By Jim Fletcher—
One evening in 1998, Ariel Sharon told me that Israelis don’t learn enough Bible. I knew his statement was more than pandering to a friendly audience. His claim pointed to the foundational link between Jews and Christians: Scripture. When our group heard the then-Minister of Infrastructures invoke the foundational document of Zionism, our hearts beat a bit faster.
That seems a lifetime ago.
I thought of Sharon’s remarks recently, as I read with dismay another swipe at Israel taken by a group that is growing among evangelical leadership in America: the so-called “Christian Palestinianists.”
In short, a Christian Palestinianist is one who believes the Palestinian Narrative, namely that Israel is a brutal occupier of the besieged Palestinian Arabs, and the state of Israel was born in sin. The term was coined by British scholar Paul Wilkinson.
Of course, smiling evangelical leaders like Lynne Hybels don’t quite put it that way. But when they address large audiences at large conferences — or otherwise through their huge networks — their presentations sound like something crafted by the PLO.
In the wake of gruesome, murderous attacks on Israeli Jews during the so-called “Knife” or “Lone Wolf” intifada that began in September 2015, the silence from America’s evangelical leaders is chilling. What can one conclude but that they are, at best, indifferent to terror attacks launched by Palestinians.
In my view, these evangelicals are also enemies of the Jewish people.
The jihad that began last year was multi-faceted. It ranged from incomprehensible ISIS attacks on women and children, to diplomatic, political, and religious networks cultivated in the West by groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.
Nowhere are these networks more pronounced than in the American evangelical leadership community. To my knowledge, only John Hagee and Franklin Graham among really nationally known clergy, speak out about the threats from jihadists, including Palestinians.
Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, has presented compelling evidence that a key plank in the Brotherhood’s agenda is hosting “interfaith” conferences and dialogues with evangelicals. Incredibly, influential evangelical pastors, led by Bob Roberts Jr., are eager to take part and even coordinate such gatherings. Roberts embarrassed himself and evangelicalism by grinning and shaking Muhammad Morsi’s hand in New York in 2012, when the Muslim Brotherhood leader took power in Egypt.
According to a CAMERA report, Roberts routinely befriends radical Muslims:
“One of the ‘key Islamic leaders’ Roberts invokes is … Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a man who has praised Hitler, supports female genital mutilation, supported the fatwa calling for the assassination of writer Salman Rushdie and to top it all off, has called for a second Holocaust against the Jewish people!”
(Roberts, along with Donald Miller, the Blue Like Jazz author who penned a hit piece on Israel in November 2012 — accusing the IDF of war crimes — has blocked me on Twitter, because I spotlight their dangerous associations with jihadists.)
More than a decade ago, few evangelicals saw all this on the horizon. David Parsons of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem was an exception. He knew and wrote about it:
“Meanwhile, though most Evangelical Christians have long tended to hold a favorable view of Israel for biblical and moral reasons, some Evangelicals began gravitating towards a pro-Palestinian stand. Many were impacted by the tales of suffering they heard and read from local Arab Christians, chief among them being Father Elias Chacour.”
Still, until the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conferences began a few years ago – in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus – few understood just how deeply “Christian Palestinianism” had burrowed into the American evangelical community.
The fact is that today, the largest networks among evangelicals, among them the Willow Creek Association, are being fed the “Christ at the Checkpoint” narrative. Young media tycoons like Cameron Strang of Relevant magazine are wholesale jumping on-board its narrative wagon.
What a contrast from the days of Charles Spurgeon, Britain’s “Prince of Preachers.” On 16 June 1864, Spurgeon preached a remarkable sermon, in which he openly acknowledged that the Jews would one day return to their ancestral homeland and establish a modern state. In addressing the famous passages in Ezekiel 37, Spurgeon made clear the emphasis of the “Dry Bones” restoration:
“There is no allusion made by Ezekiel to the resurrection, and such topic would have been quite apart from the design of the prophet’s speech. I believe he was no more thinking of the resurrection of the dead than of the building of St. Peter’s in Rome, or the emigration of the Pilgrim Fathers. That topic is altogether foreign to the subject in hand, and could not by any possibility have crept into the prophet’s mind. He was talking about the people of Israel, and prophesying concerning them; and evidently the vision, according to God’s own interpretation of it, was concerning them, and them alone, for ‘these bones are the whole house of Israel.’”
