Originally published for Arvada Press.
Though Faith Bible Chapel is overjoyed to celebrate their 40th anniversary of hosting, “A Night to Honor Israel,” not everyone in the community is equally enthusiastic.
Teenagers dancing in Orthodox Jewish garb, videos explaining Israel’s God-given right to the land, and the former Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson celebrating Israeli military strength. These were a few features of Faith Bible Chapel’s “A Night to Honor Israel” in Arvada on Oct. 21.
While the number of Christian churches hosting similar events has grown in recent years, Faith Bible Chapel was one of the first in the United States. In fact, Faith Bible Chapel celebrated 40 years of hosting “A Night to Honor Israel” this year.
Beginning as “Israel Awareness Day,” Faith Bible Chapel wanted to show solidarity with the Jews and promote the idea that Jews returning to Israel is, “Biblical fulfillment of prophecy,” said Rev. George H. Morrison.
Morrison, who began attending Faith Bible Chapel in 1971, was senior pastor at Faith Bible Chapel for 33 years until retiring in January 2017.
He said the church’s support for Israel goes back “to the roots of our very own church.”
For the event, the church was adorned with American and Israeli flags, while vendors stood outside the service hall representing organizations including the Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, Jewish Colorado and Jewish National Fund.
The service began with a rock concert in Hebrew. The worship band banged on drums and riffed on guitars, while children and teenagers entered from off stage to sing and dance. The dancing teenagers wore black robes and hats and curled their hair in a similar fashion to Orthodox Jews.
The children were part of the church’s youth group and had practiced for many months prior to the event, said Senior Pastor Jason King.
The guest speaker, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman for the foreign media, spoke on his specialty of knowledge: the Israeli military.
He detailed foreign hostility against Israel and described how Israel isn’t backing down.
Lerner said, “freedom doesn’t descend like rain or snow from the skies. Freedom is won by defeating our enemies.”
Though Lerner detailed Israeli military offensive and defensive strategies, he also said, “We will do everything possible to avert war.”
In the past, Faith Bible Chapel has hosted rabbis or other prominent Israel supporters, like Dennis Prager. King said it was good to have Lerner this year to inform the audience about their military strengths and weaknesses.
Jennifer McDaniels, a Colorado resident and a long-time attendee of the event, said in an email that hearing from Israeli military leaders over the years has given her “a perspective of what they have faced and how they will defend themselves.”
McDaniels said the event is important for the Jewish community in Colorado and in Israel “know that a church is willing to stand by them … Even when the rest of the world is intolerant towards them as a people, and as a state.”
Not everyone in the community is happy that Faith Bible Chapel holds this event, however. In fact, Morrison said that there’s been protesters at least 15 out of the 40 years it’s been held.
Groups like Friends of Sabeel – Colorado and We Hold These Truths have held peaceful vigils to express dissatisfaction. They believe Faith Bible Chapel is wrong to support Israel, who has been known for mistreatment of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.
In 2015, We Hold These Truths wrote a letter to Morrison and held a “vigil” to protest “A Night to Honor Israel.” The letter said, “Christian Zionism does NOT resemble Jesus and is incompatible with His teachings.” Christian Zionism is the phrase used by critics to describe Christians who take a strong, pro-Israel stance.
Richard Forer, a Colorado resident and leader within Friends of Sabeel – Colorado, participated in the vigil himself. He said they waved posters and offered brochures, but very little conversation occurred between them and the attendees. Forer said representatives of the church would come out and quickly usher attendees inside to prevent conversations with the protesters.
Chuck Carlson, a Wheat Ridge resident and co-founder of We Hold These Truths, said it’s problematic for Faith Bible Chapel to hold this event because congregants are led, “to look the other way and accept murder and mayhem, starvation and continued destruction,” he said.
When a local church frames international policy for a congregation, the congregation is less willing to consider other sides of the debate, Carlson said. These church leaders are obligated, “to tell the truth,” he said.
Today, Faith Bible Chapel seeks to uphold Morrison’s vision. King acknowledges that Israel, like any nation, does wrong, but sees the issue first and foremost as “as a Biblical issue versus a political one,” he said. “The controversial stuff doesn’t bother us because that’s not our point.”