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Reaction to Israel-Hamas war exposes huge divide in American Christianity
Non-evangelicals far more likely to call for protection of Palestinians
Public statements by Christian denominations and leaders show a sharp divide in how American organized Christianity is responding to the war between Israel and Hamas: Although nearly all condemned Hamas atrocities and most acknowledged that Israel has a right to defend itself, evangelicals and other theologically conservative churches and leaders are much less likely to raise humanitarian concerns about how Israel is waging its military campaign than do their theologically more liberal counterparts.
Many non-evangelical churches and leaders have called for a ceasefire or other steps to provide humanitarian assistance to Gazans displaced by the war. But such calls are almost nonexistent from the evangelical wing of American Christianity.
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Here’s a quick look at what the largest Christian denominations in the U.S. have had to officially say since the war began, listed in rough order of their size1:
🟪 Roman Catholic Church: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has been publicizing the pronouncements of Pope Francis, who has called for the establishment of humanitarian corridors and the release of hostages by Hamas. The bishops pointed out that “Pope Francis expressed his concern over ‘the serious humanitarian situation in Gaza,’ saying he is ‘saddened that the Anglican hospital and the Greek-Orthodox parish have also been hit in recent days.’”
🟪 Southern Baptist Convention: The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC is promoting the “Evangelical Statement in Support of Israel,” which includes the signatures of numerous SBC leaders who “fully support Israel’s right and duty to defend itself against further attack, and urgently call all Christians to pray for the salvation and peace of the people of Israel and Palestine.” It calls Israel’s mission consistent with the Christian just-war tradition, and “we also affirm the legitimacy of Israel’s right to respond against those who have initiated these attacks as Romans 13 grants governments the power to bear the sword against those who commit such evil acts against innocent life.” The full-page statement, which was released Oct. 11, made no mention of war-caused humanitarian concerns.
🟪 United Methodist Church: The Council of Bishops of the largest mainline Protestant denomination has raised concerns about violence perpetrated by both sides in the conflict. Its statement of Oct. 9 said: “We condemn the Hamas militants who have killed and captured civilians, women and children in Israel. We equally decry the deaths of innocent civilians, women and children caught in the crossfire of the Israeli retaliation in the Gaza Strip.” The bishops also quoted their 2016 resolution that called for “an end to military occupation, freedom from violence, and full respect for the human rights of all under international law.”
🟪 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: The church’s ruling First Presidency issued this statement Oct. 12: “We are devastated by the recent eruption of violence and loss of life in the Middle East. Violence of this nature is abhorrent to us and is not in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is a gospel of peace. At such times, our hearts ache for all victims of this atrocity. As servants of God, we affirm that He calls upon all of us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and we pray for a peaceful resolution of all conflicts.”
🟪 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: The country’s largest Lutheran denomination has condemned violence by both sides: “As Lutherans, we are accustomed to holding tension between two truths,” said an Oct. 13 statement from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton. “Thus the ELCA denounces the egregious acts of Hamas, acts that have led to unspeakable loss of life and hope. At the same time the ELCA denounces the indiscriminate retaliation of Israel against the Palestinian people, both Christian and Muslim.” The statement also called “power exerted against all Palestinian people — through the occupation, the expansion of settlements and the escalating violence” the root cause of the conflict.
🟪 Assemblies of God: The country’s largest Pentecostal denomination has called on Christians to pray in four ways relating to the conflict: for the safe return of the hostages, for the protection of believers and civilians throughout the region, against the rise of antisemitism, and that the hope of the gospel will shine in the midst of sorrow.
🟪 Episcopal Church: The church’s Office of Government Relations is urging church members to write to the U.S. president and members of Congress in support of a ceasefire and the establishment of a humanitarian corridor.
🟪 Presbyterian Church (USA): Bronwen Boswell, the acting stated clerk, said the church stands “in solidarity with the people of Palestine and Israel who seek peace. Hamas does not. We condemn the violence that has taken place in recent days, and we grieve the decades of oppression that have led to this violence.” He also said the church “stands firm in its support of Palestinians and their right to live free in their land, without occupation, aggression, and bloodshed. We support and protect Israel’s right to exist as a free and sovereign nation.”
