The war between Israel and Hamas has dominated the headlines over the last two months. But there has also been a disturbing substory — namely, what’s happened to our universities. Countless Americans are shocked that so many college student groups would celebrate Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israelis. They’ve wondered why it’s been so hard for the elite universities to condemn Hamas’ terrorism or for college presidents to speak out clearly about the rise of antisemitism, particularly the dramatic increase of on-campus antisemitism.
I am grateful that Colorado Christian University was one of the earliest universities to speak out on this in the United States. There were clear and timely statements from myself and others in the administration deploring Hamas’ campaign of terror against Israel, and that we stood with Israel.
We spoke against jihadist voices and against the voices of the anti-colonialist critical theorists. We affirmed Israel’s sovereignty as a nation, its right to defend itself, its importance as an ally, and its historical claim to its land. We also condemned the antisemitism erupting on campuses and in cities around the world.
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We understood this was a time of national catastrophe for Israel and Jews around the world. We urged Christian colleges and universities not to be naïve about the intent of Hamas, whose original charter of 1988 stated that its primary goal is to destroy the state of Israel through jihad until the banner of Allah is raised over every inch of Palestine.
We held a student-faculty forum to discuss the matter and how we should respond. I also addressed the issues at length with our students in chapel.
But this week, we are going a step further. We are hosting a night for Israel on our campus, a benefit dinner, bringing together Jewish and Christian leaders who share a common commitment to supporting Israel and promoting peace in the Middle East.
We will provide a platform for local Jewish and Christian leaders to share insights, express solidarity, and raise awareness of what’s happening. We want to speak to the broader community and continue educating our student body.
We will also raise funds to support United Hatzalah, the ambulance group, in its lifesaving efforts in Israel. United Hatzalah is an organization of over 7,000 medic volunteers from all faiths and ethnicities ready to race to save the lives of anyone in need at no cost to the patient.
The group’s volunteers were particularly heroic on Oct 7 and the days that followed, putting themselves in harm’s way to save many hundreds of lives and treating thousands, going in under fire to provide emergency care, evacuations by ambulance and helicopters, and setting up field hospitals for both medical and psycho-trauma treatments.
These efforts seriously depleted the organization’s medical equipment and supplies, and additional needs have arisen due to the ongoing war. The good news is that already a donor has stepped up to match funds raised at the event up to $500,000! The evening will end with a prayer vigil.
What we are doing is unusual, but we challenge other universities to step up and do something similar. When people ask me what is prompting a conservative evangelical Christian university to do this, here is what I tell them.
First, there is a moral reason. The genocidal campaign against Israel and the Jewish people is evil. The chant to free Palestine from the river to the sea is a cry to wipe Israel off the map. And since Israel is the home to nearly half of the world’s Jews today, this cry is not just anti-Israel; it is antisemitic. It is Jew hatred at its worst. And what Hamas has done to the Palestinian people and Palestinian Christians is also evil — using them as human shields and provoking this war in the first place.
Second, we are driven by what I call a covenantal reason. As Christians, we are Bible people. We acknowledge God’s unique covenant with Israel in the past and the special place for Jews in God’s plan of redemption. They have been a light to the gentile world.
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And third, all Christians have a debt to Jews and Judaism which we have not sufficiently acknowledged through the centuries. A great deal of the church’s misguided antisemitism in the past could have been averted had we acknowledged it. Too many Christians forget the Jewish roots of our faith. Most of our Bible is the Hebrew Scriptures.
Without Jews, we would have no Old Testament, which led up to and is essential to understand our New Testament. It first introduces us to the themes of creation, fall, redemption, atonement, and the promise of a new heaven and earth. Through the Jewish people, God gave the law of Moses and the Ten Commandments, the Great Commandment, and the idea of covenant.
We share the same hymnbook — the Psalms. We draw on the same wisdom literature. Without the Jewish people, we have no church, no Mary, no Joseph and no Jesus. The mother church of early Christianity was the largely Jewish Jerusalem church. These are the relatives of the one we look to as the Christ, whose first coming we now celebrate at advent.
Of course, evangelicals and Jews have significant theological differences. But it does not negate all that I have just said. And our event this week is meant to stand with our Jewish friends and support them at a time when they are under siege.
Just 78 years after the end of World War II, the world is slipping back into a revived antisemitic darkness. Who would have imagined this could happen again? A Jewish rabbi friend who was in Israel on October 7th recently told me, “I always thought I would just read about the holocaust, not live through another one.” This is not a time for Christians to be silent.
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