Does Anybody Care About the Christian Arabs?
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- Does Anybody Care About the Christian Arabs?
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Few Americans realize that the majority of Arab-Americans are Christian, not Muslim.
The reason why there are so many Arab Christians, while there are so few native Western European Muslims, is that the Muslim majority in Arab lands has traditionally tolerated Christianity in its midst.
European Christians, of course, did not offer any such tolerance toward Muslims until very recently.
Does Anybody Care About the Christian Arabs?
by Bill Barnwell
In the bloody and hate-fueled battles throughout the Middle East there is a forgotten group of people. This forgotten group of people is ignored even by many of their own brethren across the world. I'm referring, of course, to Arab Christians.
This unfortunate group of people is caught in the middle of tensions between Jews and Muslims. While many Christian Arabs sympathize politically and culturally with their fellow Arabs over the Jewish people, they nonetheless are often targets of scorn from Arab Muslims.
What is most shocking, however, is that Christians of Arab descent are non-issues in the minds of most Western Christians. Arab believers are most notably ignored by many Christians in America who believe fervently in the dispensational, pre-tribulational, premillennial view of Bible prophecy.
Considering that dispensationalist Christians are so focused on events in the Middle East, why then would they have a lack of interest in Arab believers? Because in their prophetic paradigm, it all boils down to the secular nation of Israel. Dispensationalists believe that God made promises in the Old Testament to the nation of Israel that have not been completely fulfilled. This is one of the main reasons why dispensationalist Christians are such strong supporters of Israel and why they do not believe any part of ancient Israel should be in the hands of Arabs. To have anyone other than Jewish people in possession of the disputed territories would constitute rebellion against God. The reasoning also goes that God made a promise to ancient Israel, and God never breaks a promise. Since He still hasn't fulfilled all the land promises to Israel, it must then be forthcoming.
The problem with this is that it ignores some key passages which indicate that God did in fact already honor His land promises to ancient Israel. The book of Joshua details Israel's possession of the Promised Land. From Joshua 13:8–21:42 there is a very long and seemingly dull section for modern readers about the ancient tribes of Israel receiving
their sections of the Promised Land. After this section there is a summary in the next verses which reads:
So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord handed all their
enemies over to them. Not one of all the Lord's good promises to the house of Israel failed, every one was fulfilled (Joshua 21:43–45 emphasis mine).
Some dispensationalists have tried to evade the force of these verses and claim that the land promises really weren't fulfilled completely, but their objections fall short of the kind of "literal interpretation" they claim to champion and consistently apply.
The New Testament does not focus on race, gender, or class distinctions. In fact, it says such distinctions are done away with in Christ. The "seed of Abraham" is not determined by race, but by faith (Galatians 3:28–29). Likewise, the New Testament says nothing about "rebuilding the Temple." Where the Old Testament talks about rebuilding the Temple
it is referring to the Second Jewish Temple that already was rebuilt and was subsequently destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. In the New Testament, the Temple is oftentimes refigured to mean either Christ Himself, the Church, or the body of a believer (John 2:19; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19;
2 Corinthians 6:16). The focus is no longer on a specific area of land, but a faith that was to spread throughout the whole world (Matt. 28:16–20; Acts 1:8). Where the New Testament does refer to a plan for ethnic Israelites it is only in the context of them being grafted into
faith in Christ (Romans 9–11).
What then does all this have to do with Christian Arabs? A great deal. Because of the many theological misperceptions Christians have regarding the "end-times" and "Bible prophecy," such as the ones described above,Christian Arabs just don't fit the bill for being prophetically
Thus, last summer when Israel was bombing Lebanon, most Christians didn't even think how it might affect Lebanon's fairly significant Christian population. The focus was only on Israel and how this might relate to the "rapture" or other end-times events.
To the dispensationalist Christian, Christian Arabs who don't enthusiastically support Israel and Israeli foreign policy are actually thumbing their nose at God. Such Western Christians think that it's great that there are Christian Arabs in the Middle East, but only to the extent that such believers support Israel. Rather than showing concern or compassion for suffering Arabs Christians who are caught in the crossfire between Jews and Muslims, the majority of dispensationalist Christians instead show them indifference at best or contempt at worst.
It does not particularly bother Western dispensationalists that the population of Christians in Israel and the disputed territories over the years has dwindled to a great extent. It also apparently doesn't bother them that Christians are not free to evangelize in Israel. The main
issues that matter to such believers are issues that concern secular Israel and their role in the "end-times." It's quite a shame, however, if these beliefs about modern Israel and the end-times actually are Biblically inaccurate. It's an even bigger shame if Christian Arabs are
getting ignored because of them.
Of course, there will be some who will cry "anti-Semitism." But anti-Semitism is not the same thing as rejecting the sloppy interpretations of Christian dispensationalists. It also not
anti-Semitic to sympathize with suffering Arab Christians whose plight is often ignored. Yes, there is a real and very pervasive anti-Semitism out there and it is ugly.
Neither racism nor bad Biblical theology should drive our foreign policy. Some of the same Christians who talk a good deal about spreading the faith are indifferent to the faith's disappearance in the birthplace of Christianity and its surrounding regions. Many Western Christians get excited about sending money to organizations that bring ethnic Jews from
Russia into Israel because they think in doing so they will speed up the "rapture" or Second Coming. "You can become a part of prophecy!" is the sales pitch. You won't find many of these same Christians, however, sending money to suffering Christian Arabs in Israel, Lebanon or anywhere else in the Middle East. Doing so wouldn't fit their prophetic
Thankfully the message of the Bible is that God does not show partiality based on race or ethnicity (Galatians 3:28–29). Nor is it suggested anywhere in the New Testament that God has "two separate prophetic plans for Israel and the Church." The reality, however, is that many Christians will not talk about Arab believers because they fear being labeled anti-Semitic, fear incurring a curse from God, or they just plain don't care.
People's beliefs about the future impact the way they think or live in the present. We all would be better off if we could correct misperceptions about what the Bible says regarding the future. Just ask the struggling Christians in the Middle East who are ignored by their
fellow believers in the Church.
April 17, 2007
Bill Barnwell [send him mail] is a pastor and writer from Michigan. He holds both a Master of Ministry degree and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree from Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana.
Visit his blog. Bill is also a Mortgage Consultant and Loan Originator who can serve clients throughout the country.
Copyright © 2007 LewRockwell.com
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"The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who, in times of
great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality." ~ Dante Alighieri.
Those who watch while our elected officials are ravaging our country
should consider that...Vin
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