(Washington, D.C.) — This morning at the National Press Club, several colleagues and I released a ground-breaking new survey on “American Evangelical Attitudes Towards Israel and the Peace Process.” Below, I’ve posted links to the survey, our analysis of the data, and articles that have already been published this morning.
I had the honor of joining Scott McConnell, Dr. Mitch Glaser, Dr. Darrell Bock, Bishop Harry Jackson, Rev. Tony Suarez, Larry Ross and Kristin Cole in presenting and analyzing the data.
We also announced the formation of a new organization — the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem — with 25 prominent Evangelical seminary professors, Bible scholars, authors and ministry leaders. More on that to come.
The following is the text of the prepared statement I made:
Good morning, my name is Joel Rosenberg, and I am honored to join my colleagues today as one of the founding members of the “Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem.”
We are, as you know, approaching the 70th anniversary of the rebirth of the State of Israel on May 14th, 1948.
For many, this will be a season of thanksgiving to the God of Israel who made ancient promises to the Jewish people and is keeping those promises in modern times.
For others, however, this will be a season of pain, resentment, even anger, for what they regard as al Nakba, “The Catastrophe.”
For presidents and prime ministers, kings and their counselors, this is a season to try yet again to broker a just and comprehensive peace agreement.
What season is it for Church? How should Christians approach this historic yet highly controversial year? What do Evangelicals, in particular, believe about Israel, the Palestinians and the peace process? Where are they getting their information? What are the gaps in their knowledge? How can followers of the Prince of Peace be effective ambassadors of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East, as we are called to be in the Scriptures? What does it mean to obey Jesus’ command to love our neighbors and love our enemies? And as importantly, how can Christians discuss hot button theological and geopolitical issues in a thoughtful, respectful Biblical manner that builds the kind of unity Jesus speaks of in John chapter 17, rather than causing more discord and division?
These are some of the questions the “Alliance For The Peace of Jerusalem” will be asking, as we believe this is precisely the conversation the Church needs to be having.
I’d like to comment on the survey. But first, let me put my cards on the table.
- By heritage, I am Jewish on my father’s side, and Gentile on my mother’s side.
- By faith, I am an Evangelical — I am a follower of Jesus.
- By age, I’m a part of Generation X, having been born in April of 1967.
- By citizenship, I am a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen.
- By residence, my wife and sons and I are Jerusalemites – we made Aliyah a few years ago and moved from the Washington, D.C. area to make our home in Israel, first in a community a bit north of Tel Aviv, and more recently in Jerusalem.
As such, I can assure you this is not a theoretical exercise for me. This is personal.
Never have I been more committed to praying for the peace of Jerusalem, or more passionate about educating Christians about God’s love and plan for the people of the Middle East, or more dedicated to mobilizing Christians to pray for and work for the peace of Jerusalem than I have been since moving to the Epicenter.
I am grateful to my colleagues here, and to LifeWay Research, for this ground-breaking survey. I find the data fascinating, and I suspect pastors and ministry leaders, Bible college and seminary presidents and professors, students, lay leaders, the media and others will find it so, as well, particularly as we head into this momentous year.
The good news here is very good – let me make three key points.
First, despite all the beatings that Israel takes in the media, in academia, from the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, and from various Replacement theologians and pastors, the survey reveals that American Evangelicals still have a remarkably deep love for Israel.
Indeed, the survey overwhelmingly confirms that the people of Israel have no better or more loyal friends in the United States than Evangelical Christians.
- Fully eight-in-ten American Evangelicals believe that the Abrahamic Covenant was a promise God made for all time, that it was unconditional, that it could not be revoked – a mere 5% disagree.
- Fully eight-in-ten of American Evangelicals believe the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948 is the fulfillment of Bible prophecy – only 20% think it was merely an interesting geopolitical event but unrelated to God keeping His promises.
- And nearly eight-in-ten Evangelicals (76%) believe that Christians should support Jewish people’s right to live in the sovereign state of Israel.
