What Is the Future of Evangelicals for Israel?

A sign with Arabic writing "Palestine the land of Jesus is eager for justice, peace and stability" is seen at the Lady of Peace church, background, in Amman, Jordan. (AP Photo)
A sign with Arabic writing “Palestine the land of Jesus is eager for justice, peace and stability” is seen at the Lady of Peace church, background, in Amman, Jordan. (AP Photo)

A majority of Americans of all Christian traditions typically tell pollsters they support Israel, with Evangelicals leading the way. A recent Pew survey shows 60 percent of white Evangelicals sympathizing “a lot” with Israel versus 9 percent with Palestinians.

Strong Evangelical support for Israel is politically and strategically significant. Israeli leaders for decades have understandably sought friendship with Evangelical leaders and constituencies. More recently, critics of Israel, including leftist foundations, have sought to neutralize Evangelical support for Israel, with some success among Evangelical elites.

A Washington, D.C., group called Telos, headed by a former GOP congressional staffer and funded by George Soros, routinely takes elite Evangelicals to the West Bank for the pro-Palestinian perspective. To that end, a conference every two years in the Holy Land called “Christ at the Checkpoint” hosts hundreds of Evangelicals.

A professor at Wheaton College, Evangelicalism’s most prestigious school, takes students to “Christ at the Checkpoint” and is himself a prominent critic of pro-Israel Evangelicals. He was prominently featured in a film for Evangelicals several years ago called With God on Our Side, which lampooned pro-Israel theology.

World Vision, the $1 billion Evangelical relief group, supports “Christ at the Checkpoint” and other activism to steer Evangelicals away from support for Israel. It echoes Telos and similar groups in urging a purportedly “pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace, pro-justice and pro-Jesus” stance, which by neutralizing Evangelicals as a uniquely pro-Israel force, effectively favors Palestinian advocacy.

Compounding this activism is the fading of the old Religious Right, whose leaders, like the late Jerry Falwell, were outspokenly pro-Israel and claimed to speak for millions. A new generation of Evangelical leaders is more reluctant to wade into controversy. Some old Religious Right figures were believers in Dispensationalism, a 19th century movement asserting and stressing various End Times events, including the restoration of Israel, before Christ’s return.

The “Left Behind” literature is rooted in Dispensationalism, and millions of sincere Christians adhere to some version of it. Critics of Christian Zionism often critique Dispensationalism as apocalyptic and imply it is the main force for Evangelical support for Israel. They also claim that Dispensationalism is on the decline, with little pull among young Evangelicals.

But most pro-Israel Christians, including Evangelicals, have never been full-throttle Dispensationalists. They instead focus on sympathy for world Jewry after the Holocaust, the ongoing threat on anti-Semitism, nasty anti-Israel regimes like theocratic Iran, Israel’s thriving democracy, Israel’s alliance with America, and more recently, Israel as an oasis of protection for Mideast Christians, under siege nearly everywhere else.

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SOURCE: The Washington Examiner
Mark Tooley

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