(Like the Bethlehem Bible College staff)
I have spent a long time pondering why West Bank Christian Arabs, and Middle Eastern Christians in general, align themselves with their Muslim tormentors until they eventually give up and emigrate. (This option is often open to them because they are generally better educated, more industrious and therefore more prosperous than their Muslim neighbours)
An article from the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition (from which I have used quotes below), about an emerging move among Israel's Arab Christians to break with tradition and enlist in Israel's defence forces, points to the historical subjection of Middle Eastern Christians that has caused Christians to identify with the Muslims and their cause. (the eradication of Israel)
A simplified overview of Christian history in the Middle East shows that the early church grew from Israel (Judea and Galilee) and grew into Aramaic-speaking lands to become the Syrian Orthodox church and other Eastern orthodox churches, and into Egypt where it became the Coptic church. The Christian church flourished in the Middle East until Islam burst out of Saudi Arabia, with its universal aspirations and appetite to rule and impose Arab culture, language and religion.
The religious and legal structure that emerged established Muslim rule over Jews and Christians, who became tolerated but inferior "dhimmi" citizens. While maintaining their communal faith and integrity, the dhimmi communities were subjected to excessive and humiliating taxation and to a precarious dependence on the whims of Muslim rulers and officials. wildolive.co.uk/islamophobia
Instances of massacre and forced conversions were part of the tapestry of victimology over the many centuries of Muslim supremacy that struck Christians and Jews in what had been, prior to early Arab conquests, the majority Christian populations in much of the Middle East.The result of what was termed by the historian Bat Ye'or as "dhimmitude", was a debilitating mental complex of fear and inferiority, which scarred the souls of generations of Eastern Jews and Eastern Christians. Recent manifestations of Muslim persecution may appear more political than religious in today's context, but Islam is still an all encompassing syastm, with political sanction for controlling religion. While the Jews were dispossessed and driven out to the new Jewish state, the Christians had to work out a survival strategy in their homelands. They could have defied Islam and risked the consequences, as indeed First Baptist Church in Bethlehem are doing today at great personal risk. They could have fled the Muslim world, which many who could afford to have done. The rest had to opt for a kind of Dhimmi status in which their public pronouncements would have to accord with the ruling line.
Living as a dhimmi community could be seen as having resulted in Stockholm syndrome [Wikipedia definition], which is
a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.
Stockholm syndrome can be seen as a form of traumatic bonding, which does not necessarily require a hostage scenario, but which describes "strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other." One commonly used hypothesis to explain the effect of Stockholm syndrome is based on Freudian theory. It suggests that the bonding is the individual's response to trauma in becoming a victim. Identifying with the aggressor is one way that the ego defends itself. When a victim believes the same values as the aggressor, they cease to be a threat.
When the Middle Eastern Jews escaped from being Dhimmis to live in their own nation, the Muslim states' new object of hatred became the Jewish state of Israel. This hatred to be added to the "same values" that Christians who remained under subjection to Islam had to accept.
I believe this history of Dhimmitude is the reason so many Arab Christian leaders and teachers embrace replacement theology and campaign against Israel, the only nation in the Middle East where Christians are safe and Christianity is thriving.
Seen in this light, the Bethlehem Bible College is not a beacon of the faith, but a victim. The heroes are Christians like Pastor Niam Khoury and his congregation, and it is them we should be honouring and listening to.
I think their Sabeel narrative appeals to many Christians because it fits their left leaning theology of the underdog always being right and worthy of support. But that's another topic. whither the church
Rev Paul Wilkinson kindly read the above and made these comments
Thank you for your emails, which I read through with interest. I thought your letter to the leadership of the BU was well put and I hope they will at least consider offering Baptists an alternative perspective.
I'm not sure I would entirely share your analysis of the Arab Christian situation, although I agree that the Islamic influence has been considerable.
I'm not sure I would want to view Bethlehem Bible College as a victim either – these are well-schooled, academic men who have had every opportunity to correctly appraise their theology, and reject it with God's help, and who have wilfully made alliances/shared platforms with groups whose stated goal is the downfall of the Jewish State.
I would see the Genesis accounts of the Ishmael-Isaac and Jacob-Esau conflicts as foundational, because God made pronouncements about how their future relationships. I'm sure this must account for some of the Arab animosity towards the Jewish State, Christian or otherwise.
As you pointed out in your letter to Lynn Green, Pastor Naim Khoury is a notable exception and shows what can happen in any heart that is truly surrendered to the Lord Jesus, His Word, and the power of the Holy Spirit, and not tied to a political / religious / theological system.
I think the spiritual power which gave rise to the "doctrine of demons" known as Replacement Theology, from the early days of the post-Apostolic Church, is the dominant factor here. As you know, this errant and abhorrent theology has infected the Church for nearly two-thousand years, and no group of Christians, whatever their ethnicity, has been immune.
The New Testament epistles warn repeatedly about the last days' apostasy / deception / falling away from the true faith, and what you're addressing is certainly a big part of that.
I can't really comment about the Stockholm Syndrome, but as this is borne out of psychology, which I reject, then I would personally not entertain it and stick with the Bible and historical fact.
See article mentioning Paul Wilkinson's participation in A Jewish-Christian consultation. It suggests that Baptist leaders are merely going the same way as the leaders of most denominations.
Looking backwards for roots of present day hatred, one might consider the Arabs' hatred of Jews. ancient hatred
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