I got into an argument on Facebook yesterday with a dear friend from my hometown. He wrote that he was grateful the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem. I know this young man, and I know that it was an innocent remark born out of the rabidly evangelical faith of the culture in which he lives in a small town in South Georgia. Unfortunately, he is typical of far too many Christians who equate the modern political/military state of Israel with the ancient people of the Bible.
I might have ignored this post as simply a difference of theology, but it disregarded the fact that 58 Palestinians were killed the day before versus zero Israelis. That is not a battle; it is a massacre. In fact, in the past decade or so, more than 2,160 Palestinian children have been killed by Israel compared to 134 Israeli children who have died as a result of the conflict. Now, one innocent child’s death is too many, but this statistic should help us understand the fear and anger of the people who inhabited the land for the past 2,000 years.
In the South and other rural/conservative settings, support of Israel has become a fundamental tenet of Christian faith because evangelicals/fundamentalists equate the modern nation state with Biblical prophecies. Although American Jews have appreciated, and even exploited, this false equivalency, they have missed the theology behind it. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas prayed at the dedication of the new embassy, even though he consistently has proclaimed that Jews are damned to hell without Jesus.
Jeffress and his bigoted ilk support Israel not because they believe Jews are children of God and deserve a homeland, but because their anti-Semitism believes that the Jewish people are instruments to trigger the return of Jesus. They believe this second coming will punish the wicked like homosexuals, Muslims, Jews, feminists, environmentalists, and other pagan unbelievers. That is why they are pro-Israel, but not really pro-Jewish.
I appreciate that Israel is a democracy in the Middle East, and I appreciate that the world was trying to compensate for the atrocities of the Holocaust and centuries of anti-Semitism. What I DON’T appreciate, however, is when Christian fundamentalism forgets that Palestinians are God’s children, too. We have done that too often with too many.