Full Episode 036: Is Israel in Danger of Losing US Evangelical Support? Pt 1 | Inside The Epicenter
Survey data reveals troubling trend for American evangelicals under 30.
Co-hosts Dr. Carl Moeller and Joel C. Rosenberg discuss the sobering results of a recent survey that reveal a concerning decline in evangelical support for Israel in the United States.
They also talk through the surprising data that shows young evangelicals in America are showing more support for the Palestinian cause and its implications on Israel's future.
- [Announcer] Coming up on this episode of Inside the Epicenter.
- [Joel] If you ask almost any reporter or any academic or any politician, they would say the number one supporters of Israel, at least in the United States, are evangelical Christians and that's true and it's still true and this new poll confirms that it's true. The problem is that something is not getting transmitted from the older generation to the younger generation and the younger generation is seeing things or hearing things that are troubling them about Israel.
- [Carl] Is Israel in danger of losing U.S. evangelical support? Could the trend lines of younger evangelicals lead to a collapse of support from evangelicals in the U.S. of the state of Israel? Welcome to Inside the Epicenter, with Joel Rosenberg, a podcast of the Joshua Fund, a ministry dedicated to blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. I'm Carl Mueller, executive director of the Joshua Fund and I'm joined by Joel Rosenberg again. Joel, welcome. You're back in Jerusalem and I'm here in the U.S.. It's good to see you again, brother.
- [Joel] It's good to see you, Carl, but you, we picked a very sobering topic for one of the early new podcasts of season two.
- [Carl] Yeah, it's true. We've spoken about this issue before in one of our earlier podcasts, but you've done a new survey and there's some really troubling trend lines that we want to talk about. But you know, some of this is not new. As we said, we've talked about it, but Joel, maybe you could highlight, you know, what this new survey shows and maybe some of the things that are taking place right now, among younger evangelicals, as your survey found out.
- [Joel] Yeah, happy to talk about it, even though-- Not happy, but I'm happy to talk about it because that's what this podcast is about, is trying to understand what in the world is going on, right, with Israel, with her neighbors, with evangelicals who love Israel. And I realize, of course, that not everybody listening to this podcast is an evangelical or even a Christian, but the point is there are some serious troubles, abrewing when it comes to how evangelicals, at least in the United States, look at Israel. Because there's this huge gap between how parents and grandparents look at Israel and the Jewish people and how their children and grandchildren look at Israel and the Jewish people. And you're right, we did talk about this in season one and the reason we did was because if you ask almost any reporter or any academic or any politician, they would say the number one supporters of Israel, at least in the United States, are evangelical Christians. And that's true and it's still true and this new poll confirms that it's true. The problem is that something is not getting transmitted from the older generation to the younger generation and the younger generation is seeing things or hearing things that are troubling them about Israel. And so what we looked at in season one was data from several years ago, that you and I thought were relevant and work because that was the strongest data that we had at the time. I'm part of a coalition of Christian academics and other scholars and authors and ministry leaders, pastors, who have formed something called, The Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem. It's an organization that actually loves Israel and its neighbors. I wouldn't have helped found the Alliance if that wasn't the case, because that's so much part of my and Lynn's theological and personal worldview, and certainly is baked into the DNA of the Joshua Fund. And so I love these men and women because they're super bright, brighter than me, and they are seminary professors and presidents of seminaries and Bible colleges and so forth. Anyway, we did this survey five years ago, but a new survey was taken just last summer, the summer of 2021, and just listen to some of the data. So, in All Israel News, I wrote a series of five columns about this survey in December when it was released, because it was so sobering. I thought I can't deal with it in one article. But I'll only just read a couple lines and pieces of data from one of the articles. Another striking result of the survey is that younger evangelicals are becoming far less supportive of Israel than their parents and grandparents. At the same time, they're becoming far more supportive of the Palestinian cause than older evangelicals. Now, let me pause there just for a moment. You and I have talked about this before. It's not a problem if Christians of any age, any background, anywhere in the world, show compassion and love towards Palestinians, right? That's a good thing.
