Christian Zionism: the debate continues
09/03/2010 - 10:58
James Besser

Finally!  A civil, rational discussion about the rise of Christian Zionism as a potent political and cultural force! I can hardly believe it.

In a response to my recent blog about his well-reasoned defense of Christian Zionism in the online publication Slate, Steven I. Weiss raised some interesting points that deserve more discussion.

Weiss said he disagreed with my assertion that the passionate support for Israel that is evident at gatherings of groups like Christians United for Israel (CUFI) may be wrapped up – in complex ways, I believe – in Christian “end times” prophecies.

Weiss writes:

“I agree that all of those beliefs are held by a great many Christian Zionists, but think the difference between you and I here is on whether we think that matters. There’s nothing inherent in the combination of those three statements that suggests advocacy for Israel is tied to End Times theology. I know from covering the Jewish world that a great many distinct beliefs and assumptions can be maintained in one person’s mind without there necessarily being any practical connection between them.

“In my experience covering the Christian world, I’ve found very similar delineations. For most of the Christian Zionists, that delineation seems to keep the “End Times” and “Israel advocacy” ideas segregated. Neither is necessary or influenced by the other, though both beliefs are maintained simultaneously.

That, it seems to me, gets to the meat of the debate over Christian Zionism.

Leaders of this movement claim there is no connection at all between their theological belief in an imminent Second Coming that includes terrible new tribulations for Israel and the Jewish people and their support for Israel.

But that's not the impression one gets talking to many participants in this movement. At Christian Zionist conferences, I have spoken to many delegates who openly discussed their belief that Bible prophecy is playing out in the Middle East today – and that prophecy is a major factor in both the urgency and the content of their activism on behalf of Israel.

I admit it: I am a compulsive listener to Christian radio, where prophecy, politics and support for Israel are bound up in myriad ways. There, too, it's easy to get the impression a lot of evangelical support for Israel is prophecy-based.

I also find it hard to reconcile the claim by leaders like CUFI's John Hagee that prophecy has nothing to do with the political movement they've created – and the fact Hagee and others continue to write and preach about prophecy as if it is the determining factor in today's world (see Hagee's new book, Can America Survive?: 10 Prophetic Signs That We Are The Terminal Generation).

Can men and women of deep faith believe so strongly in religious tenets like the imminence of the apocalypse and Israel's role in it – and not have their political views affected by by those beliefs?

I dare say most Christian Zionist leaders would bristle at any suggestion their religious faith is somehow segregated from their involvement in other areas of public policy, such as abortion and gay rights; why should we believe that the issue of Israel is somehow different?

Weiss writes that the statements of Christian Zionist leaders suggest they have successfully “segregated” their religious beliefs on prophecy and their political views. I say, the jury is out; maybe they have, and maybe this is just effective PR intended to smooth over relations with Jews who – understandably – would be spooked by the idea that activists on behalf of Israel believe in their hearts that new Holocausts for the Jewish state are inevitable precursors to the longed-for coming of their Messiah.

In 2004, a leading Christian Zionist then associated with CUFI who now leads an independent Christian Zionist group told me this:

"There's no such thing in Scripture as 'land for peace' arrangements. “The commitment isn't to a party, or to any particular agreements; the commitment is to an end-time solution that is in keeping with what the Scripture says."

Does that reflect CUFI's views? I don't think so. Does it reflect a majority view in the Christian Zionist world? I don't know, but I sure haven't seen any evidence it doesn't.

Weiss also questions my assertion that we don't know how these groups will “relate to an Israel that seems on the road to a comprehensive, negotiated peace – should that day ever come.”

In his experience, “all the Christian Zionists I speak to aren’t seeking to meddle in Israel’s internal decisions or democratic systems. And the negative evidence for that — no intervention during any peace talks, agreements, or significant adjustments, from Oslo to Gaza withdrawal, to Camp David, to now — is significant.”

I'm not so sure.

CUFI itself has been admirably forthright about saying it will support Israel without regard to government policy – but, as I wrote, it hasn't been put to the test. And I've talked to plenty of Christian Zionists who say that if Israel ever decides to work out a compromise solution on Jerusalem, or withdraw from religiously significant areas like Hebron, they'd ally themselves with American Jewish groups that will actively oppose those actions.

I don't think the major Christian Zionist groups are likely to abandon Israel if its government pursues policies these groups believe are unbiblical. But my reading and my interviews with Christian Zionist activists suggest it's far from certain they won't actively work to oppose such policies.

It gets down to this: do motives matter when it comes to support for Israel?

Does it matter if some of its most ardent supporters also have a theology that sees ever-more bloodshed in the Middle East until their prophecies are fulfilled? Does it matter that those grim views may color their activism in the realm of public policy?

