One of the great (late) friendships I developed was with David Bar-Illan, the editor/writer par excellence. I met him in the last years of his life, when he served in the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bar-Illan once spoke of those who define a kind of “extreme” anti-Semitism as “Hating Jews more than is absolutely necessary.” In other words, this distinguishes the anti-Semites among the Hamas leadership from the anti-Semites in, say, the British parliament.
In the past three years, as I’ve researched and written about the rise of the “Christian Palestinianists,” I’ve thought of David’s statement often.
Some folks in our world today seem different from Hamas, which openly seeks to destroy Israel. These other folks often strive for the same objective in more subtle ways.
Christian Palestinianists are those who disseminate the so-called Palestinian Narrative (short version: everything’s Israel’s fault) specifically to the Evangelical community in America.
This is a new thing.
Everywhere, we are seeing Palestinian propaganda pushed into the very heart of evangelicalism. This is very different from the leftwing views of Palestinian advocates who worked the Catholic and mainline (United Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran) for decades. Having hollowed-out those communities, the Palestinians next targeted the ultimate prize: American Evangelicalism.
Across-the-board, evangelicals are being targeted by the Christian Palestinianists, led by Bethlehem’s “non-violent” activist, Sami Awad and his American friends Lynne Hybels (co-founder of the Willow Creek Association), Todd Deatherage (Telos Group) and Mae Cannon (World Vision). Others coming into the fold are Jonathan Martin, pastor of Renovatus Church in Charlotte; Andy Braner, president of a teen center in Colorado; Wheaton College professor and Christian Zionist critic Gary Burge; and Porter Speakman, Jr., producer of the anti-Christian Zionist film, “With God On Our Side.”
In addition, famous and influential seminaries like Fuller are soaked in anti-Israel activism.
In recent weeks, CAMERA’s Dexter Van Zile has written a brilliant analysis of World Vision’s embrace of Palestinian activism. Israel-based evangelical journalist Brian Schrauger has also provided frontlines reporting at the infamous “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference last spring, and last week, a 50-member delegation of pastors joined Christians United for Israel (CUFI) in expressing solidarity with Israel in the midst of the Jewish state’s battles with Hamas.
British scholar Paul Wilkinson is the first, I believe, to research the roots of Christian Palestinianists, and others such as Thomas Ice and CUFI’s David Brog, Randal Neal, and Victor Styrsky, have done much to expose this dangerous model infiltrating American churches.
Still, much is left to be done. Fending-off the strenuous efforts of folks like Awad, Hybels, and Deatherage — not to mention their tremendous advantages as networkers with America’s top evangelical leaders — requires the input and activism of grassroots Christian Zionists.
An effort to do just that, put together by my friends, requires a network of churches willing to host conferences, disseminate materials, and stay vigilant in keeping up with Christian Palestinian efforts.
Pentecostal sources have been infiltrated, through the efforts of Dr. Paul Alexander of Eastern University’s Palmer Theological Seminary; Cameron Strang, publisher of the magazine for evangelical Millennials, Relevant; and the efforts of businessman Mart Green (heir to the Hobby Lobby fortune), who produced the anti-Israel film, “Little Town of Bethlehem.” Green is also a key driver behind Empowered21, a virtual Who’s Who of the Charismatic/Pentecostal world.
The Southern Baptist Convention, long a friend to Israel, is now showing signs of takeover. Remember, key SBC pastors like Rick Warren control the narrative within the denomination. If Warren challenges pastors (as he does in presentations and in his mega-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life) to stop studying and teaching prophecy — with its close corollary to the relevance of Israel and the Jews — what are most going to do…oppose him?
Too, Dr. Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has made troubling statements about Israel. As SBC pastor Randy White has written:
“When Moore writes about Israel, it is often with a negative tone. He says things like, ‘Israel’s American critics on both the left and the right of the political spectrum have been frustrated by what they consider to be the political carte blanche given by evangelicals to the Israeli state.’ He goes on to say, ‘it is rather obvious that contemporary evangelical support for Israel draws its theological grounding from the dispensational/Bible conference tradition, not from the Reformed/Princeton tradition.’ As you read his works, Moore is clearly not a fan of this ‘dispensational/Bible conference tradition.’ He is, however, an avowed covenant theologian, and he says that such theologians ‘have maintained that the church, not any current geo-political entity, is the ‘new Israel,’ the inheritor of all Israel’s covenant promises.’
“My word to Southern Baptists who may hope for a powerful pro-Israel denominational stance coming from the ERLC: Good luck! There is no hint Moore would allow it. My prediction is subtly anti-Israel messages or Israel-phobia. Moore is too much the politician to throw Israel under the bus, but he is not a supporter of Israel as a modern Jewish state unless it serves the purposes of the new Israel’s expansion and well-being.”
Again, we are talking about a drive into the very heart of Evangelicalism. It is a smart strategy, frankly, by the Palestinians.
It is also dangerous for the American Evangelical community.
While these Christian Palestinianist forces never acknowledge the real story — Arab rejection of Israel and medieval-style anti-Semitism — they heap scorn on Israel.
Q Ideas founder Gabe Lyons recently tweeted a link to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article by Aisha Sultan. In the piece, Sultan spoke of hearing a group of Jewish men wish genocide on the Palestinians, and she trotted-out the usual diatribe…Occupation:
“I have defended the Jewish faith and people whenever I have heard a person try to make a disparaging or generalizing remark. I have also argued for the right of Israel to exist without being attacked. And, with some Jewish friends I have tried to share with them the inhumanity of the conditions in the Occupied Territories.”
Question: who is responsible for the inhumanity of the conditions the Palestinians find themselves living in lo these past decades?
Further question: why the selective pulling of stories sure to inflame anti-Semitism (old Jewish men hoping for the slaughter of Palestinians)?
There are two sides to this story, and as a visitor numerous times to the region, and an activist myself for two decades, it seems clear to me that the real occupier of the Palestinian people is the leadership they have elected.
Nary a peep about this from the Christian Palestinianists. Rather, they wish to present themselves as “non-violent” peace activists. Problem is, whitewashing jihadist agendas, and the brutalization of the Palestinians by the Palestinian Authority/PLO and their Hamas unity government perpetuates suffering on all sides.
From their ivy cottages and glass houses, the Christian Palestinianist leadership (much of it listed by name above) condemns the very people they purport to help.
Meanwhile, their animus for the Jewish citizens of Israel is barely concealed.
It’s time for Christian Zionists to wake up. I have a seminar program all ready to go. It’s past time to put the Christian Palestinianist agenda on notice that lying to American evangelicals is not acceptable.
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