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My Take: Jesus would support Palestinian statehood bid
The author argues that Jesus was primarily a peacemaker.
September 21st, 2011
12:27 PM ET

My Take: Jesus would support Palestinian statehood bid

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.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Israel • Opinion

soundoff (1,520 Responses)
  1. Chris

    It's a bit funny that "Christian" Zionists are so focused on helping Israel at all cost. I'm sure they don't know that in 1947, Palestine was 10% Christian. What about them? Does God want the Christians to suffer??

    September 22, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  2. Corey

    I am a reasonably educated individual, but as such I really must confess to very little knowledge about the entire conflict between Israel and Palestine. Fortunately (sarcasm, in case not evident to some), many of us who comment seem to know plenty. Actually, the most I remember of the whole situation comes from a childhood World History teacher who told a simply horrific story in a public school environment. In that, she said if ever Israel was over-taken or defeated or some sort of thing like that, the World would come to an end. I trembled with fear and found it extremely difficult to cope with that absolute knowledge. I suppose I was about 10 or 11 when she told that story, but now almost 45 years later I still remember it. Silly to think that a seemingly benign story would have stayed with me all those years; however, Medearis' article reminded me of that single lecture so many years ago and just how absolutely vulnerable and impressionable we can be. For many years, not thinking for myself, I was completely convinced if anything negative ever happened to Israel that society was "doomed." Consequently, I lived with a false sense of security that so long as Israel was okay, that I was okay.

    Sadly, I fear we are too polarized a society to find our way above the negative and ignorant teachings of those who know far too little. So long as we shoot from the hip of emotional and absolute ignorance, social intolerance, and unjustified arrogance we must continue our course of stupidity and selfishness.

    Today, I believe all people have a right to exist, and yes, that includes the Palestinians, a group of whom I know very little. If Israel is one day overthrown, it will indeed be a sad time for the World, but, not for the ignorant reasoning my World History teacher told, but rather, for society's inability to just get along and let the past be the past while we forge ahead with a new future.

    September 22, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
  3. Clay

    Christian Zionism has nothing to do with my belief that The Jews should give back the lands they took from Palestine. Israel earned that land.
    The Arabs mobilized a massive force, made of the collective armies of several nations surrounding Israel from all sides. The made no attempt to hide their presence or their intentions, arrogantly believing Israel stood no chance. Then with less then a third of the manpower of the forces baring down on them, Israel launched a bold pre-emptive strike that pushed the Arab forces back in under a week.
    Every bit of land they took possession of, they did it for a reason. They took the Golan heights, to protect their only water supply and stop the Syrians from Mortaring them again. They took the West Bank, so that any other Arab attack would have to be launched over the Jordan river. And finally, they took the Gaza strip so they wouldn't have an enemy at their back if this ever happened again.
    Give Palestine and Syria that land back, and they'll just launch another attack eventually. Read what their holly books say about each other if you don't understand why they hate each other.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • abd

      If security is an execuse, then why doesn't Israel occupy Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and few other countries, I am sure that will make Israel safer.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Toilet Bug

      Clay, please re read your posts before you post them. You made a reference to Holy books, yet you spelled it holly. Holly, according to my understanding is a plant. I guess they may be reading books about holly plants, but I do not think that is what you were meaning. Palestine has every right to exist. The Palestinians were there before the Jews decided to found a state after the Holocaust.

      I am a Christian, I read the Bible and have read it for years. I even attended private Christian school for 6 years. I know what the Bible says. I also am open minded enough to have a copy of the Quran. I have read it from cover to cover as well. Have you or any of the other Christians on this site ever read the Quran? Most likely not just as most Muslims have probably never read a copy of the Bible I imagine. I am not speaking for all Muslims or any Muslim in particular. I just know that most faiths forbid "dabbling" in the "other religions".

      The Quran as it is written speaks more of love and tolerance than the Bible does. I am a Christian. I also know that the Quran speaks of Jesus and he is a prophet, born unto his mother Mary and holds a special place in Heaven. I strive to live with the passion, compassion, convictions, love, tolerance and understanding that the Prophet Muhammad and Christ both lived by, with and spoke about.