- [Joel] Yeah, they were made in the image of God. Jesus said to love your neighbor and even if you say, well, they're not your neighbor, they're your enemy. Okay, then love your neighbor and your enemy. That's what Jesus said. As a Jew, walking through what today would be called the West Bank, then was called Judea and Sumeria, these are the biblical heartlands. So, I just want to say upfront, right, that we're not saying, you know, supporting Palestinians is wrong. But what we're looking at is why is there this split? So, here's some specific numbers. Only a combined 12% of younger evangelicals of all races and all backgrounds, 12% say they have support for Israel or a very strong support for Israel. 12%!
- [Joel] Yikes! Now, if you add in younger evangelicals, who say they lean toward supporting Israel, that combined total reaches only 29%. Okay, now, if you take their parents and grandparents, evangelicals that are older than the age of 30, that's the split that we made here. I mean, we took several bands in this new Alliance study, but the short version is if you take the older generation, they're at 56% support for Israel, including the leaners, okay. Now, there's a few more pieces of data, but let me just say this, the 56% number is a problem too. Because--
- [Joel] In 2017, when we released the first Alliance study, that number was around 75%.
- [Carl] Wow.
- [Joel] So the question is, has all evangelical support dropped by 20 points? And most of that comes from the young people, right? If you're down in the less than 30%, then that's where we're seeing the collapse.
- [Carl] Right.
- [Joel] I just want to make a couple of quick points and then you can take me where you want to go, make your own comments. But I made a point in the article in All Israel News, that's important to say here, two different firms did these two different studies, okay. The first one was done in 2017 by Lifeway Research, which is a research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the second more recent survey, was done by two Jewish, not believers in Jesus scholars at the University of North Carolina. Now both firms, both polling units, were retained by the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem, okay, and we really liked these guys at the UNC. So, I'm not making a criticism. I'm just saying it's different. That's first thing, just putting our cards on the table. But the second thing is methodology. The Southern Baptists, what we asked them to do was say, how do you define an evangelical? And the evangelicals were defined if the respondent to the telephone call agreed strongly with four basic points about what an evangelical is. These are the points we made in episode one of season one, "What is an Evangelical". We believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ he is and the only way to God, the only way to heaven. Two, that the Bible is our highest authority for information about who God is and how he wants us to live. Three, that we have an obligation, a responsibility to tell other people that Jesus is the Messiah and that the gospel is the only remedy for sin and the only way to get to heaven. And four, if you don't receive Jesus as the Messiah, then there's a consequence which the Bible calls hell. So, those are the four basic components. Now, if a person in the first survey in 2017 said, yeah, yeah, I strongly agree with all of that, we classified them as an evangelical Christian.
- Sure, sure.
- Okay. In this case, the pollsters just said, how would you describe yourself religiously, this, this, this, this, or this? And evangelical Christian was one of the options. And if a person said, yeah, I'm an evangelical Christian, then they continued on with the study. If they didn't say that, then they were, you know, thank you very much, that's the end of the survey and the the connection was cut. Why is that important? Because you're going to pick up more people who say they're evangelicals in the second version, then maybe actually hold to those four critical and foundational and fundamental views of what an evangelical is. Therefore, you have the risks that you're, you're going to get people who are more liberal, theologically. They're not orthodox in their views, theologically, that could skew the numbers and therefore, let me just wrap up this point to say this, I'm not ready to compare the apples and the oranges. I don't see the way to compare the 2017 data to the current data. So, I'm not going to do that. I am urging people, advising them, let's not compare those two. What the 2017 study showed us was definitely a concern that younger evangelicals didn't see Israel and the Jewish people the same way as their parents, the gap wasn't as big as this current version. But five years later, it could be that we're picking up a collapse, but it could be that we've picked up a wider sample, but it still tells us a lot of very important and frankly, troubling information.
