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Why won’t the West defend Middle East Christians?

Why won’t the West defend Middle East Christians?

Author of Christianity: the first 3000 years, Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, answers the question of why Christians in the West do not seem to care about Christians in the Middle East:

Why has the suffering of the Middle Eastern Christian communities not ignited outrage and support from Western Christians? The answer has something to do with Israel and the Second Coming, writes Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch.

The problem is a Protestant one, going right back to sixteenth-century Reformation. From Martin Luther onwards, many Protestants have eagerly been awaiting an imminent end to the world, the return of Christ in glory. Reading the Bible, it’s easy to link this to the idea that a necessary precondition for Christ to return is that his ancient people the Jews convert to the Christian faith; and so many Protestants have sought the right conditions for that to happen. It was one of the reasons that the Puritan statesman Oliver Cromwell agreed to the readmission of the Jews to England in the 1650s, after more than three centuries of expulsion; so the English could convert them. But by the nineteenth century there was a further thought: the Jews must return to their Promised Land of Israel. In 1846 there was founded a worldwide Evangelical Alliance. One of its main concerns was to return Jews to Palestine and convert them there; German and British Evangelicals even backed the setting-up of a new Anglican bishopric in Jerusalem to provide for the conversion (the first bishop was indeed a converted Jewish rabbi). This was an unprecedentedly practical attempt to hasten on the Last Days, that recurrent Protestant preoccupation. The Evangelical Alliance found many other battles to fight as new threats to the Evangelical world-view repeatedly emerged, but its first close association with Jerusalem projects was a precocious sign that international Evangelical Protestantism was going to link itself to the fate of the land of Palestine, even before many Jews began to share that concern.


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Rod Gillis

Good point in the post from David Kendrick.

There is an engaging article in Haaretz readers may wish to read, up to date as of two days ago.

Western governments face something of the same dilemma faced by Christians in the middle east with regard to the Arab Spring and democracy, i.e. when elections produce Islamist outcomes. Note the situation described by Haaretz with regard to Christians in Syria.

Of course current political concerns in the west do not negate long standing attitudes at play by Christians with regard to the middle east.

I think MacCulloch’s article is a little out of date. He’s certainly right when it comes to the Palestinian Christians vis-a-vis Israel. But many conservative Christians have been quite vocal about what they perceive as the Obama administration’s silence on the plight of Christians in other parts of the Middle East. He’s also missing the political complexity of being Christian in the midst of the “Arab Spring.” Christian leaders are perceived as supporting secularized dictatorships because the alternative of democratically elected Islamist parties seems worse from their perspective; which then makes them easy targets for angry Islamists.

Rod Gillis

Tks for this post, appreciate having an up to date point of view from Diarmaid MacCulloch, especially given the controversy around mid-east issues in both the ACC and ECUSA. Folks may also be interested in digging out an older book by Pulitzer Prize winner Barbara Tuckman, titled “Bible And Sword”.


There is a documentary called “Waiting for Armageddon” about the influence that modern-day evangelical End Timers have had on US foreign policy. It is available on Netflix. It is truly frightening to know that there are millions of Americans that want to see endless war in the Middle East because they think it will hasten the Second Coming.

Jonah Kraut

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