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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. David

    And for the record Sir, Jesus knew that He would be crucified. He went freely to the cross to pay for OUR sins. Not because He was revolting in some so called Nationalist Agenda. (huh)??! really??? did your really say that??? I would love to know what Liberal theology course you sat through in college. You need to get your money back that you spent on your schooling.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Dooshbag Detector

      Carl Medearis failed the test and is undeniably, a dooshbag.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  2. MJ

    I am not religious. And I am glad. I would hate to be like all of you.....talk the talk of a good book that preaches love thy neighbor and then walk the walk of a hater. Hiding behind a book you preach, and doing the opposite! All BS. If humans need a book to know how to be nice to other humans, well that sucks, and you moranos cant even do it with written instruction! For christs sake! LOL

    September 21, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  3. Steven A.

    A U.S. veto has more to do with support of a long time ally against fundamentalist Islamist regimes of the Middle East. Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel, yet they demand a state right next to Israel. Anyone can see where that is going.

    Jesus might support a homeland for the Palestinians, though I'm sure he wouldn't support Palestinians firing rockets at Israelis to get it.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  4. Thery're everywhere, they're everywhere...

    Another 'holier-than-thou' pseudo-expert moron. Next...

    September 21, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  5. cantilever

    Well, we just had a rare ray of truth from CNN. Hanan Ashrawi was interviewed, and exploded the entire myth of "let's sit down and talk peace" in the space of a few minutes. Most eloquent! Capsule history that showed how 40 years of illegal colonization (500,000 zionist settlers) are a strategy to cleanse Palestine ethnically, and meanwhile we demand the Palestinians be patient. She was hustled off the air with music, but good on you, CNN, for allowing this extraordinary woman to speak.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  6. Iconoclast

    Religion is evil. HSNTCMNBK. Face it folks, if Jesus ever existed, he died in like 32 A.C.E. The book you all so blithely quote are cobbled together from Sumerian legend, some possibly accurate genealogy, and what a few popes decided you should read out of what were probably political tracts from Roman Judea. Nobody promised anything to the Jews, nobody is going to rain down the hurt if we curse Israel. The devil is not going to broker peace in the mideast, none of it is true. That being said, BOTH Isreal and Palestine have a right to their ancestral lands. Let's stop trying to bring about the end of the world and worry about keeping the world we have now in peace, and capable of sustaining life.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
    • the real john

      Jesus thought religion was evil too.. you two had a lot in common. only difference is he knew what he was talking about.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  7. Arran Webb

    "Noah Supports Fluoridation of Water Supply." Read about it at CNN-BC.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  8. Justin Observation

    Jesus would probably support it, but Christians don't follow Jesus, they follow the church. According to the story, it was church followers that killed Jesus, so following Jesus is not part of the religious tradition.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • macj121

      I don't believe you know what you are talking about. Instead of adhering to the 'hippie, surfer jesus' you want to believe in try picking up the Bible and reading the whole truth of Jesus.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  9. David

    You sir, have got to be kidding me. Now I have heard everything. No where in this rambling pro palestinian piece did this man mention the charter of Hamas which calls for the destruction of Israel. God gave the land to the Jewish people and promised to curse those who try to divide it. I would not pay one thin dime to hear this man say anything about the MIddle East. Of course CNN put this piece up on its website. More anti Israel give peace a chance crap. Pure Rubbish. read your bible again Mister.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  10. Not mutually exclusive

    Rather blessed are the peacemakers, exactly what Israel and Zionists have long sought. The violent are certainly the minority in Israel. Hamas and Hezbollah call for the extermination of Jews. But none of this is inconsistent with that not only is Israel the Jewish homeland but they share it with all, unlike Palestinian land which excludes Jews. Perhaps you should read more of ST Paul, Carl, like where he reminds Gentiles they are like wild plants grafted on to the tree of life and how much mores will the Jews, the natural branches, again become part of tree.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  11. Daff

    I would NEVER invite you to my church.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  12. WDinDallas

    "One of the reasons Jesus was crucified was because of his refusal to embrace a nationalist agenda."

    Huh? What is he smoking? This had nothing to do with his crucifixion of Christ. His whole theology is way off.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  13. Barry

    If Jesus were alive today, the evangelicals would ignore him, at best, and more likely vilify him The evangelicals are on the side of Rome, they support the most militaristic imperialist policies. Evangelicals are an obscurantist cult, our own home-grown Taliban, the most divisive force in this country by far.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  14. chatmandu002

    The followers of the religion of peace, Islam, would stone Jesus to death for being an infidel.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  15. Ron

    Most Christians are Jew-whipped mushbrains, so they'd tell Jesus to take a hike on this one.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  16. Martin

    I can't believe all the bilge both in this article in the in the posted comments. The Jews and Arabs are in a decades long dispute over land. Disputes over land are central to the history of the world! What's clear is that it's not our dispute and so not our problem. If a couple of million Jews want to try to hang onto a hunk of land that hundreds of millions of Arabs believe should be theirs, let them. Just don't expect me to support either side.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  17. KJMU

    Why cannot be a democratic Arab state? The “new” Palestine is another example of Western illusions as to the Muslim-Arab countries ability to become democratic. It's just impossible. You cannot build democracy with Islamic laws that suppress women or kill "Heretics" like Jews or Christians. The real problem is that the Western countries do not understand the simple fact that Arab countries will always be run by dictators and those countries will always try to eliminate the opposing democratic countries such as Israel and the United States. There are 21 states and territories of the Arab League with a combined population of 300 million people. How many have a full democracy and rights? Syria? Saudi Arabia? Sudan? Somalia?....Non!

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

      there's many arab democracies in the world already. Their neighbor Turkey is one example. You need to educate yourself.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  18. newcomer

    the problem is with people like yourself who claim to be "experts" in the matter. You've lived in Lebanon, bravo. Now go live in Israel surrounded by constant hate and countries trying to eliminate you. War was brought to their door step more times in a short period than any other nation. They defeated all, however, they've returned most to all the land they've captured. Hey, why shouldn't the US give some land back to Mexico. Let's not even talk about the brutal murders, yes murders of Native Americans. Jumping to the "bible" will not solve anything. Ask Lebanon why they don't want "Palestinians" in their country, put Egypt, Syria, heck, all of arab nations on the list, I bet you'll get the same answer. They don't want them. take your sympathetic views for "palestinians" and get your head out of your rear. Stop going to the bible and look at what's going on historically.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  19. bd

    Peace or the lack of desire for peace has nothing to do with the modern US State Department's stance on Israel. This issue is more black and white then people make it out to be; modern countries do not cede land to outside parties, and in most cases, internal ones either. Otherwise why wouldn't the US have to give native American's their own state, or a million other examples of one people that were or believe they were disenfranchised by another.

    That said, the media isn't helping things. If this were true fair and balanced reporting (reffering to most of the western world) it would have the perspective of israeli arabs, not palenstinians and israelis only. I think most of the world would be very interested to hear from the residents of a largely arab city in Israel like Abu Gosh, then again, most people outside the middle east don't even realize that there ARE israeli arabs.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  20. George

    The whole article is a giant load of hooey.

    September 21, 2011 at 7:33 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.