August 18, 2014

​Evangelical Leaders will Travel to Israel to Signal Their Support

 ©2014 Religion News Service

Several high-profile evangelical leaders will travel
to Israel next week as a part of the “Christians in Solidarity with
Israel” trip put together by the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) in
response to the most recent conflict in Gaza.

The August 17-22 trip will include Anne Graham
Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham and president of AnGeL Ministries; Tony Perkins,
president of the Family Research Council; and Richard Land, president of
Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, North Carolina.

“My prayer is that God’s people in this country
and around the world would intercede for heaven’s involvement in Israel,
that God would defend and protect her from her enemies,” said Lotz.

The NRB is a large umbrella group for Christian
communicators involved mostly in radio and television. Its annual
conference attracts thousands, and it bills itself as the “world’s largest
annual gathering of Christian media professionals.”

The trip will emphasize American Christians’
steadfast support for Israel, said Perkins of the Family Research Council. “For
a large number of Christians, there are two primary reasons to support Israel.
We have the Jewish people to thank for our faith and we are instructed in
Scripture not only to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, but are told that those
who bless Israel will be blessed,” Perkins said in a statement.

“Secondly, it is in the national security
interest of the U.S. to support Israel. To abridge our commitment to the state
of Israel would be an act of hostility not just to the Jewish state but would
do damage to our own vital interests.”

While Richard Land, formerly head of the
Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, will
join the trip, his successor, Russell Moore, is not listed as a

The trip will include popular Bible teacher Kay
Arthur, Richard Bott of Bott Radio Network and Chelsen Vicari from the
Institute on Religion & Democracy. It will be led by NRB President and CEO
Jerry A. Johnson.

There’s no question that Israel holds a special
place for older evangelicals in ways that go beyond politics. Earlier this
summer, megachurch pastor John Hagee held a summit using theology to
support Israel.

Still, some are worried over how younger
evangelicals might be shifting on Israel. Earlier this year, David Brog
from Hagee’s Christians United for Israel warned that young evangelicals
were turning against Israel. Others say evangelicals are not turning against
Israel but may be more sympathetic than in the past to a Palestinian

Younger evangelicals in particular may not view
Israel the way their parents did, wrote Dale Hanson Bourke, author of “The
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”

“Most evangelicals older than 50 grew up in
churches that taught some form of dispensationalism, a theology that views Jews
as God’s chosen people, Israel as the land promised to them, and the second
coming of Christ tied to Jews returning to Israel,” Bourke wrote.
“Dispensationalism has fallen out of fashion in many evangelical circles and is
no longer taught in many seminaries or from pulpits.”

It’s difficult to measure long-term support for
Israel among evangelicals. Findings from the Pew Research Center, though,
suggest that it has remained relatively stable in the past five years.