KELLER, Texas (ABP) — Theology that equates the modern state of Israel with the Israel of biblical prophecy has caused some evangelical Christians to let eschatology trump ethics when it comes to the Middle East, a Palestinian-American Christian told a recent interfaith gathering at a Texas Baptist church.
“What I am against — and what most Palestinian evangelical Arabs are against — is not Israel itself, but unjust and oppressive Israeli policies,” Mikhail said.
The Jerusalem-born Arab now serves on a peace-and-justice work group of the Reformed Church of America’s General Synod Council,
Belief that God has a prophetic role for the modern nation of Israel has caused some evangelicals to turn a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinians, Mikhail said.
“Because of American evangelicals’ embrace of the current state as the Israel of prophecy, they have supported policies that are harsh and oppressive — even against Christians, which is very ironic,” he said.
“Because of support from American evangelicals, Israel has been given a blank check — has been blindly supported and backed, right or wrong. And I believe that’s been unfortunate and unfair.”
Ethnic lineage and nationality do not matter to God, Mikhail insisted. The biblical promises of God to Israel belong to those who have entered into a faith relationship with him, he said.
In a breakout session at the Global Faith Forum, Mikhail joined Mark Braverman, a Jewish American author of Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land, and Sami Awad, founding director of Holy Land Trust, a Palestinian organization devoted to non-violent initiatives in the Middle East.
Citing their own family stories, all three speakers insisted Christians, Jews and Muslims lived peaceably as neighbors in Jerusalem until 1948 when the Palestinians were expelled and the modern nation of Israel came into being.
“They lived in peace and respected each other. The only difference was when and where they went to pray,” Awad said.
Braverman insisted as a Jew, he wants “to save Israel from itself.” And, he insisted, Jesus of Nazareth offers the model for confronting the conflict.
“As a Palestinian Jew, living under Roman occupation, he taught compassion and love for one’s enemy,” Braverman said.
Ken Camp is managing editor of the Texas Baptist Standard.
Related ABP stories:
Os Guinness: Civility needed in global public square (11/17/2010)