Christ at the Checkpoint in the Age of Trump

Fares Abraham grew up in the West Bank village of Beit Sahour, where tradition says the angels sang “Peace on Earth” to the startled shepherds. But his clearest memory is of his mother shot in the back by an Israeli soldier as she shuffled him and the neighborhood kids into her house during the first intifada (“uprising”).

Now in his mid-30s, the Liberty University graduate created Levant Ministries five years ago to mobilize Arab youth to fulfill the Great Commission.

And when he comes back home, he is at peace with his upbringing.

“When I was young, I asked myself if I should join the resistance or be a bystander,” he said to the 500 attendees—including 150 local Palestinian Christians—gathered in Bethlehem from 24 countries at the fourth biennial Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC) conference in 2016.

“But now I can go up to a checkpoint, look a soldier in the eye, and say, ‘I forgive you and love you in the name of Jesus.’”

Working also with global partners, Abraham believes the younger generations are pro-peace, becoming increasingly pro-justice the more their lives are transformed by the gospel.

It is a message communicated at CATC, though its anti-Christian Zionism is often criticized as being anti-Israel.

“We as Palestinian Christians, victims of the occupation, want the worldwide evangelical church to stand with us,” said Sami Awad, executive director of the Holy Land Trust and a conference organizer.

“But after six years, I am hearing less and less of this focus. Before we allowed the political agenda to lead our theology. Now we ask how our gospel theology should drive us within the conflict and politics.”

But that was two years ago. Their world today has dramatically changed since Donald Trump—with his many evangelical advisors—was elected president.

Awad said the fifth CATC, held next week from May 28 to June 1, comes at a pivotal moment.

“I thought Christian Zionism had reached its peak, and was beginning a slow decline,” he said. “But now it has reached the highest levels of power.”

The recent US embassy move to Jerusalem makes him nervous about an American green light for more dangerous developments—like the incorporation of settlements into Israel proper.

“Will there even be a movement to rebuild the temple?” Awad asked. “Many are rejoicing to be connected to power, and see what is happening as a fulfillment of prophecy.”

Abraham is right, however. A recent LifeWay Research survey found that younger American evangelicals are still solidly pro-Israel but less decidedly so than earlier generations. And nearly two-thirds agree that Christians should do more to love and care for the Palestinian people (as do 59% of all evangelicals).

CATC is hosted by Bethlehem Bible College, where academic dean Munther Isaac celebrates this shift.

“I think we are making an impact. Today there is a dialogue, and no one can ignore our perspective,” said the primary conference organizer. “I am pleased to see we are pushing people to revisit their positions and theology.”

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Source: Christianity Today