The Common Good

Stassen and Gushee: An Open Letter to Christian Zionists

israelNOTE TO READERS: As Palestine applies for membership to the United Nations, frequent Sojourners contributors Glen Stassen and David Gushee have penned An Open Letter to Christian Zionists. The full text of Stassen and Gushee's letter can be found HERE or HERE, and is excerpted below.

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We are strong supporters of Israel.

David's first book was Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust and I [Glen] accepted the B'Nai B'rith award for support for Israel on behalf of my father.

This summer, we brought 50 students to Israel and Palestine to study just peacemaking there. We were moved by what we saw and by the people we talked with. We saw Israeli settlements and bypass roads consuming the land that would belong to any viable Palestinian state.

American Christian Zionism is pushing the U.S. government to support Israeli policies that our international friends find immoral and illegal.

We have come to believe that Christian Zionism underwrites theft of Palestinian land and oppresses Palestinian people, helps create the conditions for an explosion of violence, and pushes US policy in a destructive direction that violates our nation's commitment to universal human rights.

We write as evangelical Christians committed to Israel's security. We worry about your support for policies that violate biblical warnings about injustice and may lead to the destruction of Israel.

We have come to know and love Nazareth and Bethlehem, Capernaum and Cana, and the shore of the Sea of Galilee and Jerusalem. Those are the very places where Jesus walked.

As students of the long and terrible history of Christian anti-Semitism, which culminated in the horrors of the Holocaust, we have a strong sense of Christian kinship with the Jewish people and their historic homeland.

Genesis 15:18 reads: "On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, 'To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,...'"

That territory includes modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, half of Iraq, half of Egypt, parts of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories. This verse cannot mean all that land belongs only to Israel, because then the population will be 90 percent Arab, and Israel will be an Arab country.

The next verse names the various peoples to whom the land belonged. Genesis 15:4-5 and 17:4 promise Abraham that his descendants will be a multitude of nations, as numerous as the stars of the heavens. The land belongs to Arabs and Christians as well as Israelis.

The promise to possess the land includes the offspring of Isaac, and the offspring of Isaac includes Esau, with his five Edomite sons and their offspring, and that includes multitudes of Canaanites (Gen. 17:19, 28:6-9, and chapter 36).

Christians are called to be peacemakers (Mt 5:9), but by offering uncritical support of current Israeli policies you are actively inflaming the Middle East toward war.

We plead with you, our brothers and sisters, to find a more biblical way to love Israel, prodding it to support justice for the Palestinian people, many of whom are our fellow Christians, and thus peace for Israel.

Glen Stassen is the Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and author of Living the Sermon on the Mount: A Practical Hope for Grace and Deliverance.

Dr. David P. Gushee, is the Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and president of Evangelicals for Human Rights.

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