      As for Gaza, I do not blame the Palestinians for raising hell. Israel demanded for recognition as a state. The Palestinians have the same right. What Israel does and continues to do to the Palestinians precipitated the attacks. I am a proud Christian but I am also open minded enough to look at facts.

      Israel needs to leave Gaza alone.

      September 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  4. derp

    Of course Jesus would side with the Palestinians. He loves terrorists.

    September 22, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • jog

      Derp,
      Not a singe one of the Palestinians I know are terrorists. Most of them are CHRISTIAN Palestinians whose grandparents homes and olive trees and fields were taken by Israelis in the interest of nation-building. And now those Israelis, who only a generation ago suffered at the hands of Hitler, are starving and continuing to kill even peaceful Palestinians. Dead women and children are not "collateral damage." They are human beings, and YES, many of them CHRISTIANS, although that's not discussed in US media or in churches.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Keith

      jog, just who is firing rocket against an Israeli civilian population on a daily basis? Who threw the rock that hit that 20-month-old baby in the face? These people should be gut shot.

      September 22, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
  5. terrence

    a lot of hate in the comments. jesus believers or not, siding with who ever... people hate too much.

    if there is no existence of the supernatural, then you have nothing to worry about 🙂
    if there is a heaven and a hell... i think we should make better choices for ourselves and not worry about others' beliefs.

    i personally believe in heaven and hell... there is another book in the bible that says, i'll paraphrase "this world will pass away, a new one will be made" ... you can think whatever you want, believe whatever you want because you have been given a choice... goods gift, evolution

    September 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
  6. Hypatia

    Manure.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  7. Reality

    From p. 26:

    Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospels being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah, white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

    So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher man would do or say?

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    September 22, 2011 at 11:21 am |
  8. myweightinwords

    We need to recognize that as much as Israel has a right to exist, so does Palestine. There is no reason that both can not exist at the same time.

    We need to end our knee-jerk, blind-eye approach to our support for Israel. They are not perfect. Peace will never come until Palestine and Israel can find common ground and equal footing.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:03 am |
  9. MarcV

    The writer is letting his personal animis toward fundamentalist Christians color his position on Israel. There are numerous historic, security, and practical reasons why the final status of the West Bank/Gaza must be tread carefully. Ignoring those just because you don't like happening to be on the same side of another group makes no sense.

    September 22, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  10. Mathilda

    I'm sure Jesus would say to American liberals to shut up.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:59 am |
    • tallulah13

      No, Matilda, you are the one telling others to shut up. You are not Jesus, nor do you speak for him.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • hahaha

      Yes, because jesus would be a conservative?!?!?! Long hair, beard, sandals, peace, love... sounds like a hippy to me

      September 22, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • wow

      What is truly funny is that "conservative" is a monetary term. People run around proclaiming they are a "conservative" are actually stating they worship money more than God – and they don't even realize it! Talk about the devil at work in plane site.

      September 22, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  11. Colin

    Any sentence that begins with " Jesus would" is bound to end with the writer's own personal opinion. You can be pretty sure you created god in your own image when he seems to love all the same things you do and to hate all the same things you do.

    September 22, 2011 at 10:52 am |
  12. A Psalm for Israel

    A psalm of Asaph.Psalm 83

    September 22, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  13. David Robins

    Clearly the writer is against Israel and using Jesus to justify forcing it to commit suicide!

    September 22, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • JohnQuest

      I have yet to understand how supporting a Palestinian State is against Israel, we can't have both?

      September 22, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • angelic

      israel was grounded on the massacre and killing of innocent Christian and muslim palestinians' deaths, that is your lovely israel: a murderer. so why don't you shut up until you get your facts straight.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:07 am |
    • Keith

      There can be a "palestinian state", but not within the Covenant Land. Fact is, the "palestinians" don't want to live in peace with Israel. They want Israel destroyed. The Bible predicted this very thing that is happening now, would happen. The end result will be war. This may be unfortunate, but it's just the way it is going to be. And yes, many will think that this war is Armegeddon. It won't be, but the world will sue for peace when it is over. I personally think this will be an opportune time for the Anti-christ to step forward and say, "look, I've got a solution...a seven year peace treaty"....Israel's agreement with hell.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:41 am |
    • Chad

      Israel a murderer?

