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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. Casey

    Jesus was interested in a spiritual agenda, not a worldly. He might say something like "But the Scriptures must be fulfilled." (Mark 14:49)

    September 21, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  2. El Flaco

    Jesus was mostly interested in expelling the Romans from Jerusalem and the Roman loving King Herod with them. Jesus would never have supported a non-Jewish people in anything. Jesus was a Jew.

    Christianity was invented after Jesus's death. It's Judaism was stripped out of it and it was morphed into something that Jesus himself would find bewildering and repugnant.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Phil

      Do people really believe that Jesus would approve the killing of people with bombs and rockets.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • El Flaco

      I think Jesus would approve of any defense of Israel by any means. After all, he expected God to come down and destroy the monarchy and expel the Romans from Israel. All that be kind to your neighbor stuff was invented later, by the early Christians and formalized by the early Catholics.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  3. James V.

    The Easter Bunny would elect me President!

    September 21, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • the real john

      trolls are getting lazy these days and its a new disturbing trend.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  4. QS

    So essentially part of our actual foreign policy in this country hinges upon biblical prophecy that not everybody believes or even agrees on, rather than that policy being about doing what we can to promote peace between nations.

    But I guess when religion is involved in any way, shape or form, common sense and rationality go out the window and we're left with "Jesus will come back for us" "No he won't he'll come back for us"!

    Amazing that we can even have an issue such as this be such a big deal when it all revolves around the same thing we claim we are trying to fight and prevent....religious extremism!

    September 21, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  5. Lamar in Dallas, TX

    Duh....of course Jesus would support the Palestinians. Their land was stolen from them. Give it back and the problem goes away.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Diggy

      Great synopsis, idiot. Read a history book.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • Christina

      The palestinians called the 67 war and Israel won after losing many lives. The Jews built the land up to what it is today and love it more than anything. The palestinians make money from the jews and live next door to the jews in their communities. The Jews, however, are not able to enter any palestinian territory without risking their lives. The palestinians take advantage of their freedom to work and hang out in Jerusalem and constantly attempt and many times succeed to suicide bomb themselves in order to kill innocent Israelis, blow up buses and, in situations like today, throw stones at innocent civilians like the 20 month old baby that was hit in the face today when hit with a stone for absolutely no reason. Then there was the family in itamar that was slaughtered by 2 palestinian teenagers on a Friday night and the palestinians' communities helped the boys to hide the evidence. The gaza strip that was given to the palestinians semi recently is now being used to throw rockets into sderot on a daily bases injuring and killing many people. The israeli government establishes beautiful land with culture and love while the pa;estinians turn whatever land they have into a place of hate and make it a junkyard. The Jews did not steal the land. It was given to them in biblical times and they have won it over and over again. They love the land with all their hearts.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Dan

      Palestine was never it's own country and so can not have been taken away from the Palestians. Actually, Isreal was originally a very large region, before the concept of country ever entered into the mind of man. Palestine was a section of Isreal same as New York State is a part of the US or a county is part of the state. What happened was, since Palestine was a part of Isreal, and actually stilll is, arabs moved into Palestine and now call it their own area and so they want to be called Palestinians. There really never were any such people untill these invaders invented the term for themselves. Actually, as far as I understand, Isreals real name is actually Palestine. So, that whole region that is occupied by Isreal is actually called Palestine and is God's Holy Land. If I have this right, the region is called Palestine, and the country is called Isreal. So, what we have here is a bunch of arab invaders that not only stole part of Isreal's land, but also stole their name. It all makes sense. The arabs whole intent is to eliminate Isreal and non of the countries in that region recognize Isreal at all. Especially Iran. In fact they want Isreal gone. That is their whole plan. If they can somehow take all of Isreal's land, then Isreal will cease to exist.

