TL;DR: Free Palestine

Brice Laughrey
5 min readDec 7, 2023

Original photo by Mohammed Abubakr

Palestine has been a big part of the news in the US for the last couple months, and it has been especially prominent on my social media feeds. I imagine most people have heard about the “war” that’s “raging” between Israel and Palestine, even if they might not know the details. I’d heard about the conflict between these two groups as a kid, but it seemed worlds away, so it never occurred to me to learn more.

Now, being a bit more aware of how systemic injustice creates the bedrock of many societies and communities, I’m much more keen on understanding current events and how even a conflict thousands of miles away is intertwined with my day to day life.

Slow to Comment

I’m almost always slow to comment on current events, particularly those that involve oppression. I used to think this was because I’m a very thoughtful person, and I like to process as much information as possible before concluding anything. I no longer think that’s the case.

While I still consider myself thoughtful, I now think there are two reasons why I’m slow to comment, and I think both of them stem from growing up in fundamentalism.

  1. I’m way behind the curve on history.
  2. I’m still learning to discern between a spirit of Justice and a spirit of fundamentalism.

Ignorant of history

Fundamentalist Christianity downplays the importance of most of history, and the history that it does acknowledge is skewed to support a fundamentalist Christian world view. Some examples are manifest destiny or the transatlantic slave trade. Two things stand out to me about how they were taught.

  1. Nonchalance: the atrocious nature of much of Western/American history was taught to me in the most nonchalant fashion, as though it were perfectly normal for entire peoples to be displaced, slaughtered, or enslaved. It implied that such things were of little importance compared to the soul-saving doctrinal issues about which people were debating. History wasn’t as important as saving souls in the present, so it wasn’t until after I was well into deconstructing fundamentalism that I even thought to put energy into understanding history.
  2. White Christians were always the heroes. This meant that colonizers always had the support of God. Always. And, not only did they have a perpetual, divine blessing, they were also centered in all the history I was taught. It was as though nothing in history was relevant until it became part of white, Christian history.

These things weren’t true for my public school teachers, but those teachers were competing with my fundamentalist, religious communities for influence of my mind, and school was more about paying attention to friends than to adults. In the end, fundamentalism won, and I was left ignorant of history.

Discerning Justice

Discerning Justice from within fundamentalist Christian contexts was almost impossible for me, because the idea of justice was so entangled with self-justification and tradition. And, as I already said, I didn’t have accurate history to challenge me. Doctrine was God, rightness was righteousness, and whatever upheld the status quo was obviously divinely just. There’s probably a whole book’s worth of unpacking to do on this, but the relevance here is that until I started deconstructing fundamentalist agendas and their ideas of justice, I couldn’t even begin to understand how to discern between fundamentalist ideology and any consistent concept of Justice.

I capitalize Justice, here, because I’m still working on integrating the idea that I’m looking for something bigger or more substantial than mere doctrine — something more applicable to a universal human experience rather than only the insular expectations of a particular group. I’ve written before about having a consistent theology, and I think a core concept of Justice is part of that.

This has been particularly troubling for me as I continue to learn more about Palestine. So much of the anti-Palestinian rhetoric I’ve been hearing has avoided any engagement with a consistent understanding of Justice. Rather, self-justification, rationalization, and fundamentalism have obscured the idea of Justice and made way for ignorance and scapegoating.

One of the frustrating things about this is that where nuance ought to help us discern these things, it’s instead being weaponized to flood the conversation with so many details that the plot often gets lost. This is a common tactic in Christian apologetics, as well, where so many “branches” are attached to the debate that the opposition can essentially be ignored.

Cutting to the Core of Justice

All this to say that it still takes me far too long to claw my way out from under this fundamentalist baggage, and that means my voice too often misses the chance to make a difference. It’s been two months since the world powers allowed, and even supported, what may well be the final phase of a decades long plan for the genocide of the Palestinian people. I hope it’s not too late to say plainly what so many people are refusing to say.

To speak of Justice for anyone while speaking against Justice for Palestinians is hypocrisy. When we pretend we care about Justice but deny it to some, we show ourselves to be unsafe for the oppressed and marginalized. But, let’s be more specific.

Justice is not having to live in fear every day of being murdered. Justice is not having to watch your family get blown up or shot or buried alive. Justice is not having to suffer and die for the actions of others or for the greed of others. Justice is giving people water to drink and food to eat. Justice is medicine and medical care for the sick. Justice is giving people a voice instead of working to prevent their stories from being heard. Justice is equity. Justice is mourning with those who mourn.

Justice says bombing children is wrong, and so is dismissing them as collateral damage. None of the so-called nuance matters when we cut to the core of these situations. If Hamas kills children, that’s not Justice, and if Israel kills children, that’s not Justice, either. To say one is justified because of the other is preposterous.

Being pro-Israel isn’t the same as being pro-Jew, and being pro-Palestinian isn’t the same as being pro-Hamas. Justice says Jews deserve to be treated like people, because they are people. Justice says Palestinians deserve to be treated like people, because they are people. Genocide denies the humanity of others and is therefore never justified. Justice is acknowledging humanity in those whom the world has cast aside as animals — those whom society has vilified, demonized, marginalized, and disenfranchised.

I don’t always trust my ability to see clearly, because of all that baggage I’m still carrying from fundamentalism. I can’t always tell if I’m being reactionary or misguided or if I’m still stuck in the grip of some fundamentalist ideology. But right now, I feel pretty sure about this; I feel confident in what my heart and my head are both telling me.

Free Palestine, because anything less is another failure to pursue Justice in human history.

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Originally published at http://breakingbreadtheology.com on December 7, 2023.

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Brice Laughrey

Owner of Breaking Bread Theology and co-founder of 1310 Ministries. Currently living and worshiping in Las Vegas, NV.