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Religiously Targeting Israel

5:55 PM, Jul 3, 2012 • By MARK TOOLEY
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More recently, another film, Little Town of Bethlehem, also aims, more subtly, to persuade evangelicals to abandon traditional pro-Israel sympathies by highlighting the collaboration of Palestinian and Jewish Israeli pacifists. Evangelical endorsers include former World Vision president Robert Seiple and megachurch church leader Lynne Hybels, along with faculty of evangelical schools. 

The film featured Palestinian Christian activist Sami Awad, who addressed the Society of Pentecostal Studies meeting at Pat Robertson’s Regents University in Virginia Beach in March. Pentecostals are typically ardent Zionists, and most still are. But some evangelical elites are embarrassed by the old religious right and increasingly want to disassociate from figures like Pat Robertson. Disavowing pro-Israel views is sometimes an easy way to create a new evangelical identity. 

In March, numerous evangelical elites attended a “Christ at the Checkpoint” event in Bethlehem on the West Bank to highlight Christian solidarity with Palestinian suffering and against Israeli occupation. Speakers included mainstream liberal evangelicals such as Tony Campolo and Ron Sider, as well as Joel Hunter, a Florida megachurch pastor and spiritual counselor to President Obama. Lynne Hybels and Shane Claiborne also spoke.

Polls show that American evangelicals remain strongly pro-Israel. So do Catholics and mainline Protestants.  But evangelicals are America’s largest religious demographic. So look for anti-Israel activists to accelerate their evangelical efforts, especially among young people, no matter what happens at the Presbyterian General Assembly. 

CORRECTION: This article mistakenly stated that Gary Burge "helped produce" With God on Our Side. He did not; he only appeared in the film.

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