      September 22, 2011 at 1:12 am |
  6. OnLooker

    His reference to the Parable of the Good Palestinian is awesome. Just talked about the Good Samaritan parable and its implications in my bible course. Good stuff

    September 21, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • me

      Come on CNN–this is what happens with a 24-hour news service. They have to come of with crap to talk about. Let's not take this story seriously or "God forbid" (talking to your dad, Jesus) make it a true political issue. CNN–you can/should do better!!!!

      September 21, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  7. Tony Spavento joad

    Idiot! Jesus would know the limits of Israel as laid down by His Father. It's in the bible! Yet they claim the same God.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  8. TheTruth72

    Did this article really come out? Come on now, REALLY?!

    Jesus cared and loved everyone. He sat down with sinners when the Pharisees wouldn't do that. But he did not get into politics, so I don't think He would back Palestine up. Since He is the son of God, I'm pretty sure He would agree with what the Bible says when it says, "Those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed."

    September 21, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Janice

      Millions of Christian believers hold fast to this promise. Help the nation who does not back Israel.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • TheTruth72

      If God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, then why wouldn't the things He say in the Old Testament apply to today as well?

      Some people will try to use the "stoning" verses to disprove this, but unless you read the Bible, you won't understand the full significance and point God was making. He is love and wanted us to love from the beginning. He didn't want us to show obedience by following words on a stone, He wanted us to have that written in our hearts so that we can have the love that Jesus showed one another.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  9. NoSpinAmerican

    Great Article!!
    Saying what most people know already; but too afraid to say!!!

    September 21, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  10. Jez

    Such stupidity. Christians are getting as ridiculous and out of hand as Muslims. I guess Jesus and Allah are now spokes persons for the nearest crazy zealot speaking "for them". Religion is pure stupidity.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Gecul

      Amen!

      September 21, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • the real john

      and this is why Jesus hated religion. you two have something in common

      September 21, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • Yumi

      Are ? as if they haven't been for centuries.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  11. Jim P.

    Jesus by his own admission was only there for the "lost sheep of Israel". he had no concern for any other people, race or state. He had to be sweet-talked into helping a non-jew but does not seem to have repeated the gesture according to the "bible".

    September 21, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Dan

      Jim, look in the book of Acts and you will find where God sent a message to Peter telling him to accept and send the message to everybody, not just Jews. Also in Acts is where the Apostle Paul started his ministry, a ministry with a mission to spread the word of salvation as far as he could send it. This included gentiles as well as jews. The fact is, he and his followers went to many areas where there were no jews and he had the opportunity to speak to many Romans, in fact, about salvation. There is also another part that just came to mind but I don't remeber where it is that said something somewhat like, since the jews rejected him, he was then going to turn to the gentiles???? I'm going to look into that because I don't remember where it is or exactly what it said.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Dan

      Jim, I did find two of the messages that I was talking about. Acts 9 is about where Saul became blinded and converted to Christianity and he was instrumental in spreading over a great area the message of Jesus. Probably a greater area than any other missionary. Acts 9:15 says "GO, FOR HE IS AN INSTRUMENT WHOM I HAVE CHOSEN TO BRING MY NAME BEFORE GENTILES, KINGS AND BEFORE THE PEOPLE OF ISREAL." All of Acts 10 is about where God showed Peter that all people are considered clean, not just the Jews. So, at this point, I have shown where God made clean all people. Yes, you have a point where Jesus had come for the children of Isreal. But, since God is in three persons, that means that if God decided that all people should hear the message, than so did Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Now, I just need to find where Jesus finally tired of the closemindedness of the Jews and decided to turn to the rest of the people who walked the earth.

      September 22, 2011 at 12:48 am |
  12. SPW

    Of course Jesus would back them, the Jews killed Jesus.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • SPW

      That was a joke, to be honest, I don't think Jesus would support any nation.

