Professors at Southern Methodist University, a Christian university, are criticizing a school-sponsored trip to Israel this summer.
A number of professors penned an op-ed in the student paper, citing Christian Zionism as being “controversial” and “anti-Palestinian.”
“We are writing this article in relation to the summer 2017 Holy Land trip that an outside organization, Passages Israel, is organizing for SMU students,” the op-ed reads. “There is more to this trip than first meets the eye. Passages Israel, the national organization planning the trip, describes it as an opportunity for “Christian college students with leadership potential” to “encounter the roots of their Biblical faith first-hand and come face to face with the modern-day miracle that is Israel.” Its promotional video and main web pages promise “spiritual enrichment, education about the modern Middle East, and great fun.”
The professors also take issue with Passages Israel, the outside organization organizing the trip for SMU students, calling it saying they aim to “”convert” its participants to specific political opinions so that it can mobilize them for activism.”
“The philosophical foundation for Passages is a theology known as Christian Zionism. Christian Zionists believe that Christians have a God-mandated duty to support the modern nation-state of Israel because of biblical passages about God’s covenant relationship with Jews and their role in the end time.”
The professors also discuss Passages’ sponsors, Philos Project and Museum of the Bible (MOTB). The professors say that MOTB, which was founded by Hobby Lobby, “faulted it for possible ethical breaches in its acquisition and handling of antiquities, among other reasons,” while the “Philos Project’s idea of “positive engagement” seems to mean being a Christian Zionist who supports hawkish views that typically align with the conservative ends on both the American and Israeli political spectrums.”
“Christian Zionism is a very important tenet for some Christians and churches. However, many other churches and denominations around the world reject it because of the anti-Palestinian views that often accompany it. It has been denounced by Palestinian church officials like the Roman Catholic and Syrian Orthodox archbishops and the Lutheran and Anglican bishops of Jerusalem. Some churches have rejected policy positions usually associated with it, such as support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The United Methodist Church, for example, has issued numerous resolutions calling for an even-handed approach to the Israel-Palestine controversy that seeks justice for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
The professors say that the trip’s itinerary is “politicized,” citing example of a plan to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, while visiting the borders of Syria and Lebanon to “learn about the danger of Hezbollah and (presumably) ISIS.”
The op-ed ends by saying that the professors may have differing opinions on the situation in Israel and Palestine, but that they are “are unanimous in being troubled by the biased way Passages approaches complicated historical questions, policy issues, social problems, and life situations. We are especially concerned that students might register for this trip without realizing they are in effect being recruited by an advocacy group that intends to indoctrinate them with specific political and religious viewpoints.”
SMU did not respond to a request for comment.