- [Carl] Sure, sure. We'll not to get into any academic survey design and comparisons, but you know, blending and changing methodologies in the mixed of all of the results of a survey is a surefire way to get yourself bad information. However, I think your point is absolutely true with this new survey. There is a gap and there's a troubling consistency between these two surveys, even though they're not the same methodology. And that is that there's a differential, a strong differential between younger evangelicals and older evangelicals. I mean, that's worrisome.
- [Joel] I mean, we talk in modern, you know, secular society about a generation gap. Well, the church definitely has a generation gap on the Israel issue, but as you know, Carl, you're a pastor and a scholar and a, you know, a theologian yourself. This is a bigger issue because we have big gaps on fundamental Judeo-Christian values, on abortion, on marriage, on a range, on the supremacy and sufficiency of scripture. This generation gap is having multiple challenging effects, but Israel is definitely one of those areas.
- [Carl] Well, and you've addressed something that is maybe another topic for another podcast, which is the fruits of some of that root cause do have impacts for evangelicals around the world, thinking and being taught and being preached to about certain positions and theologies, that have impacts for a varied of range of subjects that you just mentioned. But we're talking specifically, about Israel and the way in which your ministry, the Joshua Fund, has, you know, sort of addressed itself to both Israel and Palestinians in the context of we'd love both. We follow what Jesus wants us to do. So we're not saying, and I think your survey is not saying that it's right to support Israel and wrong to support the Palestinians. It's one way or the other. What it is is saying, there's a difference in how evangelicals support Israel and because the way the culture is defining that as an either or not a both and, that could be troubling, that could really cause some problems for Israel. At least that's one of the takeaways that I have, which is as the culture continually defines this as a choice to make, either you support Israel or you support the Palestinians, and the way that becomes so polarized, that's the problem here is that we're seeing a reflection of the polarization, rather than sort of a love for both and a willingness to say, we support the cause of Jesus in this region and want to create, you know, some responses around that.
- [Joel] Two quick points, or I don't know if they're gonna be quick. I hope they're quick. You're right. The first point is that you're right, that the survey itself didn't require of a person to have a position one way or the other. These were two academic scholars, University of North Carolina, super smart guys, Jewish. They don't believe in Jesus, but they're fascinated with where evangelicals come out on these various issues and they just want to know, and we wanted to know. And that's point number one, that the survey itself, didn't take a position. Point number two, however, is I take a position. God does want us to have a great understanding of his love for Israel and the Jewish people. He describes Israel multiple times in the Bible as the apple of his eye. And that's the pupil, right? Think of when Jesus talked about, if you want to take a speck out of your brother's eye, you need to be careful, right? Why don't you first take the log out of your own eye. Coming in and threatening to, you know, put your finger in somebody's eye, even if you're trying to be helpful, people pull back because your eye is one of the most sensitive organs in the body and the idea of somebody else's finger. rough, soft, clean, dirty, you know, with antiseptic, you know, and cleanser, or not like even more than see these days, the need to be gentle. Why? Because it's so valuable. You know? I mean, yes, there are blind people who function by the grace of God, but we generally think of, we can't function if our eyes is messed up. God is saying Israel is so important to me that the language I'm going to explain to the world of why it's so important to me, or how important it is to me, is that it's the apple of my eye. Don't mess with it. Now, it doesn't mean that your eye is always going to be clear. You know, sometimes there's infections, sometimes there's trouble. It doesn't mean that the Bible doesn't speak of Israel making serious mistakes. That's why we needed a Messiah to begin with, right, and why we need redemption, why we need forgiveness. But the apple of my eye, God is saying, this is super central to who I am as the God of the universe and it's super important and it's super sensitive and he goes on to call himself the God of Israel. So, I think it's important and I think that Christians understandably, want to be fair and that means well, does God only love Israel? No, but he really loves Israel and he's using language from Genesis to Revelation, about how much he loves Israel. He even has, you know, the three chapters, which we should do a podcast on all of it, how Paul describes Romans in 9, 10 and 11. He's explaining to the gentile church, look, look, I get it, you're not Jewish I totally get it. But you have to understand how important Israel and the Jewish people are to me, God is saying. So, I don't think it's good to be neutral, but it is important to be compassionate and balanced, theologically. There is a special place in God's heart for Israel, but it's not exclusive. And I think it's important that we say that right upfront.
