Faith is not only reason to back Israel

A Palestinian boy rides a donkey next to the destroyed Nada Towers residential neighborhood in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The news cycles have been filled with nonstop debate over the State of Israel and its right to defend itself. It's a very dangerous time for Israel: Hamas launches rocket attacks, Iran is marching toward a nuclear weapon, radical Islamists continue to wage jihad and many countries surrounding Israel do not even recognize its right to exist.

Thomas Buonomo, in a column printed in this paper on Aug. 1, criticized a recent Christians United for Israel (CUFI) conference as "radical" and CUFI's leader as "demagogic." The author also claimed that those leaders standing by their Christian principles in support of Israel were guided by "superstitious beliefs."

The criticism included a denouncement of Sen. Lindsey Graham for speaking to the organization and voicing support for their views regarding Israel.

The author also suggested, irresponsibly in our view, that blood would be on the hands of Sen. Graham and these Christian leaders because of their religious reasons for supporting Israel.

We find it disappointing that one of our elected leaders would be criticized for finding common ground with a religious group supporting the only functioning democratic government in the Middle East.

The CUFI organization advocates for the protection of Israel as a free state and as a refuge for the Jewish peoples of the world. Even without the CUFI's religious reasons for supporting Israel, the logic of American support for Israel is compelling.

Israel is a prosperous democracy in a region of the world filled with despots and oppressive governments, some of which have called for Israel's annihilation. America's national security interests are best served by supporting freedom-loving democracies around the world - especially in the Middle East.

In Israel, women have equal rights as their male counterparts. Women can drive cars, work, and vote in Israel. Sadly, that is not the case in many other countries in the region. In much of the Arab world, even some nations considered friendly to America, women are treated like property and Christians are threatened with death. Israel guarantees freedom for its millions of Arab residents, as well as Jews and others, to choose their own religious viewpoint, or to have no religion at all.

The suggestion that Americans of faith should hide their views while in the public arena is repugnant. By describing the faith traditions of millions of Americans as "superstitious," the author has weakened his own argument and offended every religious viewpoint.

Was it "superstitious" for Thomas Jefferson to refer to the "Creator" in the Declaration of Independence?

Would the author suggest we should dispense with the Declaration for its religious content?

America has been enriched by the religious values of its people.

The civil rights movement began in churches, the abolitionist movement began in churches, the first universities and hospitals in America were started by religious groups. Faith has always been a part of the public square in the United States, and the nation is far better for it.

We respect Sens. Graham and Tim Scott for displaying the courage to express their faith in a public forum and for supporting a free and independent State of Israel. We also affirm that support for Israel does not infer antipathy toward the Palestinian people.

We recognize that millions of Palestinians have been harmed by the Hamas government's penchant for violence, and the situation in Gaza is a humanitarian crisis. We encourage our senators and other elected leaders to support new leadership in Gaza which will promote the best interests of the millions of Palestinian people who long for peace.

Our belief, based on the first two chapters of the Bible, is that every human being is made in God's image with dignity and worth whether Palestinian or Jew, male or female, rich or poor, legal or illegal.

Is the unique value of every human being merely a superstitious idea? Thomas Jefferson didn't think so, and we are all better for it.

The Rev. Marshall Blalock is pastor of First Baptist Church of Charleston, and the Rev. Sonny Holmes is the lead pastor of Northwood Baptist Church in North Charleston.