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Evangelical Christianity’s Changing Demographics Bode Well for Israel

July 13 2017

In the 21st century, evangelical Christians have come to constitute the world’s fastest-growing religious group; if current trends continue, they will outnumber Catholics and possibly even Muslims in a few decades. The movement’s growth corresponds to a shift in its center of gravity; a majority of evangelicals now come from Asia, Africa, and Latin America rather than the U.S. Given that evangelical Christianity tends to encourage a positive attitude toward Jews and the Jewish state, argues Jürgen Bühler, this change could be especially significant for Israel:

One factor that unites evangelicals across the world, whether in the Amazonian rainforests, the Niger delta, or in Chinese cities is a great love of Israel. . . . The rapid increase in the number of evangelicals may turn these countries into strategic allies for Israel, as they are becoming a significant part of the general population. In Brazil, between 26 and 30 percent of the citizens are evangelicals. In Guatemala, more than 40 percent. In Uganda, 37 percent. In Nigeria, 40 percent. Even in Muslim Indonesia, 12 percent of the population are evangelicals. Their number in China is estimated at around 100 million.

Already today, this phenomenon has political and diplomatic influence that aids Israel, both at the national level and in international organizations like the UN—and this influence is set to increase in the coming years. For instance, the previous president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, ordered the state’s representatives in the UN not to support the vote on recognizing the Palestinian Authority as a state, due to pressure from the evangelical community in his country.

Even countries with a small evangelical community play a significant role in support for Israel. The International Christian Embassy in the Czech Republic, for instance, played a decisive role in promoting a decision by the country’s parliament, adopted a few weeks ago, which recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—an unprecedented move in Europe. In addition, the activity of the International Christian Embassy in Muslim countries in West Africa has led to a moving-together between their governments and Israel in recent times.

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The Evangelical Revolution: Israel’s Most Important Strategic Asset

 

This piece was first published on the Hebrew-language website Mida on June 28, 2017 rendered into English by Avi Woolf, and republished here with permission. The original article can be found by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.

The dramatic increase in the number of evangelicals around the world is set to greatly strengthen international support for the state of the Jewish people.

The last few decades have seen evangelical Christianity become the religious denomination with the most rapid growth rates in the world. It is set to surpass Catholicism, and perhaps even Islam, in a few decades. The most significant growth rates, however, are not in cities like Wurttemberg, Geneva, London, Dallas, or Nashville, but places like Manila, Lagos, Beijing, and Sao Paolo. This means a dramatic change in the demographic landscape of the Christian world, in which the average Christian is no longer a white European or North American; most evangelicals today are Asian, Africans, or residents of Latin America. This has enormous significance for Israel.

To understand why this is so important for Israel, we need to look at the past. This year we mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, and 70 years since the UN voted to establish Israel. Many of those who supported the state of Israel did so because of their strong evangelical Christian faith. Lord Balfour, a devout Christian, believed in the return of the Jewish people to its biblical homeland, and for this reason acted to advance the declaration that bears his name. Herzl made much use of William Hechler, the reverend of the British Embassy in Vienna, who helped him meet the German Kaiser. People like Orde Wingate and John Patterson, British officers who helped Zionist cause, did so as Christians answering the historic and prophetic call in the holy scriptures and standing by the state-in-the-making.

To understand evangelism, we need to go even further back, to an event we are marking this year: the 500th anniversary of the Christian Reformation. Although Martin Luther cannot be considered a friend of the Jews, the Christian Reformation did much to shape Christianity in the modern era, and paved the way for today’s evangelical churches.

The effect of the Bible’s translation into vernacular languages was multiplied by the invention of print; within a few decades, the Bible was within reach of every Christian in Europe. Luther explained to the masses that every one of them was created by God and could understand the Bible himself. In this way, he limited the power of the heads of the church—the priests and bishops—and the religious leadership. When Christians started to study the Bible on their own, they discovered three basic truths. First, that Christianity derives from Judaism, that the Old and New Testaments were written by Jews, and that even Jesus was a Jew. Second, that God forged a covenant with the Jewish people and promised to restore them in the future to their ancient homeland. Third, that the Bible forbade persecuting the Jewish people, even if they don’t share the Christian faith; moreover, God told Abraham “I will bless those who bless you.” We received scripture from the Jews, and we believe in the same God.

