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Presbyterian Attitudes on Peace, War, and Israel
The Presbyterian Church undertakes periodic, formal opinion surveys of
members and clergy on a variety of topics. Attitudes toward war, peace, and
the appropriateness of Church involvement in foreign policy were undertaken
in 1995 and, again, in the spring of 2002.
Perhaps the most interesting finding is that Israel did not even appear
in the summary of the 1995 survey -- although six other international hot
spots did. We might assume that because Israel is the land of Jesus, or
because of the Presbyterian role in nineteenth century missionary work in
the Levant and the founding of the American University, Israel would be on
any Presbyterian list of peacemaking concerns. Not so.
Between 1995 and 2004 some group within this church must have worked
very hard to bring Israel from a position where it was not even a topic of
interest, to a point where it dominated "peacemaking" at the
General Assembly. In 2002 Israel appears in three different questions in
the survey. Only three other nations are ever mentioned by name. Colombia
and Egypt once each, Russia twice -- in questions relating to nuclear
- Fully 10% of Presbyterian clergy are absolute or near-absolute
pacifists, maintaining that war is always unjust. Even a war to defend our
country following a foreign attack is considered unjust.
- Presbyterians, like most Americans, overwhelmingly support a two-state
solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
- Presbyterians are split down the middle when asked if the United Sates
should reduce its military support to Israel.
The May 2002 Survey
Peacemaking, International Conflict, and Related Issues
- More members strongly disagree or disagree (40%) than strongly agree
or agree (31%) that war is a necessary evil in an unjust world. Pastors
split the other way: 30% disagree; 49% agree.
- Most (82% or more) agree the church has a role in defending faith
communities that are targets of hate crime.
- Large majorities favor a "two-state solution" in the Middle
East, with both a state of Israel and a state of Palestine. That view is
held by 71% of members, 72% of elders, 82% of pastors, and 92% of
- Large but slightly smaller majorities favor a proposal to have Israel
withdraw from occupied Arab lands in exchange for Arab nations recognizing
Israel's right to exist as a nation.
Foreign Military Aid
- Panelists split on whether the U.S. should lessen its military support
to Israel, Egypt, and other Middle East governments. A few more members
strongly agree or agree (33%) than strongly disagree or disagree (31%),
but large numbers are not sure (18%) or neither agree nor disagree (19%).
Pastors and specialized clergy tilt by larger margins toward agreement on
The November 1995 Survey
- Cuba, Bosnia, Sudan, Guatemala, Northern Ireland, and Rwanda are
mentioned. Israel is not mentioned.
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