New Evangelical Movement Seeks Split From Pro-Israel Line

My Catbird Seat January 16, 2014 20

Dissent within the fold. “This message is resonating with the rising generation,” says Brog.

 

McKay Coppins

Political editor, BuzzFeed

New Evangelical splitNew Evangelical Movement — A visitor places a cross in the snow as he prays for peace near the old city wall of Jerusalem. Uriel Sinai / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Figures with deep roots in America’s religious right have launched a quiet effort aimed at pushing evangelical Christians away from decades of growing loyalty to Israel and toward increased solidarity with the Palestinians.

The campaign by a coalition of religious leaders, international nonprofits, and activists has taken place in recent years largely behind the scenes and away from the prying eyes of the political press — and it’s being driven by a generation of Evangelicals alienated by the way their faith was yoked to Republican foreign policy during the Bush years. Now, organizations like the Telos Group and the large Christian nonprofit World Vision have joined a small army of ministers and Christian opinion-makers working to reorient Evangelicals’ stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — producing documentaries about the plight of Palestinian Christians, providing theological rationale for a more “balanced” view of the issue, and taking Evangelicals on trips to the Middle East.

The goal is to soften the bulletproof political alliance between American Evangelicals and Israel — forged over decades of successful courtship by Israeli governments and pro-Israel forces in the U.S. — and to make room on the religious right for Palestinian sympathies. If the movement is successful, it would represent a move toward mainline, politically liberal Christian denominations that have long been aligned with the Palestinian cause. The Presbyterian Church USA, for instance, briefly adopted a policy of divesting from some companies doing business in Israel.

The campaign has alarmed America’s most committed Christian supporters of Israel, who acknowledge their rivals’ message is gaining momentum within the church.

David Brog - CUFI Director MCSEd.note : David Brog the Executive Director of CUFI released a statement opposing Senator Hagel’s nomination for Secretary of Defense. I am a supporter of Christians United for Israel (CUFI).

“This effort is being led by Palestinian Christians who, while not always Evangelicals, are quite adept at using evangelical language and imagery in their effort to blame Israel and Israel alone for Palestinian suffering,” said David Brog, executive director of Christians United For Israel, a key group in rallying American Christians to the Jewish state. “The movement has gotten louder because they have more money to spend. So we’re seeing more anti-Israel Christian films, speakers, and conferences. It’s very much grasstops, not grassroots.”

Brog said his rivals’ fledgling success should push Zionists to engage more actively in the evangelical debate over Israel.

“We’re also seeing some signs that this message is resonating with the rising generation of Evangelicals — the millennial Evangelicals,” Brog added. “So we can’t afford to wait. We must speak out and correct the record before more of our young people are led astray.”

One of the evangelical leaders calling for a more “nuanced” view of the conflict is Todd Deatherage, who spent five years in the Bush State Department before co-founding the Telos Group to expose Evangelicals to the complexities of the issue. He said their purpose is not to persuade Christians to turn against Israel, but rather “to affirm and support the dignity of all the people of the Holy Land, to be truly pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian at the same time.”

To achieve this, his group organizes about 15 trips to Israel every year, where American participants — mostly Evangelicals determined to be open-minded and influential in their respective communities — meet with peace activists, victims of violence on both sides of the conflict, and members of the Bethlehem Bible College, which trains Arab Christian pastors. The objective, Deatherage says, is to “change the conversation” among conservative Christians in the U.S.

“We want people to go on these trips and then go back and change others’ minds by talking about their own experience, taking the things they’ve learned and using them to help others understand what it means to be global citizens,” he said.

Lynne Hybels, an evangelical writer and minister heavily engaged in what she calls the “pro-peace” movement in Israel, was even more blunt about their intentions. She said they hope to “build a political constituency that supports peace and supports policymakers with the courage and commitment to work for peace.” As Hybels sees it, that means occasionally standing up for Palestinians — and not allowing Christian critics to get away with accusing them of “abandoning God’s chosen people.”

