“Palestinian Messengers”: How Christ and Christians Are Used for the Palestinian Cause
By Julio Severo
Last Christmas, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Jesus was a “Palestinian” messenger.
Even though Jesus was never a Palestinian or an advocate of a Palestinian cause, Abbas and his Muslim colleagues want to use Him to “ecumenically” unify Christians and Muslims to secure their cause.
Christ has never been a Palestinian messenger, but there has been a number of Christian individuals and groups associating themselves with a Palestinian message. Knowingly or not, they have been used as Palestinian messengers.
WCC and Liberation Theology
The most notorious group is the World Council of Churches (WCC), which espouses Liberation Theology, which “portrays Israel as the colonial oppressor and the Palestinians as the victim of imperialism.” Its ecumenical meeting in Brazil in 2006 “ecumenically” gathered together gay, witchcraft and Palestinian activists.
|Ecumencial WCC meeting in Brazil in 2006: witches with gay activists|
|Rev. Walter Altmann at WCC|
|Ecumencial WCC meeting in Brazil in 2006: Palestinian banners|
|Prominent gay activist Luiz Mott in the largest Lutheran theological seminary in Brazil|
Altmann celebrated that Liberation Theology had strongly influenced the ecumenical movement and the WCC during the 1970s and 1980s.
In Brazil, Pentecostalism and orthodox Roman Catholicism are hostile to Liberation Theology, ecumenism and the Palestinian cause. In contrast, old mainline Protestant denominations, like the Lutheran Church in Brazil, which was headed by Rev. Altmann, embrace Liberation Theology, Palestinian activism and leftist political involvement.
When Cuban tyrant Fidel Castro hailed Jesus as a “great social revolutionary” to Altmann in 1999, the Lutheran minister, who had several dinners with Castro, saw no problem. Why, then, would the WCC see any problem with Abbas saying that Jesus was a “Palestinian messenger”?
Under ecumenism, it is very easy to accept Jesus as a “great social revolutionary” or “Palestinian messenger.”
Bethlehem Bible College and “Christ at the CheckPoint”
Under ecumenism, Christian-Muslim efforts have been developed by the World Council of Churches, the Vatican and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), as noted by the “WEA Theological News” (October 2012 Vol 41 No 4). Some of these efforts involve Palestinian Protestants who are adherents of Palestinian Liberation Theology.
Under the headline “Promoting Biblical Truth by Networking Theologians,” “WEA Theological News” highlights Bethlehem Bible College and its founder and president, Bishara Awad, in a very positive light, for propaganda purposes.
Bethlehem Bible College hosts the “Christ at the CheckPoint” conferences, partly to advance Christian-Muslim relations. Many of its speakers are prominent Western leftist Protestant leaders and Palestinian prelates adherent to Palestinian Liberation Theology.
In his article “Countering Anti-Israel Evangelism,” Mark Tooley writes:
“The last several years anti-Israel evangelicals have hosted a ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ conference in Bethlehem featuring some prominent U.S. evangelicals. Last year's included evangelist Tony Campolo, a spiritual counselor to President Bill Clinton, and Florida mega church pastor Joel Hunter, a spiritual counselor to President Barack Obama. The next ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ is March 2014 and will feature Geoff Tunnicliffe, head of the World Evangelical Alliance. There will also be a Dallas Southern Baptist pastor, despite his denomination's strong support for Israel. Additionally speaking is Gary Burge of Wheaton College, himself a prominent author critical of Israel who teaches at America’s most prestigious evangelical college. Anti-Israel sentiment among evangelical elites is strongest in academia and in international relief and missions groups.”
|Bishara Awad, founder of the Bethlehem Bible College|
“That movement has developed a staggering, frightening pace in recent years. I was in Bethlehem March 2012, at an evangelical conference called the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference. Over 700 evangelicals, all the names I’ve mentioned already, Gary Burge [and] Stephen Sizer were there; there was Joel Hunter, who’s one of the spiritual advisors to Barack Obama; Tony Campolo, the chairman of the World Evangelical Alliance was there, the head of the Lausanne Movement was there, all giving support to the Palestinians, all condemning the Israeli occupation.”
Another World Evangelical Alliance leader involved in “Christ at the Checkpoint” is Thomas Schirrmacher, who was a speaker at this conference in 2012. Schirrmacher rejects the charge that “Christ at the Checkpoint” is anti-Israel. Instead, he argues, it is about “reconciliation.”
