By / Nov 14

A month into the Israel-Hamas war, Evangelicals aren’t just helping fight antisemitism at home – they’re hosting fundraisers and sending volunteers and supplies to the Jewish state

Over a month into the Israel-Hamas war, American Evangelicals are providing moral and material support to Israel, hosting fundraisers and poster campaigns, and sending volunteers and supplies. With more than 100 million Evangelicals in the United States, it is a deep well from which to draw.

War erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing some 1,400 people and seizing 200-250 hostages of all ages under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities. The vast majority of those killed as gunmen seized border communities were civilians — including babies, children and the elderly. Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 260 were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists.

That intensity was reflected on October 11, when the Ethics and Religion Liberty Commission (ERLC), which is part of the Southern Baptist Convention, issued an “Evangelical Statement in Support of Israel.”

We grieve the innocent lives that have been lost since October 7 in Israel and in Gaza. Whether Jewish, Muslim, or Christian, we know that for so many people caught in the midst of this battle, it is not a war of their choosing. Our concern for the loss of innocent life has no borders. Each and every casualty is a person made in God’s image.

Brent Leatherwood

Send Relief, part of the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board, is distributing humanitarian aid on the ground in Israel. They are working with Baptist Village, a non-profit organization based in Tel Aviv.

Since October 7 it has funded more than $700,000 in aid for people in the affected areas, said Jason Cox, the vice president for international ministry at Send Relief. The money has helped provide housing for up to 400 individuals, tents with cooling and heating units and generators, cots and bedding, toilet and shower containers and trauma counseling from licensed professionals.

Some ministries are sending help to Palestinians in need, as well. TBM, the disaster relief ministry of the Texas Baptists Christian Life Commission, sent a team of volunteers on October 10 that has so far supplied thousands of meals to Israelis and Palestinians. The commission also established the “Israel-Hamas War Humanitarian Aid & Crisis Relief” fund, which will support humanitarian aid and crisis relief efforts.

Meanwhile, as various churches prepare to help long-term, Leatherwood said that it is Israel’s “moral responsibility” to end Hamas’s terror-making capabilities.

Hamas is the enemy in this, not just to Israel, but to the Palestinian people and everyone who desperately seeks peace in the Middle East.

Brent Leatherwood

Read The Times of Israel article here.

By / Oct 19

The Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7 when we woke up to the news that Hamas, a Palestinian terrorist group, launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing 1,400 people in what has been referred to as Israel’s 9/11. In the days following, we have seen the horrendous images, heard the horrifying stories, and learned more about the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. 

To help us understand these events and how we can think clearly about them is Paul D. Miller. Dr. Miller is a professor in the Practice of International Affairs at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He serves as co-chair of the Global Politics and Security concentration in the MSFS program. He is also a Senior Fellow with the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council and a research fellow with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Dr. Miller previously served in the US Army (including a tour in Afghanistan), as an analyst with the CIA, and as Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan on the National Security Council staff. 

We’ll also talk with ERLC President Brent Leatherwood about the Evangelical Statement in Support of Israel and how Southern Baptists should continue to respond to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. 

Here is Dr. Miller’s most recent article at The Dispatch on the Israeli-Hamas war: “To Stand With the Palestinians, Support Israel Against Hamas”.

And just a reminder, we want to make sure you are kept up to date about the important work the ERLC is doing on behalf of Southern Baptists. The best way to do that is by joining us at ERLC.com/updates. Signing up for email updates allows you to hear directly from us about our work and ways we are serving you on the issues that matter most to Southern Baptists. Become an email subscriber at ERLC.com/updates

The ERLC podcast is a production of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It is produced by Jill Waggoner, Lindsay Nicolet, and Elizabeth Bristow. Technical production is provided by Owens Productions. It is edited and mixed by Mark Owens.

By / Oct 11

Washington, D.C., Oct. 11, 2023 The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has joined with SBC and other Christian leaders in developing an “Evangelical Statement in Support of Israel,” in response to the horrific atrocities committed against the people of Israel by Hamas. 