      Ask your self these two SIMPLE QUESTIONS:

      – If Israel unilaterally disarmed itself tomorrow, what would happen?
      – If every Palestinian disarmed themselves tomorrow, what would happen?

      Answer: If Israel disarmed, they would be annihilated in 24-48 hours, every last one of them. If Palestinians disarmed, nothing would happen, peace in the area. Israel is not the problem.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Chris K.

      Chad,

      That is actually the most profound, yet simplistic statement on here! And it's 100% accurate.

      September 22, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Shadowflash1522

      @Chad:
      Your statement is true, but misleading. Nothing would happen if Palestinians disarmed because they have no legitimacy–without force of arms, their lack of land and power means that they can be persecuted at will.

      In other words, "Palestine" won't be overrun because there's nothing to overrun. Apples and oranges, my friend.

      September 22, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Chad

      @Shadowflash1522: you are completely missing the point which is that Israelis would not massacre unarmed Palestinians, Palestinians (and the entire Arab world), wouldnt hesitate to massacre unarmed Israelis.

      And therein lies the problem. Intractable Arab hatred of Israel.

      And that's why turning the West Bank and Gaza into a new state wont do ANYTHING to solve the problem. That step is merely one Arab step closer to the real goal: annihilation of Israel.

      September 22, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  14. ocho

    So sad how he confuses Jesus love and kindness for passiveness and apathy. I'm even more shocked by the Christians and pastors falling for this mess. He's a wolf in sheep's clothing, his Sharp fangs gave him away( or rather his ability to twist scripture).

    September 22, 2011 at 9:56 am |
  15. ocho

    Totally detestable this one is....

    September 22, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  16. Tim Timmons

    Well said, Carl! Good insight and balance.....

    September 22, 2011 at 9:40 am |
  17. The First Tool of the Fladaboscan Church

    The US supports Israel because it has long been a capitalistic democracy in the middle of a bunch of crazed dictatorships for a long time. Dictatorships that have a lot of oil, baby.

    If the new governments there lean over to religious craziness our alliance with Israel will become even more important to us.

    September 22, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • abd

      If you really believe what you believe then you are 100% dumb, and the funny thing I heard that alot in the american media that the people in the Middle east Hate Israel becasue it is the "only" democratic country in the region. I have no Idea how they can sell this crap to people. So people in the middle east don't hate Israel becasue it is occupying the land, and have tens of thousands of palestinians in jail, and have killed tens of thousands or palestinians, and destoyed all the infrastructure of palestine, and other thousand reason, but becasue they are democratic !!!!!!!!!!??????????? stubidity has no limit

      September 22, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  18. hippypoet

    luckily for the world god is not real and just an idea so i think we should all be ok if i say fu*k you god, die again jesus or something like smight me almighty smighter... lol.. see nothing.. i think all eath's people should have a place call home and be without the "grace" of imaginary creatures.. the last time i was "graced" by a unicorn.. well lets just say it hurt!

    September 22, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • W.G.

      To hippy poet – Once there was a little gnat bothering me , flying around my nose while I was working outside .
      I was really working hard and just did´nt at the time have the time to SWAT him down and MASH him into the ground
      because I was busy . Hoping HE WOULD CHANGE HIS WAYS and stop pestering me and fly away I waited .
      I´ll say it again "I WAITED" and maybe it will sink in to yours and other atheists brains "I WAITED" . You know
      after a while he did´nt change his mind about bothering me so I swated him down into oblivion . You think
      if he believed that I would eventually do it he would have kept bothering me ?

      September 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • hahaha

      Did you get magical unicorn mayonnaise?

      September 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Shadowflash1522

      @WG:
      I'm going to make a leap here and say your God is all-powerful, yes?

      He can swat gnats and work. He can do ANYTHING!

      /sarcasm

      September 22, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  19. W.G.

