While reading the CNN Belief Blog, one prediction for 2012 struck very close to home. It was penned by the publisher of Relevant Magazine – a more contemporary Christian magazine (worth reading as well):
There’s no question the worldview of most younger Christians already differs from previous generations regarding social justice, cultural engagement and politics. The next issue of probable divergence? The conflict in Israel and Palestine. The American church has largely purported just one theology about the modern state of Israel, but now questions are being asked – especially by younger Christians learning of persecution and human rights issues happening in the region – if the church should have a more active role in peacemaking. Is there a way for the Church to be pro-Israel, pro-Palestine and pro-peace? (“15 Faith-Based Predictions for 2012,” Cameron Strang, Publisher, RELEVANT Magazine)
I believe Cameron Strang is correct to point out this trend among Christian young people. I do wish he had phrased his statement about persecution and human rights issues happening in the region differently. This may have been better phrased, “learning of alleged persecution and human rights violations” – or perhaps “accusations” of the same.
But, he is correct in saying that our younger generation seem to be less supportive of Israel than the previous generation. Why? I can think of a few reasons. One has a more positive origin (though needs to be more balanced), but the other is negative.
Let’s start with the positive!
I am delighted to see our younger generation developing a greater concern for social justice issues, and many are doing a great job of making a very practical difference in our broken and sinful world. Caring for those who are marginalized is part of this concern, and it has led to more prayer, help and support of Palestinians.
I am always happy when God’s love is shown to others. I would be happier if our younger generation would be more circumspect in giving their political support to the Palestinians, but I am sincerely grateful for the love shown to those in desperate need of the Gospel.
The second reason for younger Christians’ dwindling support for Israel is not so good: many churches are no longer teaching about Israel, the Jewish people, the Holy Land, or even about the End Times! This is a problem because the Bible contains a considerable amount of teaching on these matters. Romans 9-11 is just one of many examples – read through it and see what you think!
Perhaps we need to focus on bringing a more verse-by-verse, expository style of Bible teaching back to our congregations and pulpits. There are so many needs in our world – and within our own congregations – that we sometimes miss out on other key areas of Bible teaching, that if taught would eventually reduce some of our needs!
We believe it is entirely possible to love the Jewish people and the Palestinians while believing that the Land of Promise belongs to the Jewish people. This is one of the reasons we are sponsoring another major conference on this very topic – this time on the West Coast!
The conference is entitled Israel, the Church, and the Middle East Crisis, and will be held March 23-24, 2012, on the campus of Biola University. The speakers include author and Middle East expert Joel Rosenberg, Old Testament scholar Dr. Walter Kaiser, and myself. It will be one of the only conferences of this sort that provides Bible teaching about Eschatology and the Future of the Middle East – as well as seminars on how to witness to both Jews and Muslims. Visit the website for further information and online registration!
I appreciate Cameron Strang’s having brought this trend to our attention. My prayer for all of us in this New Year is that we will commit ourselves to understanding the fullness of Scripture – and encourage our congregations, pastors, Messianic Rabbis and home Bible study leaders to delve deeply into the role and calling of God for the Jewish people as revealed in the Scriptures. After all, being chosen was not our idea… it was His! (Deuteronomy 7:6-11)
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this issue!