Chris Tilling is finishing up his series on the warped theology known as “Christian Zionism.” This popular-but-heretical theology is a major obstacle to Christian work for a just peace in the Middle East. It has led millions of U.S. (and other) evangelicals to abandon even Christian Palestinians in favor of absolute and uncritical support for the government of Israel. Last summer, it led U.S. Christians to completely abandon the large Christian population of Lebanon (largest in the very areas where Hezbollah operates) to support the scorched-earth air war of Israel against Lebanon–actions which have strengthened Hezbollah, undermined the Lebanonese govt., threatened to return Lebanon to civil war, and increase radicalized Islamic fundamentalism in the area–none of which promotes security either for Israel or the U.S.
By exposing the many flaws of Christian Zionism, Chris is doing a favor for both the theological health of the church universal, and helping to promote peace in the world. Check out his series, and use the posts for church discussions in your local congregation/parish.
This seems to be my day for plugging other people’s blogs. Chris Tilling has an excellent series of posts on the hermeneutics of the “Christian Zionist movement” on his blog, “Chrisendom.” Check them out. For readers who aren’t used to technical theological terms “hermeneutics” refers to principles of interpretation, so what Chris is showing is how Christian Zionists systemicatically misinterpret Scripture. Bravo, Chris.
THE JERUSALEM DECLARATION ON CHRISTIAN ZIONISM
29-Aug-06Local Heads of Churches In Jerusalem
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Christian Zionism is a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel. The Christian Zionist programme provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it places an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ’s love and justice today.
We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.
We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.
We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from the ideologies of militarism and occupation. Instead, let them pursue the healing of the nations!
We call upon Christians in Churches on every continent to pray for the Palestinian and Israeli people, both of whom are suffering as victims of occupation and militarism. These discriminative actions are turning Palestine into impoverished ghettos surrounded by exclusive Israeli settlements. The establishment of the illegal settlements and the construction of the Separation Wall on confiscated Palestinian land undermines the viability of a Palestinian state as well as peace and security in the entire region.
We call upon all Churches that remain silent, to break their silence and speak for reconciliation with justice in the Holy Land.
Therefore, we commit ourselves to the following principles as an alternative way:
We affirm that all people are created in the image of God. In turn they are called to honor the dignity of every human being and to respect their inalienable rights.
We affirm that Israelis and Palestinians are capable of living together within peace, justice and security.
We affirm that Palestinians are one people, both Muslim and Christian. We reject all attempts to subvert and fragment their unity.
We call upon all people to reject the narrow world view of Christian Zionism and other ideologies that privilege one people at the expense of others.
We are committed to non-violent resistance as the most effective means to end the illegal occupation in order to attain a just and lasting peace.
With urgency we warn that Christian Zionism and its alliances are justifying colonization, apartheid and empire-building.
God demands that justice be done. No enduring peace, security or reconciliation is possible without the foundation of justice. The demands of justice will not disappear. The struggle for justice must be pursued diligently and persistently but non-violently.
“What does the Lord require of you, to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
This is where we take our stand. We stand for justice. We can do no other. Justice alone guarantees a peace that will lead to reconciliation with a life of security and prosperity for all the peoples of our Land. By standing on the side of justice, we open ourselves to the work of peace – and working for peace makes us children of God.
“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:19)
His Beattitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah,Latin Patriarchate, Jerusalem
Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad,Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal,Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
Bishop Munib Younan,Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
My only comment: How can others sign on to this?
Dr. Martin Accad, the Dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, has been stranded in the U.S. since the Israeli/Lebanese war started. As rep0rted earlier in this blog, he has written two heart-rending accounts in Christianity Today about the way Christians in the Middle East are abandoned by U.S. Christians who uncritically support Israel. Now, in an article for Ethics Daily.com here: http://ethicsdaily.com/article_detail.cfm?AID=7693, Dr. Accad says that one problem for U.S. Christians is a widespread misinterpretation of Scripture: Confusing biblical Israel with the modern political state of Israel. The “new Israel,” Accad reminds readers is the universal Christian community and not ANY political entity. I would add that even in the Hebrew Scriptures, the prophets had no trouble criticizing biblical Israel.
Accad rightly criticizes “Christian Zionism” (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Zionism ), a widespread belief in U.S. folk theology that believes the modern state of Israel’s founding in 1948 was the fulfillment of prophecy. This leads to an incredibly uncritical support of Israel that discounts Israel’s victims, whether Muslim or Christian. Accad also has strong words against U.S. foreign policy, showing why its Middle East militarism and economic imperialism is perceived throughout the Arab world (both by Muslims and Christians) as a new crusade. Because the U.S. and Israel are so close as allies, this leads Arabs to respond to Israel not as a nation of refugees with an inherent right to exist in security, but as a pawn in Western, especially American, imperialist moves.
There is plenty of blame to go around. I will certainly not hesitate to criticize Arab autocrats or Muslim fundamentalists, especially groups using terrorist tactics. But Accad is right that it is very difficult for Christian leaders in the Arab world to confront Muslim leaders over the violent ideologies of (some versions of) Islamic teaching when they can point to uncritical Christian support of American and Israeli violence. Until American Christians repent of our violence addictions and return to the nonviolence of Jesus and the early church, we will have a very hard time talking about others’ violence without smelling of hypocrisy. The belief that Christians can kill people is another “errant Bible reading.”
I’m not usually a reader of Christianity Today, but this week’s online edition has some important stories on the Middle East war(s) and the need for peacemaking. Here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/129/42.0.html is an important article by Dr. Martin Accad, Dean of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon, on U.S. Evangelicals’ blind loyalty to Israel. Here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/129/53.0.html is an important and sympathetic reply from Dr. David Gushee, whose previous article (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2006/128/53.0.html ) had provoked Dr. Accad’s angry rebuke.
It is worth remembering that Lebanon is home to the largest concentration of Christians in the Middle East–and most of them live in the South where Israel is concentrating its bombing. I don’t mean that Muslim lives or Jewish lives count for less than Christian ones, only that the silence of most American Christians over the suffering of our sisters and brothers is strange–outrageously so. The Middle East Council of Churches, the Pope, and the World Council of Churches have spoken out. So has the U.S. National Council of Churches, Churches for a Middle East Peace, and the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. Silent so far has been the SBC, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Evangelical Alliance (of the U.K.), the World Evangelical Fellowship, and even Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding. Meanwhile, Gary Bauer’s rightwing “International Fellowship of Christians and Jews” (a conservative counterpart to the International Conference of Christians and Jews) is blaming Israel for not striking harder and earlier! See http://www.ifcj.org/site/PageServer?pagename=SFI_news_views_gary And some “Christian Zionists” are blaming the entire mess (both Hezbollah’s actions and Israel’s) on—wait for it–the worldwide GAY AGENDA! See http://blogs.salon.com/0003494/2006/07/16.html That last one was almost beyond belief. You don’t think the Christian Zionists have confused “Lebanese” with “lesbians” do you? Sigh. 🙂
This large silence by many evangelical organizations and the bloodthirstiness of others tends to confirm Dr. Accad’s claim about blind loyalties to Israel–beyond defending Israel’s right to exist and be secure to defending all their actions, no matter how cruel or bloody. Question: Since God did not hesitate to judge biblical Israel when she acted violently or unjustly, how long do you think before God will judge modern Israel and its Christian collaborators?