King's Evangelical Divinity School

5 June 2012

Why on earth are we wasting time on Israel?

Recently an Egyptian television presenter aired a graphic video of a young man being beheaded by Islamists. His crime, according to the presenter? Apostasy. He had converted to Christianity and refused to recant. The story is reported by the Gatestone Institute's Raymond Ibrahim and its wider ramifications discussed in the Spectator. Ibrahim describes what happens in the video:
Then, to cries of "Allahu Akbar!"—or, "God is great!"—the man holding the knife to the apostate's throat begins to slice away, even as the victim appears calmly mouthing a prayer. It takes nearly two minutes of graphic knife-carving to sever the Christian's head, which is then held aloft to more Islamic cries and slogans of victory.
If genuine, the video is shocking. But no less shocking than the fact that we all know things like this happen all the time, that many Christians in some Muslim lands face unimaginable persecution and suffering. 

At this very moment Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is currently awaiting execution in Iran for becoming a Christian. We periodically hear of Islamists attacking villages in Pakistan and parts of India, hundreds of Christians killed and churches torched in Nigeria, attacks upon Christians in Egypt, Indonesia, and elsewhere, Christians tried for blasphemy in Pakistan, harassment of churches and believers in Iran... the list is endless. Just trawl briefly through the Barnabas Fund website and you'll find numerous cases of Christians suffering horribly for their faith in Muslim lands.

Which all begs the inevitable question: If 38 of the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted most are predominantly Muslim, why do some Christians insist on wasting so much time criticising Israel and her treatment of believers? 

Christians are not beheaded in Israel, they are not torched or killed by their hundreds. To be sure, some orthodox Jews in Israel dislike Christians and periodically mock them, even spit on them. Unpleasant and unacceptable though this is, it is pales into insignificance compared with what believers face elsewhere in Muslim lands. Indeed, even in the Palestinian Territories persecution of Christians is predominantly an Islamic affair. 

So why waste time on Israel when believers are suffering unimaginably far more elsewhere? There are two possible reasons: 1) Ignorance of the unimaginable situations in which many Christians in Muslim lands find themselves (if so, we should be sharing this information and links below with as many fellow believers as possible), or else 2) an irrational singling out of Israel. 

I could handle, indeed would be much more likely to listen to and engage with, Christians deeply critical of Israel in the name of purported persecution of believers in that region if they were equally enraged and livid about suffering of believers in Muslim lands. But very often that doesn't seem to be the case.

I, for one, from now on will be channelling more of my time into making known as widely as possible what Christians are suffering elsewhere simply for following Jesus.

Sources and Further Links

Gatestone Institute (report on Tunisian beheading)
Raymond Ibrahim (description of Tunisian beheading)
Spectator (comment on Tunisian beheading)


James said...

Very well said Calvin!

Mike Moore said...

Excellent point Calvin. I suspect the antipathy of evangelicals to Israel stems from bad theology. God has finished with Israel because they failed/rejected Christ/have passed their use-by date. Since they rejected their Messiah and even killed him there must be no end to their propensity for evil. Therefore, even though Muslims are capable of the most inhuman acts against Christians, Jews must be worse. Apart from that, what are Jews going to you if you offend them?

David said...

That's exactly how I feel.

I'm not a Christian, and I have been critical of those of Israel's policies that deserve criticism for as long as I can remember.

But, some years ago, I began to realise that the extreme and obsessive hostility to Israel, growing every day, was motivated by a similar obsession with Jews.

The lack of concern for persecuted Christians, by contrast, brought that home to me. So too has the ignoring of the plight of Muslims being massacred all over the Middle East.

Their deaths, their persecution, doesn't seem to 'count' - unless it is being done by Jews.

I don't think there's anything that can be done about it. The wagon is rolling. It won't change course.

But it is important to acknowledge, at least, what is going on.

Joseph W said...

Great piece Calvin.

Anonymous said...

