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. Brian Kerry

    The Bible repeatedly states that God will bless those who bless Israel and will curse those who curse Israel. The book of Zephaniah states clearly that Gaza will also be forsaken. This word is not ancient meanderings – this is text given to humans by a Creator God who exists outside of time. This world is a contruct by an eternal being, and God already knows the beginning from the end. He's already written this story, we're just playing it out.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Kat

      The world has known nothing ever since the Old Testicles was authored by escapee Egyptian slaves lost in the desert who stumbled upon "the land of milk and honey" and wrote up self-serving stories to justify their invasions, genocides, and thefts. We're living the self-fulfilling of evil self-serving prophecies.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • Pumbaa

      Well so much for "free will" since we are just actors in God's playhouse.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  2. Bobby

    Jesus would say, " My God, My God" how did the Arabs come and take over Judea".. I

    September 21, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Kat

      yea because Jesus in so intolerant of all non-jews, like you are...oh maybe that why jeiwsh leaders wanted him dead.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:32 pm |
  3. what?

    A red flag is raised when someone claims that "Jesus would do this or vote for that etc..." If you believe that Jesus was/is G-d then perhaps it is unwise to speak for him. Interpreting G-ds' law and teaching is one thing but using Jesus to endorse your own agenda is another.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  4. Descarado

    Jesus would support a tribe that stones its own women and straps suicide vests on its own children?

    September 21, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Blake

      Not to mention launches rockets at civilians

      September 21, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  5. Charles Bowen

    I guess Obama is no Jesus but lets face it the Jews Crucified Jesus as sure as Israelis are crucifying the Palistinians. Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    September 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  6. cantilever

    Don't forget, this Christian Zionism is a late-comer interpretatioin. What's gonna happen when some pastor has a new revelation, and the Christian Zionists reverse position, arguing that Israel must be destroyed before any Redeemer appears? Will the Christian-Zionist State voluntarily cease to exist? Oh, and here's Isaiah 59, for those who've forgotten:
    15 Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. 16 And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.
    17 For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  7. Colonel44

    Jesus would immediately come to the aid of the Palestininians, only to be crucified by the Jews again for crossing the blockade. On a serious note, the Jews are in a tough situation with all of their neighbors wanting them dead. Also, if they allowed the Palestinians the right to return, Israel would be an Moslem country in no time due to the Arab birth rates. Then who knows if they would be persecuted again in their own country. Plus, look at the wonderful modern, democratic country they built. The Arabs would be living in filthy squalor if Tel Aviv were built by them.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Are you saying that Muslims can not build a modern city? If so you have not traveled outside of bu-mfu-ck Iowa, or whatever small town you are from.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      The colonel is right, even the rest of the Arabs do not want the palestinians,that is why they are where they are.palestinians were run out of their native lands,to the edge of the sea.If possible they would have been pushed farther.God bless

      September 21, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  8. BigByrd

    This man (Medearis) is an idiot, to say that JESUS would back the dividing of GOD'S land is utterly laughable, I suggest you read Joel 3:2 I will also gather all nations, And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Pumbaa

      The Muslims need to learn to life in peace with the Jews. Stop preaching that killing Jews is a gift of worship to the moon god.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  9. Fred S.

    Jesus would have left it up to the Romans.
    The USGOV is not the Romans.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  10. noone

    Once the world get a handle on drugs,peace will be in the world.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  11. Wow

    Two words: False Prophet.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  12. Don McLaughlin

    Yeah... by YHWH... an ancient god whose name can't be pronounced. We gotta stop seeing people as being granted their lands by gods and start making some rational decisions.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  13. Descarado

    Can this writer reconcile Jesus with Sharia law?

    September 21, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
    • DrNoVa

      I've come to find the people most ignorant of Islam are the ones who always bring up Sharia law...truly. Sharia law is an archaic, very seldom practiced "old guard" law that the vast majority of practicing Muslims don't even understand or have any education in.

      Sharia law has become a keyword for the "Muslim boogeyman" in the West. Please, educate yourself. Before the last decade most Palestinians were overwhelmingly non-religious. Look at the political parties of the Palestinians in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and some of the 90s...they were secular parties, made up of Arab Christians and Arab Jews. There were almost no parties built around Islam.

      Please go away with this boogeyman stuff. The vast majority of Arabs and Palestinians practice (or dont) Islam in the same way that most Americans observe their faiths.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
  14. k

    who is Jesus, isn't he some glorified David Koresh who died like 2,000 years ago? Why do people still worship him

    September 21, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      So that you can make stupid comparisons and show the entire world what a real idiot posts.God bless

      September 21, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • Kevin

      Great question. I had the same one myself and began a study of many theologies. Ended up a Christian. It is a very easy "religion" to diss on the surface but an extremely difficult one to dismiss when one has a much deeper understanding. And just as one shouldn't judge Elton John based on my singing of "Candle in the Wind", please don't judge Christ by the Christians. One was the master, the rest of us are just faulty apprentices.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
  15. Descarado

    One can never reconcile Islam with woman's rights, universal suffrage or Western democracy and someone is suggesting that Jesus would support these woman-stoning neanderthals?

