taking the words of Jesus seriously

October 20, 2023, a network of Palestinian Christian institutions located throughout Israel/Palestine published “An Open Letter from Palestinian Christians to Western Church Leaders and Theologians.”—a clarion call for Western church leaders and theologians to repent of our active support or passive acceptance of the oppression of Palestinian people.

On April 9, 2024, a group of Christian leaders and theologians from across the Global North and South, issued the following response. I am honored to join this statement of confession, repentance and solidarity. It does not aim to repent on behalf of “the Western church.” Rather, this response was issued on our own behalf.

Since April 9, the State of Israel and the U.S. have erased more than 1000 Palestinian images of God. 1000 more were injured. This brings the current total killed, maimed or missing under the rubble to nearly 119,000.

We invite you to read this response and consider how your story intersects with the story of Christian thought formation concerning Israel/Palestine. If you find resonance with this letter, please join us in confession, repentance, and solidarity by writing your own confessions, repentance and pledges of solidarity in the RLC social media comments. – Shane

Beloved followers of Jesus Christ in Palestine, Israel, and the Palestinian Diaspora,

As we write, the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 33,000 images of God, including more than 13,800 children and 8,400 women. Nearly 76,000 people have been maimed and more than 8,000 are still missing under the rubble. Thus, nearly 117,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, maimed, or buried under rubble since October 7, 2023. On that day, 1,139 Israeli images of God were killed and a further 130 Israelis are still held hostage by Hamas inside Gaza, at least 34 of whom are presumed dead. In the West Bank, 457 images of God have been killed. Every life is equally precious in the sight of God. We are broken by this destruction of lives, families, and communities.

Six months after Netanyahu ordered a blockade on all food, water, and electricity going into Gaza, 100% of the 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza now face starvation, with half of the population (1.1 million) on the brink of forced famine, which experts predict will hit the population by May. We are broken by this destruction of lives, families, and communities.

The International Court of Justice has ruled Israel’s acts a plausible genocide. In addition, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights recently reported: “There are reasonable grounds to believe the threshold indicating the commission of the crime of genocide…has been met.”

In this context, we, the undersigned, followers of Jesus from around the world, reflect on your letter with profound sorrow and grief. We are distressed by the loss of innocent lives, now ten times greater than at your initial writing. We are aware of the regional and global significance of what is occurring in Palestine and Israel, especially from your vantage point and from the perspective of human rights and humanitarian law. We acknowledge that complicity in this war is found not only in the West but in the Church around the globe.

While we cannot represent the “Western Church” today, we humbly receive and affirm your call for Western Christian leaders and theologians to repent of our biased disregard towards Palestinians and your unjust and devastating suffering as well as of all theological articulations that promote or justify it.

We hear your cry that we must see, hear, value, and trust your witness to the brutal suffering imposed by the State of Israel and strongly enabled by the military support of Western Countries led by the United States of America.

Collectively, we confess that at various points in our Christian journey, we have been influenced by, actively supported, and/or helped promote Zionist theologies.

We confess that we have failed to recognize the ways we have operated according to the logics of white supremacy; accepting the false narrative that Palestinian and Arab people are our inherent enemies.

We confess we have valued Palestinian and Arab lives less than others.

We confess that we have equated the State of Israel with the Israel of the Old Testament.

We confess that we have been afraid. Fearful of what others may say or think if we speak up, fearful of consequences to us – without thinking too deeply of the costs that you have paid.

We confess that we have let the sense of being so dwarfed by the powers of Israel/Palestine, the pervasive influence in America of dispensational eschatology, and the elephant of American militarism, that we have chosen silence rather than courage.

We confess that we have accepted the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes and ancestral lands.

We confess that we have failed to speak up for a just settlement that allows all to live in peace and security.

We confess that we have done far too little to counter the dominant theology that supports the Israeli occupation and violence against those made in the image of God.

We confess that all too often particular theological perspectives have fueled blind support for the State of Israel and its actions. We recognize and accept Israel’s existence as a nation-state. Theologically, however, we do not believe that the modern state of Israel is the same as ancient Israel portrayed in Scripture, nor do we envision the modern state as a harbinger of Christ’s return. We reject all theological perspectives that promote Christian Zionism and justify Israel’s oppressive policies and practices towards Palestinians.

We repent. Repentance is a process. For some of us, this repentance journey began decades ago. For others, the journey began six months ago. Regardless of when our journey began, we commit ourselves today to sit together for mutual learning and dialogue, debate, and rigorous examination of biblical, theological, and political issues. We long for our assumptions and biases to be exposed, for teachability and deep love, in order to act out of deeper/ more faithful convictions. We want to learn and to listen to you, so you might help us be freed from our silence, paralysis, and unrecognized prejudice. As we all do our work in varied lands and contexts, we hold in common the reality of the love, mercy, and justice of God in Jesus Christ that is with us now and always.

