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Questions: Bruce, What Was Your View on Israel and Palestine as an Evangelical Pastor?

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Every year or two, I ask readers to submit questions they want me to answer. That time has arrived once again. Any question. Any subject. Please leave your questions in the comment section or send them to me via email. I will try to answer them in the order received.

I look forward to reading and answering your questions.

Jerry asked:

What was your view on the Israel vs Palestine situation when you were a Christian?

Determining my view on Israel and Palestine depends on where I was at a particular moment in my theological journey. I started the ministry as a premillennial, pretribulational dispensationalist. Israel was God’s chosen people, and all the land prescribed in the Bible belonged to them, and nations who bless or curse Israel will be blessed or cursed by God.

In the late 1980s, I left the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) and embraced Evangelical Calvinism. My eschatology changed to amillennialism and posttribulationalism. No longer a dispensationalist, I viewed the New Testament church as God’s chosen people. I saw a continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament. While I believed God had a plan for Israel, they, as a people, at this present time, have been set aside. This allowed me to view Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in a different light.

Today, I view the state of Israel — not Jews individually — as a violent bully propped up by the United States. Israel has turned Gaza into an open-air prison, depriving Palestinians of basic civil rights. I view their illegal settlements in the West Bank similarly. And I think it can be argued that the land “given” to Israel in 1948 was, in fact, violently appropriated from indigenous Palestinian people

The solution to the intractable war between Israel and the Palestinians is straightforward: the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state. Further, ALL the illegal Israeli settlements must be dismantled and the land returned to its rightful owners. Of course, these things will never happen as long as Benjamin Netanyahu and other right-wing Israelis are running the show. No amount of pressure from the United States will stop Israel from turning Gaza into a compact version of Syria. It will take decades for Palestinians to recover and rebuild. Their schools, hospitals, and infrastructure have been destroyed.

According to The Guardian:

Rebuilding homes in Gaza destroyed during Israel’s seven-month military offensive could take until 2040 in the most optimistic scenario, with total reconstruction across the territory costing as much as $40bn (£32bn), according to United Nations experts.

An assessment, which is to be published by the UN Development Programme as part of a push to raise funds for early planning for the rehabilitation of Gaza, has also found that the conflict may reduce levels of health, education, and wealth in the territory to those of 1980, wiping out 44 years of development.

Expectations of a breakthrough in ceasefire talks in Cairo between Israel and Hamas have cooled in recent days, and many observers believe the conflict is likely to continue, if at varying degrees of intensity, for many months or even longer.

More than 34,500, mostly women and children have died since Israel launched its offensive, according to health authorities in Gaza, after Hamas attacked Israel in October and killed about 1,200 people. The militant Islamist organisation, which took power in Gaza in 2007, also seized 250 hostages.

More than 79,000 homes in Gaza have been “completely destroyed” in the conflict, with another 370,000 damaged, the new assessment found.

“Even under optimistic scenarios for the pace of physical reconstruction, the scale of destruction in Gaza has been such that, simply from the narrow perspective of moving in building materials, it would still take until 2040 and probably longer to restore the housing units destroyed since the start of the war,” the researchers concluded.

In addition, schools, health facilities, roads, sewers, water pipes and all other critical infrastructure have all suffered massive damage.

….

“The scale of the destruction is huge and unprecedented. This is a mission that the global community has not dealt with since the second world war,” al-Dardari said.

The latest assessment found that, with the high number of casualties and the big destruction of health facilities in Gaza, life expectancy had already been reduced by a minimum of four or five years and was likely to be reduced by seven, if the war continued into its ninth month. Researchers also found that real GDP per capita in the territory could be reduced to its lowest level since the mid-1990s.

More than 37m tonnes of debris needs to be cleared in Gaza to permit reconstruction. The mountains of rubble are full of unexploded ordnance that leads to “more than 10 explosions every week”, with more deaths and loss of limbs, Gaza’s Civil Defence agency said on Thursday.

