What Do Christians Think About the Netanyahu Speech?

Earlier this week, reacting to the faux controversy over President Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast remarks, Ed Kilgore argued that all too often, the media ignores the views of liberal Christians, opting instead to “buy the idea that the only ‘authentic’ Christians (or ‘Christian music,’ or ‘Christian films’) are conservative.” That blindness to the liberal wing marginalizes, Kilgore argues, millions of mainline Protestants and the majority of Catholics who, for example, oppose the church’s position on marriage equality.

A similar divide is brewing between Christian groups over the propriety of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming address to Congress. So far, 18 members of Congress (15 House members and 3 Senators, all Democrats except for Bernie Sanders, an independent) have confirmed they are skipping the speech. Vice President Joe Biden will be out of the country.

Yesterday, the Emergency Committee for Israel and Christians United for Israel, which claims to be “the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States” and  “one of the leading Christian grassroots movements in the world,” accused legislators not attending the speech of siding with Israel’s (and America’s) enemies. In a joint statement issued by William Kristol, ECI’s chairman, and Gary Bauer, CUFI’s chairman, the two groups charged:

The bottom line is simple: The enemies of Israel benefit most from this campaign against the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech. Whatever their views on Israeli politics or the Iranian nuclear negotiations, members of Congress who are friends of Israel should not play into the hands of Israel’s enemies — and America’s — by boycotting this speech. Boycotting Israel is high on the agenda of the enemies of Israel. Welcoming Israel’s Prime Minister to the halls of Congress is the least that those who claim to be friends of the Jewish state should do.

As representatives of two proudly pro-Israel organizations, we urge members of Congress to do the right thing for the U.S. and Israel. And for those who would turn their backs on Israel and boycott its leader — they are no friends of Israel, and we pledge to do our best to educate voters about their undermining of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship at this crucial hour.

Today, in an email to supporters, CUFI is urging voters to call their representatives and demand that they attend the speech. “Attending this speech is not merely an opportunity for our representatives;” the email reads, “it is their responsibility.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the National Council of Churches is calling on Netanyahu to cancel the speech. The NCC claims it is a “leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States,” and that its “37 member communions — from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches,” represent 45 million Americans.

It’s hard to imagine a more sharply defined divide between these two groups. CUFI supports sanctions against Iran, not what it calls a “sham agreement allows Iran to obtain a nuclear weapons capability.” It supports settlements and opposes peace talks with the Palestinians. It casts Netanyahu’s speech as an essential education on Iran, and complaints about the way in which the invitation was extended “petty.”

The NCC statement, in contrast, calls the timing and lack of protocol surrounding the invitation “lamentable.” It saves its harsher words, though, for “the tacit support” the appearance “gives to Mr. Netanyahu’s policies, including unbridled settlement building and expansion into Palestinian territory.” Those policies, the statement continues, “erode the chances for a genuine two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is the official position of the United States, and which is the only viable means to establish a just peace.” Supporting those policies, NCC argues in unequivocal language, is “morally indefensible.”

The NCC also calls engagement with Iran “the best means to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation.” Allowing Netanyahu “to inveigh against these negotiations is therefore to take a stand against the prospects for peace. Again, this is morally indefensible.”

There is no single “Christian” view on Netanyahu’s speech, or on Israel, for that matter. Perhaps the more interesting development to watch here is not that the divide exists, but how (or whether) the media will cover it.

24 Comments

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Do the people who feel Netanyahu should speak to congress to warn us about Iran also feel this controversy over the the speech can be taken as a sign that this is getting close to end times and Armageddon might soon be upon us?

  • robert.m.jeffers@lonestar.edu' Rmj says:

    “There is no single “Christian” view on Netanyahu’s speech, or on Israel, for that matter. Perhaps the more interesting development to watch here is not that the divide exists, but how (or whether) the media will cover it.”

    I’m going with: not only will that dog not bark, it won’t even hunt.

    This is America. Unless there’s a loudmouthed Bible thumper/best selling megachurch leader attached to it, or a guy in a red beanie, the Press isn’t interested.