We repent of our feeble advocacy, ignorance, and/or silence about this war, and about the underlying oppression of Palestinians. This leads us to humble dependence on God’s mercy. In the light of the suffering, resurrected Lord who laid down his life to defeat all the powers of death, vengeance, hostility, and oppression and rose again so that we can live reconciled to God and each other, we repent of all theologies and practical support that justifies oppression, hostility, vengeance, erasure, and death in the name of Christ.

We stand in solidarity with, and in compassion for, all who are suffering the death of loved ones, the daily violence and brutal injustices, and the oppressive forces that are erasing hope. Many of us have expressed our solidarity with such statements as that from INFEMIT, from the Archdiocese of South Africa, from Churches for Middle East Peace and from the global Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage, but we here now express our further solidarity.

We call for an immediate and sustained ceasefire, the unconditional end to the genocide in Gaza, ethnic cleansing in the West Bank, and an end to Israeli Occupation. We support a solution that leads to the restoration of political and social rights, self-governance, and the right of all Palestinians to self-determination.

Finally, sisters and brothers, we recognize that you have stood –and continue to stand– as faithful and courageous followers of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, amidst the long and daily horror of Gaza and the West Bank since Nakba, and even more intensively since October 2023. Though we have been inadequate in our solidarity with you, we now join you in faith and hope in the God who is seeking to remake our narratives for the thriving of all peoples in Palestine and Israel and beyond, and for the well-being of the entire creation. With you, we plead: Lord, have mercy on us!

With Love and Respect,
(in alphabetical order)

Rev. René August
Theologian and Priest,
Anglican Church of Southern Africa

Rev. Dr. M. Craig Barnes

Dr. Michael Barram
Professor of Theology & Religious Studies (Biblical Studies)
Saint Mary’s College of California

Rev. Dr. Gary M. Burge
Theologian, Author, Educator
Emeritus Professor New Testament, Wheaton College

Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon
Executive Director
Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)

Shane Claiborne
Author and Activist
Executive Director, Red Letter Christians

Rev. Dr. David M. Crump
Emeritus Professor of New Testament, Calvin University

Seblewengel Daniel PhD
Theologian and part-time Lecturer at the Ethiopian Graduate School of Theology

Dr. Bruce N. Fisk
Professor of New Testament, Westmont College (ret.)

Dr. Paul Bendor-Samuel
Physician and Mission Theologian

Dr. Ruth Padilla DeBorst
Theologian, Associate Professor at Western Theological Seminary
Coordinator, International Fellowship for Mission as Transformation (INFEMIT)

Lisa Sharon Harper
Theologian, Writer, Speaker
President and Founder, FreedomRoad.us

Amanda Kaminski, PhD
Assistant Professor of Theology
Texas Lutheran University, Seguin, Texas

Rev. Dr. Mark Labberton
Theologian, Pastor, Educator, and Author

Prof. Dr. Habil. Marcel Måcelaru,
Professor, Aurel Vlaicu University
Arad, Romania

Rev. Michael A. Mata

Jarrod McKenna
Nonviolent Social Change Educator,
Pastor and Theologian

Rt. Rev. Dr. David Zac Niringiye
Theologian, Author, and Bishop in the Church of Uganda (Anglican)

Dr. Soong-Chan Rah
Munger Professor of Evangelism
Fuller Theological Seminary

Dr. Vinoth Ramachandra
Author, Lecturer, and former Secretary for
Dialogue and Social Engagement for the
International Fellowship of Evangelical Students

Lisa Rodriguez-Watson
National Director, Missio Alliance

Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil
Speaker, Author, & Professor of Reconciliation Studies
Associate Pastor of Preaching & Reconciliation

Dr. Jer Swigart
Executive Director, Global Immersion

Nikki Toyama-Szeto
Executive Director
Christians for Social Action

Rev. Dr. Al Tizon
Lead Pastor, Grace Fellowship
San Francisco.

Rev. Dr. J. Ross Wagner
Theologian, Author, and Educator

Veena O’Sullivan
International Activist, Speaker

(Attributions are solely for identification purposes and do not necessarily represent the position of the institutions.)

About The Author


Shane Claiborne is a best-selling author, renowned activist,
 sought-after speaker, and self-proclaimed “recovering sinner.” Shane writes and speaks around the world about peacemaking, social justice, and Jesus, and is the author of several books, 
including "The Irresistible Revolution," "Jesus for President," "Executing Grace," "Beating Guns," and his newest book, "Rethinking Life (released in Feb 2023)." He is the visionary leader of The Simple Way in Philadelphia and co-director of Red Letter Christians. His work has been featured in Fox News, Esquire, SPIN, TIME, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and CNN.

Related Posts

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
    Check which Newsletter(s) you'd like to receive:    

You have Successfully Subscribed!