Spurgeon then specifically claimed that the returning Jews would have a sovereign political presence in the land:
“If words mean anything, first, that there shall be a political restoration of the Jews to their own land and to their own nationality.”
What made Spurgeon’s sermon all the more remarkable is that it was delivered 30 years before Theodor Herzl’s awakening, and was thundered from the pulpit of Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle (perhaps one of the first “mega-churches”) at precisely the same time European seminaries were rife with the teaching that the Bible is in some part myth.
Sadly, today in American pulpits, one would almost always hear Ezekiel 37 preached as a text honoring churches that once were dead and dry, but are now alive! The fact is, there is a general dislike of Jews among influential clergy and seminary professors, and that diabolical mindset has filtered-down to the pews, where very little actual Bible study is done.
Even LifeWay bookstores, the chain owned and operated by the Southern Baptist Convention, stock Sunday school maps depicting “Palestine in the Time of Jesus.” Never mind that neither Jesus nor the apostles knew anything of “Palestine,” but the regional name has compelled too many evangelicals (like Philip Yancey) to label Jesus a “Palestinian rabbi,” or the “Palestinian Jesus.” This false historical label was popularized by none other than Yasser Arafat, yet evangelical leaders are good with it.
Millennials are a big target of the pro Palestinian community. And they aren’t just reaching them in churches. In the summer of 2015, in downtown Chicago, there was a “Justice Conference.” It featured Dr. Cornel West, who ranted about white privilege and other alleged inequities, while a capacity crowd applauded wildly.
In his book, Radicals, David Horowitz offers a very clear picture of who West is:
“He was a celebrity sponsor of the 2012 ‘Global March to Jerusalem,’ an attack organized by Islamist Iran on the Jewish state. He has been a frequent speaker at the black liberation church of another sponsor of the Global March, Jeremiah Wright, the notorious anti-Semite and race-hater whom West regards as ‘my dear brother’ and ‘a prophetic Christian preacher.’
In workshops at the Justice Conference, young people were treated to earnest presentations by Christian Palestinianists Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart of the Global Immersion Project. Jonathan Merritt, a Southern Baptist blue-blood (his father, Dr. James Merritt, is the former president of the SBC), also spoke at the Justice Conference. Merritt has spoken to the Telos Group, sharing with the group how to use narrative and story to advance one’s agenda.
The Christian Palestinianists, led by Bethlehem’s Sami Awad, use narrative over facts, and are successfully tugging at the heartstrings of Millennials. That many of the Palestinian claims of Israeli abuse are false is completely lost on these audiences.
Huckins, in a July 8, 2014 blog post, stated clearly that the “cycle of violence” is the real culprit between Israelis and Palestinians:
“In the midst of conflict, the prophetic presence of peacemakers is stronger than ever. Within the Just Peacemaking paradigm (developed by a mentor of mine, the late Glen Stassen), the only way to slow the building cycle of violence is to choose practices of de-escalation. In other words, until someone is willing to respond to an act of violence with a lesser degree of violence (or none at all!), things will continue to get worse.
“As the cycle of violence builds in Israel/Palestine through acts of revenge and retaliation, we must shine a light on those who are intentionally choosing to put their lives on the line through actions of de-escalation. We know that hate breeds hate and violence breeds violence, but we trust that the seeds of love returned in the face of hate and violence will root deep into the soil of renewed relationship.”
(The late Stassen, a professor at Fuller Seminary, wrote with his friend David Gushee in 2011 that Christian Zionists are “sinning” by supporting Israel.)
The cumulative effect of leftist speakers and writers, and presentations whitewashing Palestinian incitement and outright lies is that whole generations of Americans are turning against Israel.
Would that American evangelical leaders begin teaching their congregations more Bible, and less leftist ideology.