“The New Testament, I think, would be in favor of human rights.”
— Jackie Westeren, a rising senior at the evangelical Wheaton College
Growing up in evangelical Christian churches, Caleb Fitzpatrick learned quickly to be a steadfast supporter of Israel. From a young age, Mr. Fitzpatrick said, he was taught that Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, “was a hero” and that “Christians are supposed to back Israel on everything.”
But the Tampa, FL, native, who just finished his junior year at Liberty University, an evangelical school, has become critical of Israel for what he says is its mistreatment of Palestinians.
“Human rights is a core issue to me,” Mr. Fitzpatrick, 21, said. “It’s less important to me who has dominion over the northern part of historical Israel.”
“[We are] alarmed, concerned, and profoundly saddened by the growing number of Gazan dead and wounded. It does not have to be this way.”
— Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Union for Reform Judaism president
The opening ceremony for the new US Embassy in Jerusalem was, essentially, an invitation-only Trump campaign rally.
Those in attendance had all sworn loyalty to the president and belonged to one of the groups that has hailed him as a modern-day Cyrus the Great: Orthodox Jews, right-wing Israelis (including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) and the pro-Trump Republican base — particularly those in the evangelical community.
This was all on display from the ceremony’s opening blessing, by Texan Baptist megachurch pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress. His eyes squeezed closed in prayer, he thanked God for “our great president, Donald Trump,” lauded how Israel “has blessed this world by pointing us to you, the one true God, through the message of her prophets, her scriptures, and the Messiah,” and praying for Jerusalem “in the name of the spirit of the Prince of Peace, Jesus our lord.”
[Evangelicals have] become one interest group among many, scrambling for benefits at the expense of others rather than seeking the welfare of the whole. Christianity is love of neighbor, or it has lost its way. And this sets an urgent task for evangelicals: to rescue their faith from its worst leaders.
Trump’s background and beliefs could hardly be more incompatible with traditional Christian models of life and leadership. Trump’s past political stances (he once supported the right to partial-birth abortion), his character (he has bragged about sexually assaulting women), and even his language (he introduced the words “pussy” and “shithole” into presidential discourse) would more naturally lead religious conservatives toward exorcism than alliance. This is a man who has cruelly publicized his infidelities, made disturbing sexual comments about his elder daughter, and boasted about the size of his penis on the debate stage. His lawyer reportedly arranged a $130,000 payment to a porn star to dissuade her from disclosing an alleged affair. Yet religious conservatives who once blanched at PG-13 public standards now yawn at such NC-17 maneuvers. We are a long way from The Book of Virtues.
Given the rich heritage of this city and its spiritual significance to the Jews, Christians, and Muslims of the Holy Land, we hope that Jerusalem will be able to serve as the capital for both Israel and Palestine.
As followers of Christ, we share a hope that the Holy Land — the birthplace of our Lord and Savior and the Promised Land of the Israelite Patriarchs — will be a land of peace where divine justice, as expressed through the Jewish prophets, can reign. We recognize the historical significance of this land to the Jewish people, who after generations in exile looked to return to the land to secure their physical safety and spiritual redemption. We also affirm the presence of an indigenous Arabic speaking community in the land that has been present since the time of Pentecost (Acts 2:11).
It is therefore with the deepest concern that we are witnessing unprecedented actions by the United States government that — while supported by many good-meaning people within the Church — may inadvertently jeopardize the lives and future security of the peoples of the Holy Land. We therefore cannot support President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel absent a comprehensive peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.