- [Carl] We've had to take a quick break here right now, but we come back, I want to get into this question of evangelical support for Israel, what it means as evangelicals and what are some of the concerns, not only that we should have for Israel, but that we should have for the evangelical church, when it comes to the results of these surveys. So, we're going to take a quick break right now and we'll get back to that in a second.
- [Joel] Hi, this is Joel Rosenberg. If you've enjoyed this podcast, let us know. Go to joshuafund.com and use the "contact us" form to provide feedback. Likewise, if you like this podcast to continue, you can donate through our giving page and you can find that link in the upper right hand corner at joshuafund.com.
- [Carl] Joel, we're back and I just want us to take a pause for a second here, cause you know, we've done a podcast on the idea of what does it mean to be a chosen people and, and I think you did an excellent job of pointing out about how, you know, God's word, you know, centralizes Israel and how it prioritizes Israel in many ways. God's apple of his eye, that we need to be concerned about how we view Israel, and this survey that we've been talking about has some very troubling elements in relationship to that. So, just elaborate a little bit more, if you will, on what it means for evangelicals as we see this support for Israel declining? What does it mean, like you said, for some of our understanding of what Paul wrote in Romans in various other parts of the New Testament?
- [Joel] Happy to do it, yeah. And let's recap just for people just coming into this moment on the podcast. We found that only 12% in this new survey, just taken in 2021 and released in December, that only 12% of evangelical Christians under the age of 30, say they strongly support the nation of Israel. And if you add people who lean, like, I guess I support somewhat, I don't know, you get up to 30%, roughly 29%. So, that's a problem and it's half the number of the parents and grandparents. So, that is a problem. Take a few other just, I think factoids here, which I think are worth noting. If you ask younger evangelicals, well, okay, only 12% of you support Israel, but do you support the Palestinian cause? 45.4% say they support the Palestinian cause. Four times more young evangelicals support Palestinian cause than the Israeli cause, okay. Four times more. That's stunning. By contrast, older evangelicals, those age 30 and older, you know, the parents and the grandparents as it were, only 12.3% of older evangelicals say they support the Palestinian cause. Now again, the pollsters used the word cause right, rather than the Palestinian people, right. So, compassion, well, I support the Palestinian people. I love the Palestinian people and I've gotten to know many. Yes, there are Palestinians just like there are Israelis, where I'm like, mm, not so fond of, but as Christians we have to, we're supposed to, we're commanded to love them. But the passion cause is a theological position. It's a political position. It's a geopolitical position. The pollsters are basically pitting one side or the other, which side are you on? And young people, young evangelical under 30, are saying four times more were for the Palestinians and their cause, politically, theologically, than we are for Israelis. The reason Gaza War recent, at least when we're recording this, it was about eight months, seven, eight months ago, in May of 2021, just a few thoughts and then I think it'll become clear what the effect of this is. if you extrapolate this out five years, 10 years, 15, 20 years. Only 31% of evangelicals under the age of 30 said that they sided with Israel during the war. Now, 26% of younger evangelicals said they sided with the Palestinians. So, that's interesting because by a slight margin of five points, younger evangelicals in the United States said they supported Israel a little bit more than the percentage that supported the Palestinians. Again, I think this is a challenging set of questions because the pollsters didn't dive into, okay, why? So, here's another number that I think is worth noting, which is 36% of younger evangelicals said they didn't take either side. No, I'm, I'm not for either side. Older evangelicals, 38%, said they weren't for either side. And I didn't go through the numbers, but older evangelicals were much more supportive of Israel during the war and much less supportive of the Palestinians. Now, again, I'm not being critical of my colleagues who designed this particular survey. I wasn't involved in the formulating of the questions, but you, I think it's important at some point you you'd want to say, well, there's a difference between do you support the Hamas cause, right, that's the terrorist organization that runs the Gaza Strip, or do you support the Israeli cause? Because supporting a terrorist organization is very different. The Palestinian people, who are suffering in Gaza, who are under the tyranny of the terrorists of Hamas and Islamic jihad and a few other terror groups, I totally support the Palestinians of Gaza. I pray for them. I want them to be liberated. But just to be clear, Israel doesn't control or occupy Gaza, Hamas does. And there's lots of poll-- We'll do another. We should get an Palestinian