Creeping Anti-Israelism in the Evangelical Movement
What some leaders are hiding from their Christian followers.
(/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/01/hybels.png)Lynne Hybels discussing Israel security barrier.
The tentacles of anti-Jewish fervor are seemingly everywhere. Not even the American Church is immune from the sickness of anti-Semitism, and tracing the networks can be a fascinating exercise. They are so diverse, and so unequally yoked in various ways. But they are all linked by a dislike of Jews and Israel.
I live in a small town in the American South. A few years ago, I stopped at a convenience store and noticed on the counter a tabloid newspaper. I picked up a copy and when I got home, realized it was a white-supremacist rag, liberally sprinkled with anti-Jewish propaganda. In fact, it felt a lot like classic, medieval anti-Semitism, which never really went out of style.
So it is that I spend much of my time now researching the decline of Israel support, specifically within American Evangelicalism, once a stronghold of support for the Jewish state.
From visits to captured Palestinian weaponry and propaganda literature displayed in Israel, to sitting in on evangelical leadership conferences that feature anti-Israel speakers, watching the erosion of support for Israel is jarring.
A friend sent me a link recently to a blog, “Mondoweiss,” which claims to be
“a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective.”
This particular link featured an essay by Marc Ellis, the retired professor (Baylor University) who now is able to devote more time to his anti-Israel obsession, including routine comparisons between Israel and the Third Reich.
Leading was an endorsement from none other than Dr. Cornel West:
“Anytime I think of my brother Marc Ellis, I think of quiet dignity, spiritual integrity, moral consistency, fierce fortitude, and an unstoppable determination to tell the truth, expose lies, and bear witness.”
The title of this particular piece, “Burning Children: A Jewish View of the War in Gaza,” tells you all you need to know about Ellis’s view of Israelis. What I find especially notable is the similar tone to that of pieces penned by “evangelical” leaders like Donald Miller and Lynne Hybels.
Therein lies a most interesting link.
Miller, an author of some fame (“Blue Like Jazz”), and Hybels, co-founder of the powerful Willow Creek Association, have both spoken at Catalyst conferences. Catalyst staff and organizers work hard to present the organization as the evangelical leadership conduit. The powerful networking features three large conferences each year (in southern California, Dallas, and Atlanta, thus blanketing the country), where an eclectic bunch of center-left speakers engage 50,000 senior pastors and other church staff. The Catalyst database features many thousands more pastors who receive resources.
At Catalyst Atlanta, in 2012, Hybels spoke, and the title of her talk, “We Belong to Each Other: Americans, Israelis and Palestinians for Peace,” implied a non-violent form of protest of the “occupation,” yet she decried the presence of the IDF in the territories, spoke of the negative impact of the security fence, and alleged that Palestinians lack water sources. Her slide titled “1967 Six-Day War” stated: “Israeli Military Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza begins.”
All standard PLO fare.
Hybels isn’t the only Palestinian advocate to address church audiences. At the 2011 meeting of the Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding (EMEU) in California, Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer spoke; Sizer is perhaps the biggest critic of Israel and its friends — notably, Christian Zionists — in the world.
The entire conference was devoid of any context: no mention of the Arab invasion of Israel in 1948, or the context of the Six-Day War or ’73 War. Additionally, several anti-Semitic undertones were evident. Near the conclusion of the conference, Don Wagner (formerly a professor at Chicago’s Northpark Seminary) told what some described as a joke:
“Several of the Christian Zionist Republican candidates were told by the media just before a debate that Gaddafi had been shot through the temple.” “Oh, my God,” said one, “I didn’t know he was Jewish!”
Such talk is becoming standard at Christian conferences around the country.
In 2011, Catalyst invited Cornel West, the radical Princeton professor, to address its Atlanta gathering, via video link.
How odd, I thought. Why would ostensibly evangelical leaders invite a man who describes himself as a “non-Marxist socialist”?
(You know what that means, don’t you? He’s a Marxist.)
So I asked Catalyst director Brad Lomenick. Four times.
Finally, I asked him in person at Catalyst Dallas in May 2014. He passed me along to the new director, Tyler Reagin, who, as it turns out, also didn’t have the time to answer my question.
Catalyst doesn’t want rank-and-file evangelicals figuring out what some of us who have attended conferences already know: they are left-wing.
Consider the intro to West’s bio from 2011, posted on the Catalyst site:
“Cornel West is a prominent and provocative democratic intellectual.”
In David Horowitz’s book, “Radicals,” he discusses the vapid nature of West’s resume. Would that the evangelical Christian leaders mainstreaming West knew this.
Instructive for these evangelical leaders is Horowitz’s observation of West cloaking himself in religious language:
A tireless self-promoter, West habitually refers to himself and his work as “prophetic” (e.g., “I am a prophetic Christian freedom fighter”), and has put the words “prophetic” or “prophesy” in the titles of four of his books, including a collection of casual pieces and book reviews he called Prophetic Fragments, as though Ezekiel was his soul mate and the parchments containing his wisdom had been eaten by the sands of time.
This is an important point because Cornel West is at best a radical socialist, yet Christian leaders are embracing him. It has been announced that West will speak at the “Justice Conference” in Chicago in June, along with mainstream evangelicals Lynne Hybels, Bob Goff, and Louie Giglio. This is shocking, given the alleged ideological divide between evangelicals and leftists.
It is the empty nature of West’s accolades that rankles true evangelicals, who recognize the left’s infiltration of the community. As Horowitz notes:
Who is this man who has been elevated to such prominence by cultural arbiters high and low? His newly published autobiography, Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud (and don’t even attempt to parse that title), answers the question with an epigraph, which is a citation from himself:
“I’m a bluesman in the life of the mind, and a
jazzman in the world of ideas.“—Cornel West
Like many sentences West writes, this catchy phrase is a substitute for thought that does not make any sense. “But what does it mean to be a bluesman in the life of the mind?”
Good question, but it doesn’t matter to Christian leaders determined to expose young leaders and laypersons to leftist ideology. Further, West’s anti-Semitic ties are deeply disturbing.
“Radicals” clues us in on West’s view of Jews:
He was a celebrity sponsor of the 2012 “Global March to Jerusalem,” an attack organized by Islamist Iran on the Jewish state. He has been a frequent speaker at the black liberation church of another sponsor of the Global March, Jeremiah Wright, the notorious anti-Semite and race-hater whom West regards as “my dear brother” and “a prophetic Christian preacher.”
What conservatives need to understand is that these demonstrations of hate mongering are no longer confined to the academic community. They are now being mainstreamed even to the Bible Belt. Consider that Donald Miller has written about Israel, even accusing the IDF of war crimes (murdering Palestinian women and children), and Hybels traverses the country speaking up for the Palestinian narrative.
Truly, the research presented in Paul Kengor’s important book, “Dupes,” rings true. For 80 years, totalitarians (mostly the Soviets) worked long and hard to undermine American from within. While we were watching our shores, we didn’t realize that the corrosive effects of Marxism were permeating our universities and even seminaries. They have now reached full flower, which bodes ill for freedom-loving Americans and their close friend and ally, Israel.
The biggest under-reported story in America today is the co-opting of the evangelical Christian community by the Palestinian propagandists. It will get worse.
In this brave new world, we find ourselves oppressed by the views of West targeting the West.
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