Friday, September 30, 2011
Is God in the Land-granting Business?
Conservative Christians are avid supporters of Israel, and in the vanguard of lobbying efforts for the U.S. rejection of Palestine’s bid to become an internationally recognized country.
The formal request for Palestinian statehood was submitted to the U.N. Security Council on September 23 by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. That request was considered this week—and then sent to a special committee for further study.
The U.S., perhaps largely because of the Jewish lobby and the outspoken voices of the Religious Right, has said that it will veto Palestine’s request if it comes to a vote in the Security Council. And that, I think, is a shame.
When I attended the Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in June, I expected to hear the strong support of the anti-abortion and anti-gay statements made there by the Republican politicians who spoke. But I was not prepared for the even stronger support given to the pro-Israel/anti-Palestine issue.
Jay Sekulow is the Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). (The ACLJ was founded by Pat Robertson in 1990; Sekulow earned his Ph.D. degree at Regents University, also founded by Pat Robertson.) At the Faith & Freedom meeting, I heard Sekulow say in two different sessions, “God is in the land-granting business”—meaning that the current nation of Israel is occupying land granted that nation by God.
The same strong position was taken by Southern Baptist Richard Land, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. At the same conference I heard him declare supports for Israel because he “believes the Bible,” specifically Genesis 12 and 17.
Land also said that President Truman approved the creation of the nation of Israel in 1948 because he had grown up studying the Bible in a Baptist Sunday School. (Truman made the decision to recognize the establishment of the State of Israel over the objections of Secretary of State George Marshall.)
Further, Land referred to President Obama as “the worst President of the United States that Israel has ever had,” and he said to Israel, “Help is on the way!” At the time I thought he meant that a Republican president was going to be elected in 2012, but, as we now see, perhaps he just meant that so much pressure was going to be put on the President that he would support Israel against Palestine in 2011!
But this position, called “Christian Zionism” by some, is wrong-headed, in my opinion. And I was happy that on September 19 my friends Dr. Glen Stassen and Dr. David Gushee issued “An Open Letter to America’s Christian Zionists,” a strong statement opposing the idea that God is in the land-granting business and therefore Christians should support Israel and oppose Palestine’s bid for statehood. (The link to that statement is here.)
The current issue of The Economist also got it right: Israel has the right to exist. But the Palestinians also “deserve a state of their own.” And, “These two beliefs are entirely compatible.” Thus, “In blocking any Palestinian aspirations at the UN, America is helping extremists on both sides.”