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I’ve gotta admit, it hasn’t been easy being a Christian Arab-American, much less in the evangelical church. How many times can you explain that Jesus wasn’t baptized in the Rio Grande, that there are tens of thousands of indigenous Palestinian Christians still living in the Holy Land, and that loving Jewish people and “blessing Israel” (as is oft cited from scripture) doesn’t mean giving the modern (and mind you, secular) nation-state of Israel a carte blanche on foreign policy or grant it some sort of biblical immunity from criticism? For too long, such criticism has been deemed by my fellow American evangelical brothers and sisters as not only unbiblical but sometimes even — yes, anti-semitic. (Notwithstanding the fact that Arabs are also Semites), the idea that Palestinians had any right to any part of the Holy Land has long been considered anathema by too many of my American kinfolk.
So you can only imagine how tickled I was to read about a letter to President Bush signed by evangelical leaders across America, encouraging a two-state solution. Read the letter published by The New York Times here.
We also write to correct a serious misperception among some people including some U.S. policymakers that all American evangelicals are opposed to a two-state solution and creation of a new Palestinian state that includes the vast majority of the West Bank. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What I appreciated even more about this letter was some of the theology they included to counter the notion that “blessing Israel” somehow means “letting Israel do anything Israel wants to.”:
As evangelical Christians, we embrace the biblical promise to Abraham: ‘I will bless those who bless you.’ (Genesis 12:3). And precisely as evangelical Christians committed to the full teaching of the Scriptures, we know that blessing and loving people (including Jews and the present State of Israel) does not mean withholding criticism when it is warranted. Genuine love and genuine blessing means acting in ways that promote the genuine and long-term well being of our neighbors.
Are my American evangelical brethren coming around? Hallelujah.
I hope through our efforts for peace, God will bless Israelis, Palestinians, and everyone else. Let’s just be careful not to define “bless” too narrowly.
Deanna Murshed is director of integrated marketing for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.