Glenn Beck announced in May his next rally: Restoring Courage on Aug. 24 in Jerusalem.
Beck’s announcement, which came two days after the 63rd anniversary of Israel’s declaration of sovereignty on May 14, 1948, was in reaction to President Obama’s remarks concerning the need to create a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.
Beck, like others, is angered by this decision and sees this as a move away from U.S. support for Israel.
The creation of the modern state of Israel as an independent state and a home for the Jewish people opened a floodgate of violence that continues to this day.
It created a human catastrophe as nearly a million Palestinians were forced from their homes and became refugees – a number that, according to the United Nations, increased exponentially.
While attempts at establishing lasting peace have been made on several occasions, none has been successful.
What is an authentic Christian response to the Middle East question?
Psalm 122:6 commands us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Clearly, peace is at the heart of Jesus’ message that the rule of God has come into the world.
Yet obstacles to peace for all inhabitants of the land called holy by Jews, Christians and Muslims have prevented such long-term steps toward peace. Nothing continues to threaten such peace like religious extremism.
An extremist movement in an American version of Christianity has played a key role in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East – particularly over the thorny issue of the historic land of Palestine.
Many conservative and fundamentalist Christians hold stringently to the belief that God has ordained the existence of the modern state of Israel, and that Israel should hold onto confiscated land at any cost without regard for the humanity of the Palestinians.
None is more vocal than John Hagee and his movement.
Hagee views history through apocalyptic and eschatological lenses. He sees human history as moving toward a predestined end, and he argues that the modern state of Israel will play a key role in the end of the world.
He seeks support for his view in the Book of Revelation and various texts from the Hebrew Bible. But he is very selective in his readings, and he reads only from his own apocalyptic position.
Hagee’s interpretations of Scripture, however, are misguided and only fictitious expectations about the end times. More tragically, he sees apocalyptic war as the inevitable end and seeks to push the region to that end as quickly as possible.
In spewing his religious extremist rhetoric, Hagee differs little from other religious extremists. They all base their understanding of the Middle East conflict solely on religious terms, and they believe the only solution is a great apocalyptic war in which the followers of God will be victorious over those who are evil.
The problem with these positions is that each claims to speak for God, and each despises the other as evildoers.
Many Christians, and others, have rightly voiced disgust at the hateful rhetoric of extremists from other faiths, but rarely have we heard criticism about Hagee’s rhetoric. Even some conservative politicians have attended and spoken at his rallies.
Yet Hagee fits the description of a false prophet whose intentions are not for peace in Israel, but for annihilation of an oppressed race, the Palestinians. He is about as far away from the teachings of Jesus as one could possibly get on this issue.
In fact, many folks, including Jews, have questioned Hagee’s support for Israel as simply a means to an end.
In a 2009 segment of “60 Minutes” called “Zion’s Christian Soldiers,” Gershom Gorenberg said of these kinds of Christians: “They don’t love real Jewish people. They love us as characters in their story, in their play, and that’s not who we are, and we never auditioned for that part, and the play is not one that ends up good for us. If you listen to the drama they’re describing, essentially it’s a five-act play in which the Jews disappear in the fourth act.”
The fact of the matter is that since the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, the Palestinians, who had peacefully resided there for generations, have been oppressed, ghettoized and killed by state-sponsored acts of terror.
Certainly, extremist Palestinian terrorist groups who have acted in horrible violence against innocent Israeli civilians must be held accountable for their horrendous acts. We must not gloss over these atrocities.
But Israel must also be held responsible for the illegal confiscation of land, the oppression of millions of Palestinians who have been forced from their homes, and the killing of many innocent Palestinians by Israeli armed forces.
I am afraid that our religious, political and media-driven culture has so clouded our understanding of the complex issues surrounding the Middle East conflict that we have gravitated to fanciful beliefs and explanations about the region that have no real grounding in Scripture and that completely ignore the teachings of Jesus that call us to be peacemakers.
Christians concerned about the peace of Jerusalem would do much better by being more broadly informed about the complex issues from experts who have studied the history of the conflict, rather than getting their information from the likes of Hagee and Beck.
May the God of peace bring shalom, salaam and peace to Jerusalem for people from all faiths.
Assistant Director of the Honors College at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.