🟪 United Church of Christ: The UCC, though the Churches for Middle East Peace, which it co-founded, “continues to call on the United States government not to ignore the growing catastrophic humanitarian crisis happening in Gaza. All efforts must be made for this war to be brought to an end. We call for actions to be taken to secure the immediate release of the hostages and ensure international protection for all civilians. We call for an immediate ceasefire and that the root causes of suffering be addressed.”
Leaders also show split linked to theology
The pattern holds true for individual Christian leaders not associated with major denominations. Those associated with evangelicalism are nearly silent about the humanitarian concerns raised by Israel’s military response:
🟪 Shane Claiborne, author and activist, has denounced violence on both sides. He wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Every Palestinian is made in the image of God. Every single one. Every Israeli is made in the image of God. Every single one. If you were upset about Hamas massacring people but are not upset by the massacre happening now in Gaza ... check your heart.”
🟪 Mark Driscoll, the pastor who was forced out his Seattle church for bullying but who continues to maintain a large following, said on X: “Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. It’s a demonic organization. That’s the only explanation for what’s happening to women and children.”
🟪 Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and outspoken evangelical leader, has consistently defended Israel in his social media. “Israel has no choice but to defend itself from these barbaric Islamic terrorists who are proxies of the Iranian government. If Hamas is not defeated, they will continue their reign of terror, not only on Israel, but also on innocent Palestinian people,” he said in a recent Facebook post. Although his recent posts on Facebook and X have not explicitly mentioned humanitarian concerns about the war, the humanitarian agency that Graham heads, Samaritan’s Purse, seems open to providing aid to Palestinian war victims if conditions allow. In its most recent statement, the organization said that it works in Palestinian areas but that “[a]t this time, humanitarian access to Gaza is not possible.”
🟪 John Hagee, founder of Hagee Ministries, is distributing “Stand with Israel” artwork. “Pray for Israel and its brave soldiers fighting for peace and justice. Let us take a moment to show our support and send our love to our brothers and sisters across the world,” he said on X.
🟪 Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, said Israelis “should take every measure necessary to defend their people right now.” He said Hamas’s claims to land in the area are “built on a false theology and a false history.”
🟪 Greg Laurie, a megachurch leader whose story was portrayed in the 2023 film Jesus Revolution, said the events in Israel might be a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. He urged Christians to pray: “The Bible tells us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6). We want to pray that they arrive at some kind of peace. We want to pray that this horrific terrorism stops, and that they’re able to get their hostages back. And we want to pray that God places His hand of protection on the nation of Israel during this unprecedented war.”
🟪 Greg Locke, a nondenominational evangelical pastor, had some of the most incendiary words about the conflict: “There’s only ONE response that Israel has.... turn Gaza into a parking lot,” he wrote on X. “Level the whole thing. The ‘Palestinian oppression’ is media propaganda. Destroy the terrorists and take back every inch that God gave you.”
🟪 Jim Wallis, activist and founder of Sojourners, has lamented “immature extremism and violence” on both sides of the debate. On one side, “words like ‘resistance’ and ‘liberation’ for the barbarous brutality of Hamas is completely and morally inexcusable.” On the other side, “[s]trident calls for unlimited violence in Gaza erupted from conservative, pro-Israel members of Congress and, most tragically for many of us, from white right-wing evangelical preachers,” Wallis wrote for his Substack site.
🟪 Paula White, who headed President Trump’s evangelical advisory board, has promoted a series of prayer gatherings for Israel. In a tweet in the form of a prayer, she said: “Father, according to Exodus 23:31 you have established Israel’s borders. God of protection, bring protection to Israel’s borders. Your promise in Psalm 121 is to keep a watchful eye over Your People ... In the name of Jesus!”
Several large denominations, such as the National Baptist Convention USA, are not listed because they apparently have not declared official positions.