jerry falwell 88 298 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
The Western world is facing an existential "fight for survival" against Islamic extremism, and both Christians and Jews need to unite against this common threat, a prominent American Evangelical Christian leader said this weekend.
"No thinking person can refuse to see that Western civilization is in a fight for its survival against radical Islam, and that the future of what we know as Western civilization is at stake here," said Rev. Robert Stearns, executive director of the New York-based Eagles' Wings Ministry in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Stearns, who has been a driving force in Israel's burgeoning relations with the Evangelical Christian world, said that the real threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism required that Christians and Jews unite in this struggle, irrespective of their differences on social issues.
"This is not just an issue of religious Christians and right-wing Israelis, but should be of concern to anyone who values the democratic way of life," Stearns said.
"No matter how much some might not like this alliance, they have to set aside lesser issues because this is a question of survival," he added, in an indirect aside at critics of the close bond that has been formed between Bible-believing Christians and Jews.
The alliance between Israel and the Evangelical Christian world has been given the cold shoulder by the predominantly liberal American Jewish leadership, whose outlook on social matters, such as abortion, the separation of church and state and school prayer, are 180 degrees to the left of the Christian Right in America.
The Evangelical leader, who was the brainchild and founder of a program which brings dozens of Christian students to Israel for a month over the summer - in what has been dubbed the "Christian birthright" - said in the interview that the criticism of Israel among mainstream Christian denominations is a flagrant "misreading of Scripture" and the result of political pressures.
He asserted that many of the mainstream Protestant Churches who typically opposed Israel are those whose membership was significantly declining.
His comments come two months after a public dispute between the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and Evangelical Christian leaders in the Holy Land over their hard core support for the State of Israel after the Patriarch issued a proclamation which stated that the Evangelical Christians were leading the world to Armageddon.
"If there is worry about people leading the world to Armageddon, they really need to talk to the president of Iran," Stearns said.
The recent remarks against Christian Zionists served to highlight the two opposing camps in the Christian world, and the deep divide between avid Christian supporters of Israel on the one hand, led by the Evangelicals, and Christian supporters of the Palestinians on the other, a schism which has only deepened over the last decade as the former's ties with Israel began to increase considerably.
In the interview, Stearns, who was also behind the launching of an annual "Day of Prayer" marked by as many as 30 million Christians in 100,000 churches in over 100 nations around the world, revealed that he only got interested in Israel during a visit a decade and a half ago.
Stearns's fascination with Israel, which changed his whole theological worldview, was spurred by an impromptu visit to the Western Wall at the time, which he made at the invitation of a Toronto-born yeshiva student who managed a small Jerusalem bookstore which the American pastor frequented for English newspapers during his stay.
The visit to the site turned out to be a theological and philosophical turning point for the young pastor from upstate New York, who had previously only been involved in local church activity, and whose only contact with the Holy Land before that had been through a Jerusalem-based Evangelical organization, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.
"I saw people praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and thought to myself: that is the God I pray to ,only they have been praying for thousands of years before my God came along," he said.
"I understood that the continuity of God's plan did not spring forth in a vacuum but came from a chosen people - the Jews- and a consecrated place - Israel," he added.
Ending another of many visits to Israel this weekend, Stearns leaves the Holy Land with one main focus: to mobilize the global Evangelical Church on Israel's behalf, and to bring thousands of Christian students to Israel to solidify their faith-based support for the Jewish state.