There has always been a small vocal minority of American evangelical provocateurs who rail against modern-day Israel at progressive political rallies and in the pages of Sojourners magazine. But the current campaign is attracting attention in large part because its leaders boast the kind of conservative Christian credentials even Mike Huckabee could appreciate.

netanyahu-cufi

CUFI — A pro-Israel movement, Founded by pastor John Hagee

For example, a 2010 documentary questioning the wisdom of Evangelicals’ unwavering commitment to Israel was endorsed by a top official at World Vision, one of the largest Christian humanitarian organizations in the world. The film has since been screened several times at World Vision events, and it received a favorable review in America’s leading evangelical magazine, Christianity Today, which declared, “Christian Zionism is officially on notice.”

Meanwhile, Gabe Lyons — a young evangelical organizer and graduate of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University — has put on series of Christian conferences aimed, in part, at promoting an “open, honest discussion” on the Middle East conflict. Like many of his peers, he believes the evangelical conversation on this topic has been hijacked by political activists — and he wants to reclaim it.

“The evangelical community has only heard one narrative on this issue. Part of the responsibility we have is to make sure they hear the rest of it,” said Lyons, who believes he’s witnessing a shift in opinion among “younger Evangelicals who are just getting full exposure to what’s really happening in the region.”

The foreign policy of the conservative Christian movement has long been defined by a fervent, often biblically inspired, devotion to Israel, with top Republican leaders frequently citing their faith as a driving force in their commitment to protecting the “Promised Land.” This dynamic was most visible during the presidency of George W. Bush, a political icon of Christian conservatism who often framed his agenda for the Middle East — which included an unwavering alliance with Israel — in terms of divine destiny. In the 2012 Republican primaries, Texas Gov. Rick Perry declared, “As a Christian, I have a clear directive to support Israel.”

The case for Israel in American politics is hardly based solely on faith. Evangelicals, like other Americans, hear arguments about Israel’s place as a free-market democracy in a region that’s broadly hostile to American interests. But for many believers, the widespread evangelical view that modern-day Israel represents the fulfillment of God’s covenant with the Jewish people is rooted in the “dispensationalist” theories of 19th-century theologian John Nelson Darby. The idea was popularized among U.S. Christians over several decades, with books like the 1970 best-seller The Late Great Planet Earth — a sort of end-times catalog of world events that supposedly proved Armageddon was only a decade away — and the massively popular Left Behind series. For the vast majority of conservative Evangelicals, it has become an article of faith that Israel deserves the absolute support of America’s diplomatic efforts and military might.

If Evangelicals’ minds are beginning to change — as advocates on both sides of the church’s Israel divide contend — the trend has yet to be borne out in public polling. A Pew survey last year found that a staggering 82% of white Evangelicals believe God gave Israel to the Jewish people — more than twice the proportion of American Jews, and up 10 points from a similar poll in 2005.

Still, Deatherage says Evangelicals don’t need to abandon their theological beliefs about Israel in order to feel Christian sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinians. In fact, Deatherage said the most eye-opening experience for many of the people he takes on Telos trips is interacting with the Palestinian Christian community.

“The fact is that there is a church on the ground,” Deatherage said. “We imagine this conflict to be between Jews and Muslims, and so when people see that there are Christians there, and even Palestinian Evangelicals, they didn’t know that. I mean, there’s a Bible college in Bethlehem, where people talk about their faith the very same way they do, they read the same books, many of them studied in the same universities in the U.S.”

And as several advocates pointed out, even a minor retreat from the religious right’s current hard-line position on Israel would give Republicans substantially more flexibility in their foreign policy. Already, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul — whose frequent dustups with Israel hawks in his party have been well-documented — is emerging as a legitimate contender for the 2016 GOP nomination. What’s more, Rex Elsass, a Paul adviser with close ties to the conservative Christian movement, said the senator has managed make inroads with conservative Christian voters despite his mixed record on Israel.

“I love Israel. It’s a place I have a lot of passion for, and a lot of interest in personally,” said Elsass, who is making his third trip to the Holy Land, with Huckabee, later this year. “But obviously, Palestinian Christians need to be treated with respect, and their rights need to be respected… We always prefer that the weapons of war be beaten into ploughshares. And that is certainly something the Judeo-Christian faith is ultimately called to.”


