By Luke Moon, The Tower–
In 2010, a film was released that perfectly encapsulated the erosion of Evangelical Christian support for Israel. The film, With God on Our Side, featured a young man learning about the Palestinian struggle and coming to see Israel not as evidence of God’s faithfulness, but as a mean and heartless nation enabled by American Evangelicals who have embraced Zionist ideology.
The film’s narrative of peace-loving Palestinians mistreated by heartless Israelis and their Christian Zionist supporters has been repackaged and promoted again and again by anti-Israel activists in some of the most influential Evangelical institutions in the United States. These activists, often in high positions, have found eager disciples in places like the megachurch campus of Willow Creek and the academic halls of Wheaton College, one of America’s preeminent Evangelical institutions. And they have been able to exploit the resources of popular Evangelical development organizations like World Vision.
Exposing these activists and their strategy is key to thwarting their efforts to undermine Evangelical support for Israel.
For many anti-Israel activists, Christian Zionism is an easy and strategically important target. Many of them believe that U.S. political and military support for Israel is not the result of activism by the Jewish lobby, which represents at best 2 percent of the U.S. population, but the much larger segment of support that comes from politically active Christians, and in particular Evangelical Americans. In order to end U.S. support for Israel, which is held to be the only reason the occupation still exists, pro-Palestinian anti-Israel activists need to confront Christian Zionism. The added benefit, of course, is that it is much easier to avoid being labeled “anti-Semitic” if they go after a Christian movement instead of a Jewish one.
Just as Evangelical support for the religious Right is maligned by those who create a caricature out of Jerry Falwell, Evangelical support for Israel is maligned by those who create a caricature out of Christian Zionism and supporters like John Hagee. To many anti-Israel activists, all Christians who support the Jews’ right to live and flourish in their historic homeland are Christian Zionists.
In fact, such derision is highly inaccurate. The reasons Evangelicals support Israel are diverse and multifaceted. Some of them do believe in an apocalyptic eschatology that sees the modern state of Israel as a sign of the second coming of the messiah. Others, however, are more reluctant to embrace a particular eschatology, and find the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the creation of the State of Israel as providential and evidence of God’s faithfulness to his chosen people. Still others are fairly uninterested in theological justifications, and support Israel because it is a fellow democracy in a region filled with antagonistic autocrats, most of whom persecute Christians and subvert freedom of religion, a value Israel strenuously upholds. And many support Israel for the same reason many secular people do: Compassion for the historical suffering of the Jews, who have suffered under the heavy boot of pogroms and countless other atrocities, and a belief in the rightness of Zionism.
While Evangelical support for Israel is broad and multifaceted, the challenge to this support has been driven by a fairly small number of people who wield vastly outsized influence inside the Evangelical community. One of those individuals is Lynne Hybels. Read more…