About 83% of Americans identify as Christians, which has led many to believe that the United States is a Christian nation.
Around the holidays, the religious conversations are intensifying. There are many conservative Christians becoming righteous about the “War on Christmas.”
Churches across the country will sing about the little town of Bethlehem where Jesus Christ was born, but fail to realize where exactly Bethlehem is.
Bethlehem, located south of Jerusalem, is a Palestinian city, and is home to the largest population of Palestinian Christians in the sovereign state, with an upwards of 38,000 Christians living in the city and surrounding area.
Under Israeli occupation, Palestinian Christians are suffering just as the Muslims are. While evangelical Christian conservatives overwhelmingly support the Israeli occupation due to strong skepticism towards Islam, many fail to recognize the other groups in play in the area.
Vera Baboun, the Arab-Christian mayor of Bethlehem, says that her city is the capital of Christmas.
In November, Baboun spoke at a conference at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C..
“Bethlehem is the city that gave the message of peace to the whole world,” she said. “But today, Bethlehem does not live the peace that it gave to the whole world.”
The Holy Land, assumed by many as exclusively the State of Israel, is rightfully concerning to many Christians, but the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict runs far deeper than many think.
American foreign policy is particularly concerned with Israeli security, but by ignoring the existence of Palestinian Christians, evangelicals are not only missing a huge point that is rarely addressed by conservative media, but also missing out on expressing compassion towards the citizens of Bethlehem, which they hold so high in esteem.
Bethlehem is suffering deeply, as occupation has limited the city’s access to clean water and general city maintenance. Basic infrastructure is collapsing and local authorities are unable to fix the problems.
There are very few opportunities, both educational and economical, for Bethlehem residents, and regardless of religion, they are regularly subjected to arrest or home destruction for peaceful protests.
Once able to easily access the city of Jerusalem freely, a wall, erected in 2000 to protect Israel from terror attacks, has cut off ties with the other side. Those who wish to travel to the other side of the wall now must apply for permits and wait at checkpoints to be cleared for entry.
Many evangelical Christians believe that the two-state solution with harsh division is the only way to promote peace in the region, while American Jews are far less likely to believe this. Nearly 80% of evangelicals also believe that the State of Israel was created by God exclusively for the Jewish people, while only 40% of American Jews believe the same.
Many American Christians are failing to acknowledge the true meaning of Christmas, which is love, peace, and hope. And while Christmas comes but once a year, these qualities are applicable year-round.