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20 Comments »

  1. DL. January 17, 2014 at 5:55 am - Reply

    I support any effort to end Christian Zionism in the US: one, it is Palerstinians, not Ashkenazi Jews, who are descendents of the Isrealites and are Semites, whereas Ashkenazi Jews are KHAZAR converts descendended from Ashkenaz, son of Gomer and grandson of Japtheth! THESE ARE NOT GOD's CHOSEN PEOPLE! Period, end of story. Second, the author of the Scofield Reference Bible these Christian Zionists have used to defend their false doctrines, Scofield, was a crook and a man who left his family for another woman. Third, how can these so-called Chistians defend GENOCIDE? 2 thessalonians talks about strong delusion: no one is under stronger delusion than Christian Zionists!

    • Dante Ardenz June 12, 2014 at 5:14 pm - Reply

      This is a great beginning,but the flaw is still there:”Judeo-Christianity”,is an oxymoron. You are either one,or the other:Old Covenant,or New. The term was created by Puritan Leader,and Jewish Finance Stooge,Oliver Cromwell in the 1600′s,to take over Britain for the THEM ! The world has been suffering since. See: SATAN AT THE WAILING WALL;Real Jew News.Com. HOW THE JEWS MOCK CHRIST:REAL JEW NEWS.COM. THE SECRETS OF THE SYNAGOUGE: REAL JEW NEWS.Com. THE END OF SOVEREIGN AMERICA:Real Jew News.Com. THE UGLY TRUTH.COM.

  2. Frank January 18, 2014 at 11:21 am - Reply

    If those Zionist Christians had any idea of how Jews(especially Orthodox) view them, they wouldn't be so keen to support Israel. “Gentiles were born only to serve us. Without that, they have no place in the world – only to serve the People of Israel.  In Israel, death has no dominion over them… With gentiles, it will be like any person – they need to die, but [God] will give them longevity. Why?  Imagine that one’s donkey would die, they’d lose their money.  This is his servant… That’s why he gets a long life, to work well for this Jew.  Why are gentiles needed?  They will work, they will plow, they will reap.  We will sit like an effendi and eat.  That is why gentiles were created." –Former Chief Rabbi of Israel Ovadia Yosef quoted from The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, The New Republic, The Jerusalem Post, and others from 2010.

     

    Hey Protestants and Catholics, the Chief Rabbi is talking about you.

     

     

  3. rosemerry January 28, 2014 at 7:04 am - Reply

    "I love Israel" is so weird, when you think of all the countries USans could visit, they have this mania about the Zionist entity.  To think of the "progressive" new Mayor of NY City who can be so taken in by Israel that he claims he is bound to support it any time. Is there a magic potion?

  4. zane_al May 5, 2014 at 7:24 pm - Reply

    Christians being conned by Jews is nothing new.

    Start with Saul of Tarsus, he was he one who manipulate the teachings of Christ and claimed to be an apostle even though he never met Jesus. He didn’t replace Judas for nothing – could be the work of the Pharisees and Satan.

  5. Jim Yost June 11, 2014 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    Zane, The Apostle Paul did meed Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts chapter 9 in which Jesus’ words are highlighted in red in many NT editions). Paul was the first person to ever address the Judeo-Christian deception in the book of Galatians in which he told the Judeo-Christians that they were bewitched (Gal. 3:1).

    DL., You’re right, the Khazars aren’t Semetic because they’re descended from Japtheth who was a gentile. Jesus said that Jerusalem would be trodden of the gentiles until the time of the gentiles be fulfilled. The Christian Zionists can’t see it because they’re bewitched the same as the
    Galatians were.

  6. DachsieLady June 11, 2014 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    reposted with correction to “inexpensive” CD

    DachsieLady June 11, 2014 at 9:55 pm – Reply
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    Nice article.

    The whole idea of “Christian Zionism” is false and strongly opposed to all that is in the bible. Unfortunately this whole “disease” has taken over a big part of Catholic websites and media.

    I strongly recommend everyone obtain an inexpensive CD from http://www.isoc.ws. The interview is of Robert Sungenis and the title of the CD is “Christian Zionism: A Modern Oxymoron.”

    The present day nation state of Israel in the Middle East is NOT promised by Christ. There are at least 3 Old Testament verses that state clearly that ALL of the land promises to the Israelites were fulfilled in Old Testament times.