I only hope that those who oppose Christ and his Church realise that they are fulfilling negative prophesies. As I remember the Lord's word in Jn.16: 2 ' They shall put you out of synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service', especially when one thinks that he or she is offering God service but such is actually in danger of divine judgement. People who do these things do not know God as Jesus declared in verse 3 'And these things they will do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me'.
I used to be a muslim and I thank God that he saved me. We need to add prayers to political pressure.
God who saved me can save more muslims. Looking forward to the Prayer Conference if you have plans for one. God will bless those who love Israel.



Brian B said...

Thank you for being so vocal, Calvin. In light of what seems to be almost daily Muslim-political developments whereby anything apart from Islam is increasingly not tolerated, your post is timely.

A recent article in AINA reveals an Iraqi Muslim declaration where it is "forbidden to vote for secular politicians in Iraq's government." This highlights what is taking place at an increased pace and should alert everyone to what will follow in traditionally Christian nations where Muslims are militantly pushing for increased political voice and power. The video you mentioned plus the steady stream of Middle East news should be a clarion call for people to wake up!

Calvin L. Smith said...

A leader of a Christian organisation precisely proves my point in a comment following a cross post of my blog article here (quite surprising really):

Dr Alan Poyner-Levison said...

Good piece Calvin carry on the good work. We need to keep this stuff from being pushed out of sight.The danger is we will become immune to these types of stories because it did not happen near us!!

conchovor said...

I suppose a Christian anti-Zionist activist like Ben White might say that what concerns him is not so much the solidarity with Palestinian Christians as with Palestinians (mostly Muslims) generally, and their plight or its scale.

Which would undermine him a little given how clearly his identifying with this conflict so strongly has surely come through contacts with Sabeel and such like, and for both him and Stephen Sizer, anti-Zionism seems a cardinal expression of their Christianity, if not +the+ most important expression of it of the time.

But there is surely more to it than that, and it is intimately connected with issues of the Land. A fair or just Christian response would take into account the justice of the pleas of both parties, Jews as well as Christians (and, by national/nationalist extension, the Muslims) concerned.

What Stephen Sizer and Ben White have scarcely/never addressed is that, in Christian terms, Jews have been regarded as a people exiled/dispossessed/in captivity for their rejection of Jesus and the prophets i.e. thoroughly deservedly for most of Christian history.

They adopted completely the opposite hermeneutic for their fellow Palestinian Arab Christians (and, by extension, Muslims) i.e. their dispossession not only indicates complete innocence of having gotten that way, but it becomes proof of guilt against the Jews concerned, again!

I think a truly Christian response would recognise a justice in a Jewish desire for return and restoration, as well as Palestinian Arab Christian and Muslim one, and, consequently, a measure of injustice in seeking to thwart it.

That is why, unless a single state can guarantee right of return to both parties (and partition was recommended by international law precisely to guarantee a Jewish right of return to at least a Jewish state, given overwhelming Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian resistance (today's buzzword) to it), the only just solution must be 2 states, for 2 peoples, with 2 rights of return, division of Jerusalem, old and new, borders on the 67 lines of with territorial swap, as per, say, the Geneva Initiative.

For Stephen Sizer and Ben White, say, the goal has become the millennarian one of the extinction of Zionism and a Jewish state, and the implementation of the full Palestinian right of return. Nothing less will do. The Palestinian cause has become a kind of quasi-faith system for them; in which mystery, I suspect, they find personal salvation, the resurrection of the Palestinian people, who become, effectively, a kind of Christ in national incarnation, having been crucified/colonized by the Jews concerned (again), being as well their own.

My assertion that they regard the Palestinian people as a kind of Christ in national incarnation is one doubtless they would vigorously dispute. But if the tendency of your discourse is to adduce as many sins, crimes and misdemeanours of the Jews concerned, while assiduously omitting to mention the equivalent most egregious of the Christians (and, by extension, the Muslims) concerned, are you not effectively, consciously or unconsciously, trying to depict a kind of crucifixion?

