Five painful reasons why young Evangelicals are drifting – even turning – away from Israel
Tomorrow, I’ll write about 5 reasons to be hopeful for our young people, but let’s start by getting a sense of the problem, starting with this new poll
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Every day this week I’ve been writing columns about a fascinating, if troubling, new survey on how American Evangelicals see the modern State of Israel.
In case you’ve missed them, here they are:
PART 1: New poll finds that Evangelicals love Netanyahu, but they worry his departure as PM harms Israel’s ties with Christians. This is a warning light on the dashboard for Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid – the two should launch an aggressive strategy to build strategic ties, trust with Evangelicals immediately
PART 2: SHOCK STUDY: 58% of Evangelicals under age 30 voted for Biden, and younger Christians are turning away from support for Israel, new survey finds – Older American Evangelicals worry Biden will harm U.S.-Israel relations, but younger Evangelicals? Not so much – here’s the story
PART 3: The good news: Fascinating new poll proves most Evangelicals believe Jews have the right to the Land of Israel, and affirm Abrahamic Covenant is still valid in 21st century – The bad news: survey provides first hard evidence that some younger Evangelicals are turning against Israel
Here is an important excerpt from yesterday’s column.
The good news is that the vast majority of Evangelical Christians love and support Israel and believe that God has given the Jewish people the right to live in their ancient homeland.
A new survey just released by the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem strongly reaffirms this belief among most Evangelicals in the United States that the covenant that God made with Abraham in Genesis chapter 12 is still valid and operational.
However, the survey also reveals a troubling trend: younger Evangelicals are far less certain than their parents and grandparents about the validity of the Abrahamic Covenant and the right of the Jewish people to live in the Holy Land in their own sovereign state today.
And some are actually turning against Israel.
FIVE REASONS FOR CONCERN
Tomorrow, I’ll share some reasons for hope.
Today, however, I want to examine why young people are drifting away – or even actively turning away – from Israel.
I won’t go in-depth right now – let’s do that in 2022.
For the moment, let’s just get some of these reasons on the table.
FIRST, PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS
The most important reason that Evangelical young people are not learning about and coming to believe in God’s love and plan for Israel and the Jewish people is because their parents and grandparents are not carefully, consistently and intentionally passing on what they know and believe from the Bible to the next generation.
Too often, we assume that our kids will believe what we believe without making sure that we regularly take the time to teach them.
My Jewish grandparents passed away before I was two years old. My parents didn’t really know much about Israel or talk about the Biblical importance of Israel while I was growing up, even though my father was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home.
Fortunately, I became very interested in Israel on my own, then attended Tel Aviv University for six months during my junior year of undergraduate studies, and became very passionate about Israel from that point forward.
As Lynn and I raised our four sons, we studied the Bible with them every weekday morning for many years. We taught them about God’s love for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the history of the Jewish people, and why the Messiah had to be Jewish, and had to be born in Israel, and would return one day to Jerusalem.
The Bible is clear that the Biblical and moral education of children should start in the home, and we tried to be faithful to this.
After all, we read in Deuteronomy 6:4-7, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
What’s more, we invited Israelis to come stay with us when we lived here in Washington and introduced them to our children. And when we could afford it, we took our kids to Israel as often as possible.
I’m not saying we did everything right in raising our sons. We certainly made plenty of mistakes. But we made it a priority to teach them why God calls Israel the “apple” of His eye, and why the history of Israel so dominates the pages of the Bible.
SECOND, CHURCHES, SUNDAY SCHOOLS AND YOUTH GROUPS
One of the reasons that parents and grandparents are not always intentional about passing down their Biblical understanding of God’s heart for Israel is that they assume their children and grandchildren will get all this teaching in church.
The problem is that far too few pastors teach chapter by chapter, book by book, through the Bible. If all pastors were engaged in systematic expository teaching through the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and so forth – in addition to teaching through the books of the New Testament – then the story and importance of Israel would be hard to miss. But many aren’t.
Many pastors teach a series of topics from the Bible. This can be very helpful for Christians to grow in their faith, but is unlikely to teach them the Abrahamic Covenant, the other Biblical covenants, the narrative history of the Jewish people, their formation into the nation of Israel, their successes and failures as a nation, and their intense need for the Messiah.
Again, the Bible is crystal clear that Israel is super important to God, the “apple” of His eye. We read this in Deuteronomy 32:8-10, among other places.
