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Certain that U.S. support for Israel depends on pro-Israel American evangelicals, the Religious and Evangelical Left are targeting evangelicals with their latest arguments for discrediting Israel.
This week, “Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding” (EMEU) convened at a San Francisco Presbyterian church to hash out their latest anti-Israel strategies. Ostensibly the problem as they identify it is that too many U.S. evangelicals are wedded to Old Testament promises of a perpetual Promised Land for the Jews. Anti-Israel activists like to showcase besieged Middle East Christians as arguments against a Jewish Israel, as though Judaism rather than radical Islam were their chief threat. They also like to portray Christian Zionists as motivated by apocalyptic end-times scenarios.
Church of England priest Stephen Sizer, author of Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon, was an advertised featured speaker at the EMEU conference. So too was Tom Getman, a former official with World Vision, a global evangelical relief group, and former staffer to the late liberal Republican Senator Mark Hatfield. Earlier this fall, Getman helped introduce a Washington preview for a new anti-Israel film aimed at evangelicals called “Little Town of Bethlehem.” The film highlights anti-“occupation” Palestinian activist Sami Awad, whose Holy Land Trust advocates resistance to Israeli power through non-violence. Also featured is a former Israeli Defense Force helicopter pilot who renounced his military work because of potential harm to Palestinian civilians. This ostensible call to pacifism is powerfully appealing to left-leaning evangelicals who already think world peace demands a disarmed America.
Also promoting the film is Lynne Hybels, wife of Chicago-area Willow Creek megachurch pastor Bill Hybels. She praised “Little Town of Bethlehem” in a September Huffington Post column. “Nonviolent revolutions overthrew the British in India and the violent defenders of apartheid in South Africa,” she enthused. “It shaped the Civil Rights movement in the US. Of the thirteen nonviolent revolutions in communist nations that occurred in 1989-90 only one failed–in China.” Hybels, who is also affiliated with Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, hopes that non-violence can similarly bring down Israeli power. She boasted that she and her pastor husband had recently screened the film in their own home, helping to create a “new kind of global conversation.”
“Little Town of Bethlehem” follows in the wake of “With God On Our Side,” a more rambunctious frontal assault on Christian Zionism featuring, among others, Rev. Sizer and evangelical Wheaton University Professor Gary Burge, who is also affiliated with “Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding.” In an EMEU video promo, Burge recalled large audiences at his evangelical campus for both films. And he declared “momentum is on our side,” as he cited evangelical publishers now willing to criticize Israel. He also cited Jimmy Carter as an “evangelical Christian” who has helpfully promoted a new, more anti-Israel perspective. Burge likewise praised Palestinian Anglican cleric Naim Ateek of the notoriously anti-Israel, Jerusalem-based Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center.
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