12 And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?
13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.
14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;
15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.
38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree
34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.
Here in No Cross No Crescent, I have written extensively about Islam, why it stands apart from other faiths in today’s world, and why Islamic militants are indeed motivated, first and foremost, by their faith, no anything else. Hence, if it appears that I am siding against Israel, it is certainly not because I have any sympathy for a terrorist organization like Hamas.
But as the on-again-off-again cease fire between Hamas and Israel drags on and thousands of civilians are dying in the cross fire, there are nefarious influences on both sides that, while not directly a party to the conflict, continue to egg on both sides to be uncompromising, with total disregard to the human cost. One such influential and affluent group are large numbers of US evangelicals. I have written about this group’s danger and their insanity, and none less than Christopher Hitchens pointed out (“when he lived on this earth”!) that Jerry Falwell undercut the peace efforts between the two sides in the 1990’s and 2000’s by encouraging radical Israeli settlers to steal Palestinians’ land.
But as violence erupts, surely enough, they are at it again.
With only a short time to recover from their jet lag, a group of 51 Evangelical Christian pastors representing every U.S. state and the District of Columbia embarked on a journey to the frontline of the recent Gaza conflict as part of a three-day mission organized by Christians United For Israel (CUFI).
“We came to lift the hands of the leaders and people over Israel,” Pastor Victor Styrsky, the Eastern Regional Coordinator for CUFI, told JNS.org. “We are going to make a statement to the world that we stand with Israel.”
“I have been here several times before, but it seems different this time. The people here seem war weary and fatigued,” Pastor Ron Sebesta of The Light of Mission Viejo Church in Santa Fe, N.M., told JNS.org from a Sderot hilltop overlooking Gaza.
Sebesta, himself a U.S. military veteran, said he understands the complex threat Israel faces and hopes he can use this experience in Israel to bring the message back home to his congregants.
“We want to do everything we can to tell our congregations and our leaders to support Israel,” he said.
It is so incredibly thoughtful for the good pastor to have found his calling, and to be on the side of Israel in its hour of militarism. Surely him carrying his Christian duties overseas is a heroic act, but wouldn’t one think that maybe, just maybe, Jesus would have slightly different priorities on the world stage, like feeding the hungry in Africa?
More amusing, perhaps, is the fundamentalists’ wrath at the churches that don’t toe this line. Charisma News, for example, knows exactly where it stands when it comes to Israel:
The Bible is, in fact, a Jewish book: written by, about, and largely for, Jews. Jesus even said that salvation is of the Jews. Christians are partakers of that salvation and are able to apply the scriptures to their own lives, because they are the heirs of Abraham by faith. Through Jesus they are adopted into the family and are part of Abraham’s family tree. But, they do not replace the original family they are grafted into, nor do they annul God’s promises to the Jews.
To put it bluntly, that is lying by omission. The New Testament (to borrow a phrase from the text) is, in fact, an antisemitic book. While it presents Jesus as supposedly coming to fulfill the prophecies in the Jewish Tanakh, it makes no secret of its fury at the Jews for failing to embrace the Messiah; in countless places, in both the words of Jesus and his apostles, it not only calls the Jews the ugliest names, and accuses the Jews of the ultimately crime, being the real killers of Jesus (according to Peter, if it weren’t for them, Pontius Pilate would let Jesus go). Mel Gibson did not invent this heinous accusation.
But Charisma News doesn’t find it convenient for its purposes to quote any of that, and instead goes on to trash its “brethren in Christ” for not being sufficiently pro-Israel:
Some Christians have tried to claim that the Old Testament should no longer be read literally about the people of Israel; it now only applies spiritually to the church. This is known as Replacement Theology: the idea that the church has replaced Israel in the plans and purposes of God.
While some Replacement Theologians would deny rejecting or rewriting scripture, others are quite blatant about it. One such group is Sabeel. Founded by Palestinian Anglican Canon, Naim Ateek, Sabeel propagates Palestinian Liberation Theology and disregards any portion of Scripture that disagrees with Ateek’s anti-Semitic views. He calls for Scripture to be “de-Zionized” by removing all “Zionist” portions that afford any significance to the nation of Israel and any connection of the Jewish people to the Holy Land.
While that may sound ludicrous to most, Sabeel has the ear of some mainline denominations, one being the Presbyterian Church (USA). The group’s influence over the years has fanned the flames of Replacement Theology in the PCUSA and finally resulted in this summer’s vote to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
The problem is, of course, that if you want to remove Israel from the Bible, you will have little Bible left. Christianity then loses its spiritual roots, churches lose their moral authority, and their membership numbers dwindle. The PCUSA membership has dropped 26.8 percent over the last 10 years. Let’s hope they see the error of their ways before it is too late.
It is not news that non-fundamentalist protestant churches in the US are shrinking rapidly. I am not sure, though, which is the chicken and which is the egg: is it that not being all about fire and brimstone (AKA, “Christianity losing its spiritual roots”) causes people to abandon the congregations, or is it that churches losing members to begin with are trying to keep up with the times by changing the way they practice their faith?