Increasingly, the answer in the pro-Israel world is that it doesn't.

What I'm wondering: is that growing acceptance a matter of informed decision making, or is it simply an emotional reaction to Israel's growing isolation? Does it matter that a growing force in pro-Israel activism may be driven by a theological belief that peace - at least in a real-world, here-and-now sense - is impossible? 

Worth discussing, I think.

Comments

As regards peace in the middle east, I am confident that the current talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians will produce a ten years peace agreement for that region, which I believe will be signed by next year. Thereafter, many nations will ratify it at different times. This agreement (which must be distinguished from the Jewish seven years international peace agreement to be brokered and strengthened by the little horn of the Roman Empire- Daniel 9:27), will lead to a strategic arms reduction program in the middle east. Resulting to gradual disarmament and the pulling down of the walls around Israeli occupied territories. Such that by May 2018 (the end of their 70 years of nationhood), their military might would have been drastically reduced. This will make them defenseless and highly vulnerable to attacks (Psalms 90:10; Ezekiel 38:1-12). In the midst of this, on or before the end of the year 2020, the church, the body of Christ will be redeemed from the earth; giving the enemies of the Jews the impetus and justification to plot for their invasion (Psalms 120). Just like the Americans led the allied forces against the Taliban in Afghanistan, so will the Russians, in the year 2021 (following the end of the ten years international peace agreement), lead an allied forces against the Jews in Israel. However, worst than what the Americans suffered in Cambodia, this allied forces will be thoroughly humiliated in the mountains of Israel. They will be stroked by an earthquake, and in the midst of it, will turn their weapons against each other. Wild beasts and hailstones will be used on them until they are completely destroyed (Ezekiel 38; 39). Rather than see the divine intervention against them, the Russians will believe they were sabotaged; as a result, will launch an attack against the allies of Israel. However while these allies and foes of Israel are fighting each other, for seven months the Jews will be engaged in the mass burial of the corpses of the allied soldiers (Ezekiel 38:13-39:12). Then will the Jews lift up their eyes to Jehovah, and worship the Rock of their salvation, who neither sleeps nor slumber (Psalms 121). This victory, will usher in a period of seven years fragile peace in Israel and will lead to the construction of their third Temple (Psalms 122; Ezekiel 40); this is the temple the anti-Christ will defile (Revelation 11:1-2) and when cleansed, will be used for the anointing of the seed of David as the Most Holy (Daniel 9:24) in the year 2032(Psalms 132). In view of the misinformation that will be carried around following the signing of an international peace agreement for the middle east, believers most always remember that the great tribulation and the mark of the beast, cannot be in place until the temple in Israel is reconstructed and the Jews have been flushed out of their land (Matthew 24:15-22). Following the reconstruction of their temple, international pressures will once more be mounted against the Jews (Psalms 123), while this is going on, in 2024, God will unveil the Lordship of the Lamb of God to the entire universe. This epiphany, will be heralded with the worship of the Lamb by the body of Christ in heaven (Revelation 5:6-10), and will lead to the universal worship of the Lamb (Philippians 2:5-11; Revelation 5:11-14). Then the Jews will know the Lord who had been their shield (Psalms 124). Thereafter, in the same year, the king (the little horn of the eleven kingdom of nations, the revived Roman Empire or the new world order) will broker and enforce a seven years international peace agreement for the Jews (Daniel 9:27). Half way into this agreement, in 2028 (the end of seven years of the Russian invasion and at the Jewish 80 years of nationhood- Psalms 90:10; Ezekiel 39:9), this king will be killed (Revelation 11:7; 13:1-14), Satan and his aliens from the outer space will be flushed down to the earth (Revelation 12:1-12); knowing that they have just a short while on earth, Satan will resurrect this king and turn him into a demonic beast (the anti-Christ). Together with Satan and his aliens, they will ravage the Jews and take over their nation and temple for forty two months. Following this invasion, God will miraculously rescue some Jews from their jaw and will fly them into the wilderness for safety (Psalms 90:10; Revelation 12:13-17). This invasion by the king they had looked upon and the rescue from the Lord their God, will let them know that there is help in nowhere else other than in God and themselves and that their restoration is guaranteed (Psalms 127 ; 128). These rescued remnant (who fear the Lord), are the ones to repent of their iniquity against the Lamb of God, at the end of the 42 months reign of the Beast, the aliens and their allies (Psalms 130 - 131; Zechariah 12:1-14). Consequent upon their repentance, the Lord of glory will return and terminate their reign in the year 2031, two thousand years after his departure (Psalm 131; Hosea 5:15-6:3; 2 Peter 3:1-8). He will then cleanse the temple and the earth of all uncleanness and then be enthroned king and the most Holy in the year 2032 (Psalms 132); then will the Jews enjoy eternal peace (Psalms 131 to 134).