 

We can point to two fundamental facts about modern evangelism. The first is its commitment to support and even love for Israel and the Jewish people. Evangelical Christianity is thus distinguished from historical Christianity in this manner. One factor which unites evangelicals across the world, whether in the Amazonian rainforests, the Niger delta, or in Chinese cities is a great love of Israel. In fact, in many of the countries experiencing an increase in the number of evangelicals, there is no history of anti-Semitism, as Christianity only began emerging recently in these countries.

A second fact is the demographic changes in these countries. The rapid increase in the number of evangelicals may turn these countries into strategic allies for Israel, as they are becoming a significant part of the general population. In Brazil, between 26 and 30 percent of the citizens are evangelicals. In Guatemala, more than 40 percent. In Uganda, 37 percent. In Nigeria, 40 percent. Even in Muslim Indonesia, 12 percent of the population are evangelicals. Their number in China is estimated at around 100 million.

Already today, this phenomenon has political and diplomatic influence that aids Israel, both at the national level and in international organizations like the UN—and this influence is set to increase in the coming years. For instance, the previous president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, ordered the state’s representatives in the UN not to support the vote on recognizing the Palestinian Authority as a state, due to pressure from the evangelical community in his country.

Even countries with a small evangelical community play a significant role in support for Israel. The International Christian Embassy in the Czech Republic, for instance, played a decisive role in promoting a decision by the country’s parliament, adopted a few weeks ago, which recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—an unprecedented move in Europe. In addition, the activity of the International Christian Embassy in Muslim countries in West Africa has led to a moving-together between their governments and Israel in recent times.

Above all, of course, evangelicals are identified with the United States. Donald Trump was elected in no small part due to the support of the evangelicals. Despite the fact that he has yet to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, he is still the present Israeli government’s most faithful partner. One can certainly detect evangelical pressure on this issue.

Another country worthy of mention is Iran, Israel’s bitterest enemy. Not many know that the land of the ayatollahs has seen an enormous increase in evangelicals. Since the revolution of the 1970s, the number of evangelicals in the Islamic Republic grew tenfold every decade—from a few thousand in the 1980s to millions today. Many of those Christians today pray daily for Israel.

Our main challenge as Christian leaders is to unite the rapidly growing forces around the world and use them for significant support of Israel.

The author is president of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, the largest Christian-Zionist body in the world. The article is part of his lecture at the Herzliya Conference.

Read more at Mida

More about: Christian Zionism, Evangelical Christianity, Israel & Zionism, Jewish-Christian relations

 

Why Israeli Arabs Should Drop Their Political Parties

Sept. 20 2017

Even as Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy rights, freedoms, and economic opportunities unrivaled in the Arab world, their political leadership is more intent on undermining the Jewish state than on serving their actual interests. Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister, comments. (Free registration may be required.)

[T]he Knesset members of the [Arab] Joint List have nothing but criticism for Israel and praise for its enemies, be they Iran, President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, or Palestinian terrorists. . . . Although spanning the ideological spectrum from Communism (aside from the North Koreans, the only Communists still around), the Muslim Brotherhood (called the Islamic Movement in Israel), and Baathists (the Balad party), they are united in their hatred of Israel. Naturally, they do not call for Arab integration into Israeli society.

Those who oppose the polygamy rampant in the Arab community oppose Israeli measures to curb it. Those who are against the abuse of women and so-called honor killings think these are “local problems” that should be handled by the Arabs themselves. Nor do they want the Israel police to handle the crime running wild in Israel’s Arab towns. Keep Israel out of your lives, is their common motto. They oppose young Arabs volunteering for either military or civilian national service. . . .

Within Israel’s Arab community there is a struggle between those who insist on rejecting everything Israel stands for while supporting its enemies and those who want to integrate into Israeli society and take advantage of the opportunities it offers. . . . Can Israel’s Arabs become a beacon of democracy and modernity for the Arab world, or will they provide proof that Arabs are not yet prepared to enter the 21st century? . . .

[E]ach year, growing numbers of young Arabs volunteer for national service and join the ranks of Israel’s military and police. At the moment, the only way this trend can express itself politically is for these individuals to drop their support for the Joint List in favor of Israel’s existing political parties, and for these parties to welcome Arabs into their ranks.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli politics, Joint List