One year ago the iEngage team expanded the project to address a challenge for Christian engagement with Israel. Drawing together a group of Christian academics and theologians who have years of experience at the Shalom Hartman Institute in the yearly Theology Conference or CLI (Christian Leadership Initiative
), New Paths: Christians Engaging Israel
is in development in partnership with the Lutheran-affiliated Muhlenberg College in Allentown PA to provide its first course, entitled "Memories, Meanings, and Hopes."
will lead North American Christians into engaging contemporary Israel in its complexity through a paradigm and process that draws on Christian religious identity, that is not based in crisis, and that provides an alternative to other paradigms currently available, such as liberation theology and Christian Zionism.
As iEngage has examined issues that have challenged Jewish engagement with Israel, this first course of New Paths: Christians Engaging Israel speaks to stumbling blocks for Christians. These include idealizing the Holy Land to a degree that sets impossible standards for real life, as well as the long and persistent history of Christian teaching that Jews deserve and are destined to live perpetually in exile. While many churches have been satisfied simply to repudiate this “teaching of contempt,” New Paths will build on creative theology that moves beyond it, offering a foundation for more constructive Christian engagement with Israel.
Participants in New Paths will learn how Jews understand exile and return in various ways, and the many meanings of the State of Israel for the Jewish people. Engaging fully with the reality of modern Israel, Christians must understand the diversity of Israel’s non-Jewish residents, with their distinctive relationships to Israel, so the voices of Palestinian Muslims and Christians are heard in New Paths alongside those of Jews.
"Memories, Meanings, and Hopes," the first product of New Paths, due out early in 2013, will include a six-part adult education course for use in churches, as well as an expanded for-credit course for use in divinity schools and universities. Through them, Christians will be invited and introduced to a sustained engagement with Israel in its contemporary reality and its complex challenges.