Messianic Jews Reject “Christ at the Checkpoint”
His view is a far cry from the official view of conservative Jews. Leaders of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, International Messianic Jewish Alliance and the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues, representing the mainstream Messianic Jewish movement, issued a joint statement prior to the 2012 Christ at the Checkpoint conference. They declared the following, “The conference claims to seek peace and reconciliation, but reflects biblical interpretations that deny the ongoing validity of God’s covenants with the Jewish people… We recognize and are deeply concerned with the struggle of Palestinian Christians. What we object to is a conference that is explicitly pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel, which seeks to promote itself as a conference on peace and reconciliation.”
Their statement also said:
“The Messianic Jewish community worldwide, standing in the place of our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophets and apostles who authored the Scriptures, view the modern re-emergence of supersessionism/replacement theology as a serious theological error, which has fueled anti-Semitism throughout history. It needs to be exposed and rejected by Christians worldwide. This theology, if left unchallenged, will eventually result in the continued suffering and persecution of our Jewish people, whether inside or outside Israel. Any effort for peace and reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles, even within the Yeshua-believing community, must recognize that the gifts and calling of God toward our Jewish people are irrevocable and still in effect today.”
Stephen Sizer: Churches that Side with Israel Are an “Abomination”
Even though Schirrmacher chose not to listen to these conservative Jews, there were other red flags. The Jerusalem Post reported “Among the speakers was Rev. Stephen Sizer, a British minister who has spoken out harshly against Israel and met with radical Muslims, including Hezbollah.” Sizer is not alone in championing the cause of Palestinian liberation theology throughout the Muslim world. Two of his closest friends and colleagues within the anti-Israel ecumenical movement are Gary Burge and Donald Wagner, one of whom was also a speaker at “Christ at the CheckPoint.” Burge and Wagner are ordained ministers within the Presbyterian Church (USA), the world’s biggest pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality Presbyterian denomination, which has called for boycotts against Israel. They have been very active in the ecumenical Evangelical Christian-Muslim Dialogue.
|Yasser Arafat and Stephen Sizer|
“Let us commit ourselves in prophetic word and practical deed to a courageous settlement whose details will honour both peoples’ shared love for the land, and protect the individual and collective rights of Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land.”
The original, supreme Declaration on Israel, the Bible, makes no provision for joint possession of the Holy Land by Jews and Romans, Jews and Canaanites, Jews and Palestinians, etc. Such joint possession violates the original and only intent of Israel’s Creator. On the contrary, His promises for Israel throughout the Bible, even in the New Testament, have no room for a joint venture between Jews and Palestinian-Arab-Muslims or Liberation Theology Christians.
Even so, Sizer’s Declaration was signed by many Calvinists and other traditional Protestants, including Geoff Tunnicliffe, General Secretary of World Evangelical Alliance. Although the Declaration and Sizer seem to defend “reconciliation,” there other motivations. The Rosh Pina Project said, “If you are a Messianic Jew or Israeli Arab Christian who support the government of Israel, which is inherently Zionist by its very history and nature,” Sizer says:
“There are certainly churches in Israel/Palestine that side with the occupation, that side with Zionism. One of my burdens is to challenge them theologically and show that they’ve repudiated Jesus, they’ve repudiated the Bible, and they are an abomination.”
According to the Rosh Pina Project, in a November 2013 telephone debate between Messianic Jewish scholar Michael Brown, who is an American Pentecostal leader, and Stephen Sizer hosted by Moody Radio asking if Christian Zionism is Christian, Brown at 50:20 minutes challenges Sizer about claiming Jewish and Arab Israeli followers of Jesus who support their nation, Israel, are an abomination. Initially Sizer flat-out denies he even said it. Brown provides the quote that the Rosh Pina Project broke in 2011, Sizer accepts he said it, but he added that he was “comfortable” with it being a true quote.
Is Thomas Schirrmacher “comfortable” with this liberal gang? Schirrmacher is a Calvinist and director of the Martin Bucer Theological Seminary in Europe. Yet, just because Burge and Wagner are also Calvinists, should he close his eyes to be with them as a speaker in a Palestinian event dominated by Palestinian Theology Liberation adherents?
Walid Shoebat, Palestinian and Former Muslim Brotherhood Member
Palestinian Christian Walid Shoebat, in a piece in WorldNetDaily entitled “Evangelicals for Hamas,” has also denounced “Christ at the CheckPoint,” whose motto is “resistance against the Israeli Zionist occupation.” He has denounced specifically the relationship of this conference with Hamas. According to International Christian Concern (ICC), “Hamas, in association with the Muslim Brotherhood, is controlling the Gaza Strip by force of arms, and is cracking down on Christians and restricting their freedom of worship. It is also trying to force them to abandon Christianity and convert to Islam.” ICC also explains that “there are ongoing attacks on churches and Christians in the Gaza Strip because Hamas considers Christians ‘infidels.’”
