During the third week of October, a group of Palestinian Christians, mostly men, will be speaking at a “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference that will be supported financially, at least in part, by the United Methodist Church.
At this conference, which will take place in Oklahoma City, Christians in the United States will be told about the alleged sins of the Jewish state against the Palestinian people. If what has happened at Christ at the Checkpoint conferences held over the past decade at Bethlehem Bible College is any indication, there will be little, if any, criticism of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
For people who have been paying attention, the arrival of the Christ at the Checkpoint movement into American society demonstrates once again that Israel is under attack. It is under attack by a campaign of disinformation. Much of this disinformation is broadcast by Christians living in Muslim-majority environments in the West Bank and Gaza. These Christians live in fear of attack from their Muslim neighbors and rely on the corrupt Palestinian Authority to protect them.
These Christians pay for this protection by telling Christians in the West that the suffering in the Holy Land is all Israel’s fault. They also say that Israel mistreats Christians just like the Jews and Romans in first century Jerusalem mistreated Jesus and his followers. This is a lie.
Israel is not a perfect country, but it is the one country in the Middle East where the original Christian population is increasing. In every other country in the region, Christian populations are in decline. One and a half million Christians lived in Iraq before then-president Saddam Hussein was driven from power. Today, there are less than 300,000. These Christians needed Hussein to keep them safe. When Hussein was ousted, Christians were fair game.
In Egypt, Coptic Christians suffer terribly as well. Their churches are burned and their priests and members are regularly attacked. These Christians rely on a strongman like President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to keep them safe.
The majority population has been taught to hate Christians (and Jews) for many years – even centuries. This problem will not go away tomorrow.
Israel is a democracy where Christians can criticize the government and will still not be targeted for violence. They do not have to tell a story about how evil the Palestinians are to be safe in Israel. In fact, several prominent Palestinian Christians regularly drive from Israel into the West Bank to participate in the demonization of Israel at CATC conferences hosted by the Bethlehem Bible College.
This is not the story you hear from Palestinian Christians and their allies in Europe and North America. Churches that pass on the story from these Christians do not talk about Muslim violence, or jihad, but instead speak as if everything is Israel’s fault. They talk about Israel the way the Church spoke about Jews in the Middle Ages.
Christians in the West want to hear this story because it convinces them that if they were only nicer to the Jihadists than they have been, they wouldn’t attack people and would eventually change their ways. The problem is that Islamic scripture and doctrine promote hostility toward Christians and Jews (and toward non-Muslims in general). Not every Muslim follows these teachings and some are working very hard to change this interpretation. But the Koran is the Koran and it will take many years to change this practice and convince Muslims to abandon their attitude of supremacism toward non-Muslims. People who talk about this problem risk being accused of Islamophobia, or worse, being killed.
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Many people in the West do not want to be courageous and stand up to Jihadism and Islamic supremacism. It’s a scary thing to confront and people do not want to be courageous. To make matters worse, courage – masculine courage – has been devalued in the West.
At its best, Christianity has a wonderful aspect to it. It tames men and yet, at the same time, it insists that they keep their courage.
Christianity demands that men constrain the evil that is in their hearts, and yet keep a certain wildness alive so that they can risk their lives in defense of their homes and freedom and to defend their faith.
John the Baptist exhibited this wildness. So did Jesus. He went into the wildness of the desert to wrestle with demons so that he could stand firm in the face of temptation, oppression and suffering. St. Paul was no coward.
These sons of Israel were men – courageous, gutsy men – who had an undeniable and unpredictable wildness about them. This wildness is an indispensable aspect of human life. No home can be safe, no public square can be free and orderly and no civilization can survive without a modicum of this wildness being present. Too little of this wildness is as bad, if not worse, as not enough.
Look around and you’ll see what types of disasters befall a society when masculine courage fails. Fatherlessness and the damage it does to children is one of the primary consequences of this devaluation. Men walk away from their family responsibilities because, simply put, they lack courage. Who suffers? Women and children.
The priest abuse in the Catholic Church is another problem that results from the failure of courage. The priests and bishops in the Catholic church allowed rapists in their midst to go free because they lacked courage we traditionally expect of men.
