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On “Christian Zionism”

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With the recent crisis going on in the Middle East, it might be important to talk about some Christians who are involved in the issues facing the region and how their views might be a detriment to finding a peaceful and just solution. This post is about a movement called “Christian Zionism.”

What is Christian Zionism? This defintion comes from Donald Wagner:

Christian Zionists insist that all of historic Palestine — including all the land west of the Jordan which was occupied by Israel after the 1967 war — must be under the control of the Jewish people, for they see that as one of the necessary stages prior to the second coming of Jesus. Among their other basis tenets:

• God’s covenant with Israel is eternal, exclusive and will not be abrogated, according to Genesis 12:1-7; 15:4-7; 17:1-8; Leviticus 26:44-45; Deuteronomy 7:7-8.

• The Bible speaks of two distinct and parallel covenants, one between God and Israel, one between God and the church. The latter covenant is superseded by the covenant with Israel. The church is a “mere parenthesis” in God’s plan and as such it will be removed from history during an event called the Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-17; 5:1-11). At that point, Israel, the nation, will be restored as the primary instrument of God on earth.

• Genesis 12:3 (“I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you”) should be interpreted literally — which leads to maximum political, economic, moral and spiritual support for the modern state of Israel and for all the Jewish people.

• Apocalyptic texts like the Book of Daniel, Zechariah 9-12, Ezekiel 37-8, I Thessalonians 4-5 and the Book of Revelation refer to literal and future events.

• The establishment of the state of Israel, the rebuilding of the Third Temple, the rise of the Antichrist and the buildup of armies poised to attack Israel are among the signs leading to the final eschatological battle and Jesus’ return for his thousand-year reign. The movement looks for the escalating power of satanic forces aligned with the antichrist that will do battle with Israel and its allies as the end draws near. Judgment will befall nations and individuals according to how they “bless Israel.”

Christian Zionists don’t believe in any attempts at peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, especially the Palestinians. It also tends to be anti-Arab and anti-Muslim. Here is what Pat Robertson says about a “two-state solution (Israel and a Palestinian state):

If a Palestinian State is created in the heart of Israel with sovereign power to deploy troops, import modern weapons-even weapons of mass destruction-and operate with full secrecy and diplomatic immunity, the ability of the State of Israel to defend itself will be fatally compromised.

Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake-the entire world is being convulsed by a religious struggle. The fight is not about money or territory; it is not about poverty versus wealth; it is not about ancient customs versus modernity. No-the struggle is whether Hubal, the Moon God of Mecca, known as Allah, is supreme, or whether the Judeo-Christian Jehovah God of the Bible is Supreme.

If God’s chosen people turn over to Allah control of their most sacred sites-if they surrender to Muslim vandals the tombs of Rachel, of Joseph, of the Patriarchs, of the ancient prophets-if they believe their claim to the Holy Land comes only from Lord Balfour of England and the ever fickle United Nations rather than the promises of Almighty God-then in that event, Islam will have won the battle. Throughout the Muslim world the message will go forth-“Allah is greater than Jehovah. The promises of Jehovah to the Jews are meaningless.

“We can now, in the name of Allah, move to crush the Jews and drive them out of the land that belongs to Allah.”

In short, those political initiatives that some have asserted will guarantee peace, will in truth guarantee unending struggle and ultimate failure. Those political leaders who only understand the secular dimension of Israel’s existence and who cavalierly dismiss the spiritual dimension will find that they receive the mess of pottage of Esau rather than the inheritance of Jacob.

Some groups like the International Christian Embassy promote a view that Israel belongs only to the Jews and that anyone who divides the land (which would include the West Bank and Gaza) would fall prey to God’s wrath.

In short, these groups do not want to give the Palestinians one piece of land. They have rejected agreements from Camp David, to Oslo to the current “Roadmap.” For them, to divide the land is to commit a grave sin.

What is also interesting as that Christian Zionism tends to ignore the Palestinian and Arab Christians who have resided in the area for nearly two millenia. Corrine Whitlach of the Churches for Peace in the Middle East, notes:

U.S. Christians travel to the Holy Land as pilgrims and are a major segment of the tourism industry. They visit the holy sites but most have virtually no contact with Arab Christians themselves. Arab Christians hold strongly negative views of Christian Zionism, which is considered by some to be an instrument of Western colonialism and American imperialism. The zealous support given Israel’s claim of sovereignty over all of Jerusalem and the building of settlements in “Judea and Samaria� by these Western Christians angers both Christian and Muslim Palestinians. Some evangelical churches have supportive relationships with settlements.

Among Palestinians, there are the traditional churches – Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Roman Catholic – and the so-called “reform� churches established in the 19th century – Lutherans and Episcopalians or Anglicans. They work ecumenically through the Middle East Council of Churches. These Christians consider themselves, and are considered by the Muslims, to be an integral part of the Palestinian community, even though they are a minority of less than 2%.

From his Jerusalem office, Bishop Munib Younan, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, has written that “Christian Zionism is the enemy of peace in the Middle East.� The Rev. Naim Ateek, director of Jerusalem’s Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theological Center, has called pre-millenialism a “heresy� and Christian Zionism a “menace.�

Just because they support Israel, doesn’t mean these people are good. In my view, they hold views that are rather bigoted towards Arabs. They also will only make the crisis worse not better. Israelis rightly need security and need to not have to face daily rocket attacks or suicide bombers. However, the Palenstians need a place they can call their own. Both are important and negotiators from around the world have to work to hammer out a lasting and just peace that will honor both sides. The Christian Zionists are an anathema to any peace process.

The Christian Zionists also threaten our campaign against terror. People like bin Laden have used the Palestinian conflict as a recruitment tool to join his genocidal brand of Isalm. We need to find ways to “drain the swamp” and not give bin Laden and ilk a leg up.

Finally, I want to speak as a Christian pastor. The Jesus I worship is one who brought people together. He met people from all walks of life, Jewish, Samaritan and Roman. I don’t see how once can merge an ideology that seems to be very narrow in its viewpoint with a God who loved the whole world and sent his Son to bring us all salvation. As a Christian, I believe God loves both the Jew and the Arab, the rabbi and the iman.

Mainstream Americans should not ally with these people. They are not interested in peace. No matter how you slice it, Christian Zionism is just another form of religious fundamentalism.