The statement has garnered more than 60 signatories from SBC leaders and a broad group of evangelicals to support Israel and advocate for the vulnerable involved with this ongoing conflict. 

ERLC President Brent Leatherwood commented on the statement.

“These repugnant atrocities by Hamas should shake us to our core. Hundreds of innocent Israeli lives have been struck down by a rampaging enemy. There should be no question that the Israeli government has the right to defend its citizens and sovereignty that have been so grossly violated. Our statement today, from leaders across denominational lines in evangelicalism and from various sectors of ministry, represents a significant show of solidarity with Israel as it responds to this evil.

“In the face of such wickedness, this is not the time for false equivalency or excuses by national leaders and policymakers, but clear-eyed moral leadership. Extremists and authoritarians are threatening lives across the globe, rendering countless individuals vulnerable. As we read in the 13th chapter of the Book of Romans, governments have a responsibility to thwart such evil—and that responsibility should translate to action. 

“At the same time, we must pray without ceasing for the families who have and continue to suffer from this attack. We pray that no additional innocent life be taken as Israel rightfully defends itself from this horror.”

The evangelical statement also calls on Christians across the globe to pray for the salvation and peace of the people in Israel and Palestine.  

Excerpts from the statement are below: 

“While our theological perspectives on Israel and the Church may vary, we are unified in calling attacks against Jewish people especially troubling as they have been often targeted by their neighbors since God called them as His people in the days of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3). . . . 

“The tragic events of October 7th further underscore the importance of democracy in our world and stand as a sober reminder that supporting Israel’s right to exist is both urgent and needed. . . . 

“Furthermore, we recognize the dignity and personhood of all persons living in the Middle East and affirm God’s love for them as well as His offer of salvation through Jesus Christ to all people. . . . 

“Finally, we call on American policymakers to use their power to take all forms of terrorism seriously and call governments and civil authorities to confront evil work to prevent future attacks so that the innocent and vulnerable will be protected.”

Daniel Darling, director of The Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, served as a key drafter for the evangelical statement and commented on the crisis in Israel.

“These despicable acts represent a second Holocaust against the Jewish people. As in every generation, Israel needs defenders. There can be no equivocation. This is the time for the church to speak clearly and with one voice that we not only condemn these barbarous acts of terrorism but that we support Israel’s right to defend itself. I’m grateful for the moral clarity of those who added their name to this document and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” 

Southern Baptists passed a resolution at the 2016 annual meeting titled, “On Prayer and Support For Israel” supporting the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state. 

The full statement can be found here

The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 13.6 million members and a network of over 47,000 cooperating churches and congregations. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.

To request an interview, contact Elizabeth Bristow
by email at [email protected] or call 202-547-0209
 Visit our website at www.erlc.com
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By / May 14

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent discuss the pipeline cyberattack that led to gas stations in the southeast running out of gas, Liz Cheney’s oust from leadership, the Gaza crisis, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church electing their first transgender bishop. Lindsay gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including Catherine Parks with “What you can do during India’s COVID crisis,” Josh Wester and Jordan Wootten with “Explainer: The contract dispute between Kentucky and Sunrise Children’s Services,” Jared Kennedy with “How to prepare your children to see their gendered bodies as gifts for God’s mission.”

ERLC Content

Culture

  1. Gas stations in the Southeast run out of gas as people panic buy fuel
  2. US pipeline cyberattack is a ‘wake up call’ for America
  3. Panic Drives Gas Shortages After Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Attack
  4. Cheney defiant as Republicans oust her from leadership for rebuking Trump
  5. Gaza crisis: Casualties pile up with no signs of ceasefire from Israel, Hamas
  6. Evangelical Lutheran Church elects first transgender bishop

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By / May 14

Clashes between Israelis and Palestinians lead Tor Wennesland, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, to say on Tuesday, “We’re escalating towards a full scale war. Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of deescalation.”