And that conference is not called 'Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians at the Check Point', rather 'Christ at the Check Point'.

Doubtless they would say they only mean 'Christ' qua Palestinian victimhood. But it is an interesting coincidence, nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

For me, i find foolish men like stephen sizer are equally as guilty as those who beheaded that christian in the video.As are rick warren,hybels,petersen,schuller,mcclaren,etc who have put their signatures to Chrislam at Yale.

Calvin L. Smith said...

Anonymous @ 16:21. It's fine to disagree, and strongly at that - Stephen Sizer's comments and actions have irritated a great many believers. But it is completely unacceptable to compare his actions and words with the grotesque deed we saw in that video.

If you are suggesting Christian anti-Zionism somehow contributes to the current conflict in manner on the ground, then this is a valid point to raise, provided you elaborate and provide some evidence. Otherwise language like this is unacceptable.

Calvin L. Smith said...

David, thank you for your interesting observation. I think you may be right, there does seem to be a different standard levelled against Jews.

Conchover, you make several interesting comments which deserve some kind of response. I emailed Stephen Sizer to let him know of your contribution. I do not know how to contact Ben White (if anyone else does...)

Thank you everyone else for your observations.

Andrew Sibley said...

This is indeed a very disturbing piece, but should one use it in this way Calvin ? We need to resist developing an unhealthy fear of muslims and Arabs, most are not violent but moderate, they need to see and experience the love of Christ, not experience hostility from Christians. We are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.

It is also a non-sequitor - you might argue that because there are violent murders in one part of town the Police would be wasting their time tackling property crime in another part of town. It does not follow. Injustice and unrighteousness need to be challenged where ever they are found.

If our Christian mandate is to make disciples of all nations, then that must surely include the state of Israel. CZs should stop seeking to justify Israel's actions what ever they do - for some of us this is an offence against the gospel because it seems to be saying God now has double standards and that some can by-pass the cross and be made righteous.

Calvin L. Smith said...

For the record Andrew, I'm pretty nuanced when it comes to not inciting Christians against Muslims and the need to turn the other cheek. For example:

Curiously, your comment on that piece was quite different, that we should speak out. Or is your doublespeak here because I refer to Israel?

I've kept far too quiet about Christian suffering in Muslim lands. And I'll be blowed if I'm going to have someone suggest I should continue to do so because of the inconvenient truth that Israel, despite its imperfections, treats Christians far better than in some of its surrounding nations.

Brendan said...

Dear Calvin,
GOB Bless your endevours to expose such intolerant, uncharitable, inhumane, and barbaric acts of cruelty towards our brothers and sisters in Christ.
It hurts and affects me deeply when individuals of faith are thus treated so. Indeed, I'm sure we all agree that this type of treatement affects us all as members in faith of the mystical body of Christ.
GOD Bless you in your endevours, and please continue to inform us of these tragic occurrences. Hopefully, we could all perhaps help our kindred in some supportive way.

Woodman59 said...

Hi Calvin,

Attacks against Christians are appalling, wherever they occur - but in former times it was Christian authorities that were so butal.

Fundamentalist, monotheistic religion seems inevitably to lead to persecution and injustice, whether Christian, Islamic, or Jewish - even though one or other can be considered worse, at any one time.

What is needed is a way to turn off the heat under the pressure-cooker of the region.

The heat which has created the entire problem is 2,000 years of Christian antisemitism/antijudaism.

The only way to correct that now, is not to create and support a country, even a recreated Israel, to dump the majority of Jews into - as we can see, that is a disaster waiting to happen - but to swap our worn out and redundant Christianity, for an enlightened form of Judaism that can be appreciated universally.

This is something that Jesus would finally be able to be proud of...that would count as his "coming again".

This would present to us the prize of peace, as militant Islam would also just fall away. But it is those of us from a Christian background, who have come to re-appreciate Judaism, finally, after our 2,000 years of hatred...who are the ones who will need to take the first steps.