Evangelicals' support of Israel rooted in Scripture
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--As pressure crested for the U.S. to restrain Israel from continuing further military offensive against its Palestinian neighbors, one bloc of Americans remained solidly in Israel's corner.
Evangelical Christians are steadfastly committed to Israel's efforts to keep its citizenry safe and its borders secure, said Richard Land, president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, despite the fact that a majority of Americans (68 percent) in a May 6 Gallup poll favor the U.S. remaining neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said evangelicals recognize that Israel's right to its homeland is biblical.
Land said in the Los Angeles Times May 5 that in nearly every Southern Baptist church he visits, church members ask him to tell President Bush not to "abandon Israel" in the administration's efforts to secure peace in the Mideast. "It is very, very important to evangelicals that the U.S. continue to back Israel," he continued. "The Bible Belt is Israel's safety belt."
A survey cited by the Los Angeles Times revealed evangelical Protestants support pro-Israeli U.S. policy more strongly then the America public overall- 64 percent to 49 percent. A National Review Online commentator suggested evangelicals back Israel with an "uncritical fervor that exceeds that of even some American Jews."
Many people are unaware of why evangelicals are such staunch supporters of Israel, Land explained in a recent interview. "First of all, it's a matter of faith. It is a matter of our understanding and belief in the Bible that God gave this land to the Jews, the descendants of Isaac. Isaac is the child of promise and God is a keeper of His promises," he said.
In the book of Genesis, Land explained God told Abraham that his wife, Sara, would bear him a son, Isaac, who would be the son of promise and through whom the Jews would occupy the land of Canaan. God told Abraham He would bless Ishmael mightily but that He would establish the covenant with Isaac, Land said, reading from Genesis chapters 12 and 17.
"The Bible tells us that God gave that land to the descendants of Abraham through Isaac. That is the Jews, not the Arabs, who are descendants of Abraham through Ishmael," Land continued. "Both correctly claim Abraham as their father, but one is the child of covenant promise and one is not. Jesus came as a descendant of Isaac, not Ishmael."
While some observers say Israel's aggression threatens their covenant with God, Land disagrees. It is important to understand this was not a conditional blessing, he said. "God does judge his people when they are disobedient, but He always keeps His promises. God's covenant promise is unconditional. He promised He would bless those who bless the Jews and He would curse those who curse the Jews. And He promised He would give that land to the Jews forever."
Land said a cursory review of the history of the 20th century testifies to the validity of that biblical promise. "Look at the nations that have blessed the Jews and see how God has blessed them, chiefly the United States of America," he said. "Then consider the countries that have cursed the Jews: Germany-totally conquered, occupied and split right down the middle with 9 million Germans, military and civilian, killed during the war. The Soviet Union with its terrible history of anti-Semitism was invaded by the Germans and lost 20 million people in World War II and now is economically decimated by nearly a century of atheistic communism."
The absence of Jews in Palestine early in the last century was a fact that did not go unnoticed by critics of biblical prophecy, Land said, noting that the presence now of a powerful state of Israel hushed those who once mocked Scripture's prophecy about the Jews' return to their land of promise.
"Through the prophets, God said the Jews would be scattered and then return to their promised land. They started coming back in the 20th century; and then after Nazi Germany's horrible attempt to annihilate them, hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees came back to the homeland God had promised them. Now there are over five million Jews who live in the biblical land of Israel," he said.
"The Jews have the God-given right to be in the land of Israel," he said. "The Bible makes that very clear in Genesis chapters 12 and 17," Land continued.
"America's support for Israel is a matter of blessing for us. Whether or not we support Israel and their right to exist in the land, God is going to take care of Israel," he said. "If the U.S. doesn't support Israel, Israel will still be there because Israel has a more powerful ally than the United States of America -- the Lion of Judah, God Almighty. It is America that will suffer."
Land said if America turns on Israel by helping her enemies, God will not bless the U.S. He warns that the kind of peace the Israelis and most Americans want in the Middle East will not be found until the U.S. puts sufficient pressure on Arab governments to cease the campaign of "vicious anti-Semitism" that they are promoting through their government-controlled media outlets.
Land was the lead signatory on a recent letter to President Bush decrying the overt anti-Semitism that is now commonplace in the Middle East and Europe. "It must stop. It must be tirelessly and publicly denounced," the letter said of anti-Semitism. Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, talk show host Janet Parshall and Gary Bauer were among those who also signed the letter.
"It should not be business as usual with these countries that pour out this virulent stream of anti-Semitism," Land concluded.