Dec 18, 2017

Not Pro Israel

 A new survey by LifeWay Research (an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention) shows that support for Israel is slipping among Millennials.

No kidding.

Yet there are fascinating layers to this story, not generally known to the public. Speaking of topics like this, a Facebook friend this week posted that people in the pews have no idea what’s going on. They are not told by their pastors, by and large, and they are too busy raising families to be aware of any kind of research.

The change agents responsible for these cultural shifts advance their agendas for a living. For example, the writer Jonathan Merritt posts articles and opinion pieces weekly that advance a left-wing agenda. His father happens to be Dr. James Merritt, a former president of the SBC. Whether it’s softening views of homosexuality, or supporting DACA, or undermining Israel, Merritt the Younger is paid to do these things. Yet, for example, the people in evangelical pews are plumbers, lawyers, assembly line workers, florists, etc. They do their jobs, then go home to cook dinner for the kids. They don’t have time to know what’s really going on in the evangelical world.

On Sundays, many of them attend a church that hosts Beth Moore Bible studies, Purpose Driven sermons, and whatever other evangelical celebrity “Bible teacher” they can find. In general, there is not nearly as much actual Bible study being done as in past generations.

This is primarily why Christian Millennials are moving away from Israel, and to the Palestinians. They buy-into the left wing narrative that the Palestinians are being brutalized by the Israelis. Scores of evangelical and mainline denominational leaders advance this agenda.

Some are more subtle.

From a Ha’aretz article this week:

 “The survey highlights how younger evangelicals, while still overall supportive of Israel, have more nuanced views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. policy toward it.

“For example, while 76 percent of evangelicals over the age of 65 have a ‘positive’ view of Israel, among evangelicals under the age of 35, the number was only 58 percent. That’s still a clear majority, but almost a fifth less than among the older population. At the same time, 66 percent of evangelicals under 35 believe that ‘Christians should do more to love and care for the Palestinian people,’ while only 54 percent of those over 65 share this view.

“In addition, while more than half of evangelicals over the age of 65 disagree with the statement: ‘The Palestinian people have a historic right to the Land of Israel,’ the number drops to 41 percent among those under 35.”

It is this last point I want to discuss this week.

Young people in our churches are not taught the biblical statements about God’s covenants with Israel. They have no idea.

This week, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines (pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis) tweeted about the controversy over President Trump acknowledging Jerusalem as Israel’s capital:

“Some are upset that Jerusalem has been acknowledged as the capitol of Israel.”

Gaines then went on to say that one day, the Holy City will be the capital for the entire world, when Jesus returns, etc.

Gaines’ friend, seminary president Danny Akin, retweeted Gaines’ comment.

I thought it was interesting that Gaines did not take the opportunity to affirm Israel’s right to Jerusalem as its capital. Instead, he took the safe view, looking ahead into the future for Jerusalem’s status. I doubt Akin would have retweeted the statement had Gaines, for example, unequivocally supported Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.

Several top SBC pastors and ministry leaders make positive statements about Israel, and some lead tour groups “to the Holy Land.” Some are genuinely pro Israel; I’m not sure if Gaines is or not. His friendship with people like Akin, who apparently supports the “Dreamers” who are undermining the integrity of our country, indicates to me that he might be politically savvy enough to know that a pro Israel statement here and there is good for business. It keeps people in the pews thinking that Israel is as important to him as it is to them.

I don’t see very many SBC national leaders who are unabashedly, biblically supportive of Israel. The same is true with other evangelical denominations and associations.

The fact is, more and more evangelical leaders are softening their support of Israel.

In fairness, in 2016, Gaines tweeted the following:

“I strongly disagree with President Obama & John Kerry in the way they’ve come against America’s ally – Israel.”

This was in the waning days of the Alinsky disciple’s presidency. One wishes evangelical leaders had been courageous in, say, 2010 about Obama’s radicalism.

Another layer to this story is that Bob Smietana posted an article this past week at Christianity Today about waning Millennial support for Israel. Here’s why this is important: evangelicals in the pews today would read that article and not think about the writer of the article. They would simply absorb whatever was written.

Yet if you know anything about journalism in this country, you know that bias is the basic element. So who is Bob Smietana?

In 2010, Smietana wrote a series for The Tennessean, “The Price of Fear,” in which he took to task Islamic terrorism researchers like Steven Emerson. According to an article by Rebecca Bynum, Smietana:

“Alleged that those working against the unrestricted Islamization of the Western world are doing it for the money.”

Bynum was also astute enough to point out that the “anti-anti-jihad” agendas of people like Smietana are identical to those of the “anti-anti-communists” from 50 years ago. Do you get it? Left wing elements are rooted in our culture, especially in religious communities.

Smietana also writes for The Christian Century, and Sojourners; both are left wing. I maintain that CT itself is a Trojan Horse within evangelicalism. The magazine started by Billy Graham 60 years ago is now decidedly “progressive” in its agenda. I doubt many know that. Think of it like this: for years, Americans listened to the venerable Walter Cronkite every night, not realizing he was often advancing a left-leaning agenda.

The same today with “evangelical media.”

Smietana no doubt exults in any kind of Millennial support for the Palestinians. It fits his own worldview. As he wrote in the CT article:

“Evangelical believers are uncertain how to resolve differences between Israelis and Palestinians. A quarter (23%) say Israel should sign a treaty allowing Palestinians to have a sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza. Thirty-one percent disagree. Forty-six percent are unsure.”

Is this true? If it is, it would indicate that only one-third believes the land is Israel’s!

I believe what we are seeing is a two-fold problem: too many pastors are not teaching their people the biblical reality of Israel and Jews. Secondly, change-agents operating openly within evangelicalism are advancing a narrative that is indifferent to Israel, at best.

I will be attempting to ask certain leaders like Steve Gaines exactly what they believe about Israel. Wish me luck!