Christians and Violence in the Holy Land
In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared tries to break some of the myths about Christianity and the continued violence in the Holy Land. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1 WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple here.
The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.
This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith.
This week has seen a marked increase in violence in the Holy Land as conflicts between Palestinians, the Israeli military and police, and Jewish nationalists have escalated. At the base of the current rise in tension is the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, a Palestinian area under threat of eviction by Jewish families who want to claim the land as their own. This has led to increasing tensions in Jerusalem as well, particularly around the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount.
Now, I’m certainly not going to solve the problems of peace in the Holy Land in a short five-minute episode, but as someone who has been to Israel numerous times, both academically and as a pilgrim, I’m often concerned about the way American Christians think about and treat the nation of Israel. So, this week I’d like to bust some of the myths around Christianity and the Holy Land.
First, we need to be clear that the support of modern Israel in American Christianity comes from a very odd theological stream known as Christian Zionism. Inspired by a dispensationalist view of Christianity, these Christian Zionists believe returning the Jewish people to Israel will hasten the end times and the return of Christ. In the late twentieth century, people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson helped blend Christian Zionism with conservative politics, insisting that Bible-believing Christians must always stand with and for Israel, no matter what.
If you don’t live in this theological world, I know this all sounds strange. I know it did to me when I was in college and I first went to Israel on an archeological trip. We worked at a site owned by an organization that literally was planting flowers in the desert to hasten Christ’s return. I was just digging and trying to learn.
One of the most unfortunate results of the rise of Christian Zionism in America has been the increasing ignorance most Christians have of their siblings in Christ in the Holy Land: Palestinian Christians.
Yes, not all Palestinians are Muslim. In fact, fully one fifth of the 13 million Palestinians around the world are Christian. But many have had to flee the Holy Land due to violence and the Israeli oppression of Palestinians. Palestinian Christians used to be 21% of the Arab population and now they are just 8%. When you consider all of Israel, Christians are now just 2% of the total population in the Holy Land.
And even in strong Christian communities, the numbers have plummeted. Bethlehem, the site of one of the oldest churches in all Christendom, used to be one of the few remaining strongholds of Palestinian Christians, where they made up 80% of the regional population. Now, they are barely 10%
In my own Anglican tradition, we have a diocese in Jerusalem with its center and cathedral there, just outside the old city. In fact,