    September 21, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      The same was said about Christianity and slavery only about 150 years ago.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  16. Michael

    There is no written word from Jesus, so we have no idea how HE would vote.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Pumbaa

      I doubt that Jesus would even register to vote.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  17. Colonel44

    Would Jesus understand the folks like Sarah Palin when she speaks in tongue at her church?

    September 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      Understand yes,Endorse no.God bless

      September 21, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
  18. DrNoVa

    I'm a Palestinian-American, a non-observant Muslim, from Israel...and the irony is that through these years, some as an activist, some as an academic, and some as a business person in the region...I have found that Christians, not Muslims or Jews, but Christians to be the most reasonable and have the fairest approach.

    Of course there are the Christian Zionist wackos, I don't mean them, but the mainline churches, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, etc...

    Much has been said of the right of return, and how the Palestinians want two state, one in Palestine and one in Israel. It's folly to think that if the right of return was granted, that any more than 20,000 would go back to Israel. Many of the refugees, and some in my family, have established generations of lineage in Lebanon and Syria and some in Jordan. They have homes, and jobs, and neighborhoods in these places. Some have moved to the Europe, South America, and North America. And so what if 50,000 returned to Israel? My parents were born and raised in Israel, speak fluent Hebrew, they taught in the Arab schools and made a quiet life in their village on the outskirts of Nazareth. What is the threat if some of those refugees did return to a land they are from? 1,000,000 Arabs live in Israel today, largely in peace in their own towns and villages, and they participate in the democratic process, attend colleges and universities, they speak Hebrew (and Arabic at home and in their primary and secondary schooling), and they live in what they believe is their land too.

    The idea that more Arabs in Israel is necessarily a determent to Israel's character as a Jewish nation is folly. Israel will, and should always remain a Jewish state. It is a state established for the Jewish people, and has gradually progressed in their treatment of their Arab citizens. The right of return being exercised will not threaten the Jewish character of Israel...the overwhelming majority will not exercise the right to return to Israel after 65 years. This is absolute, Simply apply logic. This idea of the right of return is more about "the right" and the romanticism of returning to a land, than the actual action of returning.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • mattan4486

      The right of return will never be granted, because unless you are naive, you will have an inflow of millions of arabs claming to have rights to the land in Israel. Just as Jews were persecuted and thrown out of Arab lands to which they can never return, isn't it fair to have this go both ways? especially considering that abbas has already publicly stated that the future state of Palestine will be Jew free. Israel is not Muslim free, there over a million with full rights living there. The right of return is a not something that can even be considered, it is too dangerous and will destroy the essence and purpose of Israel, it will become another Muslim country, and G-d knows we don't need one more to have another abusive regime. I wonder why so many refugees from genocide in sudan and other parts of africa came to Israel? Because they were christians and the Muslims were killing them including Egypt. So they came to the only democratic country in the region, and it is democratic because it is Jewish otherwise it would be another dictatorship or theocracy.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  19. Carl = a yes man

    Dude you are a blind hypocrite. Jesus said His thoughts are far above ours. He also said He came to bring not peace but the sword. You are like a yes man just tell people what they want to hear. Tell Hamas and Hezbollah everything is fine. Where is your backbone? Jesus called people out. He told them when they needed to change. Yes I am sure He would want peace but He would likely stay out of politics and if he talked to Hamas He would say more than love your enemy, He would tell them to bend their swords to plowshares. Get a frigon backbone.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • branttravis

      True That! This reporter is ignorant of Islam, ignorant of Jihad, and ignorant enough to make such a stupid argument.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
    • mattan4486

      I agree with you 100%. This author knows nothing about the actual historical Jesus. Seems like anyone uses his name to push their own agenda.

      September 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  20. dominick

    That it is an unjust situation is not debatable. The Palestinians had their land taken forcibly when the Israeli state was erected. But as far as Jesus supporting the statehood bid, he would say what he did say: "who has made me your arbitrator"? Jesus spoke about personal sanctification and living holy lives in the sight of God. Politics he stayed out of except to infer that wars would always be with us. Treating each other with justice should permeate our lives. But he does not force anyone to act justly. In those cases where injustice is forced upon a person for the sake of the kingdom, that is for their following of him, we are told to endure. The meek will inherit the earth because the proud kill each other off.

    September 21, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      The "paletinians " are not native to Israel.It was not their historic home.God bless

      September 21, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Kevin

      Dominick, while I agree with almost all of what you say, I have to disagree that the situation is not "debatable". Almost all of the world's exisiting countries have borders taken "forcibly". Who decides when the "last legitimate" taking is completed? For example, if Iran were to attack and invade Israel and win, would we then declare that they must give a portion of the land back to the Jews? What about the many countries that form/formed portions of Russia (Soviet Union)? Should some of the United States be given back to England? Mexico? I'm not advocating war by any means. Just wondering why this situation is "different"?

      September 21, 2011 at 8:34 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.