  • dopier12@hotmail.com' dopier12 says:

    In my former life in religion, there was a time I was deeply troubled and even saddened as to whether I truly wanted to believe in the god of these radical nuts. It’s such a relief to have found out that the creator does not have anything to do with such foolishness. This is one aspect of America that has yet to fully grow out of the primitive ages.

  • revlindacarter@aol.com' Linda Carter says:

    I truly resent this tendency in our discourse to “take sides,” when there are only two sides offered. When will we enter the third dimension and admit there may be more than two sides? I’m also concerned about the break in Protocol, and resent some members of Congress who think they have the right to use the legislative chambers as a “rental hall” for outside speakers. Why provoke negativity by doing something so obviously blatant and offensive? Then to say that those who disagree with the propriety of such an action are “on the wrong side” is appalling. Please place me on the far side of the dodecahedron on this one.

  • Swollentoe@gmail.com' whitemellon says:

    Amen on that one Dopier 12. I feel the same way.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    We like it viewed as two sides. This is a class war. The fractional 1% have been waging this war for some time and crushing the rest of us, and now we are trying to work out if there is any way to respond. It is a tough war because American Christianity has been so heavily on the side of the rich for the last few decades, as least according to their voting patterns. We think you should take sides because there is not really any middle ground. Will you stand with the rich and their evangelical Christian allies? Or will you stand with the mass of the public and their many needs in this wealth dominated society? If you are on some other side, perhaps you can explain to us what that side might be.

  • I recently had a chance to take part in a discussion forum online with someone from the Sanhedrin in Israel. He is, obviously, staunchly behind Netanyahu on this speech and urged me to contact my representatives and have them support Israel’s policies. I cannot in good conscience do so, and will not do so. But what was truly disturbing, was that this man has never read either the Bible or the Qur’an and depends on “experts” to interpret these books for him. He feels he would be defiled if he read them, so he truly does not have a context in which to put his “experts” interpretations or to even challenge them. He is a foreign minister for the highest religious court in Israel, and he does not even understand for himself what is actually being played out in Israel by both the Christian and Muslim factions.

    I tried to explain to him that the groups like the CUFI and their pals are all about the End of Days, and the part that Israel plays in that is not going to save Israel, but destroy it. They define the Anti-Christ as being Jewish and only Jews who convert to Christianity will be spared, something this man feels damns a Jew. I tried to explain that they are not all about supporting Israel, and in fact, until about 15 years ago, actively denigrated Jews and blamed them for the death of Jesus. I tried to explain to him that they believe themselves to be the only people on Earth that God will save and establish on a New Earth ruled from a New Jerusalem. It does not matter to them what happens to the current Jerusalem, except that it be saved so that Satan can rule from it during the final days, after which it will be wiped from the face of the Earth. The Jews’ most Holy City is destined, according to groups like Evangelicals who founded CUFI, to be the seat of power of Satan and doomed to destruction. Since the Israelis and orthodox Jews do not teach about Armageddon and Apocalypse, they seem to be unaware of the underlying agendas of Evangelical radical groups.

    As they say, “with friends like these, Israel does not need any more enemies”. Israel is acting on the sad belief, thanks to our media, that most Christians support them, but when push comes to shove, they are going to find that is not the case. Netanyahu should stay home and John Boehner should learn to eat crow on this one.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I don’t know what good it would do for him to read the books. Those who believe according to some belief will still follow the same experts after reading the books. Those who read from a skeptical point of view will see the books don’t mean anything.

  • judithmax@comcast.net' Judith Maxfield says:

    Thank you Devon. Frankly though, I’m not surprised. It seems U.S. imperialism includes those who in their “religion” take their entitlement seriously outside of the U.S. I honestly don’t fully understand how the American version of Christianity got so far off the Gospel. You speak well on these things. Are you by chance ordained?

  • jmcg02908@verizon.net' CitizenWhy says:

    I call for a compromise: cancel both the pope’s and Netanyahu’s speech.

