Recently, there have been a number of articles discussing the recent phenomena of millennial Evangelicals and the new move to turn them against Israel. As one that affiliates as part of that group and is currently studying and living in Jerusalem, it is disheartening to hear that such a trend is taking root in Christians of my generation.
It saddens me that fellow Christians in the name of faith are perpetrating and spreading anti- Semitic theologies from the heart of the Holy Land. The leader in such activities is the Christ at the Checkpoint conference, which is a conference run by Palestinian Christian leaders, as well as Christian leaders of various denominations from the United States, United Kingdom, and a number of other international Christian organizations, primarily catering towards Evangelicals. This conference has been caught teaching replacement theology, which encourages anti Semitism and anti Israeli sentiment, instead of focusing on peace. As a believer, I strongly disagree with the promulgation of this idea. This ideology has been the cause of countless atrocities towards the Jewish people in the name of Christ over the years, and it is something that the Church has been and needs to continue to turn away from.
In the manifesto of the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference, it states, all forms of violence must be refuted unequivocally.” Unfortunately, all this conference is doing is supporting hatred, which turns to violence. It is disseminating knowledge to other Christians in the guise of helping their fellow believers who are suffering while simultaneously demonizing a nation in which Christianity is not only accepted, but also thriving. Executive Director of Christians United for Israel, David Brog warns that it is a “dangerously one-sided propaganda campaign.” Further, if they wish to truly refute all forms of violence it would be more valuable to give voice to the other Christian populations who are suffering at the hands of extremists manipulating the religion of Islam. Yet, according to their manifesto, “Christians must understand the global context for the rise of extremist Islam.” The manifesto itself is contradictory because how can one refute violence and simultaneously understand the rise of extremist Islam, an entity enacting violence upon members of the Christian community throughout the Middle East, even as close as Bethlehem.
While Christ at the Checkpoint is so clearly demonizing Israel as the main source of distress for Palestinian Christians, it is leaving out one very important factor, the immediate threat that those Palestinian Christians face from their neighbors. Bethlehem, which used to be a Christian majority, is now a Muslim majority. Christians are persecuted in Bethlehem not by Israelis, but by fellow Palestinian Muslims. The First Bible Baptist Church in Bethlehem is one example of Christians under constant threat. Dr Naim Khoury and son, Pastor Stephen Khoury, as well as their families are supporters of Israel and are Christians living in Bethlehem. Their church has been firebombed fourteen times by those living in their own neighborhood. They are just one example of a situation facing Christian communities in Syria, Egypt and other countries across the region. Extremist Islam does not allow for other religions to be freely practiced. Religious diversity is a possibility. In areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority, such as the city of Bethlehem, Jewish Israelis are not allowed to enter. Meanwhile the Palestinian Christians living in Bethlehem, who are orchestrating such a conference to sway Evangelicals to support them while attacking Israel, are allowed to enter Israel. These facts are of course not addressed along with the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, or the endorsement of terrorism towards their Israeli neighbors to further the cause.
Is this new wave of anti Israel fervor affecting young evangelicals in the United States and other western countries? These ideas do have their consequences. The reinforcement of the underdog, the Palestinian cause, resonates with Americans. Ryan Mauro, the National Security Analyst for the Clarion project outlines what he says are four reasons threatening the Christian stance on Israel. He discusses that the psychological issue creates one of the biggest challenges and the underdog appearance of the Palestinian situation plays into that. Meanwhile, the Jewish people have been the concurrent underdogs throughout all of history. This narrative is however not discussed, bringing the Palestinian plight to the forefront with the endorsement of liberal and leftist media on a global scale.
I do not disagree with him, but as a recent graduate from a large liberal arts university, I believe the greatest threat for the millennial evangelical support for Israel, as well as Christians of other denominations, is apathy. I was an activist for Israel on my campus for three years, creating the first Christian pro- Israel group on my campus. I witnessed everyday the apathy and an egocentric nature overtaking my peers. Students that affiliated to the Christian faith involved in various Christian organizations on campus in which I reached out to, did not seem to care about the issue of Israel. They were too concerned with what immediately affected them, a weekly Bible study, classwork, etc. Israel is the land of the Bible, how it is not a more central point of discussion for Christians is bewildering. On college campuses this plague of apathy is winning the battle. I believe that all Christian organizations should talk about Israel, stand with Israel, and create relationships with the Jewish groups on campus. The campus is where the majorities of millennials discover and create opinions about the world around them. This is the arena where Christian Zionism needs to be fought for.
There are those of us as well as organizations that are on the frontlines creating and solidifying the relationship between Christians and Israel. Christians United For Israel’s campus department has been successful in planting chapters at colleges and university’s across the United States. The Israel Experience College Scholarship Program run under the leadership of Reverend Robert Stearns, is an initiative that brings young Christians to Israel to experience and learn firsthand, creating ambassadors upon their return to their campuses. Both of these organizations are helping to create a new generation of Christian Zionists to combat the trend that is currently taking shape. I am a part of that generation. I have stood on the frontlines on my campus to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state and the Jewish people. More often than not, I was the lone Christian standing among my Jewish peers making my voice heard. Though the news is stating that there is a new growing threat, there is hope. There are students like myself changing the conversation. Students like Chloe Valdary at the University of New Orleans proudly supporting Is,rael on a national level. Or, Catherine Gunsalus a student who helped draft legislation adopted by the state of Kansas solidifying the relationship between the state and Israel. This trend should not be ignored but addressed because it is of the utmost importance. Do not give up hope, know that there are those of us who are steadfast in our support for the state of Israel and the Jewish people, and we aren’t going anywhere.