I recently wrote a critical review of Ed Stetzer’s April USA Today column, in which he argued that people not jump to conclusions about Muslims. I then phoned his office (Stetzer is president of LifeWay Research, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention) to ask about another issue.
The guy called me back.
some of us are now hopeful that Ed Stetzer’s example will sprinkle some courage dust on others to be forthcoming about musings they put in print
Now, to put this in context, I add weekly to a list of people who won’t talk to me publicly. In other words, American evangelical leaders (okay, some are outright members of the Religious Left) who either wish to engage in interfaith dialogue with Muslims, or seemingly act as PR spokesmen for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Others are embracing and mainstreaming the Palestinian narrative, as uttered by Sami Awad.
I investigate and write about such things.
Regrettably, a whole host of people who make public statements, hold seminars, give presentations, and blog about the need to build bridges to Muslims and who opine about the Arab-Israeli conflict (It’s the Occupation, Stupid)…seem to shrink from elaborating or giving clarification.
The most egregious example, in my view, is the infamous November 19, 2012 blog post from Blue Like Jazz author Donald Miller. Titled “The Painful Truth About the Situation in Israel,” Miller’s weird rant reads like an Islamic Jihad press release. Get a load of this:
“But no conflict like this has a single side. We spent much of our time in the West Bank, interviewing Palestinian leaders. The stories we heard were heartbreaking. We had dinner with a woman whose mother was killed by Israeli guards after placing a rose on a tank. She was gunned down while sitting with her husband on their front porch later that week. We met with the assistant to the mayor of Bethlehem, a Christian man whose twelve-year-old daughter was killed sitting in the backseat of the family car while driving through an Israeli checkpoint.”
So according to Miller, roving bands of IDF troops slaughter Arab women…why? He is accusing Israeli troops of murdering Palestinians and not a single evangelical leader in America—so far as I know—has called him on it. Miller’s accusations of IDF troops shooting and otherwise abusing defenseless Palestinians go on through cyberspace and are believed by many who don’t know better.
(As an aside, notice that Miller says his advocacy group interviewed Palestinian leaders. Note to Donald: you’re being played, son.)
To date, Miller has provided zero documentation for his blood libels. I’ve contacted his office more than once. And, as of three minutes ago, he is still claiming that Israel rations food in Gaza!
Big Daddy, is this mendacity or simple Western gullibility? We can’t know, because the cat’s got Donald’s tongue.
And last fall, after hearing Lynne Hybels’ one-sided presentation of the Arab-Israeli conflict (“We Belong to Each Other: Americans, Israelis and Palestinians for Peace”) at Catalyst East, I asked to interview her. She initially agreed, after clearing her schedule. Recently, however, I was told by an assistant that there isn’t time for an interview.
I just think that people who set themselves up as public figures should answer when asked why they sell PLO propaganda to churches door-to-door.
I am still hopeful that Mae Cannon of World Vision will have time for an interview. Rich Stearns doesn’t. And, after reading an article by a Southern Baptist pastor who provided some detail about Dr. Russell Moore’s views of Israel, I contacted the office of the newly installed president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and asked if he could clarify his views.
The reason this kind of thing is a big deal is that a growing number of evangelical leaders have either theological or political (or both) issues with Israel. Some of them are disseminating false information about the Jewish state and/or her supporters, like Christian Zionists. Recently, I’ve noticed that emerging leaders such as Jonathan Martin, Gabe Lyons, and Andy Braner are cozying up to Palestinian apologists.
This is a fascinating cultural shift in the American church.
The leadership of Catalyst, by the way, also has made it clear that from time to time, they will give a platform to the Palestinian narrative, but it’s also clear that No Zionists Need Apply. For example (and this is just my silly idea), if Hybels is given a stage to harp on “the occupation,” why not give equal time to, say, David Brog of Christians United for Israel? Or perhaps Paul Wilkinson or Susan Michael?
I tried to ask Catalyst chief Brad Lomenick—four times—why he invited Palestinian supporter and radical leftist Cornel West to address 13,000 pastors and other evangelical leaders at the 2011 Catalyst East event.
Brad doesn’t have time to reply.
Ed Stetzer, though—LifeWay Research, author, pastor, speaker—is the one shining example of someone willing to stand and dialogue.
The real reason that I inquired of Ed Stetzer had to do with a blog he wrote some time back in which he referred to Jesus as a “Palestinian Jew.” Look, I know that various ethnic groups wish to “claim” Jesus as their own. Depending on where you are, He is either depicted as looking like Isaac Hayes or Reinhard Heydrich, but the truth is, Jesus was born and lived as a Jew in first-century Judea.
Not “Palestine,” a name given to the region by the Romans a century later. The apostles knew as much about “Palestine” as they did Milwaukee.
I don’t think it’s fair to give details of a private conversation, especially since Stetzer was cordial. We had a frank discussion about the Palestinian angle and that’s that.
But I want to make the point that Ed Stetzer is a stand-up guy for responding. He didn’t hide behind an assistant’s email; he picked up the phone and called. He isn’t a coward. He deserves a great deal of credit for being forthcoming. I can’t emphasize enough how impressive I think that is.
In fact, I think this is a model of reasonable dialogue that mature adults can choose to have. Someone might not agree with my worldview regarding the Jews and Israel, but we can openly discuss it. I didn’t agree with Ed Stetzer’s USA Today piece, but by golly, we talked about it. The reason we talked about it is because Stetzer was willing to do it.
He’s a busy guy and all that and yet he “showed the way” for others—some of whom think issues like this will just go away.
I can promise you they won’t go away. We will continue to investigate and report on the gargantuan story of PLO propaganda (“Israel’s ‘Apartheid Wall’ Completely Encircles Bethlehem.” Et cetera.) infiltrating American churches.
In the meantime, some of us are now hopeful that Ed Stetzer’s example will sprinkle some courage dust on others to be forthcoming about musings they put in print.
And I’m really jazzed about that.