pollster on here to talk about how Palestinians see Hamas. In Gaza, they hate Hamas because Hamas is the oppressors of the people. So, now if you extrapolate this out, your question is, what's the effect of this? If young people who say they love Jesus and say they love the Bible and say they're evangelicals, If they're turning away from support for Israel, even in a war time situation, which is why I'm bringing this up. You know, even in war you like, no, no I don't support them or, you know, that becomes a problem for lots of reasons. One of which of course, is political, and we don't really talk about partisan politics here, but there is a general issue of the United States alliance, strategic alliance, with the state of Israel is strong because of the Christian community support for Israel. In other words, people in the White House or on Capitol Hill and the house and the senate, as well as in the, you know, the governor's houses and the legislatures, they are passing legislation and passing funding and other, you know, supplying military equipment and missile defenses and all these other things for Israel, with Israel, because they strongly support Israel. Now, that's true of the leaders. I mean, of the individual politicians in question, but it's also true because in their state, in their districts are many, many strong devout followers of Jesus Christ, who love Israel and are telling their elected representatives you need to do that too. It's very hard to get elected in the United States, in most districts and most states, if you hate Israel or you've turned against Israel. And the Jewish community, you know, we think of, you know, well, many people think of the Jewish community as well, this is the backbone of pro Israel support. You would think that. But if you look at polling about the Jewish community, American Jews are very split about Israel and more importantly, even if every single Jewish person in America was passionate about Israel and they're not all, it's very split, but even if they were, this is 2% of the American population, okay. Evangelical Christians are roughly about 60-70 million, if you just generally ask people, are you an evangelical and how do you vote? If you ask them specifically, those four questions about, do you believe these things, that's maybe 40-45 million. Okay, so there's a gap in that. But the point is if that population, which overwhelmingly has supported Israel for the last 75 years or so, if those numbers start to slide or collapse, you're going to start seeing people elected to the house, to the senate, to governor's mansions, to state legislatures, and to the presidency, who are not supporters of Israel. And again, not making partisan points here. I'm not trying to tell you the democrats this, the republicans that, but I'm going to give you an example, just so that people hear. Bernie Sanders is Jewish, right? He's the senator from Vermont, Jewish, independent. He sides with the democrats, which is as an example, he has strong reservations, let's say, and sharp, sharp criticisms of Israel up to and including, often voting against funding for Israeli missile defense systems or other weapons system. So you'd say, well, he's Jewish. Doesn't he love Israel? Well, I'm not going to get into his definition of whether he does or he doesn't. I'm just saying, how does he vote? Now, the bigger concern longer term, even than the political support for Israel, of course would be, does the church love, pray for and support our brothers and sisters in the land of Israel, as well as in the region and support the need for every person in this land of Israel, to at least hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and understand it enough to be able to make a decision for Jesus as the Messiah or against him? But Paul is adamant, adamant in the first chapter of Romans, Romans 1:16, that we cannot be ashamed. He isn't and he doesn't want anyone else to be ashamed of the gospel, because it's the power of God for salvation from hell, for everyone who believes to the Jew first and also for the Greek or to the gentile. So, if support for Israel and love for Israel in the Jewish people collapses within the American evangelical community, it's far more significant than Israel not having American military, diplomatic, financial and political support, which would isolate Israel in a world of very hostile enemies, right? But it also, that collapse would also create an environment where fewer people were praying for, financially investing in, standing with our brothers and sisters, who want to make sure that every Jewish person in Israel and around the world at least, has a chance to make a decision because they've heard the gospel and then they can make their own free choice. But if they had never heard, Paul says, how are they going to believe? And if nobody tells them, how are they going to hear? And if nobody sends and funds and encourages and prays for those people, well then how is someone going to go tell? And what about the Israeli believers, themselves? What if no one's standing with them? Anyways, these are the implications, not just for the American evangelical church, but for the global evangelical church. But of course, we're talking about the Americans 'cause that's the survey data that we have.
