Christian culture sure does love talking about persecution, but there is one group of persecuted Christians that Evangelicalism doesn’t want you to know about: the persecuted Christians of Palestine. Dispensational theology that leads to the errant and blindly pro-Israel position (here’s why that’s unbiblical) has sadly led most of Evangelicalism to become so pro-Israel that it has become anti-Christian. While today they celebrate the re-election of a war hawk who has no interest in peace, justice, or law, today we grieve what undoubtedly means that the ongoing persecution of Christians at the hands of Israeli apartheid will now continue indefinitely.
When we say “Israel” or “Palestinian” one often thinks of Jew vs. Muslim. However, Palestinians include both Christians and Muslims, though Christians are the minority. Like those who suffered under apartheid in South Africa, Christians and Muslims in Palestine both suffer under Israeli apartheid which strips them of their human rights, their dignity, their freedom of movement, their homes, and sometimes their lives.
Whereas in the West we often hear the phrase “Country _____ wants to wipe Israel off the map” the reality is that this is precisely what Israel is doing to Christians and Muslims in Palestine- wiping them off the map through confiscating their land, destroying their crops, looting and bulldozing their homes, shooting their children for sport (disturbing footage, here) and forcing them to emigrate elsewhere.
Christians in Palestine say they face an uphill battle to have their stories heard, as western media likes to portray their persecution as being at the hands of Muslims, but that’s not the case they say.
A few years ago Father Faysal Hijazeen, a priest in Palestine, wrote for the Jerusalem Post:
“These spokespeople have wrongly propagated a cynical discourse misleadingly touting “Christian persecution by Muslims.” Every Friday, we celebrate the holy mass attended by hundreds of Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jerusalem in the Cremisan Area of Beit Jala. The holy service, celebrated among ancient olive trees, was not a prayer to end a “Muslim-led persecution” but to prevent Israel from confiscating this area of land that belongs to 58 Palestinian Christian families – Israel’s latest attempt to consolidate its ring of settlements that aim to sever Bethlehem from Jerusalem. This is one last attempt to prevent a land confiscation that would have catastrophic consequences for the local Christian population.”
Archbishop Sebastia Theodosios had a fantastic interview recently (the entire interview can be found here) where he said:
“The Palestinian issue is a problem that concerns all of us, Christians and Muslims alike. It’s a problem of every free intellectual individual aspiring for justice and freedom in this world.
We the Palestinian Christians suffer along with the rest of Palestinians from occupation and hardships of our economic situation. Muslims and Christians suffer equally, as there is no difference in suffering for any of us. We are all living in the same complicated circumstances, and overcoming the same difficulties.
As a church and as individuals we protect this people, and we hope a day will come when Palestinians get their freedom and dignity.”
In the interview, Archbishop Theodisios goes on to lament the oppression Christians suffer under the Israeli occupation, such as the destruction of Christian towns to drive the Christians out, Christian churches being attacked, Church property being looted/confiscated, and Christians being thrown into Israeli jails. He again summarizes their plight by saying:
“Christians suffer under the Israeli occupation just the same as Muslims – the entire Palestinian population suffers under it. They don’t distinguish between us.”
Other anti-Christian persecution at the hands of Israelis come by way of “price-tag” attacks. Price tag attacks were started in 2011 by Israeli settlers because the illegal expansions and land-grabs weren’t moving fast enough. These settlers began a movement to make Christians and Muslims suffer the “price” for expansion setbacks, with the hopes of terrorizing the Christians and Muslims into leaving. These attacks have included fire-bombing a monastery of nuns and spray painting “death to Gentiles on the walls,” or then there’s the Church of the Dormition which has been vandalized in price tag attacks– painted with such things as, “Jesus is a son of a bitch, price tag.” We also see arson used to terrorize, much like they used it in the American South, with one church having the door set on fire with the term “Jesus is a Money” painted on it.
Oh- and somewhere around 4.5 million Palestinians can’t vote- let’s not forget that.
Here’s the bottom line: Christians and Muslims are suffering and being oppressed under Israeli apartheid, and we should find this greatly distressing.
If we were to take this scenario and have it take place in any country other than Israel, we’d see it completely differently. Were there a government systematically and illegally confiscating people’s homes, destroying Christian villages, making them refugees and then treating them like they’re illegal immigrants, tolerating a culture that persecutes and terrorizes Christians in an attempt to get them to flee their homeland– if that were happening anywhere other than Israel we’d not only be outraged, we’d be calling for ground troops and to have their leaders arrested. Apartheid was wrong in South Africa, but apparently it’s good in Israel.
Instead of being outraged, instead of demanding peace and justice, America sends Israel millions of dollars a day to finance their illegal oppression of Christians and Muslims- and not only do we support their actions, but much of the Christian community will quickly jump all over you if you so much as question it. Being a good Christian in too many parts means pledging allegiance to the United States of America and to Israel too.
Why? How did we get in this mess? Why are we tolerating an oppressive regime that we wouldn’t tolerate in any other part of the world?
Bad theology, that’s why. And that’s what makes this so tragic, but wonderfully illustrates the point that theology matters in the real world.
Dispensational theology took the world by storm in the late 1800’s, and the view that “Israel is God’s chosen nation” and the idea that anyone who doesn’t “bless Israel” will be cursed by God is core to that belief system. Dispensationalism overtook much of American Christianity and eventually bled into or government and foreign policy. Then, it somehow got taught to our grandparents, who taught it to our parents, who taught it to us.
And no one questions it.
Since so many accept it as true without researching it, without questioning it, without wrestling with it, we become blind to oppression around us. Left unchecked, pro-Israel theology can get so extreme that it actually becomes anti-Christian, because it quietly lulls one to support very real anti-Christian persecution at the hands of the Israeli government, without so much as even caring.
Here’s a good test: if your theology leads you to support and defend oppression and persecution instead of loving people, it’s bad theology.
My prayer is that American Christians will wake up to these tragic unintended consequences of this unquestioned, generational theology which is so pro-Israel that it actually becomes anti-Christian.
We need peace in the middle east. Peace for Israel. Freedom and restoration for Palestine. But we won’t have any of it until we start questioning the horrible dispensational/fundamentalist theology that’s causing us to support terror against our own Christian brothers and sisters.
Further reading: here’s a more in-depth breakdown of this area of theology and why it’s theologically flawed.
Top image via Tanya Nagar, Flickr