This article was originally published at Christianity Today, on April 24, 2019.
When it comes to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, do American evangelicals favor one side or the other?
Research Center finds one-third actually feel favorable toward both—when it comes to their peoples. And one-third feel unfavorable toward both governments.
Politico Magazine recently profiled Telos, an evangelical group dedicated to changing the narrative on Israel. “Christian faith communities persistently advocate for one-sided postures towards the conflict,” states the group, whose name means purpose in Greek, on its website. “Our telos is the freedom, security, and dignity of every human being in the Holy Land.”
But the profile prompted a strong critique from Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), who describes such “ambivalence” as actually harming both Israelis and Palestinians. Without solid evangelical support buttressing the US alliance with Israel, all sides will only entrench and deepen the conflict, he argues—making negotiation less likely.
“Impartiality and avoiding polemical stances are now de rigeur in much of nouveau Evangelicalism, so the Telos appeal has resonance,” he wrote on IRD’s blog. “Aren’t Christians supposed to be on everybody’s side?”
Pew’s new survey aimed to measure exactly that.
For decades, Pew has asked which side Americans sympathized with more: Israel or the Palestinians? But this year, researchers recognized a problem: this approach compared a country (Israel) with a people (Palestinians).
It was not apples-to-apples, nor did it allow for respondents to signal sympathy for both. So this year, they instead used separate questions asking about a favorable or unfavorable opinion toward the Israelis and the Palestinians as peoples, as well as toward their respective governments.
About 1 in 3 evangelical church attendees (34%) reported favorable opinions of both peoples.
However, the weight is still on the Israeli side…
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