- [Carl] Right, well, you know, it is one of these things, and most Americans will acknowledge that our experience with polls is usually about politics. You know, there are other subjects, obviously every subject out there, but most Americans come to see polls and think about these things. But, you know, let's boil this down for everybody, for you know, a little bit at the end of this podcast, as we kind of analyze the analysis. We want to talk about the challenges that we're facing right now, that these are real. We want to bring them to a point of, you know, where everybody listening has parents or children or grandparents, and some of the things, you know, maybe at their churches or schools, that they're hearing and that they're dealing with, you know, these are big concerns. And how do we actually take this information at home and say what's the difference between older generation views on Israel and younger generation views? And how can we begin to look at some of that and understand it from the perspective of, you know, of the older generation that has traditionally, as in the evangelical world, supported Israel? What are some of the implications for that, as you see it?
- [Joel] Well, I think there's several things. Let me break it out into two different pieces. First, is why do older evangelicals believe differently than their young people? And then also, what is the cause of why these young people don't see Israel the way their parents and grandparents see it? So a couple of things. So, why to older evangelicals, you know, sadly, I now am apparently an older evangelical, though I'm technically in the split, right? I'm 54 and so I've got, you know, a good 30 year chunk of, you know, swath of people younger than me coming into their adulthood, and then I got maybe another 30 years of people above me. So, I'm probably the mid range. Think about our parents and grandparents. They were born into a world in which Israel did not exist and as a result of Israel not existing, of there not being a sovereign Jewish state that had an army and a navy and an air force and all of the things that it would need to defend itself, we had the Holocaust. 6 million Jews were murdered in a four or five-year period and almost nobody came to their aid until the last possible moment. The 6 million people in the Jewish community, that was one of a three Jews in the world was exterminated, liquidated, murdered and many put into gas chambers and ovens by Adolf Hitler and his henchmen. That's what the world looks like if Israel doesn't exist. Because people hate Israel anyway. The only question is we've had antisemitism from the beginning of Israel and the Bible is filled with stories of people trying to not just attack Israel, but annihilate Israel. Read the book of Esther. The word annihilate comes up a few times because this Persian regime decides no, we're not just angry at the Jewish people. We want to liquidate them and there wasn't a state of Israel that could fight back. So, that's one of the implications of a world without an Israel and many of our grandparents and great-grandparents, they remember that world. Some of them fought to defeat Hitler and of course the Imperial Japanese, as well, and they lived at what I call, the seam, a prophetic era in which Israel did not exist as a sovereign nation state and then on May 14th, 1948, became a sovereign nation state and then had to survive the attacks, the relentless attacks of Israel's enemies and its neighbors. So, and the podcasts that we did to kick off season two with John MacArthur, I thought that was so fascinating Carl, I'm so glad we did that and I'm encouraged by the response people are giving to it and I want to see many, many more people listen to it because he was alive before Israel was reborn. And, and we talked to him about, what did your parents teach you? What did your grandparents teach you? He comes from a, he's the 5th generation of pastors in the MacArthur line and he talked about his grandfather writing a tract about how God loved the Jewish people. He loved the Jewish people in the nation of Israel so much, Israel is going to come back as an sovereign nation state. The man wrote it in the 1800s, well, before it actually happened in 1948. So, the miracle of seeing Israel come into being, you know, there's like the miracle of a baby being born. You know, the Bible says, can a nation be born in a day? Apparently the answer is yes, May 14th, 1948, but then came 1967 in June. I was only two months old, so I didn't really see it, but when Israel was surrounded by enemies again, and Gamal Abdel Nasser, the tyrant of Egypt at the time, said we're going to throw all the Jews into the sea. We're going to attack and then we're going to throw all the Jews in the sea. In other words, we're going to kill them all. Everybody thought that was going to happen and the world of media at that point, was saturating coverage on this moment and in six days of the Six Day War, Israel miraculously won and on the seventh day, they rested. This even more than '48, was an electric shock to the Christian world who went, whoa, what is happening? Maybe we didn't pay attention for the first 20 years or so of Israel's existence, but we're paying attention now. Right, and so that sense of God is on the side of these people. They don't believe in Jesus. We don't agree with them on every issue, whatever, but God is with these people and he's prophetically rebuilding a country from scratch and against all odds. That was exciting to Christians, our parents, our grandparents, our great grandparents. And so that carried along for a long time, with a strong love for Israel, in a sense that God is with these people and we need to be with them too.
