Evangelical activists are concluded a provocatively titled conference ostensibly gathering about “empowering the Palestinian church.”
“Christ at the Checkpoint,” meeting that met at Bethlehem Bible College in the West Bank, this week included several high-profile Evangelical Christians and was organized by the Bethlehem Bible College, a non-denominational Evangelical school. This year’s gathering is themed “The Gospel in the face of Religious Extremism” and includes sessions on Christian Zionism.
The gathering’s organizers state that its purpose is to challenge Evangelicals “to take responsibility to help resolve the conflicts in Palestine/Israel by engaging with the teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God.”
NGO Monitor said of the 2014 conference that CATC “seeks to advance the Palestinian nationalist agenda within Evangelical Christian churches, while simultaneously reviving theological anti-Semitic themes such as replacement theology.”
Polling of American evangelicals reveals they are overwhelmingly pro-Israel. Citing not just theological reasons, Evangelicals note Israel is pro-American and democratic, offering tolerance to religious minorities, including Christians. Meanwhile, most of Israel’s neighbors are not.
The Checkpoint’s goal is to highlight ‘injustices in the Palestinian Territories’ by Israel and, more centrally, to steer U.S. Evangelicals especially away from traditional friendship for Israel towards neutrality or even hostility.
Checkpoint represents a wider movement, mostly confined to Evangelical elites, to neutralize a key pro-Israel constituency in America, with hopes of moving the U.S. geo-strategically towards neutrality between Israel and its enemies.
Unfortunately, their perspective ignores the nasty reality of the Middle East, where democracy, human rights and religious liberty at largely confined to Israel and absent nearly everywhere else.
Israel has the only growing Christian population in the region. Exertions by Checkpoint and its allies in the wider movement to curtail Evangelical-Israel friendship does no favors for Palestinians by feeding their victimology and usually ignoring the deep issues among Palestinians that mitigate against responsible statehood.
Evangelicals do need a new, updated public policy perspective regarding the Middle East that stresses human rights for all people. But Checkpoint’s tired old version of Liberation Theology and anti-Israel bias has little constructive to offer.
No doubt sincere, well-intentioned people will embrace Checkpoint. But they are dangerously naïve to accept much less to promote Checkpoint’s narrative.