A friend of mine pointed out on his Facebook page that 45.9 percent of Americans blame Muslims for the Christian immigration out of the Holy Land, while only 7.4 percent of Americans cite Israeli restrictions as contributing to Arab Christian immigration. However, when Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem were asked about the primary cause for Christian immigration out of the area, 78 percent cited Israeli restrictions as their reason for leaving. (These statistics are from the article "Challenging the Evangelical Bias Against Palestinians.")
Why is there such a disconnect between why Americans -- and by extension American Christians -- think that Palestinian Christians are leaving the West Bank and the actual reasons cited by the Palestinian Christians themselves?
Simple: Palestinian Christians are really leaving because of Israeli restrictions (like home demolitions, land seizures, road blocks, checkpoints, walls that cut through private property and isolate people from their families) and any time the word "Israel" is mentioned as inflicting any kind of pain on Christians, it challenges a cherished belief system that goes something like this:
Jews and Christians = good, pure, innocent, God's people
Muslims = evil, unclean, guilty, persecutors of God's people
Because this narrative is so ingrained in us -- the "us-versus-them" mentality, with "us" always being the embodiment of pure good, and "them" always being the embodiment of pure evil -- it's hard for us to see it any other way. Further complicating the problem is the fact that for many evangelical Christians in America, the only information they have about the Muslim world is what they see on Fox News or what they read in the Voice of the Martyrs magazine posted on the church bulletin board. No wonder it's hard to see Muslims as anything else but the evil persecutor of Christians! You'll never read about Christian militias that have massacred Muslims in places like Nigeria, Lebanon, the Philippines, and Indonesia in a magazine dedicated to highlighting the suffering of persecuted Christians.
I'm not saying that a ministry like Voice of the Martyrs is wrong for highlighting the suffering of persecuted Christians. I've been doing that for years on my blog. What I am saying is that if all the average Christian knows about the Muslim world is what they read about in the magazine or newsletter of their favorite ministry highlighting the suffering of persecuted Christians around the world, it leads to a distorted, unbalanced picture. We forget that Christian fundamentalism, and, yes, Jewish fundamentalism can be just as oppressive as Islamic fundamentalism.
We ignore his teachings at our peril.
Aaron D. Taylor is the author of Alone with A Jihadist: A Biblical Response to Holy War. To learn more about Aaron's ministry, go to www.aarondtaylor.com. To follow Aaron on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/aarondtaylor. Aaron can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.