Targeting Evangelicals for ‘Palestine’

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.theird.org) and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.


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Rev. Ateek was recently in the Washington, D.C. area to address anti-Israel church activists for Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), a group founded by former Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning.   “We believe we [Palestinians] are living under empire today and it is important to understand how empire operates and resist it,” a steely Ateek declared, according to a report from my colleague Jeff Walton, who attended the event.  (Here’s Walton’s account.)  “Due to the impact of pro-Israel forces, justice is hindered,” he ominously complained. “Some people have become captives in Congress – they need liberation from these forces.”  He claimed:  “Israel today is moving towards a racist state,” requiring anti-apartheid style boycotts and divestment.  “This is the future,” Ateek confidently predicted of increasing numbers of U.S. Christians turning against Israel.

The D.C. area Sabeel event also featured Jewish author Mark Braverman, whose 2010 book Fatal Embrace outlines how the intransigence of Jews and pro-Israel Christians hinders Mid-East peace.  Accustomed to old-time Religious Left support for anti-Israel causes, he was excited about emerging anti-Israel evangelicals.  “This politically is extremely important and it’s making a difference,” he exuded.  “There are several huge mega churches whose pastors are ready to come on board – we’re talking critical mass, access to the White House.”  As examples of evangelical activism, Braverman pointed to Tom Getman in the audience and also praised Wheaton professor Gary Burge.  “Talk about power – bridging the gap between evangelicals and the mainline,” Braverman rejoiced.

Of course, the old Religious Left is continuing its long-time anti-Israel emphasis.  Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori and Evangelical Lutheran Church Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson this week led a “Churches for Middle East Peace” delegation to the White House to urge U.S. support for dividing Jerusalem between Israel and a Palestinian nation.  But such Mainline prelates rarely speak politically even for their own declining constituencies and are not so much taken seriously.

Pro- and anti-Israel forces recognize that a vital key to U.S. policy towards Israel is evangelicals, who are America’s largest religious demographic.   Will films like “Little Town of Bethlehem” and groups like “Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding” successfully neutralize historic pro-Israel sentiment?   A certain subset of evangelical elites who are embarrassed by many of their brethren is certainly jumping aboard with a thump.  But most are likely to understand that bifurcating a successful, pro-American democracy in favor of an undemocratic, territorially ambitious and resentful “Palestine” is not a magic formula for sustainable peace.

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  • Jeanmar37

    Since when are Presbyterians and Church of England (Episcopalians in the US) considered to be Evangelicals? Mainline denominations for the most part are barely Christian any more as there emphasis is primarily on "social justice" — whatever that is at the current moment. Good article but I don't think the author has much understanding of modern Christianity.

  • Jeanmar37

    Oooops! Change that "there" to "their emphasis…

  • Donla

    The Godless have always tried to co-opt God for their evil ways. It started when Satan quoted (God's) scripture to God (Christ) in the desert, and today it continues. Witness the actions of team Obama seeking religious cover for his evil (abortion -infanticide) and it works if we just look at the spectacle of Notre Dame honoring him and Georgetown covering up "Christ" so that he not be offended when he spoke there.

    Nothing new under the sun. Never has evil been done without first converting it to appear as a good.

  • mstrmac711

    The name "Presbyterian" was coopted by leftist socialist community organizers years ago. As time goes by, conservatives tire of throwing good money after bad and leave the sinking ship. It makes me sad since my family had been Presbyterians for as many generations as we can document. But I did not leave them… they left me.

  • Ronald W. Carnine

    Evangelicals are united for Israel not Palestine. No disrespect intended but Arabs in Israel are much better off than any other country in the Mideast including Palestine . I don't know what Bible they're reading, but it is very clear that God's People (other than true Christians) in the NT refers to Israel. The Gentiles are grafted into the true vine (Israel) and that is how God blessed all people by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We see the 144, ooo Jews referred to in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. Those who stand against Israel are standing against God, and they are sinning. From Genesis to Revelation, you will find God still dealing with the Jewish people. He promised to reintroduce the Jewish people into the nation of Israel and that is still going on today. The Jews aren't perfect, however, in the Jewish state, Israelis Arabs are equal citizens with their Jewish counterparts. For Christians to stand against Israel is the opposite to the teaching of the word of God. They will not succeed.