As American Christians sing, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” this year, most of the Christians who actually live in that part of the world find themselves suffering under apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and wondering why American Christians have forsaken them.
Most American Evangelicals hear the word “Palestinian” and think “Muslims” without realizing the Palestinian people very much include Christians. When those same Evangelicals sing of Bethlehem they also imagine a quaint little town where the Savior was born, not paying mind to the reality that it is a walled-off, open-air prison– because Israel built the wall that Trump never will.
The Palestinian people are separated into Gaza and the West Bank, and Israel tightly controls their movements, water supplies, and a host of other aspects of daily life. Some years Christians have been permitted to travel from Gaza into Bethlehem to worship and celebrate Christmas with family, but this year Palestinian Christians in Gaza have been banned from traveling there– a move that is a deepening of the apartheid system where Christians face land seizures, arbitrary detentions and collective punishment.
For people who tend to find anti-Christian persecution under every rock, most American Evangelicals are not only silent about the slow moving ethnic cleansing being committed by Israel— they are directly complicit and in full support of it.
This is a classic case of how so many American Christians have become so pro-Israel that they have become anti-Christian.
One would think we as Christians would want to see our faith– and our brothers and sisters– alive and thriving in the very places where the Christian faith was born. The reality, however, is that the number of Christians continues to dwindle as the suffocating effects of systematic oppression continue unabated.
For this holiday season, our brothers and sisters who remain will be cut off and prohibited from visiting their own families and banned from any Christmas pilgrimage to the place of our savior’s birth.
As we– the people of Jesus– sing of that ‘little town of Bethlehem’ this year, may we sing with lament for a land where our brothers and sisters are suffering… in large part because of our blind support for that which is oppressing them.