“Christians are declining in Palestinian controlled areas. Bethlehem was 80 percent Christian and today it is less then 1 percent. Yet Israel is blamed even though the decline has not affected Muslims, while the Christian population in Israel has not declined a single percentage point. The Christian emigration is a result of persecution by Muslim Hamas and the Palestinian Authority that began their program of intimidation and land grabs, including Christian centers that were turned into headquarters for terrorists and thugs. In Gaza, the only Christian bookstore was closed and its owner, Rami Ayyad, was shot in the head by a Hamas fanatic. The birthplace of Christ, Joseph’s Tomb, and Joshua’s grave were all desecrated by Muslim terrorists.”
Christians and even Muslims in Israel are not immigrating to “Palestine.” But, if given the opportunity, Christians (and even Muslims) in the lands occupied by the Palestinian Authority would immigrate to Israel.
“Historically and biblically, there was never a Palestinian civilization or culture. Yet this is the core of the Bethlehem Bible College doctrine. Palestinianism, including the twisted brand of Christianity it incorporates, is designed to eradicate the Jewish presence and nothing more. This theology supports a divided state solution for Israel and even supports recognition of the Hamas terrorist organization as the ‘legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.’ Hamas is a terrorist group which seeks the destruction of Israel. According to the United States government, Hamas is considered a terrorist group.”
Shoebat also explains what students are taught in Bethlehem Bible College, founded by Bishara Awad:
“So how does the Awads view Zionism? Yousef Ijha, a graduate from Bethlehem Bible College (Awad and Ijha can be seen [here]), presented his dissertation titled Study on Christian Zionism which was accepted for his graduation. He writes in his dissertation: ‘Herzl established the first Zionist Congress in 1897, and succeeded in gathering the Jews of the world around him including the shrewdest of Jews to issue forth the most dangerous plan in the history of the world The Protocols of the Elders of Zion derived from sacred Jewish teaching.’ All that, while ignoring that The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a fraudulent document.”
Not only fraudulent, but probably the main tool used by the KGB to spread anti-Israel hatred in Muslim nations. According to Daily Mail:
“The Protocols book, Pacepa claims, became ‘the basis for much of Hitler’s anti-Semitic philosophy.’ The KGB, he writes, disseminated ‘thousands of copies’ in Muslim countries during the 1970s.”
“Christ at the CheckPoint” and Its Propaganda against the Israeli Wall
Obviously, its dissemination was not designed to bring “reconciliation” between Israel and Palestinians. So why did Bethlehem Bible College never repudiate it? In fact, why does Bethlehem Bible College portray the Israeli Wall, even in its “Christ at the CheckPoint” propaganda, as an “apartheid wall”?
A Gatestone Institute report demolishes the false propaganda by saying:
“In 2005, a young Palestinian woman called Wafa al-Biss was badly burned in a domestic fire, taken to Israel’s Soroka Hospital, and treated there for months. When discharged, she was given a permit to return as an out-patient. Some time later she headed for the hospital wearing a suicide belt with the aim of exploding it among the doctors and nurses who had treated her, as well as however many children she could find. She was caught at a checkpoint and imprisoned. Earlier this year she was released as part of a prisoner release agreement [under US pressure]. Within hours she was speaking to Palestinian children, urging them to put on suicide vests and kill as many Jews as possible. And some people wonder why the Israelis need a security barrier.”
The Gatestone Institute report also says:
“It is a lie to say that Israel is an apartheid state and that the wall is an apartheid wall. It is a security barrier, just like dozens of others around the world, none of which is ever called an ‘apartheid wall.’”
Yet, Bethlehem Bible College and its founder, Bishara Awad, insist on depicting the Israeli checkpoints, not the radical Muslim Palestinians, as the real problem.
Thomas Schirrmacher and Confusion in Brazil
If Thomas Schirrmacher believes that “reconciliation” is a key component of “Christ at the CheckPoint” conferences, and its efforts to overthrow the Israeli wall, how will he be able to counter the liberal, Marxist and anti-Israel orientations in the ecumenical movement? How will he be able to see anti-Israel feelings in Burge and Wagner, who were his comrades and speakers at “Christ at the CheckPoint”?
His personal website has an exclusive ecumenical page and has also a page devoted to “Christ at the CheckPoint,” and Paul Wilkinson, in his booklet “The Church at Christ’s CheckPoint,” exposes the true agenda behind this conference. He quotes Schirrmacher saying:
“The WEA [World Evangelical Alliance] is ‘willing to do everything,’ including co-operate with the Palestinian Authority.”
