Anti-Israel activists have in recent years been seeking to strike at one of the basic foundations for support of the Jewish state in the United States, the evangelical community. They have done so in a variety of ways: through emotional appeals on behalf of beleaguered Palestinians, through deceptively blaming Israel and its occupation for all that ails the Holy Land, by ignoring any contrary evidence or denouncing it so tepidly as to make no difference, and by attacking all support of Israel by evangelicals as theologically toxic “Christian Zionism.” (For the record: “Christian Zionism” is a technical term that has come to be applied to the support of Israel that is driven by eschatology informed by dispensationalism. The majority, perhaps vast majority, of American evangelicals who support Israel, myself included, are no more dispensationalists than we are Zoroastrians.)
Luke Moon of the Institute on Religion and Democracy offers a look at some of the evangelicals who have been leading this charge, including luminaries such as Willow Creek Church’s Lynn Hybels, Wheaton College’s Gary Burge, and dreadlocked Philadelphia activist Shane Claiborne. Here’s an excerpt about an organization that will not be getting any further support from me until they lay off the anti-Israel politics, World Vision:
World Vision’s antagonism toward Israel is largely the work of an activist named Tom Getman. Getman served as director of World Vision’s program in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza before being tasked with establishing World Vision’s office in Washington, DC. After he left World Vision, he was able to abandon his veneer of neutrality and joined the boards of the ferociously pro-Palestinian groups Evangelicals for Mid-East Understandings, Sabeel, Sojourners, and KairosUSA. In a brief interview with fellow anti-Israel activist Rev. Steven Sizer, Getman bragged about his connections in the White House and on Capitol Hill. These “friends,” he claimed, would encourage the U.S. government to engage in dialogue with other friends of his, who happen to be leaders of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.
“We have friends… inside the White House, we have friends in the Senate like people in this room today, who are intent on putting steel in the spine so Obama can follow through on what he has said, not only the words but to do. Like our friends Nasrallah [Hezbollah’s political leader] and Sheik Fedlallah [Hezbollah’s spiritual leader] and many others in the Middle East have said to us, the problem with you Christians is you don’t do what’s in the book. So we are trying to encourage Christians within the administration or active Jews within the administration to really stand up and let Obama be Obama in terms of what his heart says in terms of dialogue.”
Because World Vision is a trusted organization in most Evangelical churches, it is very easy for them to promote the one-sided message that Israel is 100 percent to blame for Palestinian suffering—especially that of Palestinian Christians. This issue is particularly emotive, and thus one that pro-Palestinian Evangelicals constantly emphasize. In 2011, for example, World Vision started the Palestinian Christian Engagement Initiative (PCEI). According to Steve Haas, Catalyst Officer for World Vision, the purpose of the initiative was to bring together Palestinian churches in order to address the problem of Palestinian Christian emigration. Haas parrots the typical explanation of such emigration, saying, “Christians particular to this part of the world were emigrating very fast, a lot of it simply due to the impact of the occupation and the bad economy it was creating for Palestinians here.” It is true that Christians in the Middle East are emigrating very rapidly. The main reason, however, is not Israel, but Islam. In fact, since 1967, the number of Christians in Israel has increased while the number of Christians in the West Bank and Gaza has plummeted.
World Vision’s focus in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza is based on the noble work of providing assistance to children and families trapped in abject poverty. But its funding for conferences like “Christ at the Checkpoint” and “Impact: Holy Land”, which are created to subvert Evangelical support of Israel, undermines its pledge of neutrality.
Read it all.