- [Carl] Well, and I want to ask one last question that we've dealt with some really dark realities, and we want to deal with some hopeful realities, but I do want to, you know, give your thoughts on ways that we can address this question. You know, the philosopher Santayana said, that those that forget history are doomed to repeat it and you know, that's often cited about the Holocaust and I think rightfully so. For many in our world today would want to deny that the Holocaust took place and so therefore, you know, puts--
- [Joel] Or that it could never happen again.
- [Carl] Yeah, it could never happen again. And it's because of that denial of historical facts and the lack of teaching about history on this way, what are some of the implications for a church that no longer teaches about the unique story of Israel's refounding, as you just said, and the biblical significance and connection of that?
- [Joel] Well, let me be clear, Carl, I think a person can be a devout and sincere born-again follower of Jesus Christ and not have any understanding of God's love and heart and plan for Israel and the Jewish people.
- [Carl] Many, sure.
- [Joel] Let me say that again so that it's clear. I believe that a person can be a devout, faithful, born-again follower of Jesus Christ, going to heaven, saved from their sins and not understand why God loves Israel, that he loved Israel, or what that means, why that's important. And I think there are sincere Christians, I meet them all over the United States and all over the world, who just don't see it. I don't want to be pejorative. It sounds a little bit that way, or they just don't get it. But by their own definition, I've had major pastors and theologians say to me, I don't think there's anything biblically significant or prophetic about the current, modern nation state of Israel. You know, I don't hate them, but I don't really think it's a thing. You know, it's not important to me. So they're not, they're still believers in Jesus. They're still saved. They just don't understand this major element of why God says that he's the God of Israel, that he's the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that Israel and the Jewish people, Israel as a nation state, but also as an ethnic group, this is the apple of his eye. That's kind of important, right? The apple of your eyes is important. The apples of my eyes are important. So, but if a church doesn't see it, there's really two possibilities. Well, there's probably more, but let's just say two to close the program. One possibility is that the pastor just never brings it up. Right. I know pastors who I've had long conversations with them about Israel and they just don't see it as a thing. The current Israel, they say, is they don't see it's biblically prophetic or anything like that, but they love the Jewish people. They believe that you should support the Jewish people. They believe you should pray for the Jewish people, that you should tell Jewish people, like everybody else in the world, about Jesus and about the gospel. And so this is a benign misunderstanding, right? It doesn't have any immediately obvious negative effects. Okay, but that's of the pastor. What you don't know is if you're not teaching something that's so clear, the scripture, that God has a unique and specific love for Israel and the Jewish people. What about the person in the church who has been raised in an antisemitic environment, neighborhood, school, home, or is reading, you know, things that are antisemitic or, you know, hostile to Israel and what if nobody's correcting that? Right, so a shepherd is responsible for what the sheep eat, and if you're not feeding healthy food, which Paul described as the whole counsel of God, you're going to have unhealthy sheep. Now, it may not immediately turn into a bunch of, you know, a church of antisemites. I'm not saying that, but it can and if you look at the world of the church in Germany, that's a different program and you know, you would be better to lead that discussion and maybe we bring in a scholar, maybe Eric Metaxas or somebody, to talk about what happens when a church doesn't get the Jewish people in Israel, because what happened to the Lutheran Church in Germany, it seemed like, well, that's not a big deal. There's no Israel around. There's no, what's the problem? The problem came when a dictator named Adolf Hitler, rose and said, let's kill all the Jews. Then the church had no moral compass on this issue and was mostly silent. So, that's a problem. It's a huge problem. It's a real world problem. We're not