Skip to comments.Liberal Evangelicals, Israel, and Bad Hair-- The "new" Religious Left.
Posted on 08/23/2007 11:59:58 AM PDT by SJackson
SEVERAL DOZEN PROMINENT evangelicals have released a letter to President Bush in an effort to distinguish themselves from ardent pro-Israel evangelicals and to urge evenhandedness between Israel and the Palestinians.
The letter's authors got the idea while visiting the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar, where, according to the New York Times, they "met Muslim and American diplomats who were shocked to discover the existence of American evangelicals who favored a Palestinian state." The organizers plan to translate their letter into Arabic and distribute it internationally.
"As evangelical Christians committed to the full teaching of the Scriptures, we know that blessing and loving people (including Jews and the present State of Israel) does not mean withholding criticism when it is warranted," the letter read. "Perhaps the best way we can bless Israel is to encourage her to remember, as she deals with her neighbor Palestinians, the profound teaching on justice that the Hebrew prophets proclaimed so forcefully as an inestimably precious gift to the whole world."
The letter repeated a common media-grabbing formula for liberal evangelicals. Demand action on climate change, denounce U.S. policies on "torture," or insist on a less pro-Israel stance. The ostensibly surprising revelation that not all evangelicals are reflexively Republican is an almost guaranteed headline maker.
Inevitably, the spin is that evangelicals are breaking up as a reliable conservative voting bloc. Purportedly, younger and more progressive voices are emerging to speak for a new generation not identifying with old evangelical patriarchs like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, or James Dobson.
Claims of a seismic shift in evangelical opinion are usually exaggerated. Evangelical political opinion was never monolithic. About a third of white evangelicals voted for Bill Clinton. Twenty-five percent voted for John Kerry. Nearly 30 percent of Americans are evangelical, and millions of them commonly vote for Democrats.
There has always been an evangelical left. The 67-year-old Ron Sider, an organizer of the Israel letter, founded the left-leaning Evangelicals for Social Action in the early 1970's. Evangelist Tony Campolo, age 72, is one of the Israel letter's endorsers and has been prominent for decades but is perhaps most remembered for his service as one of President Clinton's three spiritual counselors after the Lewinsky scandal.
Gordon MacDonald, another signer, is a long-time evangelical author and pastor who was the second of Clinton's three spiritual counselors. Other signers include Christianity Today editor David Neff, Fuller Seminary president Richard Mouw, Florida pastor and global warming activist Joel Hunter, officers from several evangelical relief groups, and former Clinton-era U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom Robert Seiple. So too is Glenn Stassen, a Fuller professor, who kicked up dust before the 2004 election by suggesting that abortions rates had increased under Bush compared to Clinton. Another signer is Don Argue, a Pentecostal and former National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) president who struggled to develop NAE's ties to the liberal National Council of Churches during the 1990's.
''This group is in no way anti-Israel, and we make it very clear we're committed to the security of Israel,'' Ron Sider told Times. ''But we want a solution that is viable. Obviously there would have to be compromises.'' The signers insist that they share the evangelical perspective that God will bless all who bless the descendents of Abraham, a common biblical theme among pro-Israel evangelicals. But they assert that both Israel and the Palestinians have ''legitimate rights stretching back for millennia to the lands of Israel/Palestine,'' and that a Palestinian state must include the "the vast majority of the West Bank.''
These evangelicals also insist that ''Both Israelis and Palestinians have committed violence and injustice against each other.'' Both sides must abandon their "competing, incompatible claims" and "accept each other's right to exist," for which "robust leadership" from the United States is required, to include a return to the "Middle East roadmap." As the Times observed, the evangelical letter signers were targeting not only the United States government but also the Muslim World. The letter had been conceived, after all, in Qatar at a conference on Islam. ''We think it's crucial that the Muslim world realize that there are evangelical Christians in the U.S. in large numbers that want a fair solution,'' Ron Sider told the paper, hoping to counteract stereotypical images of zealous pro-Israel enthusiasts who supposedly think that any criticism of Israel is "anti-Biblical," as the Rev. Joel Hunter explained. The Times quoted a church historian who contrasted the letter signing evangelicals with pro-Israel evangelical "dispensationalists." These Christians are Zionists because of Israel's role in their end-times eschatology, he claimed. Although theirs is a "distinctly minority position theologically within evangelicalism," he said, pro-Israel evangelicals are a "major political voice.''
Dispensationalism is strong among pro-Israel evangelicals, but it's not the only factor. Nor is a mystical connection between Israel and biblical prophecy confined to evangelicals. A Pew poll taken in 2003 showed that U.S. white evangelicals favored Israel over the Palestinians by 54 to percent to 6 percent, compared to 41 and 13 percent for the population as a whole.