    I think the New Testament states that when Christ returns there will be some people Christ regards as “Jews” and they will convert to Christ and be saved. I do not put much stock in all that talk about Khazars being not real “Jews” etc. Whoever is regarded as “Jews” by God will be around and they will convert. I am not sure at all what that means in terms of DNA and I know it has nothing to do with present day nation of Israel.

    By the way, when Christ returns, that is when the general judgment will be and that will be the beginning of eternity. There will be no literal one thousand year reign of Christ on this present day earth. There will be no “Battle of Armageddon”. That verse refers to the “last day” or the “great day of the Lord.”

    There will be a new heavens and a new earth, but that will take place after the Last Day.

    I wonder how deep are the “Zionist” connections go to the first progenitors of this false theology of the modern nation state of Israel being foretold in the Old Testament prohecies. I think it goes all the way back to the 1500s and Martin Bucer and Theodore Beza and the Geneva Bible. I know that con man Cyrus I. Scofield in the US. was financed by Samuel Untermeyer, head of the American Jewish Committee and wealthy New York financier.

  7. Old Timer June 11, 2014 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    There is no such thing as a Palestinian or a Christian who hates the Jews and Israel. You can say anything but that doesn’t make it so. God says he will bless them that bless the Jews and curse them that curse the Jews. But I guess some people know better then the word of God.

    • Andrew June 12, 2014 at 12:28 am - Reply

      Old Timer, 82% of Christians in the USA support Israel. So why is the USA in such a disastrous mess? Is this mess a sign of God’s “blessing”?

    • Kyle June 12, 2014 at 1:02 am - Reply

      @ Old Timer,

      Paul in Galatians 3:16 clearly points out that Jesus is the seed and not the Jews as Zionists like to point out. Also, again scripture clearly points out that Abraham was looking for a “better” kingdom. Lastly, God does not reside in a house made by human hands as clearly stated in the Bible.

      Jesus and other NT Prophets cleared up the interpretations of the Old Testament to show that “seed” “chosen” and other words were metaphoric and described the body of believers in general and were never meant to be applied to an exclusive group.

      Also, your views are shaped by a philosophy which originated in the late 1800s. Prior to this the majority view never recognized Israel (the physical place) nor Jews (a physical people) as having anything more to do with eschatology.

      Also, scripture clearly states that God is “NOT” a respecter of persons.

      Also, the OT is replete with foolish stories “if” taken literally. For example when God Told Joseph to circumcise the men before battle it’s obvious that circumcising 40,000 soldiers in such a short period of time is rediculous. Also, we now know from archeology that this battle never happened in the first place.

      So what is the truth? The truth is that the OT is mostly allegory. As such you should walk away with spiritual truth and not a history lesson that is sorely lacking.

  8. Lyman June 11, 2014 at 11:57 pm - Reply

    Well, the Anti-Christ will be heralded in the “New Temple” yet to come. If that’s the case one can surmise that it will be Isreal that will usher him in. That says quite a bit to me. This should not be confused with anti-Semitism, or hatred towards anyone. We are all sinners, but clearly Israel’s anti-Christian attitudes run deep, even going so far as to blaspheme Christ on many childrens shows. The spy on us, sell our secrets, persecute Christians and mock the US. Do the math. Do they sound like an ally of Christ or America?

  9. Eileen K June 12, 2014 at 7:20 am - Reply

    I totally agree with D.L. He hit the proverbial nail squarely on the head with his insightful comment, stating correctly that the vast majority of modern Jews do not descend from Abraham and the ancient Hebrews; but, instead, descend from Khazars. What D.L. didn’t say was where these ancient Khazars used to live.

    Before the 11th Century AD, these Turko-Mongol tribes lived in what was once the Kingdom of Khazaria (thus, the term Khazars), located in the Caucasus region of Russia. They converted to Judaism under King Bulan around 840 AD, and were defeated some 200 years later and driven out of the destroyed kingdom by St. Vladimir the Great of Kiev. These became known as Ashkenazi Jews, which comprise around 90-95% of modern Jews.

  10. GunzRloaded June 12, 2014 at 9:02 am - Reply

    Saved by ”Grace”,and not ”race”..!!