“When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the apple of His eye.”
If this truth isn’t taught from the pulpit, how will people learn it?
Yet, even if a pastor is faithfully teaching “the whole counsel of God” – as Paul describes in Acts 20:27 – including the importance of Israel to all believers, most kids aren’t sitting in the main service.
They’re often attending Sunday School or youth group instead. So they are getting a totally different teaching than the adults. And are these teachers focusing at all on why Israel is so important to God and His church? Usually not.
THIRD, CHRISTIAN HIGH SCHOOLS, UNIVERSITIES, BIBLE COLLEGES AND SEMINARIES
In his first epistle to the largely Gentile church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul makes a critical point.
“Look at the nation Israel,” he tells all Christians everywhere. (1 Corinthians 10:18)
That is, Paul commands that all believers are to make it a point to know the history of Israel and the Jewish people – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
So that we can learn lessons from Israel’s story about the nature of God, the nature and cost of sin, the need for repentance, the power of forgiveness, and our desperate need for a Messiah who is not just our King but our Savior and Redeemer, among many other lessons.
Throughout Paul’s letter to the largely Gentile church in Rome – starting in chapter one but especially in Romans 9, 10, and 11 – he emphasizes over and over again God’s love and plan for Israel and why the Jewish people are so beloved and special to the Lord, and to Paul.
All too often, however, Christian education in the K-12 education is focused on teaching basic academics and values, with some Bible classes.
Yet rarely is the history and importance of Israel and the Jewish people a point of focus and consistent emphasis, if at all.
Bible colleges and seminaries typically require students to take an Old Testament survey class, which is certainly helpful. But rarely is speed-reading through all 39 books of the Hebrew Scriptures in 15 weeks or so enough to truly internalize these critically important themes, much less understand how to apply ancient truths and powerful prophecies to modern times.
What’s more, many Bible colleges and seminaries teach a narrative that can be summed up like this: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Return and Eternity.
That’s all true and important, but such a curriculum has just effectively eliminated the history of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the 12 tribes of Israel and the prophetic promises of a future sovereign State of Israel – which includes the miraculous ingathering of millions of Jewish people from exile back to the nation of Israel – from the story.
FOURTH, SECULAR SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES
Most Evangelical young people don’t even go to Christian schools in their early years, much less in college, if they decide to seek higher education.
Most go to highly secularized public schools, and then to highly secularized state or private colleges and universities.
All too often, these institutions are actively hostile towards Christians, and dismissive of Judeo-Christian values, much less Biblical history and doctrines.
What’s more, many of these institutions are increasingly hostile towards the State of Israel, and becoming breeding grounds for anti-Semitism.
There are many great schools out there, to be sure.
But Evangelical young people often find their beliefs under assault in American education today.
They can barely maintain their faith, much less gain a true appreciation of God’s love and plan for Israel.
FIFTH, THE MEDIA
Readers of ALL ISRAEL NEWS know that we launched this site on September 1, 2020, to counter the extreme bias against Israel, the Jewish people, the Church and Judea-Christian history and values that we find in so much of so-called “mainstream media” today.
Just last June, for example, I spoke at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Dallas on this story that we published.
TOP TEN LIST: The 10 most heinous examples of media bias against Israel in just the last month. ALL ISRAEL NEWS founder urges Christian media executives to do “far more” to confront and combat “surging anti-Semitism” and “extreme media bias” against Israel.
The painful truth is that our young people are being barraged by wave after wave of media reports that unfairly paint Israel as the bad guy, that portray Israel as a heartless “Goliath” who constantly and cruelly terrorizes pure, pathetic defenseless “Davids.”
Israel is systematically denounced at the United Nations and in other international institutions as the enemy, the problem, the oppressor, the occupier, an apartheid state, among a litany of other epithets.
FINAL THOUGHTS, FOR NOW
With all these challenges, and others that I haven’t taken the time to get into, is it really any wonder that a small but growing number of Evangelical young people are not sure what they really believe about Israel?
Or are drifting away from the love that their parents and grandparents have for Israel?
Or are actively turning away from Israel?
This is a real and growing problem.
It’s not the only struggle the Church is having with transmitting the faith to young people.
But it’s a serious struggle indeed.
Tomorrow, I’ll share some reasons for hope.
But I do hope for now you’ll process these challenges, commit them to regular prayer, and share this article with family, friends, pastors and youth leaders.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.