Is Support For Israel Waning Among Evangelicals?

Review of “Is Support Waning for Israel Among Evangelicals” by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Religious News Service, Washington Post, April 9, 2014

Brog.David-CUFI-02The Washington Post story seems deliberately confusing regarding “evangelicals’ support for Israel.”  It quotes Israeli David Brog, bemoaning that “evangelicals are now somewhat evenly split on supporting the rights of Israelis and Palestinians.”

Israeli Zionists quoted in this story say they are concerned about lack of support for Israel.  But the Post writer then goes on to contradict this even-steven popularity notion by quoting the respected Pew Poll, which tells us that “evangelicals” are still overwhelmingly sympathetic to Israel and could care less about the Palestinians.  So which way is it, who are the “evangelicals,” why are the Ziochristians worried, and why this story?

At closer reading, the Post story tells us that those overwhelmingly pro-Israel “Christians” are in fact those who believe that political Israel is ordained by God and “is the fulfillment of biblical prophesy.”  This is the classic definition of what a Christian Zionist believes.  It may well have had its beginning in We Hold These Truths vocabulary.

The story does not tell us that the “evangelicals” who oppose Israel for its brutal occupation of the Philistines would normally deny the above definition. These “evangelicals” include the Evangelical Lutherans (ECLA), Evangelical Presbyterians, Presbyterian Church USA, many Methodists, and a dozen other denominations and major organizations.  These, including The National Council of Churches and at least one Catholic order, would likely consider themselves ‘evangelical’ (small “e”) because they are ardent mission believers.  But none of these would accept the idea that Political Israel is ordained by God and “is the fulfillment of biblical prophesy.”  They would (or should) say this statement is not supported in scripture, and they would be right.

Neither this story nor David Brog’s original essay seriously discusses the recent movement among traditional churches against Israel’s occupation of Palestine.  This is in fact a very broad and well thought out movement that could hardly be overlooked, though perhaps still a minority in the big churches from which it is sprouting. Instead, the Post provides only the most flimsy example of this opposition to Israel from various polls.

Sadly and perhaps intentionally, the Post author quotes only one non-traditional pastor, with his own organization and seemingly crackpot theory, as an example of those who support the rights of the Philistines over Israel’s right to occupy and imprison them.

Unfortunately, the Washington Post story does not quote any of the several mainline traditional churches that have recently exposed Israel for its acts and oppose occupation on the simplest and most straightforward Christ Follower’s reasons.  In other words, this story, like others we find in the establishment media, allows David Brog a forum to cry in his beer in order to steam up his followers.  Brog has good reason for concern. The Rip-Van-Winkle-like awakening of the mainline Protestant and perhaps even the Catholic Churches is what Brog should be worried about.

Is Support For Israel Waning Among Evangelicals does indeed mention the important conference Christ at the Checkpoint held in Bethlehem each year, and it refers to several prominent and respected US “evangelicals” who have attended the conference and spoken there. Almost anyone who has spent a day or two behind a checkpoint as I have would be moved to tears for the Philistines. There is no denying occupation when you see it.

Yes, there are some ‘evangelical’ churchmen who might support Israel even if they witnessed an Israeli soldiers shoot a Palestinian child on the steps of their church. They have a pat, quasi-biblical excuse for this, that I will not go into here. Truly committed Ziochristians do not quickly change, as the Pew Foundation Poll seems to show.  When they do change, it is one at a time, and slowly. This is why we have chosen the method of polite but firm Vigils in dealing with the like of John Hagee in over a hundred other clearly Christian Zionist churches all over the USA, which taught us much about what they think and say.

However, there is a movement within mainline Christianity in which change is taking place rapidly.  What neither the Washington Post writer nor David Brog reveals is that mainline Christians are catching on to the dangers of Zionism and the result is frightening radical Zionists, both Christian and secular.

For one, Brog did not mention that the Presbyterian Church USA has published  Zionism Unsettled:  A Congregational Study Guide that seriously challenges Israeli Zionism for its brutality.  Nor did he mention Project Strait Gates’s many Vigils at his Christians United For Israel Church meetings, nor our own video, Christian Zionism, The Tragedy and the Turning, in which we call for the awakening of the Mainline church as a vital, best hope for a great and Godly turning.

David Brog is not a journalist; he is damage control for Israel, an Israeli Jew appointed to keep an eye on fanatical and unpredictable John Hagee.  Brog is Israel’s spokesman inside John Hagee’s Christians United For Israel.  Zionists are indeed concerned that Traditional Christ Followers are catching on to what Israel has done to the Philistines for over 60 years.

Brog summarizes the beliefs of most who support Israel, stating:  “Dispensationalists believe the Israelites’ return to the Promised Land is a requirement for the Second Coming of Jesus. They therefore rejoiced when Israeli troops captured the Old City of Jerusalem from Arab forces in June 1967 and saw it as a sign that Jesus was coming.”

But this is not the theology of traditional Christ followers who are now starting to oppose Zionism. Some may even have ‘evangelical’ in their church’s names, but they do not accept the “dispensational” view.  Most of those who consider themselves mainline or traditional Christians consider Hagee theology scriptural game playing, a sort of biblical scrabble…cut and paste theology. Traditional Christianity rejects the notion that any present state was chosen of God, including our own USA, and therefore none is superior to others in God’s eyes. In the theology of Brog and Hagee, Israelis are created greater than all other men.

Toward furthering this illusion, the Post quotes Jews for Jesus director David Brickner. A spokesman for the ultimate Ziochristians, he says: “I long to see the church have a balanced perspective on the Middle East, where you don’t have to throw out the concern for Palestinians to support Israel,” and “I really believe there’s a large middle ground, but it’s hard to do when people are in their polar positions.”

In other words, Brickner tells us Israel’s occupation of Philistine may be over a difference of opinion, where both sides are somewhat wrong.  Occupation may be OK, so long as it’s done lovingly. What he says is that the parties need to do is dialogue for middle ground.  He says this while many Philistine children are suffering from malnutrition, are prisoners behind walls, unable to pass checkpoints, and have only salt water to drink.

Anyone hopeful of understanding why American “Christians” support Israel’s occupation of the Philistines must start with a proper definition of Christian Zionists.  I suggest you watch to Tragedy and Turning to clarify this.

If you are wondering why I use the name “Philistine,” it is to remind readers that this is the Arabic pronunciation of Palestine, and I use it to remind us all that many Palestinians are probably descendants of a biblical people. It is equally true that most Israeli citizens are not, and that their state’s name was chosen from a book (bible) in 1947 and could have been any other name its founders picked.

Charles E. Carlson

1) Is support for Israel waning among evangelicals?

2) Zionism Unsettled:  A Congregational Study Guide 

3) Presbyterian Church Attacked For Publishing “Zionism Unsettled,” Others Applaud

4) Christian Zionism, The Tragedy And The Turning