It is doubtful that a two-state solution will be achieved in the short term. Until Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is turned out of office and the United States stops funding Israel’s genocidal war against the Palestinians, no change is forthcoming. It is far more likely a regional or world war will break out than that a sovereign Palestinian state will be established. Netanyahu is hell-bent on destroying Gaza, and nothing the feckless Biden Administration says will stop him. President Biden is more concerned about reelection than he is about protecting innocent Palestinians.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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8 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    Anyone truly interested in how antisemitism plays our in my/our US armed services should read the website of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, whose clients are overwhelmingly Christian (but not Christian Nationalists), and the CEO of which is a Jewish person. The threats against him and his family make me wonder about my neighbors. But Mikey Weinstein himself makes a clear distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and he is a champion for the latter.

    https://www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org/

  2. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    Not sure if I said it right, and the website STILL seems to require approval of my comments, but Mikey Weinstein is AGAINST anti-Zionism.

    Bruce, my comments have gone to approval for years now. Don’t I eventually get approved”?

  3. Avatar
    TheDutchGuy

    Like most of us I’m stuck with what I can glean from interpreting media reporting. Judging from what is reported, antisemitism appears to be a concept stretched and expanded to such breadth and width that there is no way to deny it once accused. Anti-Islam on the other hand appears to be a non-issue, ignored as if non-existent. Pro Palestinian protestors are demonized while pro Israel counter protestors seem ignored and even legitimized by comparison, even when pro-Palestinians appear to be victims of violent attack and arrest. Jews claims of fearing for their safety are reported as legitimate. Pro-Palestine protestors fears for their safety are never mentioned although being attacked by counter protestors, some admittedly organized and paid by at least one wealthy donor. As reported, Jewish fear is legitimate and Muslim’s is not. Muslims need better public relations in this country because the media seems biased against them. AIPAC and other supporters of Israel seem to control the narrative to the point where any dissenting voice or any criticism of Israel is de-legitimized and silenced.

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Israel’s claim to the land is a religious one. And Christians, whether mainstream or Evangelical (or conservative Catholics) who ostensibly support it because the it will hasten the Kingdom of God are no different from any politician who supports Israel for economic as well as political imperialistic reasons. None of them have any place in a country where the Constitution specifies a separation of church and state.

    • Avatar
      Troy

      @MJ Israel’s claim as a Jewish state isn’t any more religious than Pakistan and India claim as a Muslim or Hindu state respectively. All of them were sliced out of the British empire after WWII. Pakistan was originally more than the east and west Pakistan, it was originally going to have several enclaves wherever muslim populations existed. This is rather like the untenable patchwork for the original borders of Israel as well.
      One could argue that using religion as a basis for carving out nation states was a mistake. But sadly that is the prevailing cultural touchstone in most of the world.

  5. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I remember as a fundamentalist evangelical Christian being taught that the Jews were theologically wrong and most going to hell because most rejected Jesus as Messiah, but they were still God’s Chosen People. And I was taught that if you messed with the Jewish people, God would mess with you. Christians were also justified in appropriating the parts of Judaism that they wanted because Christians were adopted and “grafted onto the vine”. We were taught that God gave the Jewish people the land of Israel. I didn’t think much about it, what land eas specifically given, but my children’s story book clearly laid put the borders of the nation state of Israel so that must be correct, right? Even when I became an atheist, I didn’t think about it much until I befriended a Palestinian-American family, and then I was like, oh….better rethink this.

    • Avatar
      TheDutchGuy

      You remind me of learning about Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. In NW Ohio, news about Israel was unfailingly positive and I admired Jews thinking I’d like being a Jew living in Israel. My awakening was an interview of a Palestinian on independent radio in Los Angeles where I attended college. It was my first exposure to non-corporate independent news which did not exist in NW Ohio then. I was astonished to learn Israel oppressed indigenous Palestinians, expelled them, and confiscated their lands. I was studying law, acutely aware of civil and property rights, and was shocked. Back in the midwest I found zero awareness of that injustice. Public perception of Israel was still invariably positive. The internet and to a lesser extent public radio and TV have enlightened people. As with the Viet Nam war, students are better informed and are demonstrating opposition. The Hamas attack led to horrendous death and destruction but in the end may alert an oblivious American people to a situation their government enables by unconditional support of Israel. Ending a stubborn Viet Nam war took a long time but awareness and protest helped. Injustice in Palestine is no less stubborn. I hope for better days but without justice, there can be no permanent peace. Every bloodied dispossessed Palestinian is a potential future terrorist.

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