Theology in the Vineyard is a blog for Roman Catholics who have been marginalized by the Church. It began with a meeting on a vineyard in eastern Ontario in 2005, inspired by the Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium (1964), which invited congregants to express their own opinions about the Church. Some attendees commented about feeling “exasperated by the institution” and others commented about needing a “social justice church.”
Ted Schmidt has been at the helm of Theology in the Vineyard since its founding, serving as editor and blog writer. Schmidt was the former editor of the Catholic New Times and a religious education teacher known for connecting religion to social justice.
In 2018, Ted Schmidt published his book I was a Catholic Zionist: A biblical challenge to tribalism and idolatry. The book shares his journey from growing up among Holocaust survivors and embracing the state of Israel to his travels to Palestine and years of research causing him to question “what the political movement is doing to Judaism.” Schmidt shared more about his experiences in this interview with Unusual Sources, an anti-war radio program.
Theology in the Vineyard has been prolific, consistently posting blog articles between 2006 and 2018. Many of these blog posts touch on Israel, Palestine, and the question of justice in the region from a Catholic perspective.
A Catholic Perspective on Israel/Palestine
Schmidt used to believe, like many, that Israel was a champion of the oppressed and downtrodden, constantly fighting for the survival of Jewish peoples in the region. The biblical story of David and Goliath became a metaphor for modern Israel–as David—fighting against Arabs—as Goliath—who pushed back against the state’s creation and expansion in 1948 and 1967.
Another Theology in the Vineyard blog post from 2017 claims to debunk this David and Goliath metaphor, sharing reported quotes from both the Israeli Prime Minister and General, admitting in 1967 that it was Israel who decided to attack despite Egypt and the Arab states not posing a true threat. The post also quotes Israeli politician Modechai Bentov, one of the signatories of its declaration of independence and a member of its war-time cabinet, who allegedly said: “The entire story of the danger of extermination was invented in every detail and exaggerated a posteriori to justify the annexation of new Arab territory.”
Theology in the Vineyard sheds light on the plight of Palestinians living under Israel’s power: Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, having to face the threat of Israel’s immense military power, and experiencing dehumanization on multiple scales. Marc Barham similarly writes about Israel: “This Goliath [Israel] is now so secure in its position with the unwavering support of another Goliath—the United States of America—that it fears nobody—apart from the David of Palestine, which it has created by its own inhuman actions.”
Never Neutral in the Face of Injustice
Why have a Catholic perspective about Israel/Palestine at all?
In a 2006 blog post titled “The believing person is a political person,” Schmidt writes: “One’s deepest beliefs should lead one to politics—not of the Republican Party nor of any party, but the politics of the reign of God. For Christians this would mean a Beatitude agenda, an option for the weakest, for mercy and compassion and a hunger and thirst for justice.” In Schmidt’s perspective, a true Catholic believer will advocate for the oppressed and downtrodden.
His book Never Neutral: A Teaching Life (2013) is a memoir that describes his life pursuing justice in the classroom and calls on educators to take risks in advocating for the common good. Schmidt taught about the Holocaust as a public school teacher in the 1960s, during a time when antisemitism was open and brazen. In an interview, he described agreeing with Baal Shem Tov that “’Forgetfulness prolongs the exile; remembrance is the secret of redemption.’ Catholics… must deal with this issue…”
It was St. John XXIII who said that “Justice comes before charity.” In a 2006 Theology in the Vineyard blog post, Schmidt quotes the Hebrew prophet Amos of Tekoa: “’Let justice roll like living water.’ (5:21) Do not become Pharoah; stop being Goliath.”
To learn more about Israel/Palestine and how you can support peace, visit The Promised Land Museum.