The Latest Threat to Evangelical Support for Israel [Excerpt]
Targeting young Evangelicals at top Christian universities has also been an extremely effective tool in the hands of those seeking to erode Evangelical support for Israel.
This is particularly the case in the field of theology. One of the defining characteristics of an Evangelical is their commitment to Biblical authority. They believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and therefore a trustworthy guide for how Christians should approach both personal and political issues.
Wheaton College’s Dr. Gary Burge has dedicated much of his work to formulating a biblical argument against supporting Israel. In addition to his endeavors inspiring young Evangelicals to abandon support for Israel, he also has worked to inspire his own denomination to take a hardline approach to Israel as well. As an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Burge’s writings have played heavily in the recent decision of his church to divest in three companies that do business in Israel. The outrageously biased and anti-Israel study guide Zionism Unsettled included a chapter on Evangelicals and Christian Zionism taken from Burge’s work on the subject. His basic message is that the land of Israel is no longer important to God’s redemptive plan for humanity. The Kingdom of God, which was established by Jesus, fulfills all the promises God made to Abraham and the people of Israel. Thus, there is no need for an earthly “kingdom” for the Jews.
As Burge told the participants at the  “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference, “It is not that the covenant of Abraham has been rejected; nor that it has been replaced or superseded; it has been fulfilled.” Using the term “fulfilled” is, essentially, an attempt to get around the nasty history of supercessionism and replacement theology, which hold that the coming of Jesus abrogated God’s covenant with the Jews and they are no longer a chosen people. To non-Evangelicals, it may seem to be simply a matter of semantics, but its implications are extreme: The Jewish people and especially the modern State of Israel have no special significance to God. Rather than using the imagery St. Paul offers—of the gentiles being grafted on to the vine of a faithful Israel—this view sees Israel as the egg from which Jesus hatches and then discards the shell.
This message of “fulfillment theology” is often coupled with stories of Palestinian Christians who have lost their land to Jews. In the film With God on Our Side—which is routinely shown at Evangelical colleges—Salim Munayer, founder of the reconciliation ministry Musalaha, stands beneath an olive tree and describes how his family lost their land in 1948 and their subsequent mistreatment by American Christians. “Quite often I meet Christian Zionist groups that don’t understand the implications of Christian Zionism,” he says. “The implication of Christian Zionism, the way we hear it here, is [that] to accept this theology is to commit suicide as a people group.” This is an explosive challenge to the average American Evangelical: How can you support a theology that causes people to suffer?
While this challenge may be emotionally effective in persuading some younger Evangelicals to reject the idea of God’s faithfulness to Israel, it ignores the robust Christian theology of suffering, as well as political realities that are hidden by fear. The Christian theology of suffering recognizes, for example, that God allows suffering for a season in order to further his redemptive plan for humanity. At the same time, the political reality is that Palestinian Christians are suffering less at the hands of Israel than those of Palestinian nationalists and Islamic radicals.
Christy Anastas, for example, a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem, has courageously broken the silence on how land is routinely stolen from Palestinian Christians by other Palestinians: Palestinians are stealing other Palestinians lands—especially Christian lands. I have four uncles who lost half their land by people from Hebron. Just like that. They went to court to ask for their rights. The judge, sadly was from Hebron. He said to them, I can’t wait to see the four of you dead in the fridges.
The price Christy paid for speaking out was significant. She was disowned by her family and forced to flee to the UK, where she received asylum. Unfortunately, films like With God on Our Side refuse to acknowledge that the price of speaking out against Palestinian corruption, or even of not hating Israel enough, is too much for many Palestinians. It’s easier to go along with the crowd and blame Israel.