Friday, October 05, 2007

Arab Christians in Israel

Jim West has a post on Christians, Israel, and the Palestinian Question which is quite coincidental since at our missions prayer lunch at HTC on Wednesday we had a guest speaker from Israel. Sadly his name alludes me, but he was an Arab Christian from Israel, specifically, the Galilee, and a lawyer by vocation. He gave a good overview of Christian groups in Galilee/Lebanon including the Marionites, the Orthdodox Church, Protestants, and the Greek Catholic Church (about 300 years ago a number of Greek Orthodox churches seceded and entered into fellowship with Rome although they retain their own liturgy and rites which are still Orthodox for the most part). Our speaker told the story of how Israeli troops forcibly expelled whole villages and simply told them to go Lebanon. These were Christian villages that have never resisted Israeli rule/occupation (delete as preferred) or fired a shot in anger. His attitude towards Israel was one of frustration rather than hatred and he just wanted a fair deal, a place to live, and some political rights for Arab Christians. He talked about how Christians largely run the education and health care system in the Galilee and the ministry that they have there. It was a good talk! Personally, I remain perplexed as to why certain Christians, predominantly Americans, feel a closer degree of affinity with the secular state of Israel than they do with Palestinian Christians! I'm not anti-Israel (I think that the President of Iran, Ahmydinnerjacket [sic], has more fruit cakes in his head than an Aussie Christmas party) but we should support the plight of our Christian and brothers and sisters in the land of Palestine and object when they are boxed into ghettos.


Phil Sumpter said...

This paradox of Evangelical support for secular Israel to the denigration of Christians frustrates me too. The only time I've ever seen a Christian Zionist organization supporting Arab Christians is when a particular website asked for donations to support the Southern Lebanese Christians who were having to flee their homes after Israel pulled out of Lebanon. That was because Christian militias had fought against Hizbollah, who were moving in to fill the vacuum. The same militias were responsible for Sabra and Shatila. This was a while ago, however, so I'm depending on my memory.

Matt said...


Welcome to the mysterious byproduct of the American-Evangelical culture wars!

Don't under estimate the impact of 'dispensational' teachings on the hoi polloi! It may be dying (for good reason!) in academic circles, but the mindset it has fostered in lay-evangelical circles towards Israel since 1948 doesn't die so easily.

I know in talking to my academic friends from the EU, this whole notion of 'premillennialism' is seen as being a 'distinctively American' phenomena. [Hence your feeling perplexed is not unheard of!!] They are baffled as to why Americans think the 'secular state of Israel' should nevertheless still be considered 'God's chosen people.' And yet that's the default, small-town, bible-believing, evangelical mode of thinking here across the pond!

Remember too that Israel has long been one of the biggest allies to the US in the Middle East, on a purely secular level. In fact, I don't know that any country, for right or for wrong, has done more to support the right of Israel to exist as a nation than the US. I think our govt. had it's own political reasons for this alliance, primarily so they could have a presence there during the Cold War.

Throw it all together and your secular American pro-Israel stance fits mighty nicely with the Christians that believe Israel is (still!) God's chosen people!

The default stereotype for any Palestinian becomes one of a 'terrorist' (with 9/11 certainly factoring in here), while the default stereotype towards Israel remains that they are 'good, God-fearing Jews' who will one-day be converted when the Messiah returns!

Sometimes, it takes a 'Palestinian Christian' to bust up an erroneous worldview! :)