Editor's Note: Carl Medearis is an international expert in Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations and is author of the book Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism.
By Carl Medearis, Special to CNN
This week at the United Nations, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has promised to ask for recognition of a Palestinian state. If he does, the United States will veto. Why?
Largely because of something we'll call Christian Zionism, an American theological movement that preaches a Christian obligation to help Jews reclaim the biblical Promised Land.
I travel constantly, speaking about the Middle East to evangelical Christians across America and Europe. I lived in Lebanon for 12 years and churches invite me to talk about how to love their Muslim neighbors.
Often before I get invited to speak at churches and Christian conferences, I go through an awkward period of questioning, an interview that feels more like an interrogation.
Pastors and conference leaders want to size me up to make sure I’m “safe” for Christian audiences. The interrogation usually goes something like this:
“Carl, we love your books and your message. You have a lot of insight on how Christians can be more Jesus-like to our Middle Eastern neighbors. We hope you’ll talk a lot about that!”
Translation: Please, for the love of God, don’t say anything controversial about Israel or the Palestinians.
Though they are too polite to ask, what those pastors and conference leaders want to know is what is my position on Israel. For them, the modern Jewish state is a direct fulfillment of Bible prophecy, the catalyst for a series of events that will culminate in the return of Jesus.
As the Palestinians press ahead in their bid for statehood, prepare to hear from this crowd. These Christians number in the tens of millions and they go into a state of frenzy every time a politician so much as winks at the idea of Israel giving up a few settlements or withdrawing to pre-1967 borders.
They’ll tell you their concern has nothing to do with their particular interpretation of the Bible and everything to do with America and Israel’s national security interests.
Don’t believe a word of it.
When it comes to U.S. policy on Israel and the Middle East, Christian Zionism is the elephant in the room.
Christian Zionists believe that when God told Abraham 4,000 years ago, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” he was making a promise that extends to the modern state of Israel. Any nation that “curses” Israel will face God’s judgment.
Not all evangelical Christians believe this, but the ones that do are the loudest voices in the media, and they lead huge organizations.
Television evangelists like Pat Robertson and John Hagee mobilize millions of Christians every year to write to their congressmen demanding that Israel be allowed to expand settlements indefinitely. They seem to oppose every peace deal that comes to the table.
There’s a reason for this. In their minds, the modern Israeli state is not only a fulfillment of biblical prophesy. In a bizarre twist that leaves most outsiders dumbfounded, Christian Zionists say the Bible predicts that Jews and Palestinians will forever be at war until Jesus returns.
They say the only person that will bring peace before the end of the age is—wait for it—the devil, in the form of the anti-Christ.
When you hear some Christian politicians say, “The land belongs to Israel”, what they’re really saying is if America blesses Israel – that is, if it gives uncritical support to the Jewish state - God will bless America. If America curses Israel, God will curse America.
When it comes to Israel and her neighbors, many Christian Zionists believe that peacemaking is the devil’s work.
They may forget that it was Jesus who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers."
One of the reasons Jesus was crucified was because of his refusal to embrace a nationalist agenda. But Christian Zionism blesses military action by the modern state of Israel, under the banner of "national security," including the demolition of Palestinian homes to pave the way for new settlements.
So how would Jesus vote this week if he had a seat at the U.N.?
Surely love, compassion, justice and peace-making would top his lists of concerns for all involved. Maybe he would give a new parable - the Parable of the Good Palestinian - offending all who would hear.
Rather than allowing obscure Old Testament promises to dictate our foreign policy, what if we stuck to the clear commands of God - love your neighbor, your enemy and the foreigner in your midst - which appear in Exodus, Leviticus and three of the four gospels.
Many Christians in America think of Jews and Christians as “us” and anything that sounds Muslim or Arab as “the other.” But the call of Jesus is to be more loving towards the “other” than towards the people we think of as “us.”
This command works both ways. When I’ve had audiences with leaders in the Hezbollah or Hamas, I tell them the same thing: That Jesus said to love your enemies. Who are your enemies? Israel.
It’s true that there are elements of Palestinian society that do not want peace, no matter the price. They need to be isolated and dealt with.
The same goes for elements of Israeli society that don’t want peace. The good news is that extremists are a minority on both sides of the conflict.
People ask me all the time what I think about Israel and end-times theology, and how the Palestinians factor into that.
Here’s my answer: If your end-times theology trumps the clear commands in Scripture to love neighbors and enemies, then its time to rethink your theology.
Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. Why would he support Palestinian barbarians?
because he was for all and preached love and equality between jews and gentiles. That's why "the chosen people" accused him of blasphemy and wanted him dead..and also because he was a little violent in the $$ changing temple.
So are you saying Christians are worshiping a Jewish Rabbi ?
Or are you saying that is normal for Jews to crucify a Jewish Rabbi?
Jesus was one of the Children of Israel who had came to correct the Judaism faith but was accused of being heretic...!
Temperature here becoming very Hot so better I sign out rather than be Baked...any way think evey one got the right to live peacefully and under mutual respect....!
Idiot states 'jesus would support palestinian statehood bid'. Maybe, but since jesus was a jew the palestinians would support shooting rockets at him. That aside, the author seems to be as deranged and stupid as he looks.
Yeah & Yogi Bear would outlaw picnic baskets & Obama would abolish welfare..Fat chance !
I agree and good post! Thanks
Wasn't jesus a Palestinian?
Didn't the Jews decide that Jesus was a fraud?
2000 + years and the argument continues and people continue to die.
Get over it all of you.
The time IS near.
Real Statehood can only come when the parties come together and recognize each others right to exist.Neither Abbas or a Hammas will do that,so going to the UN is futile. Stop firing rockets,and recognize Israel and agree to a two state solution.
It really doesn't matter what you say or think, the formulas in the Bible still works today as it did when first written down!!
Just like any other equation – there is only one true answer – and the same applies to the Bible.
There is a very wonderful thing about how God worked His Word; You see, we can misinterpret the language, but numbers cannot be misinterpreted – numbers are numbers in any language. So when you work the equations in the Bible every nation and tribe will have to admit there is only one TRUE answer to each of the equations! Awesome, isn't it?
Just like the 'equations' that said that the world was going to end in May of this year? Those equations?
No, dummy, that was some man's idea, not God's!!
Even Jesus said:
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father....."
Learn something before speaking about it, okay?
You missed my point entirely. I wasn't agreeing that a religeous wacko had the right take on the Bible. I was pointing out that 'equations' can be used to make all sorts of contradictory claims. All religeous texts have been used this way since the beginning of recorded history. In fact, probably even before.
Take 'religion' out of this equation and you have a much better chance at peace in the middle east.
Jews: MY GOD SAYS ISRAEL IS OURS
This guy: MY GOD SAYS ISRAEL SHOULD BE PALESTINE
this is why these conflicts start in the first place. Why is there tension in the middle east? because the extremist muslims there can't agree on whose method of worshipping their invisible skydaddy is correct, and because the extremist muslims there can't stand jews living amongst them.
In reality, Yahweh, Jesus, Allah – they're all just fictional characters. They are not a basis for an argument.
But lets for a second pretend jesus was real. You know what? he died 2000 years ago. The romans killed him. Done and done. His opinion is unknown because he is not alive. this guy doesn't know what his opinion would have been either.
So unless you spoke to yahweh, jesus, allah, spiderman, thor, zeus, the green lantern, a leprechaun or a magical flying unicorn yourself, you don't know what their opinion is, case closed. It's irrelevant.
So this know itr all knows what Jesus would do huh...liar.
Sara, I can't believe you think like you do. Jesus cares about people, not man-made borders. You are not christian in any sense of the word.
I don't think Jesus would back people who have been killing defenseless Israeli women and children . This is just another biased article by Cnn.com with no counter argument.
Um .. yeah. That is why it is called an opinion piece.
Hi Terry, I'm a Christian with Jewish blood and my wife is Jewish so I'm not biased. However, the facts are the facts. Since September 29, 2000, there has been 6 times as many Palestinians killed in contrast to the amount of people killed in Israel. (6,430 Palestinians to 1,084 Israelis) Here;s a good article for you to read that shows the statistics. http://www.ifamericansknew.org/stats/deaths.html
Here is the opinion of one who has been called both 'zionist' and 'antisemite':
1) Eventually a two-state solution must become a reality.
2) Until the Palestinians are willing to accept Isreal as a neighboring state, they should not be granted statehood.
Coexist or don't exist.
So should the illegal immigrants in America be granted a homeland as well?Can we give them your state?Can we give them your home and possessions?God bless
herbert: there is a big difference between illegal immigrants in America and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The Palestinians were granted this land by the UN under the agreement that made Isreal a state. If Isreal didn't like it, they shouldn't have agreed to it.