In Europe we see what happens when people abandon their Christian faith and the manly courage that goes along with it. In England, for example, we’ve seen thousands of young girls who have been raped by grooming gangs. The police failed them because they lacked the courage to withstand the accusation of Islamophobia.
WE CAN call the devaluation of manly courage and its knock-on effects in the West the “Great Emasculation.” The Great Emasculation is one reason why many people in the West hate Israel and engage in a war of misinformation against Israel.
Every few years, Israeli men have to arm themselves and fight against people who attack their country. They put themselves at risk to protect their homeland and their families from people, men mostly, who seek to do them harm.
Rather than put the responsibility for this problem where it belongs – at the feet and on the shoulders of religious leaders who encourage young men to murder – anti-Israel activists attack the courageous men (and women) who shoulder the dangerous burdens of sovereignty and self-defense and stand in the gap between Israel and its enemies. This is a great source of humiliation for people who lack the courage that Israeli soldiers embody. Simply put, regular acts of Israeli courage highlight the Great Emasculation that afflicts great swaths of intellectualism and activism in the West.
There is a crisis of masculinity in much of the world. It afflicts men in both Muslim and Western countries. Men simply do not know what to do with themselves. They have been badly trained or not trained at all at how to direct their impulses into actions that benefit the people in their lives in meaningful ways. We see this crisis play itself out in fights between the neo-Nazis and Antifa in the US. We see this crisis play itself out in mindless acts of terrorism perpetrated by Jihadists throughout the world.
Signs of this crisis are simply not evident to the same extent in Israel. When the Israeli government summons its soldiers to battle, the muster rates sometimes exceed 100 percent, meaning that retirees show up to serve. It has been like this for most of Israel’s history, since 1948.
In the main, Israeli men know what is expected of them and do it, and in so doing, remind the world of the value and necessity of masculine courage.
It wasn’t always like this. Many Jewish men were humiliated and damaged by the oppression they and their communities endured in Christian Europe. This humiliation manifested itself in an outraged Chaim Nachman Bialik, who was asked by Jewish leaders in Odessa to report on a pogrom in Kishinev in 1903. In his 2016 book, Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn, historian David Gordis reports that in Bialik’s poem about the pogrom (“In the City of Slaughter”) he directed his anger at the Jewish men who failed to risk their lives while their wives, sisters and daughters were murdered and raped.
“While the savage assault is unfolding, according to Bialik’s rendition, the Jewish men hide behind casks, unable to stop the attackers, too frightened to even try,” Gordis writes. “‘These sons of the Maccabees,’ Bialik calls them with bitter irony, are the very symbols of what Bialik believes has gone wrong with European Jewry.”
No one has been more of a victim of the Great Emasculation – and more humiliated by Israeli courage – than Christians living in Muslim-majority countries. Like Jews living in Christian Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, Christians living in the Middle East are unable to protect themselves from the periodic and sporadic violence that targets their families. They rely on strongman dictators who embody the negative aspects of masculine identity – aggressiveness, violence and unaccountability – to keep them safe. This is a humiliating situation for them to be in. Like the Jewish men in Bialik’s poem who stood by while their families were destroyed, Palestinian Christian men simply lack the numbers and collective strength to provide for the safety of their families from Muslim oppression. They do however, roar like lions at Israel – and encourage Western Christians to do the same.
In their so-called peacemaking activism, Palestinian Christian men work to convince Christians in the West that they somehow have the magic formula of how to live in peace with Muslims and that this magic formula would work even better if it weren’t for those darn Jews who keep messing things up for Christians in the region.
That’s one of the messages offered by the Christ at the Checkpoint movement. It’s an untrue message coming mostly from a group of men who are unable to protect their families from the sanctioned insults and hostility directed at them by their Muslim neighbors and who rely on thugs like Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to keep them safe. This message will be on display at the upcoming Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in October.
It’s a message that responsible Christians of all denominations should reject. The author is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). He has attended four Christ at the Checkpoint conferences. His opinions are his own.
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