  • flame@yourlink.ca' lorasinger says:

    Go to YouTube and check out “Netanyahu unaware of camera” and then tell me if Netanyahu doesn’t think he runs the USA too. He desperately wants to bring Iran down because it’s the only country that is a threat in his ambitions to move his settlements further into Palestine until all the Palestinians are gone but to move into Syria too, where there are settlements already. He wants to bring Iran down but he also wants the USA to fight the war. The GOP are the boys who will do it for him, even to a point of bankrupting the country, because there are large numbers of end time believers in its ranks who believe that “prophecy” is being fulfilled with a war and then the return of Jesus who will than kill the 2/3 of Jews (unconverted ones) along with the rest of us and the “born agains” will be raptured up into the heavens. In fact, nothing will happen except the death of many and the mopping up of the destruction that ensued. Another war will bankrupt us, and then watch the marauders swarm in. History repeats itself just as it did in Rome.

  • flame@yourlink.ca' lorasinger says:

    “Christianity has been so heavily on the side of the rich for the last few decades”

    It has been on the side of the rich right from the get go. It’s been on the side of forgery, mistruths, outright lies as well. In fact one of the early popes went as far as to forge a document that gave absolute temporal power to the pope on the death of Constantine.

  • flame@yourlink.ca' lorasinger says:

    Netanyahu is operating with a coalition government so I doubt that he represents everyone. The “you’re with me or against me” argument is the same thing as blacks use “you don’t like me because I’m black”. It’s the same way of avoiding responsibility when it’s “No, I’m not against you – What you’re doing right now is wrong” and “It’s not because you’re black, it’s because YOU are a jerk”.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    That was long ago. I thought Christianity had been doing better than that, until the 80’s when the Moral Majority came along and they sold out to the Republican party. I guess they are backsliding.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    I’m not black, although my kids are.

  • flame@yourlink.ca' lorasinger says:

    And I’m not a bigot either. I used it as a point because I’ve run into it. Actually when you’ve been at the receiving end of discrimination, you make a point of never doing it to others and that’s a valuable lesson. My daughter’s wedding is coming up and two of the wedding party (best friends) are black, one is Korean/Chinese and I think there is one East Indian too, typical for the gatherings at her house, as it was at ours.

  • flame@yourlink.ca' lorasinger says:

    No, it hasn’t been doing better than that. Power, control and money are king, especially in that world.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    The most key Republicans are the rich guys behind the scenes. I think many of them are Christian for the votes, and they only give lip service to end times rapture theory. The good thing about that is as the nation splits along conservative/liberal Christian lines, the number of crazy people who would want end times destruction slowly drops as a few people wake up and switch sides. The rich guys behind the scenes see this, and when the remaining crazy Christians are no longer winning elections all bets are off for this marriage of Christianity to the Republican party. Depending on the timing of how it all works out, this might save us from having to continue to ultimate destruction. At least I think we have to see it that way or we are doomed.

  • flame@yourlink.ca' lorasinger says:

    Dunno, there’s a large number of centrists who outnumber both fringe groups. The centrists are the undecided and people who swing to right or left depending on the platform. Unfortunately, they remain silent and watch events and it’s difficult to say which way they will go but they will ultimately decide the final vote.
    .
    I agree that the Republicans are using the Christians to obtain a voting block. I doubt very much that Cruz was as crazy as he is now while still growing up in Calgary, Canada. He’s pandering to the Religious Right and the Council for National Policy founded by the guy who wrote the left behind series and who are tied in with the Kochs.
    .
    Go to a site for The Tyee, a Canadian magazine that is non-MSM. In it, there will be an article (or you can just Google it) entitled “Bush and Harper Share Roots in Controversial Philosophy” which is the Straussian Principle for takeover that results in a state close to that of Fascism and in fact, has its roots in Fascism. Essentially, it’s rule of corporations and evangelicals over the populace which is reduced to ignorance and poverty.

  • Devon,

    Well said.

    One more set of reasons why it is false to call the American rightists “conservative.” There is nothing they seek to conserve — least of all Israel’s security and peace.

    The self-declared “religious” among them — Trotskyite spawn little Billy Kristol? Gimme a break — look to the destruction of Israel as a necessity for their supposed salvation. You can call that doctrine many things but “conservative” is not one of them.

    -dlj.