You would get a closer comparison if you asked if Native Americans should be granted land in America.
native americans are "native" to the land they live in palestinians are not.God bless
you cannot expect americans to be honest,decent people,after centuries of good living by stealing from others.anyone with an iq 50 or higher can see that america is polished version of nazi germany.it needs to bleed to change.
Nobody makes me bleed my own blood. Nobody!
Kat, You are living in a la la land. Nobody has any beef against Palestinian christians or any other palestians that is prepared to negotiate peacefully. Unfortunately such "peaceful" palestinians are few and far between. The vast majority are hamas supporting murderous thugs who do not deserve anything let alone a country of their own.
Oh, the arabs did not steal the wealth of the nations they conquered? What happened to the jews that lived in medina?Was their property not usurped, their wealth stolen?
So may I ask if the country will be divided on the bases of Jews and Muslims then where would the Christians go if they get pressurized from both sides?
Have the Palestinians stopped bombing grocery markets and sending rockets to kill children?
have the Israelis stopped robbing the Palestinians and bulldozing their homes to build illegal colonies that house jews only.
So would Santa...another fictional character.
A Palestinian state has little or no meaning to Jesus as he's concerned about your eternal soul, not your imaginary boundaries.
tell that to zionist christians. they seem to want to kill to save israel's borders.
I'm an atheist. Not a christian or jewish zionist. I don't believe there is a god.
And after carefully studying the israeli palestinian conflict over the years I believe israel, while they have taken many actions I don't agree with, is still in the right here for the most part.
the 6 day war was not israeli aggression, it was israeli defense. no less than 5 nations were going to attack israel because they did not want a jewish state amongst them, israel was left with no choice. The original land was obtained legally and peacefully, the land seized in the 6 day war was seized just as the US lands were seized.
If Mr. Speaks-to-jesus believes we should be giving back palestinian land, I also assume he would want to give back the U.S. to the native americans. let him turn over his home to the nearest reservation if he honestly believes this.
That being said, a palestinian state is a solution but not because some fairy tale figure says so. it's a solution because it could bring peace. Israel needs to stop creating more settlements, they need to stop expanding out. They should sign a treaty giving all so called "palestinians" (which really means muslim who just doesn't want to be associated with judaisim since palestine is not an actual place and has never existed) a certain time frame with which they can leave and move to this area. If 1 attack, 1 rocket or 1 suicide bombing occurs that can be attributed to palestinian activity (funding, supporting or physically carrying it out) then treaty is broken, israel can go and re-claim the land.
It's the only way to ensure peace.
Again I'm an atheist, I have absolutely 0 religious investment. I simply have been paying careful attention to details of this conflict over the years and have reached my own conclusion
was Israel also defending itself when it bombed the USS Liberty during the 1967 war, killing and maiming 100's of young american servicemen?....The fact is Israel started that war and bombed the egyptian air force while on the ground. Either way, most Palestinians were born under Israel's occupation and have known nothing but israeli armed thieves and bulldozers. Their quest for freedom is because Israel is nazi racist brutal dictatorship, not because of some ancient history. Israel in fact has already made its peace who with its neighbors that share most of its borders, Egypt and Jordan. Palestinains are not all Muslim. Many are Christian. You missed the Palestinian Christian spokeswomen today in CNN John King show. Look her up. She shut her host with their eloquent presentation of the Palestinians point of view.
You are one of the few that haven't been brainwashed by CNN!!! Congratulations and make your voice heard more often!
Curious as to what your sources were over the last years studying the Israeli-Palestine conflict. It sounded like FOX propaganda in there. I am sorry but half of what you said about the history of this conflict is not true. Palestine never existed!!! Israeli land occupation is like US Land!!!! How about Israel gives the Palestinians all the rights that American Indians have in the US. Basic rights are violated daily. Human dignity is humiliated to the point that some of those folks are losing hope in life and the prospects of the future. I urge to get different sources to learn about this conflict, namely anything outside the US and definitely those who are sympathetic with either side of the conflict.
I think any reasonable person would agree with you completely. Unfortunately, you posted this on an American news site.
All Israelis are required by law to serve in the IDF, so all israeli are potentialy armed Combatants. Their Army is their People. Charles Bowen Solomon Stone
Really ? What about the ones that don't , like children that Palestinians have no problem killing them.
You miss the fact, Terry, that the Israeli's are causing their own children to be killed by treating the Palestinians like second-class citizens and angering them severely.
Neither side has totally 'white wings'.... but the Palestinians as a whole are whiter than Israel's, with their overbearing response to every 'attack'.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.