Over 60 percent of evangelicals thought Israel would play a role in the Second Coming of Christ. But 21 percent of mainline Protestants and one quarter of Roman Catholics agreed with them.
White evangelicals tend to be more conservative politically over all and are generally more hawkish on matters of national security. Evangelicals strongly backed increased military spending and robust anti-communism during the Cold War. Ronald Reagan gave his "empire of evil" speech to the National Association of Evangelicals. Identification with a traditional American ally and with a fellow democracy also fuels evangelical support for Israel.
Ron Sider insisted that he and his fellow letter signers want "security" for Israel. But it's difficult to know what he, as a professed pacifist, means by security. Many of the signers are skeptical about the U.S. war against terrorism and place greater hope in international mediation than do typical evangelicals. The letters signers assume that Middle East peace depends on pressuring Israel into more accommodations. Most evangelicals are more skeptical.
Left of center causes are especially appealing among evangelical academics, who are sensitive about Religious Right stereotypes. Shaun Casey, a liberal evangelical who teaches at Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C., and advises Democratic candidates, recently blogged:
"Many evangelicals are tired of being painted as ignorant huckleberries who follow the dictums of preachers with bad hair. They are tired of being painted with the labels "dominionists" and "theocrats." They are tired of the war, they are troubled by poverty, and they are tired of being taken for granted politically." For some evangelicals, separating from the Religious Right is politically motivated. But it is also about overcoming cultural baggage that identifies evangelicals with sawdust floors, big hair, and polyester suits. Ironically, now that evangelicals are America's largest religious group, the evangelical left is arguing, at least in part, that respectability means evangelicals must echo the New York Times.
The left trots out these people every time they want to siphon votes.
Because the prophets had so many good things to say about the enemies of Israel.
This is where Sider resurfaced. Beware.
“Gordon MacDonald, another signer, is a long-time evangelical author and pastor who was the second of Clinton’s three spiritual counselors.”
This is the guy who was carrying on a long term adulterous relationship while he was Pastor of a church, writing a book on his wife’s trust in him, was found out, went through the counselling wash, the para church rinse and was returned to the original church for the dry and retire cycle. A good choice for a Clinton advisor.
Genesis 12:1-3 is crystal clear on this.
Gen 12:1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
Gen 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
Gen 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
This isn't an Evangelical perspective. It's God's. I wonder why that is so hard for the Left to see.
Liberal pastors: “urge evenhandedness between Jesus and Satan.”
Didn’t know that. So MacDonald was carrying on a long term affair and Jessie Jackson was busy fathering an out of wedlock child. I’m beginning to see why Clinton picked these guys. What about the third advisor?
“What about the third advisor?”
That was Campolo, the one seen laughing with Clinton at Brown’s funeral.
There is no reason why Israel cannot live next to the palestinians, if the palestinians draw down their arms, recognize Israel, renounce terrorism, and sit down at the table. However, Ahmadinejad and Hamas, and Hezbolla’s goals are NOT to create a palestinian state next to Israel. Their goals are to get a weak liberal Israeli PM like Olmert to agree to a palestinian state, where Arab countries will then help the terrorists destroy Israel, and a full scale war will develop.
Way back on March 31, 1977, the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an interview with Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Zahir Muhsein. Here’s what he said:
“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism.
For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to ALL of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”
Ahmadinejad is trying to do this. The Jews will not let another Hitler take them over and put them under Sharia law. The Jews have been murdered and exiled by Muslims since 800 AD. They will NOT do it again.
That is official PLO policy embodied in Political Programme Adopted at the 12th Session of the Palestinian National Council, Cairo, June 9, 1974
The establishment of a platform (state) from which to launch attacks, unity with Jordan (violent is OK), massing of Arab troops in the new state, and the final attack. Abbas still mentions the phased plan in arabic speeches.
You got it, you got it! Great, keep it we will need it for the next election. Just watch out for the men in dark non-descript car on the corner.
“There has always been an evangelical left.”
Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
I’ve seen it posted that some believe that the Israel of today is not truly the Israel of the Bible. Any comments?
I’m a Catholic Zionist, so it’s not my position, but it was an interesting statement.
Tony is QUITE Campy, thank you very much!!!!!!!
The Arabs didn't give much of a flying leap about the place until Israel came and made something of it in the last few decades. There wasn't anything to even support much of a population when the Jews got back to it. The promise land was left as an unwanted waste land.
I still maintain that most if not all of these so-called progressive “evangelicals” wouldn’t know the Gospel or sound Christian doctrine if they tripped over it. As you indicated, these wolves are just hijacking the term evangelical for their own purposes.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.