppress consideration of the Belhar by the Christian Reformed Church.
  3. And, finally, the essay’s almost total lack of attention to the Belhar itself. Where the author does cite the Belhar, he is terribly wrong. For example, he quotes four statements from Article 4 of the Belhar as examples of Marxist ideology. Yet these four statements summarize the teaching of the Bible in passages such as Psalm 35:10, 68:10, 82:2-4, 140:12; Proverbs 14:31, 29:7; Isaiah 5:8, 10:1-2, 25:4, 30:18, 61:8; Amos 5:24, Micah 6:8, and Matthew 25:31.

—Rev. Harry Weidenaar,Seattle, Wash.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this opinion piece is the implicit threat of “alienating” the church’s “core members” that it ends with. Threats, alarmist statements, slippery-slope argumentation, and appeals based on fear have no place in Christian discourse. What we really have to fear is not a threat of Marxism from the outside, but who we will become as a communion if we feel the need to charge our opinions with threats of alienation. Discussions about adopting a new confession should bring out what is best about us: the faith we hold to, the love we have for one another, and the great hope we have for the world.

—Sean LarsenDurham, N.C.

Cuba Embargo

I strongly disagree with the Caribbean and North American Area Council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches that the U.S. embargo of Cuba is “a violation against the Cuban people and an exclusion that impoverishes and causes harsh suffering for women, men, and children” and that lifting it is “in the interest of justice and right relationships” (“Reformed Leaders Call for End to Cuba Embargo,” May 2008).

If those Reformed leaders want to bring “justice and right relationships” and end poverty in Cuba, they must work to bring an end to Communist rule, not encourage the U.S. to prop it up. Sanctions against South Africa caused pain for the people of South Africa, but by helping destroy apartheid, the sanctions gave them a better future.

—Raymond Paul OpekaGrand Rapids, Mich.

Communion Bread

Regarding FAQs, May 2008, why not use unleavened bread for communion? The suggestion that leavened bread is used “because it’s readily available” is a painful reach. The theological explanations, while accurate, seem to be the long way around to an answer that borders on rationalization. Isn’t the more straightforward answer that it’s our tradition and it’s what we prefer?

The “sacrifice” of eating unleavened bread pales in comparison to the sacrifice of Christ that it represents. And for those of you having trouble locating unleavened bread, I would direct you to your local supermarket. It’s in the cracker aisle.

—Bob BakerChino, Calif.

Thank You, Rev. Eppinga

I appreciated the April cover recognizing Rev. Jacob Eppinga’s 40-year contribution to The Banner. His sermons at LaGrave Avenue CRC were masterpieces that proclaimed God’s Word. Humor tinged his messages, both written and spoken. Not enough can be said about his passion for the church and the Reformed faith. Our generation has been blessed to have Eppinga share his wisdom and his gifts so generously. May God use his contributions to inspire us to a more Christ-like life.

—Michael T. RuiterGrand Rapids, Mich.