The Common Good
March 2010

The Lens of Justice

by Tom Getman | March 2010

With God on Our Side, directed by Porter Speakman Jr. (Rooftop Productions)

A mood change in America since the 2008-09 Israeli incursion into Gaza, with a growing awareness about Israeli human rights abuses, makes the timing advantageous for With God on Our Side. This film underscores the need for urgency, for the sake of Israel as well as Palestine, of making a just peace in the Holy Land.

Directed and produced by Porter Speakman Jr., With God on Our Side opens in a pro-Israel American megachurch, magnifying the often-unquestioned ideology that justifies occupation and cruel dispossession.
The viewer accompanies a young narrator on a pilgrimage to Israel and the Occupied Territories. We see violations of international law, especially the moving of Israelis into settlements on Palestinian land. We are confronted by the oppressive ideology in the victimization of Palestinian and Israeli Arabs. Christian Zionists rationalize these violations with insistence that Jews are the only “chosen” because of their suffering and the “land promise” by God to Abraham.
Startling sights and compelling interviews convey the great tragedy that Christian Zionism undergirds offending Israeli politics. This skewed teaching, the film proposes, enables not only violation of human law but of God’s law of loving neighbor. Can the Bible be used to justify crimes against humanity? Can the kingdom of God possibly be realized by violent dispossession?
“End-times theology that causes rejection of an ethnic group, or a brother like me, is a sin,” declares Salim Munayer, academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College and founder of Musalaha Reconciliation Ministries.
Using the Bible to justify nationalistic purposes is idolatry. The Apostle Paul teaches in Colossians and Ephesians that “chosen people” are not a racial group but people in right relationship with God, “Jew and Gentile” together, all children of Abraham by faith.
“Political opinion that causes prejudice toward another people puts us at risk of losing the heart of God,” another interviewee in the film posits. “We must decide whether we use the lens of prophecy or the lens of justice.”
With God on Our Side signals a hope that Christian Zionists will change through the persuasive voices of progressive Christians and Jews. It posits that support of Israel “right or wrong” is an adopted formula of world Christian empire that actually threatens Israel’s survival.
For all its appeal, With God on Our Side is not perfect. It is too long for easy use in church or Christian education settings and lacks a study guide with introduction and bibliography. Some of the theologizing may be lost on the uninitiated. Visuals of the separation barrier and the “Israelis only” highways in the Occupied Territories need explanation. Translation from Arabic to English is often difficult to follow, and subtitles would have made the nonnative English speakers more understandable.
These minor faults aside, thoughtful believers should see and discuss this film. It helps to build a new consensus for the Middle East—for Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike—for a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state. With God on Our Side is a pivotal educational tool, especially now as the Obama administration moves from status quo tactics (e.g. on settlements) to a larger Middle East strategy to address U.S. security and ethical interests.
Tom Getman, a former NGO executive in D.C., Palestine, and Geneva, is now a consultant on international affairs. To arrange a screening, contact info@withgodonourside.com.
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