    This is absurd , this Joker never ever read the Bible . Paul said to watch out for those who preach another Jesus .
    Mr.medearis is a server of satan . Jesus died for our sins , so that we could have a chance at salvation , if we accepted
    who He was and why He died . It was´nt a refusal to accept a nationalist agenda , the pharisees accused him of
    "blasphemy" , because He was becomming so popular with the people and His dislike of the pharisees . satan always tries
    "Lessen" the reason Jesus was crucified as does his religion "islam" . The reason Jesus died , was whipped and tortured ,
    spat upon and insulted and finally hung on a cross to die was because no mere man could save us and redeem us from
    sin . Only the son of God could do it .

    September 22, 2011 at 9:03 am |
    • The First Tool of the Fladaboscan Church

      I just don't get why god would create a world full of people then only take the souls of those who believe one story but not another to heaven. None of Christianity makes any sense unless you believe god only puts us on earth to test us, and if we fail this one weird test (saying that you believe before you die) we go are punished forever. What kind of crazy god is that?

      September 22, 2011 at 9:28 am |
    • W.G.

      To "the first TOOL" The reason you don´t get it is because 1. You never read the Bible . or 2. Did´nt understand it .
      If you think the Bible is just a collection of different stories , your wrong . Like mathmatics there´s only one formula
      to be correct . You just can´t make up an answer to a mathmatical problem , there´s only one solution .

      September 22, 2011 at 9:46 am |
    • JohnQuest

      W.G., I have read your holy book and that is one (of many) reasons I am a non believer today, you have to suspend all reason to believe any of it or only believe the parts that you already agree with.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • Jimtanker

      WG

      Most atheist have read the bible more and understand more than just about any "believer". Dont be a fool and think that it isnt true.

      September 22, 2011 at 10:06 am |
    • Garnet69

      Tool, for the record, I am religious, but mathematics and religion really don't share much, if any, commonality. New Testament and Old Testament are about faith....believing without solid proof. Mathematics is ALL about proof. Probably the reason why so many scientists are athiests.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:41 pm |
    • W.G.

      To John Quest , Jim Tanker and Ed Gailbraith – Ed Gailbraith I know you guys have never really read the Bible
      because if you really studied it you would have found ; Ed , that Jesus was Llterate he knew how to read .
      John Quest how the Old and New testement fully compliment each other and agree with each other from
      Genesis to Revelation , If you really studied the Bible , from the measurements and design of the tabernacle
      in the wilderness and the furniture and arc inside to the raising from the dead of our Lord Jesus . It´s one
      thing to hold a math book in your hand but it´s another thing to understand it . But then the Bible says not
      everyone will go to heaven ,,,, there will be 2 in the field working and then one will be taken away and the other left ,
      two women will be grinding at the hand mill one will be taken and the other left .... . To Garnet 69 Don´t depend
      on your good works , the Bible says in Isaiah 64: the works of the unsaved are as filthy rags . I´m Jewish also and have
      come after much studying to believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ .

      September 22, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  20. Chad

    Jesus said love they enemies, but He specifically said dont love their actions if those actions oppose Gods will.

    September 22, 2011 at 7:55 am |
    • Ed Galbraith

      "Jesus" is a complete fiction. "He" said nothing and did nothing. What "he" said is what other middle east nomadic illiterates said "he" said...and they relied on what other illiterates said they said about what "he" said. If you don't have a problem with this, especially in selecting your "god", you must be from planet X.

      September 22, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • Chad

      Actually, if you DONT believe that Jesus was a real historical figure, you are very much in the minority.

      From Wikipedia: "Most critical historians agree that Jesus was a Jew who was regarded as a teacher and healer, that he was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on the orders of the Roman Prefect of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, on the charge of sedition against the Roman Empire."

      September 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Garnet69

      Chad, you are right, most people do not deny Jesus existed and was a historical figure. The separation occurs when the topic of Messiah is discussed. I am Jewish, I believe Jesus existed but don't believe he was the Messiah. I have no problem with Christians believing he was. I would hope that g-d, when he makes his judgement of me (or anyone else) accepts me into heaven no matter what I called him, whether it be g-d, addonai, yeshuha, Jesus, allah, etc.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm |
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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.