      Funny how we Americans have the bible so far up our butt that we actually have to pledge to God when we make our pledge to our nation.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • OnLooker

      Ignorance is bliss

      September 21, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Jez

      Moron – do you realize Jesus was a Jew. How intelligent of you – hating the race of the person you supposedly worship.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • the real john

      really? thats what you are worried about? how about pledging your allegiance to a a nation that is under control of a corporation who regularly strips its citizens of its rights and liberties (yes, the government is a corrupt business). injecting its own citizens with diseases as experiments. you dont mind pledging your allegiance to that, you just dont like god? is that it? or you lookin to start a fight with someone with empty words..

      September 21, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • Janice

      Jesus Christ freely gave his life so that mankind could be reconciled to God. No one killed Jesus.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  13. Mark

    Good thing Allah and Mohammed would support the zionist jews.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  14. livingfree

    This article is ridiculous for 2 reasons:

    1) Obama will not veto a Palestinian state because of the Christian Zionists (a minority),
    but because the overwhelming majority of Americans support Israel.
    2) No one can possibly know what someone from 2000 years ago would think about a modern political conflict.
    Saying Jesus would support creation of a Pal state is entirely fanciful and self-serving.

    Ridiculous.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  15. Jason

    Oh wow! This article is such nonsense. Jesus would encourage terror attacks against Israeli children? The reason the US is planning to veto the Palestinians' bid for statehood is because the Palestinians are trying to end run any negotiations, and to discourage terror attacks (Palestinian foreign minister stated that UN approval of state means that it supports the Palestinians' terror methods used to date). Also, the US shares common values with Israel, a democracy, such as freedom of speech, freedom of religiion, gender equality, etc.

    September 21, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  16. Yaakov

    Jesus was a Jew. He wouldn't turn his back on the word of G-d or on his people. It's ridiculous to think that he would support a bunch of foreign invaders (the Palestinians, who came with the Arab invaders in the 7th and 8th centuries), over his own flesh and blood. This article is simply nonsense.

    September 21, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • stejo

      Yes, and he probably never said "render unto caesar that which is caesar's". Jesus wasn't a zealot – in fact, he didn't care much for zealots.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • the real john

      Jesus actually didnt care much for politics. and he hated religion. I think he wouldnt touch this one.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  17. *frank*

    Jesus hates puppies and kittens. 🙁

    September 21, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • TruthPrevails

      yep, that he does...that's why my youngest is named Darwin...he is proof of what most christians deny-evolution

      September 21, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • the real john

      truthprevails.. if you really understood the truth you would know how ridiculous evolution is. Even scientists say the possibility of spontaneous life is as impossible an odd as one can get. and thats ultimately the foundation of evolution. just blindly believing in a theory some guy created is pretty much how religion works. im afraid you have painted yourself into a corner on this one.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  18. Heath

    And regarding, Israel and others (Samaritans for example), Jesus had no problem stating the Samaritans were wrong about the truth of Israel and God, but were right about the Spirit of these matters (John 4). I think if pressed on Palestine issues he would respond in the same vein. Kingdom people can be people of ‘both’, both Spirit and Truth. No question, Medearis is on the spot on the spirit of the matter; just not the truth of it.

    September 21, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  19. Heath

    It is a stretch to focus the words of Jesus toward National decisions and political frameworks as that was not his focus for his first coming; that will be the focus of his second coming, when he will rule (and dash) the nations with an ‘iron scepter’. I think in Medearis desire for compassion, mercy, etc.; he jumped the tracks from his excellent focus of removing barriers of religion and culture in regard to ministering Jesus to individuals. He unfortunately went and did the very thing he said we shouldn’t do (chain the gospel to political and cultural views). By making Jesus take a political view, he now trades one alienated group for another.

    September 21, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • Joshua dudley

      I think youre right heath. I want to like carl but this article doesnt quite jive with me

      September 21, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  20. Dr. Wachowski

    Think I just poo'd my pants 🙁

    September 21, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Dr. Wachowski

      got the runs too 🙁

      September 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • the real john

      you think its wet and funny but its really black and runny...

      September 21, 2011 at 7:13 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.