Politics and Public Opinion

Next Up for the Evangelical Left: Israel

withgodonoursideA large swath of new evangelical churches populated by twenty- and thirty-somethings are made up, not of new converts from atheism or paganism, but of disaffected children of conservative evangelicals. These are kids who think they grew up repressed in stodgy, low-brow, right-wing churches, and they want the world to know that they are so very different.

From direct experience, I’m convinced that far too many of the emerging church fads are explainable in such sociological terms. And I would agree that there are some unnuanced ideas in politics and eschatology (end times) common among certain evangelical groups that do need to be balanced if not rejected. Unfortunately, the balance among too many “post-conservative” and “emergent” evangelicals is every bit as unbalanced and one-sided as the excesses they’re reacting against. We’ve seen it in politics and economics. Now we’re seeing it in foreign policy and the status of Israel.

I’ll admit upfront that I have problems with attempts to squeeze more details out of the book of Daniel and Revelation than the texts allow. I admit that I was irked on a flight from Atlanta to Seattle a few years ago to see six different people reading various volumes of the Left Behind series. But I still think there are good political and theological reasons to be a friend of Israel (which doesn’t mean being an enemy of Arabs and Palestinians).

Rather than explore such reasons, too many young evangelicals on the left are instead choosing to seek out the opposite extreme from their parents. Enter the new film designed to spread the confusion, “With God on Their Side.” Mark Tooley reports on the film over at Front Page:

Here is the film’s main message to evangelicals, especially to young people. The Old Religious Right crassly imposed a pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy based on its end-times theology, creating untold suffering among largely innocent Palestinians. More thoughtful, more compassionate evangelicals will reject that heritage and instead stand with the Palestinians as the victim group most needing Christian compassion.

I came of age during the silliness of mainline Protestantism in the 1970s and ’80s, when missions funds got diverted to fund Marxist “base communities” in Central America. So it’s depressing to see a new generation of evangelicals (cheered on by older guys like Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren) make the same mistakes:

The new mythology that the Evangelical Left hopes to perpetuate about the Middle East is just as loaded as the politically charged theology that all pro-Israel evangelicals are alleged to have. In essence, the Evangelical Left is largely adopting the old Religious Left’s Liberation Theology view of the Middle East, in which the Palestinians are the impoverished Third World victims, while Israel and the U.S. are the imperialists. The thirst by Evangelical Left groups to leave the “tourist path” and visit with purportedly more authentic Palestinian communities is mostly a rehash of the old Religious Left’s infatuation with the Sandinista experiment in Nicaragua in the 1980s. “Oh, you must [go] there and see for yourselves,” they insisted then as they insist today. “The reality is so very different from what our government and other vested interests in America will tell you.”

Read the whole thing.

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