  • An open letter of invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu from a
    Philadelphian

    We noticed scrupulously how you honored the ancient codes of
    hospitality, when in the presence of your host, French president, Hollande, you
    invited Jews from his country to desert and emigrate en masse to Israel, in the
    wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders. We, here in the United States, breathlessly
    await your coming visit, and can only imagine how richly you will repay
    President Obama’s steadfast support for Israel.

    Therefore, I, as a native of the City of Brotherly Love, extend to
    you an offer of equal, if not even greater, protection and security for you and
    your family in the Philadelphia area. While visiting, consider staying. For
    safety’s sake, emigrate without delay! You now live in such an extremely
    dangerous neighborhood. In fact, you would be sure to find warm welcome from
    your new neighbors in, say, Cheltenham township, for one — where you spent
    your happy high school days, and more.

    In Cheltenham, the Native American inhabitants have long since
    disappeared, and are, therefore, not about to demand rights of return of their
    ancestral properties. You will also find that even Cheltenham’s “bad neighborhoods”
    are seldom hostile and, generally, only lightly armed. The only
    “walls of separation” we know are mostly symbolic — white picket
    fences, carelessly marking the boundaries between one swath of identical
    suburban lawn from another. Happily, you and your family need never be
    inconvenienced by the “blue laws” imposed on us by the religious
    zealots of days gone by. Needless to say, the angry stonings of casually
    dressed citizens are a thing of the past. Although universal military service
    is no longer required of our youth, all citizens share in supporting the
    community that affords us this good life, by paying their taxes. Finally, you will
    be 6,205 miles from Iran.

  • An open letter of invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu from a
    Philadelphian

    We noticed how scrupulously you honored the ancient codes of
    hospitality, when in the presence of your host, French president, Hollande, you
    invited Jews from his country to desert and emigrate en masse to Israel, in the
    wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders. We, here in the United States, breathlessly
    await your coming visit, and can only imagine how richly you will repay
    President Obama’s steadfast support for Israel.

    Therefore, I, as a native of the City of Brotherly Love, it is my pleasure to extend to
    you an offer of equal, if not even greater, protection and security for you and
    your family in the Philadelphia area. While visiting, consider staying. For
    safety’s sake, emigrate without delay! You now live in such an extremely
    dangerous neighborhood. In fact, you would be sure to find warm welcome from
    your new neighbors in, say, Cheltenham township, for one — where you spent
    your happy high school days, and more.

    In Cheltenham, the Native American inhabitants have long since
    disappeared, and are, therefore, not about to demand rights of return of their
    ancestral properties. To your, you will discover that even Cheltenham’s “bad neighborhoods”
    are seldom hostile and, generally, only lightly armed. The only
    “walls of separation” we know are mostly symbolic — white picket
    fences, carelessly marking the boundaries between one swath of identical
    suburban lawn from another. Happily, you and your family need never be
    inconvenienced by the “blue laws” imposed on us by the religious
    zealots of days gone by. Needless to say, the angry stonings of casually
    dressed citizens are a thing of the past. Although universal military service
    is no longer required of our youth, all citizens share in supporting the community
    that affords us this good life, by paying their taxes. Finally, you will be
    6,205 miles from Iran.

  • flame@yourlink.ca' lorasinger says:

    The “friends” of Israel have a secret they aren’t too open about. Of course, they want all the Jews back in Israel and they are going to do whatever it takes to get them there. Their prophecy is that when the Jews are back in Israel, Jesus will come back for end times. A war will break out in the middle east. The “born agains” (friends of Israel) will be raptured up into the clouds. The Jews in Israel (1/3 of them) will also be “saved” – the ones who have converted to fundamentalist Christianity. The rest of the Jews (2/3 of them) who have not been converted along with everyone else will be destroyed.
    .
    So there’s quite a bit of a selfish streak in all this love of the Jews. They need them for their end times scenario. If not for that, I don’t think there would be much of a friendship, based on their treatment of Jews in history.

  • reedjim51@gmail.com' Jim Reed says:

    Fiscal conservatives want to conserve their position of wealth, and social conservatives want to preserve the social order where Christianity or one certain denomination is morally superior. Nothing else matters.

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