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Are American Evangelicals Fracturing When It Comes to Support for Israel?


"I believe it is possible to be truly pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian at the same time."

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American evangelicals have traditionally had a close and friendly relationship with Israel. While this dynamic continues, there appears to be a splintering of sorts going on, as some factions are becoming increasingly critical of the Jewish state.

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BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins recently covered the issue, noting that some figures who have traditionally been aligned with conservative Christianity have been working in a quiet manner to form alliances that would push "evangelical Christians away from decades of growing loyalty to Israel and toward increased solidarity with the Palestinians."

With these activists and organizations coming together to push for what they call a more fair-minded discussion, some conservatives are warning that the Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestinian approach to the Middle East crisis is haphazard.

Pastor John Hagee, senior preacher at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, and David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel, appeared on Glenn Beck's television show Monday to discuss the complex issue. Both Hagee and Brog, strong defenders of the Jewish state, argue that it is essential for Christians to continue supporting Israel.

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Brog also recently told Coppins that Palestinian Christians have become well-versed in using language that resonates with American evangelicals -- language that is helping combat the traditional view among right-of-center evangelicals that Palestinians deserve sympathy and support.

He's hoping that those who support Israel will correct the record, specifically before more young evangelicals begin embracing ideals that cast the Jewish state in a more negative light.

"This effort is being led by Palestinian Christians who, while not always evangelicals, are quite adept at using evangelical language and imagery in their effort to blame Israel and Israel alone for Palestinian suffering," Brog said. "The movement has gotten louder because they have more money to spend. So we’re seeing more anti-Israel Christian films, speakers, and conferences. It’s very much grasstops, not grassroots."

Hagee shares these views. In his latest book "Four Blood Moons," he argued that there are numerous reasons why believers must support the Middle Eastern country.

First, he noted that the Bible says that those who bless Israel will also be blessed by God. Genesis 12:3 reads, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

And in Psalm 122:6, believers are also instructed to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem." Additionally, Isaiah 62:1,6 references being "watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem."

These arguments among others, though, obviously aren't shared by progressive evangelicals and critics who argue that Israel has played a detrimental role in the Middle Eastern crisis and that support must also be given to Palestinians who, in these critics' view, have been victims, to some degree, of Israeli aggression.

Critics like Gabe Lyons, founder of Q, a Christian group that facilitates speeches and discussions on faith issues, believes that there needs to be an honest discussion about Iranian-Palestinian affairs.

"The evangelical community has only heard one narrative on this issue. Part of the responsibility we have is to make sure they hear the rest of it," he told Coppins.

And Lyons isn't alone. Many others are asking for Christians to take a more fair-minded look at both sides of the debate.

Consider Lynne Hybels co-founded Willow Creek Church in Illinois with her husband Bill. As First Things noted last month, Hybels has made the case that evangelical Christians should be supportive of both the Israeli and Palestinian people.

"I believe it is possible to be truly pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian at the same time," she recently wrote on her blog, though critics like Institute on Religion & Democracy President Mark Tooley note that Hybels and others like her are well-intentioned, yet naive in how they plan to find a solution to the matter.

In the end, regardless of the debate, Pew found in October that the vast majority of Protestants -- 64 percent to be exact -- still believe "God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people." So regardless of any split in ideals, the majority of Protestant Christians still see Israel in an elevated and important spiritual light.

Read more about all facets of the discussion here.


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