There are many Zionist Christians who believe that Israel can do no wrong and that any who challenge the State for any reason by default already are. When the righteousness of the Israeli government’s political decision making is questioned they call it “anti-Semitic.” They think “Palestinian” is a synonym for “Terrorist.” They watch Glenn Beck more then they read the Bible. And they say “Hallelujah” when Netanyahu so much as burps.
While I’m being somewhat sarcastic, this is no hollow caricature. These people are as real as the liberal journalists and talk show hosts who hate them. Not knowing where their political conservatism ends and their Zionist Dispensationalism begins they say absurd things like
The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ. (John Hagee)
While I believe God has a rich history in store for national Israel despite their present unbelief (in accordance with Romans 11:1-29) I don’t identify with this kind of Zionism because of staunch disagreement with the theological and ethical convictions that undergird it. It is a myopic worldview that lacks Biblical support. But unfortunately the pendulum of confusion and the avoidance of reality about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict swings both ways. That’s where the “Christ at the Checkpoint Conference” comes in.
CHRIST AT THE CHECKPOINT
The “Christ at the Checkpoint Conference” in Bethlehem next year (below are videos from Stephen Sizer, Gary Burge, Lynne Hybels [Bill Hybel's wife], and Shane Claiborne discussing it). The gathering is intended to encourage the global Body of Christ (particularly young adults) to support Palestinian Christians who find themselves suffering under what they refer to as “The Israeli Occupation” of Palestine. Christian leaders like John Ortberg, Tony Campolo, and many others will also be involved. With more and more leaders jumping on the anti-Israel bandwagon each year in an attempt to fight confusion with confusion, my spirit is agitated and my mind is vexed. The theological foundations of this misguided justice initiative are faulty. And whatever is built upon them will eventually crumble; even if what is built is partly Biblical. It is the alternate extreme of Hagee’s hybrid of politics and prophecy; and equally as disturbing. It is like a poisoned well–just because there is water in it doesn’t mean it’s worth drinking.
SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINIAN CHRISTIANS
Solidarity with Palestinian Christians is a noble mandate. Peace in the Middle East is a godly vision. The identification of abortions of justice is a worthy cause. And support for our blood-bought Christ-adoring Arab brothers and sisters is an important prophetic call. But there are two serious problems with the sort of the solidarity and support that Sizer and Burge are advocating, and that other well meaning but naive Christians are embracing.
First, the worldview of men like Sizer and Burge rests upon the conviction that Israel is a racist and apartheid regime whose national identity and destiny has been rendered “irrelevant” by Jesus and the apostles. They argue that Israel has no right to the Land believing Israel to be a “cruel and dehumanizing” State. Conveniently ignoring important issues like Islam, jihad, anti-Semitism, the scores of Israelis brutally slain by Palestinian terrorists that all contribute to Israel’s political posture towards Palestinians (and by default the precious Christian community among them) they level the accusation that to endorse the State of Israel is “an abomination” and “heresy.” Overlooking the legal history of the State of Israel that preceded its establishment (such as the Balfour Declaration and the San Remo Conference), the Arab role of Arab displacement in 1948-1949, and Israel’s legitimate security concerns they claim that Israel is a vindictive and militaristic regime that mercilessly eradicated the indigenous population and is thus worthy of international scorn. This bunk and slanted narrative is no trivial matter. In addition to being historically inaccurate and out of touch with reality at present, it is what motivates those who are organizing this event that is supposed to champion justice. How can this be? Championing justice while ignoring history and only telling part of the story is in itself an abortion of justice.
Second, this call to solidarity with Palestinian Christians (of which I myself passionately embrace and promote) is anemic, one-sided, and antithetical to the true spirit of Gospel reconciliation by virtue of fact that the same affection and support is hardly and if ever shown to Messianic Israelis (who also experience persecution and opposition from the Israeli government and the Jewish community within). A Biblical alternative to this half-baked peace initiative would be to encourage solidarity among Palestinian and Israeli Christians while rallying the international community around the one Body. We need to stop talking about “Palestinian Christians” and “Israeli Christians” and start talking about “the Church” lest we encourage the strife that has for so long dominated the atmosphere in the region (which this event has already done in the Land and will continue to do). While I’m sure such verbal support will be encouraged at the gathering, it will come from those Westerners, Palestinians or Israeli’s who reject Israel’s national identity and destiny. And this contradicts the sentiment.
Any call to solidarity with one people group at the expense of the marginalization of another is not just, righteous, or pleasing to the Lord. And any call to support one people group at the expense of the other’s right to exist and defend themselves against those who have no problem blowing up women and children with bombs strapped to their chests is morally insane.
THE NEED FOR A BIBLICAL ALTERNATIVE
Solidarity and support that is built on an illegitimate prejudice against Israel and a curious lack of affection for Messianic Israelis won’t foster or facilitate reconciliation in a region that desperately needs it. It will foster mounting animosity. It already has. And it will continue to do so. Thus the Church in the nations and in Israel need a Biblical alternative to Hagee’s Dispensationalism and Sizer’s anti-Zionism. Both are profoundly out of touch with reality and altogether insufficient for the crisis at hand.
While many godly values, Biblical principles, and noble mandates are promoted by many of these leaders and will be presented at the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference, it will be tainted by a theological and political persuasion that is hostile to Israel, antithetical to the apostolic Gospel, and detrimental to the Church in the region that will undoubtedly compound the tense relationship between Arabs and Israeli believers. How could it not when it’s being propagated by individuals like Stephen Sizer and Gary Burge whose rabid anti-Israel convictions have clouded their ethical, theological, and ministerial judgment? The reproduction of these values will produce bitter fruit in the emerging generation that is already punch-drunk on a sentimental and humanistic justice message. And this grieves me.
Until Sizer, Burge, and their cronies publicly renounce their inaccurate propaganda, apologize for misrepresenting the history of the Middle East as they have long been guilty of, and declare and demonstrate their solidarity with the fledgling Messianic community in Israel who also experiences persecution from the Israeli government, they have little right to speak of “justice” and show little reason to be taken seriously.
All believers with a conscience should readily reject a call to social justice that is predicated on the assertion that Israel is an apartheid regime and “abominable” for Christians to support (Sizer’s words). I say this not just because I disagree with it historically and theologically as if it was a merely academic controversy but because of the material consequences of this theology in the future as the Jewish people are becoming more and more isolated and scorned because of Islamic rage, liberal naivety, and Christian apostasy.
While I don’t doubt the sincerity of Sizer’s affection for the Arab Christian community in places like Bethlehem (of which I also feel) I doubt that this is what is primarily motivating his labors. Judging by his writing and teaching, the delegitimization and dismantling of the State of Israel and the discrediting of anyone who supports it is. And that troubles me. Not only because it’s morally and Biblically bankrupt but because it will also hinder the very thing he and his contemporaries claim that desire: peace among Arabs and Israelis.
Along with many others, I’m longing for the day when the walls will be torn down between Isaac and Ishmael that the brothers may finally dwell in the affectionate bond of the covenant that was cut through the shedding of the blood of our Jewish King. Apart from Him there can be no peace in Zion.
Until He returns,
Tauranga, New Zealand