The history of the Jews, the return of Christ, and the global governance of the earth, can not be divorced from each other. Follow me in Twitter@jerryopus as we explore this truth.
It is interesting that any believer can say that his/her action(s) is divorced from his/her believes. Christianity is a lifestyle which influences everything an individual does. Please note that nothing can happen in Israel which is contrary to the scriptures, it does not matter those for or against it. The current Jews, restored from their second captivity with a flood (Daniel 9:24-26; Luke 21:5-24), has a maximum life span of 80 years; at the end of which, Satan and his aliens and allies will flush them out for their third and final captivity (Psalms 90:1-10; Revelation 12:1-14). This captivity will last for 42 months at the end of which, Christ is returning to rescue them. Prior to their seventy years of nationhood, no nation will be able to withstand them, thereafter, they will face severe pressures for ten years at the end of which, nothing shall keep them in their land they must be flushed out (Psalms 90:5-10; Revelation 12:.13-17). Like their first and second captivities, prophesied thousands of years ahead, so is this (third captivity), consciously or unconsciously, everyone involved in the middle east affairs, is working towards this goal. This is the scriptures that can not be broken.
As a Christian Zionist, I second Almoni's point, but I wanted to add that the reasons I support Israel are not at all linked to furthering the coming of Christ. As I understand it from the reading of the Bible, the end times are in God's hands and out of my control. My desire to influence public policy is certainly linked to my faith however: - I support Israel because the Bible tells us to, from Genesis 12:3 to Romans 11, which says that as Chistians we owe a debt to the Jews, and that God has not forsaken His People (meaning the Jews). - As an American I understand that Israel's enemies are not just Israel's enemies, they are enemies of the West and of democracy. Israel fights on the frontlines of terrorism and dangerous ideologies. - The Jews have been treated unfairly throughout history and to this day. So again, as a Christian I feel I have a moral obligation to counter the anti-Semitic rhetoric and the hate and the lies. Though I DO believe the Israel and the Middle East will have a role in the end times, and perhaps it is playing out the in Middle East today, that is not the basis for my support. It is obvious throughout Scripture that God's heart is for Zion and for the Jews. And I wish to love what my God loves.
I agree totally with you! I am a Christian and I love the Jews. I have read many books about the Holocaust and feel such a passion about this part of history. Jesus was a Jew. It's amazing that a such a tiny country causes such a fuss.
Frankly, for me Christian zionist support is not as bothersome as the fact the other strong supporters of Israel in the US is increasingly the right wing nut fringe. I am extremely uncomfortable with the views espoused by the Sarah Palins, Rush Limbaughs, Mike Savages and Glen Becks of the world - how so much of what they say is based on (at best) misinformation - how much hate and ignorance they spew on the American public. It's downright frightening to think of how much influence they have and how they they bring down the level of political discourse in this country. and yet - theyr're the biggest supporters of Israel. They seem to get what many of our traditional Democrat and liberal friends don't seem to get anymore. The Jewish community increasingly, is throwing their lot in no small part to these nuts - mainly because of their support of Israel and then buy in to their "Obama is a Islamic-Socialist" rhetoric. I consider myself a centrist politically, slightly left of center on some issues, slightly right of center on others - but a strong pro-Israel zionist. where are the likes of me to go?
I really don't think the motive matters. They aren't tying their support for Israeli with proselytizing, nor does the support seem in any way to be conditional. I don't think there is a hidden motive. I think the real source of discomfort comes from the fact that most American Jews are liberal. They intensely dislike the stances taken by evangelical Christian Zionists on (unrelated) social issues, like their opposition to gay marriage and abortion on demand. The usual assumption is that this dislike for socially conservative positions then somehow gets extended into dislike for the people who hold those positions. But liberal Jews don't reject support from Israel from Orthodox Jews, even though Orthodox Jews have opinions on social issues that are very similar to the evangelical perspective. Is it possible that liberal Jews are made uncomfortable by evangelicals because of guilt. Might not Jews who oppose traditional Jewish values feel guilty or shamed by the notion of non-Jews who uphold those values? (I'm not saying this is definitely the explanation—I'm just thinking out loud.) One other thing I'd like to address is the claim made by some (though not Besser) that CZ support for Israel, and specifically CZ financial support for Aliyah, is rooted in their belief that a return of Jews to Israel will help bring about the 2nd coming. My response: "So what? If we're confident in our belief (rejecting Jesus as Moshiach), then why should be worry?" We don't believe that, and they know we don't believe that. And they support Israel anyway. They have no sinister motive, and I see nothing wrong with accepting their support.

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