  11. Jim Yost June 12, 2014 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    In regard to Christian Zionism:

    “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

    Blaise Pascal

  12. HEINRICH MUELLER June 12, 2014 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    WELL, I AM NOT MUCH OF A BIBICAL SCHOLAR, BUT ISN’T THERE A VERSE THAT SAYS, “YOU SHALL KNOW THEM BY THEIR FRUIT”, OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT? LET’S SEE, THEY CONTROL THE MEDIA, HOLLYWOOD, THE THREE BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT, THE FEDERAL RESERVE, THE IRS, THE UNIVERSITYS, AND THE CHRISTIAN CHURCHES. AND WE SEE HOW THATS WORKING OUT. THEY HAVE BEEN EXPELLED BY EVERY COUNRY FOR TAKING OVER AND CORRUPTING THE GOVERNMENTS BY CONTROLLING THE MONEY SYSTEMS. THEY WERE BEHIND EVERY WAR SINCE THE NAPOLEONIC WARS AND THEY STARTED COMMUNISM. DIDN’T JESUS SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THEM BEING THE SPAWN OF THE DEVIL?

    • Jim Yost June 13, 2014 at 11:49 am - Reply

      Dear Heinrich Mueller,

      You’re totally right. The Lord said we are to discern where people are at, not by what they say about themselves, but by the way they behave. With that being said, it should be easy for most Christians to discern whose children the so-called ‘Jews’ really are.

  13. brian June 13, 2014 at 1:33 am - Reply

    What you do and how you present yourself is immaterial when you lack the courage to face reality other than hiding behind Religion & Religiosity. This is because reality is about self and never The Other, Divinity being When There Is No Other.

    Without first becoming/being real, everything thereafter is but a lie. After all, without being real, how would self be able to determine what is real and what is unreal/relative? By believing? If so, those who merely wish, hope and pray should believe that they are of such divinity that they do not need to eat, sleep and eliminate. Thereafter, the erath would be a much better place to exist. Hands up those who would like to disagree if only because their beliefs is of such faith that they do not need to eat, sleep and eliminate.

    • Debbie
      Debbie June 13, 2014 at 12:04 pm - Reply

      @ Brian Bingo!

      Yeah Blame God! Bullshit.

      A feeble attempt to deny responsibility for one’s decisions and actions.

      God, how I detest Christian Evangelists.

      As I have long asserted, the source of the solution begins at home, right back there on Capitol Hill, which must first be freed from the chains of Zion and put back on ts feet.

      Am I beginning to sound like a Muslim evangelist now?

  14. zane_al June 13, 2014 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    The Jews used to be a chosen people upto and until the passing of Moses.
    Then they went to Babylon and there they were inspired and tricked by Satan.
    They reinvented and rephrased the Law of Moses and added a few more nonsense and this becomes the Talmud.
    When they came back to Israel/Canaan, the Messiah that they longed for i,e Christ was born.
    By then they were almost fully corrupted and Satanic. Instead of accepting Christ, they planned for him the most horrendous death torture available; the cruxifiction on the cross.
    By this time their choseness and until now is by Satan, God no longer has anything to do with it.
    You can see the evidence if you read the Talmud and examine their prayer e.g Kol Nidre.

  15. Suki Tawdry June 26, 2014 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    Most of the comments left here (with the notable exception of Debbie) just want to make me bang my head against my keyboard. Further proof that there really is no separation of church and state.
    Any person or persons who base the treatment of an entire group of people (the Palestinians) on a book of fairy tales—take your pick, bible or torah— need to be institutionalized. We Pagans and Wiccans advocate human rights for ALL and the silly, superstitious nonsense held sacred by the so-called judeo-christians holds no water whatever with me.
    It’s unfortunate that heads of state aren’t required to be atheists, and those supposed judeo-christian “values” wouldn’t come into play.
    As to the new fundies—too little, too late, assholes. How very benevolent of you to suggest considering the fact that Palestinians are human beings. You’re the source of every single problem in the world. I humbly suggest you go fuck yourselves and keep your collective asses out of MY political system.
    Too many right-wing christians; not enough lions!
    Suki >^..^<

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