The recent tensions appear to be due to a pending decision by Israel’s Supreme Court that could evict approximately 75 Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem. Violent clashes also resulted when Muslims were reportedly blocked from Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. The terrorist group Hamas, which controls the area of Gaza, escalated the conflict by firing approximately 1,500 rockets at civilian targets in Israel, killing five people and injuring over 200.

The Israeli Defense Force responded by launching airstrikes targeting missile launching sites in Gaza. Because Hamas often uses civilian neighborhoods as “human shields,” the air strikes have reportedly led to the deaths of 65 people in Gaza, including 14 children.

What is the origin of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict?

The ancient nation of Israel ceased to exist when in AD 138 the Roman emperor Hadrian crushed the Bar Kochba revolt and banned all Jews from Palestine (i.e., the biblical regions known as the Land of Israel). Over the next 12 centuries, the land was conquered and reconquered by various nations and empires. In 1517, the land was captured by the Ottoman Empire, which would retain control until 1917. During World War I, the British captured Jerusalem and drove the Turks out of Ottoman Syria. Following that war the British controlled the area known as Palestine, and were given a mandate by the League of Nations to provide security and order within the territory.

Because the land was now in the hands of the British, it became an ideal location for Jews fleeing persecution in Russia and Ukraine. This influx of Jews from 1919 and 1923, along with the Balfour Declaration, led the Arab inhabitants of the land to develop their own political movement known as Palestinian nationalism.

As historian Martin Bunton notes, “Before the First World War, there was no ‘Palestine’ as such; rather the territory consisted of the districts of Jerusalem, Nablus, and Acre, all of which were defined according to an evolving framework of Ottoman administration.” Since then, Arabs in the region adopted a national identity as Palestinians, with the primary objective of opposing Zionism (i.e., the reestablishment of the Jewish nation of Israel).

The United Nations voted in 1947 for the areas occupied by Palestinians to be split into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem becoming an international city. While Jewish leaders accepted the proposal, it was rejected by the Arab contingent.

Why are Palestenians being evicted from East Jerusalem?

During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the western part of Jerusalem was captured by Israel, while the area known as East Jerusalem was captured by Jordan. Israel took over East Jerusalem after defeating Jordan in the 1967 Arab–Israeli War. Since then Israel has considered the area to be a part of their nation while the U.N. and most of the international community (with the exception of the U.S.) considers it to be occupied territory. 

In 1956, Palestinian refugee families were relocated to the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem with the support of the U.N. and Jordanian government. But the Israeli courts contend that these Palestinian families are living in houses built on land owned by Jewish religious associations before the establishment of Israel in 1948. While many Israelis believe it is merely a legal dispute over land ownership, many Palestinians consider it a strategy to expel them from East Jerusalem

Who controls Palestine?

In 1994, Israel agreed to allow the Palestinian National Authority, an interim self-government, to govern the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, which currently exists within the boundaries of the modern State of Israel. In 2007, these two areas, sometimes referred to as the “occupied territories,” were divided between two political entities, Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Hamas has been officially designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union, Jordan, Egypt, and Japan. 

Where does Hamas get its rockets?

After Israeli security forces pulled out of Gaza in 2005, Hamas was able to smuggle in rockets and mortar shells produced by allies, such as Iran. More recently, Hamas has claimed that they are now able to build rockets themselves in Gaza.

Despite having fired more than 10,000 rockets into Israel since 2005, the Israeli government believes that Hamas still has an arsenal of between 5,000 to 6,000 rockets that can strike anywhere between the Gaza border communities and 25-35 miles into Israel.

How many Palestinians identify as Christian?

Based on the 2017 census by the Palestinian Authority, there are roughly 47,000 Palestinians, about 1% of the population, who identify as Christian. 

A survey taken in 2020 found that about half of Palestinian Christians (48%) are Greek Orthodox while slightly more than a third (38%) are Latin Catholic. About 4% identify as Evangelicals and Lutherans. Out of those, only about 1 in 3 label themselves as “religious” (36%).