Dramatic Drop Seen In American Evangelical Support for Israel

Israeli and American flags fly at Congregation Beth Shalom in Overland Park, Kan., on Jan. 16, 2014. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

Israeli and American flags fly at Congregation Beth Shalom in Overland Park, Kan., on Jan. 16, 2014. RNS photo by Sally Morrow

American evangelicals have played a significant role in U.S. support for Israel; by some measures they are even more supportive than American Jews.

But in the spring issue of Middle East Quarterly, David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel, wrote a piece titled “The End of Evangelical Support for Israel?” Evangelicals have shifted within the last decade, Brog wrote, and are no longer considered automatic supporters of Israel.

“The days of taking evangelical support for Israel for granted are over,” he wrote, suggesting an urgency for those who take the issue seriously. “They cannot let the evangelical community go the way of the mainstream Protestant leadership.”

Several mainline churches and international church bodies have passed resolutions on divesting money or boycotting products made in Israel because of its occupation of the Palestinian territories.

In October 2010, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life conducted a survey of evangelical leaders attending the global evangelical conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

Overall, 48 percent of the evangelicals said Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy about the Second Coming of Jesus, while 42 percent said it is not.

When asked where their sympathies lie, 34 percent of global evangelicals surveyed sympathized with Israel, compared with 30 percent of American evangelicals.

In addition, new films made by Christians are beginning to question support for Israel. They include ”With God on Our Side” (Rooftop Productions, 2010) and “Little Town of Bethlehem” (EthnoGraphic Media, 2010), funded by Mart Green, the son of Hobby Lobby’s founder, David Green.

David Green is the current chair of Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, whose president, Billy Wilson, spoke at the recent controversial conference “Christ at the Checkpoint.”

“Christ at the Checkpoint” began in 2010 as a biennial conference with the idea that Jesus was a Palestinian who could be suffering under Israeli occupation today as he once suffered under Roman occupation.

David Neff, who co-convenes an annual evangelical-Jewish leader dialogue, said his Jewish friends have expressed some nervousness over recent gatherings and activities, including Christ at the Checkpoint, which took place in March.

“I think it’s more anecdotal at this point, but nevertheless, it is reasonable to think that with Christ at the Checkpoint people getting the attention of some,” Neff said, referring to Lynne Hybels, wife of megachurch pastor Bill Hybels, and progressive evangelical leader Tony Campolo. “There’s no question: People who have sympathies for the plight of the Palestinians have more access than they used to.”

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SOURCE: Religion News Service
Sarah Pulliam Bailey