When a college forum talks about being pro-peace and pro-Jesus, why do I become suspicious? When the event is sponsored by a Department of Reconciliation Studies, why do I become uncomfortable? The answer is, in part, that I graduated from this once rock-solid school in prehistoric days when Christian colleges were a safe bet.
Bethel University in St. Paul, Mn. is like most Christian schools today. They are trying to be cutting edge and they are trying to tell the truth from their perspective. But when the forum is about leaving the, “traditional pro-Israel stand,” and learning to embrace the tormented Palestinians instead, you will begin to understand the dilemma. The attempt at “reconciliation” is disingenuous. The whole truth won’t be told.
And Bethel University’s “Hope for the Holy Land” offered no hope and didn’t tell the truth.
The speakers were on tour promoting Christian engagement in Palestine and Israel. They included Lynne Hybels from Willow Creek Church in Illinois, Sami Awad from the Holy Land Trust, and Mae Elise Cannon from World Vision.
I’ll say it right up front: All participants represent outfits that are openly Replacement Theology: The church is the new Israel. Do you suppose their proper and Biblical perspective of Israel is going to be diminished and thus right from the start, the debate won’t be balanced? If you said ‘yes,’ you would be dead-on.
I did not know that at the same time my friend and fellow journalist Jim Fletcher was attending “Catalyst East”
in Atlanta, one of the greatest gatherings of young evangelicals in America. And, they are largely pro-Palestinian. I shudder as I compare notes with Fletcher because the conclusion is obvious: Israel’s days of enjoying unquestionable support from the evangelical community is eroding. He heard a few of the same voices as I did.
Fletcher writes, “Lynne Hybels presented no context with regard to physical conflicts between Israel and her Arab neighbors. For example, in her admittedly brief overview of the region, war seemed to spring up out of nowhere. No mention of Arab invasions of Israel in 1948 or 1973, or the cataclysmic decisions of Egypt’s Nasser in 1967, which led to Israel administering the disputed territories of Judea/Samaria, or as the world largely knows it, the West Bank.”
He continues, “For example, Hybels and others have begun framing the issue in terms of ‘pro peace, pro Israel, pro Palestinian, and pro Jesus.’ Other speakers such as Glenn Stassen, David Gushee, Brian McLaren, and Tony Campolo, savage Christian Zionists in the most odious terms. Hybels presents a softer, gentler side of Palestinian advocacy.”
I made the same conclusion about Lynne Hybels. If you have to listen to Palestinian propaganda, it is nice to hear it in a soft-spoken voice. The same can be said for Christian Arab Sami Awad. Both are people you would like to get to know better. Both are sincere Christians who just happen to believe what Palestinian Christian leaders have said more than they choose to believe many verses in the Bible as it concerns God’s land and people. Lynne and Sami aren’t being disingenuous. They have different interpretations of the Bible, theology, and the facts on the ground.
The problem is they are speaking into the minds of young people who may not be able to properly process the information. These same young people will soon become pastors and teachers to the church at large and the untruths will be further implemented in the church.
How can you genuinely be pro-peace if there is no truthful talk about the following:
* The wall of separation between Israel and the Palestinian territories that saves tens of thousands of Israeli lives from Palestinian Islamic terrorists is called the “apartheid wall.” The wall is compared to a bully to the Palestinian people when it is saving Israeli lives. Why not suggest that all other nations can have barriers to protect their people except Israel?
* There is no reference to the victims of Palestinian terror such as the Fogel family, slaughtered like pigs in March of 2011, or the dozens of victims of other terror activities that have left Israelis maimed or killed.
* The devious “two-state solution,” that is no solution, is heralded even though it boots Israel off of their God-given land and it gives legitimacy to terrorists. The same could be said about all references to “land-for-peace” efforts that are praised, yet the Palestinian leaders reject these efforts and return to terror.
* The plight of Christians in the region is ignored or underplayed. Tens of thousands of Christians are running for their lives and that includes a decimation of Palestinian Christians who once made up 20% of the Palestinian population. That number is now down to 1%. Israel has not driven them out. Fellow Palestinian terrorists as well as Fatah and Hamas leaders have done it. Why no reference?
At the “Hope for the Holy Land” forum, no Jewish history was cited, no Scriptures were quoted, and no pro-Israel position was allowed into the forum and was discouraged in the Q & A.
At the close, the president of Bethel University, Jay Barnes, closed with his pro-Palestinian position while almost denouncing the pro-Israel view under which he had grown up.
Clearly, the prophesied abandonment of Israel is hastening. If the Lord tarries, when these young leaders mature, they will form a legion of people who will abandon the traditional pro-Israel stand found within evangelicalism for 65 years. This trend is in keeping with the “new way of doing church.” Younger people continue to break tradition but contemporary ways are often not sound. The call of the “social justice” gurus are getting stronger and the Palestinian issues fall into that.
Jim Fletcher reached the same conclusion at his “Catalyst East” event. He says, “Everything I saw at Catalyst confirmed this drift. In dozens of random conversations, I noted that ‘Millennials’ — the 20-somethings who are quickly dominating the evangelical scene — expressed solidarity with the Palestinians and annoyance with Israel. This is a seismic shift in the American church and a serious threat to Israel’s one traditional area of support.”
He concludes, “No one is denying that there are plenty of sincere, well-meaning people in the peacemaker movement. The problem is, they are being schooled by the Palestinians themselves. The so-called Palestinian narrative, coming in via people like Sami Awad, isn’t different from the agenda of former PLO chief Yasser Arafat, in any real sense. The Palestinians then wanted to eliminate Israel any way possible. Today’s ‘two-state solution,’ ‘one-state solution,’ etc., is simply window-dressing for the goal of eliminating the Jewish state.”
It is very true that Christians do need to care about the souls of everyone in the Middle East. While these young people are “pro-peace,” God is “pro-salvation.” God cares for the oppressed Palestinians.
It’s just that Israel is not oppressing them nor tormenting them. Their own brothers are. Let’s at least tell this truth.