Schirrmacher is scheduled to be a main speaker in the first International Congress on Fundamental Civil Freedoms in Brazil. The congress will be held in March in Brasilia by ANAJURE. What will he bring to ANAJURE? More from his ecumenical experiences? Will these experiences include “reconciliation” efforts?
ANAJURE has had enough problems. In fact, the most important test for ANAJURE, founded in 2012, and its interest to defend fundamental civil freedoms was when Congressman Marco Feliciano, who is also a Pentecostal minister opposed to abortion and the gay agenda, was viciously attacked by the powerful Brazilian Left because he had been appointed to head the Human Rights Committee in the Brazilian Congress in March 2013. In a press release, the ANAJURE president did not defend him, but questioned his appointment and personal motivations. In an exclusive interview, Congressman Feliciano explained that he was betrayed by ANAJURE.
ANAJURE has had enough problems. Its event with Schirrmacher has been propagandized by Ultimato, an old Protestant Liberation Theology magazine founded by Presbyterians in Brazil. Its positions on Israel are similar to Sizer’s views, focusing on “reconciliation.”
How then would Schirrmacher’s “reconciliation” views help ANAJURE and Brazil? How would his pro-Palestinian-Arab-Muslim ecumenical experiences help ANAJURE and Brazil?
Brazil has had enough of pro-Palestinian-Arab-Muslim and anti-Israel sentiment in its socialist government and many of its Protestant leaders, including Walter Altmann.
I hope Schirrmacher’s participation in an ANAJURE congress will not undermine the important Pentecostal resistance to the leftist Protestants’ overture to Liberation Theology, including its Palestinian-Arab version, and to anti-Israel sentiment, allegedly in the name of “reconciliation.”
Schirrmacher has been involved in high-profile Christian-Muslim ecumenical efforts with the Vatican and the World Council of Churches. In fact, he has been a speaker at WCC events.
Under the banner of ecumenism, it is very easy to embrace replacement theology, which says that Israel was replaced by the Church and all God’s promises to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are now invalid for Israel. Some high-ranking Calvinist theologians in ANAJURE espouse this stance. These theologians are from the Mackenzie Presbyterian University. In fact, the main sponsor of the ANAJURE event is Mackenzie. You can learn more about this Calvinist university here and here and here.
Mainline Protestant churches and members are the main victims of ecumenism and its apostasies. In 2008, then US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice, the famous daughter of an American Presbyterian minister, visited Brazil. Her Israeli-Palestinian politics were guided by her Calvinist replacement theology. She came to Brazil to strengthen the roots of the Afro-Brazilian religions, which are considered “witchcraft” by the Bible.
|Brazilian sorceress and Condoleezza Rice|
Ecumenism Fosters Palestinian Cause
Ecumenism has been a catalyst for the Palestinian cause. The Lutheran Church of Altmann and other mainline Protestant denominations played a major role in the “World Social Forum - Free Palestine” in 2012. This event, held in Brazil, was the world’s biggest pro-Palestine socialist event.
Palestinian Liberation Theology adherents and Latin American Liberation Theology Protestants and Catholics gathered together, in their common leftist faith, to advocate their common Palestinian cause.
In May 2013, Bishara Awad, the Palestinian activist behind “Christ at the CheckPoint,” visited Brazil and some of its churches. He was the main speaker at Open Doors and at a major ministers’ meeting, under the ecumenical cloak of “reconciliation.”
The Brazilian socialist government sees the socialist and Palestinian claims as legitimate, including any reference to Jesus as a “great social revolutionary” or “Palestinian” messenger. The “World Social Forum - Free Palestine” had the same view. Of course, Awad and his “Christ at the CheckPoint” colleagues just would agree too. As to Schirrmacher, does he see just “reconciliation” in all of this?
Excepting for Altmann and his mainline Protestant comrades (who have become socialist and Palestinian messengers), Brazilian evangelicals, who are mostly Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals, have resisted the ecumenical efforts to align themselves with the socialist political view and the Liberation Theology view of Jesus being a “great social revolutionary” or “Palestinian” messenger.
I am indebted to three articles by Dr. Mark Tooley as sources for my article. I am indebted also to Paul Wilkinson, James Sundquist, Don Hank, Ingo Haake and to Walid Shoebat and their documentation.
Portuguese version of this article: “Mensageiros palestinos”: Como Cristo e os cristãos são usados para promover a causa palestina