The survey makes clear that Evangelical Christians of all ages, ethnicities, income levels and regions of the country overwhelmingly believe that God has made binding promises to Abraham and his descendants:
- To make them a nation.
- To give them a Land.
- And to make them a blessing to the rest of the world.
What’s more, the survey finds that Evangelicals believe that God is in the process of keeping His promises – that He is graciously and mercifully bringing the Jewish people back to the Land of Israel after 2,000 years of exile, and rebuilding the State of Israel in the heart of the Middle East, against all odds, despite violent opposition, and despite of our flaws and mistakes and sins.
This is not only tremendously encouraging – it is surprisingly so. Honestly, I did not expect the numbers to be this good.
Second, the survey found that American Evangelicals not only love Israel, but they also want to obey Jesus’ command to love Israel’s neighbors.
Consider several data points:
- 59% of Evangelicals believe Christians should do more to love and care for Palestinian people, and fully 66% of younger Evangelicals believe this.
- 73% are concerned for the safety of Christians in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority
This is also encouraging, and to some may be somewhat counter-intuitive.
Too often, we hear an “either/or” tone in the way Christian leaders speak about their love for Israel or the Palestinians. Some pastors express a great love and zeal for one side, yet either ignore or speak quite unkindly or disrespectfully of the other.
But the God of the Bible is not “either/or.” He is “both/and.” He loves Jews and He loves Arabs. He loves Israelis and He loves Palestinians, and Jordanians, and Egyptians and all the people of the Middle East. So must the Church.
As an Israeli Evangelical, I’m working hard to build friendships with my Palestinian neighbors and others in the region.
Last month, I had the honor of leading a delegation of American Evangelical leaders to Egypt and Jordan. We had working meetings with Egyptian President el-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah. We met with senior Islamic leaders. We visited a refugee camp of some 80,000 Syrian refugees. We also met with dozens of senior Arab Christian pastors and ministry leaders in Egypt and Jordan. After that, I spent several days with about 150 Palestinian pastors and ministry leaders and their wives. Building friendships. Listening to their needs and concerns. Praying with and for them.
Why? Because the Psalmist said, “Seek peace and pursue it.” Because Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
We might not agree on every theological or geopolitical issue, including – and sometimes especially – God’s plans and purposes for Israel and the Jewish people.
But that’s okay. God does not require us to have uniform views. But He does call us to unity. He does ask if we who love Israel will also love and honor and respect and listen to our Arab and Persian and Kurdish brothers and sisters?
The Church needs to do a better job loving the Arab and Muslim people. I’m convinced we can. And I’m encouraged that the survey picked up a desire by Evangelicals to do better in this regard.
Third, Americans Evangelicals aren’t convinced they understand enough about God’s plans and purposes for Israel, and they want to know more.
- No fewer than seven-in-ten American Evangelicals (72%) say they want to know more about what the Bible teaches about Israel’s future.
- Amen – this is a need pastors and ministry leaders and seminaries and Bible colleges can and should address, and it’s an area my colleagues and I stand and this new “Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem” stand ready to assist.
So this is the good news.
But there is some bad news – or, let us say, challenging news – in the data as well, specifically when it comes to younger Evangelicals.
Millennials are sending the Church a sobering message. They’re not against Israel. Not yet. Not at all. But the survey makes it clear that many of them really don’t understand Israel’s place in the biblical narrative. Thus, their support for Israel is nearly 20 points less than their parents and grandparents.
Now, extrapolate that going forward. Unless the Church gives younger believers a healthy, balanced, solidly biblical understanding of God’s love and plan for Israel, overall Evangelical support for the Jewish State could very well plummet over the next decade as Millennials represent an ever-larger percentage of the overall Church body.
That said, when I look at the totality of the survey results, I’m cautiously optimistic.
I’ve agreed to be part of the founding leadership council of “Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem” because I see a real need to educate the Church – and particularly younger Evangelicals – about God’s love and plan for both Israel and her Arab and Persian neighbors, and to mobilize them to seek peace, pray for peace, and be peacemakers in a dark and troubled region. Thank you.