talking theory. We're talking, you know, we're talking recent history. So, that's one. But the other, you know, significant problem, is if the pastor or theologian or bible college president or seminary leader, whatever, really starts becoming hostile towards Israel, then he or she is proactively doing false teaching and now is purposely feeding the sheep a poisonous diet. That's going to have implications. We've said it before in this program, in this podcast, and we're going to keep saying it, bad theology leads to bad consequences. And it's something we have to take very, very seriously. This is not about you and I saying, oh, I wouldn't want everyone to join APAC, The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or everybody should join CUFI, The Christians United for Israel. We're not rallying people in this podcast to political involvement for Israel. That's, I think in my view personally, an acceptable, you know, avenue of supporting Israel, but it's by far not the only, and the church really has to think in a 360 way. What does blessing Israel really mean? What does God mean when he wants us to bless Israel and the last, oh, I guess point three, I have to say it, is a church that isn't focusing on the love of Israel and the Jewish people is missing the blessing of Genesis 12, which is where I should have started, because the entire organization of the Joshua Fund is based on educating and mobilizing Christians to bless Israel and her neighbors, according to Genesis 12:1-3, which is the Abrahamic covenant, which is if those who bless you, speaking of Israel and the Jewish people, God says, I will bless, and those who curse you, I will curse.
- [Carl] Well, Joel, I am so glad you brought that up and I'm so glad you continue to unpack so many of these issues that that would escape our analysis if we didn't stop for a moment and just really pause and look at this question, not through a political or a social lens, or even sort of a historical lens, but really through the theology of the evangelical church in America and how we can view the epicenter. I love your word that you've shared before. When Jesus talks about love, he talks about love for Israel. God talks about that throughout scripture. He talks about love for the neighbors, if you will, of Israel, those countries immediately surrounding and other things. But as you've also pointed out, Jesus calls us to love not only Israel and the neighbors, but our enemies, the enemies of those in Israel. So, loving is a hallmark of evangelicals, loving the way Jesus did and that isn't a political statement whatsoever. That is a biblical statement. And Joel, I want to thank you, thank you, thank you. This has been a sobering, but necessary and important conversation. Perhaps one of the most important ones. We've already talked about some of the many avenues that we can go down in this road, but in our next podcast, I really want us to focus in and hone in on hope. You know, the gospel message is good news. We need to get good news into people's hearts and hope into people's hearts, through this this message as well.
- [Joel] Yeah and I will just note that as we talk in the next episode, hope is not only the gospel, meaning salvation, there is hope for how do you educate the next generations of believers on lots of different issues and particularly, God's heart for Israel and the Jewish people. So, this is a very practical next program we're going to talk about.
- [Carl] Yeah, thanks, Joel. And again, to all our listeners, thank you. If you found this podcast valuable, if you loved what we talked about, if you challenged by what we talked about, please get in touch with us and let us know who you are. We need to know that because it helps us formulate how we respond to the questions and the concerns that you have. If you want to talk to us about any subject, just ask us a question. You can go to joshuafund.com and click on "contact us". Feedback from you is incredibly important and valuable, as we continue to develop this growing podcast and as always, check out the show notes for anything you heard on the podcast you'd like more information on, specifically the survey we've just referenced. All of that data that we talked about is there, please go back to it and then re-listen to what we've talked about on this podcast and tune in for the next podcast, where we talk further about the implications for the survey on evangelical support for Israel. For Joel Rosenberg, I'm Carl Mueller. Thanks for listening to this episode of Inside the Epicenter with Joel Rosenberg.