Of necessity this Post is longer than normal – I apologise. It is in reality, at least in part, the story is of my personal journey on the subject. I know also that this Post may offend some. That is not my intention or desire. However I believe the issue here has become so serious it requires our consideration. So before addressing the matter let me make a few initial comments.
I was brought up in a home and religious environment where Israel, its importance, significance, and place in God’s heart and purposes were of great importance. As a child I sat through conferences and under Bible teaching where the prophetic significance of the Jewish nation was stressed and expounded many times.
Later in life I studied these things for myself, preached on them and continued to follow with interest things pertaining to the subject. I also visited Israel and rubbed shoulders from time to time with some of those who taught on the subject.
However, some years ago now I began to see, what was and continues to be for me, a very worrying trend among many Christians committed to what is known as Christian Zionism.
The first place I detected this was in the ministry of some of the most prominent and highly regarded leaders and preachers in the movement. Many seemed to have become harsh, judgemental and completely intolerant towards those who disagreed with them. But it was their attitude to the Palestinian People that truly shocked me [and this attitude in not isolated in my experience].
I remember one of the first occasions on which this concern became a reality. It happened as I sat listening to a high profile international speaker on Israel and the Jewish People. He is a household name among those who major on these things. What concerned me was not what he was speaking about – but the demeaning, disparaging way the spoke about the Palestinian People. There was no grace – no compassion – no mercy and certainly no love. He spoke about them as if the were inhuman – people without a right to exist. I felt physically sick – and at one point had a mental picture of Jesus kneeling at his feet weeping. I have also heard the same man [and others] making the statement – “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian people.” [Interestingly some use the same argument against the Jewish population of Israel.]. I know their justification for such a statement – however the reality is purely and simply the dehumanisation of a people group – men, women and children made in the Image of our Creator! And the dehumanisation of other human beings is the prelude to their persecution and destruction – without conscience. To which groups did this happen before? Among others it happened to the Jews of German in the 1930’s. And this is exactly what is happening among some Christian groups today in relation to the Palestinian people. I believe it really is that serious.
SOME PERSONAL EXAMPLES
“Do you love the Jews?” – the question came from a Christian friend I had not seen for some years. Not that the question was the issue – but they were the first words uttered. It took me aback as being a strange way to greet an old friend. She did not ask – “Do you love Jesus” – that I might have understood. Apparently, for her, the mark of my orthodoxy was in my attitude to Israel.
About the same time as the incident above I met another friend who was very involved in all things Israel – and who once taught in various churches on the subject. At that time he had not been receiving so many invitations. During the conversation he said this – “I would love to be preaching every Sunday about Israel”. Once again – not Jesus – but Israel!
Having been the leader of a Church for several years I am aware of a number of people who came and left a short time later – their reason being that we – “Did not teach on Israel”. No matter that Jesus was proclaimed – and the scriptures of both the Old and New Testament were clearly taught, Israel was the main issue for them.
These incidents and conversations, among others, concerned me greatly.
A DANGEROUS DRIFT
All in all I believe we are witnessing a dangerous drift. A drift away from the centrality of Jesus Christ to another gospel – one where the touchstone is Israel. For many of my friends the State of Israel and the actions of its Defence Forces are sacrosanct – no matter whether or not they contradict the call of Jesus Christ to non-violence, compassion and mercy. This was seen very clearly in the last Israel/Palestine conflict on 2014 – especially on Social Media where I did not see one concern expressed by my Christian friends who support Israel regarding the death and destruction carried out by the IDF on the civilian population of Palestine. Indeed the opposite was true – there was overwhelming support. Again for them the State of Israel can do no wrong. One “Christian” leader even indicated his desire to see the destruction of innocent civilians. I was totally appalled.
About the same time I witnessed another insidious ideology beginning to permeate the Christian Community in this regard – the tactic of diversion and lies – know in recent days as “Fake News”. I have seen several articles online that have sought to demonise Muslim and Palestinian Communities by using images and material that have long ago proved to be fictitious. In addition I have seen amateurish and obviously faked terrorist propaganda used by Christians in an attempt to detract from the very real pain, death and destruction suffered by the Palestinian People.
Another lie that has been supported in parts of the Christian Community is the – “It’s their fault we had to kill them” line. Terrorist groups commonly use this argument when they murder a hostage or commit some other brutal act. We may hear statements such as – “Yes we beheaded the hostage but it was the fault of the US government”. The same argument was used by the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in 2014 in order to justify the deaths of civilians in Gaza – and sadly it is a lie perpetuated, very often, among those who support Israel in the Christian Community.
Having been a Police Officer for 30 years and understanding something of the laws of evidence it is never, never an acceptable excuse in any civilised society governed by the rule of law to say – “Yes – I burned down his house and killed his family – but it was his fault because his son threw a stone at my window.” It’s laughable – but sadly an argument used by some Christians to justify the slaughter of living, breathing men women and children created in the Image of God. This is in fact a return to the philosophy of the Crusades. And let us make no bones about the principle here – this is – “An eye for an eye” or the “law” of retaliation and collective punishment, with a vengeance – supported once again by people who claim to follow the Jesus who rejected this principle out of hand.
I know I will be accused of picking on Israel when there are so many terrorist groups committing worse atrocities by far. This is a common form of reply and argument to any form of criticism by those who support Israel. The simple answer is that we do not see [at least I hope not] any Christian or Christian group supporting their actions – this is a matter of the centrality of Jesus Christ and his teaching in the Christian Community – nothing more – nothing less.
THE RETURN TO JUDAISM
The last time I attended a Christian Conference connected with Israel – it was led by a lady who lives in Jerusalem. One thing she said at the conclusion of her talk has remained with me. It sums up the problem for many in the movement who, like her, have achieved their life goal of living in Jerusalem. Speaking of the danger of embracing Judaism itself – she said – “Jerusalem is a Graveyard for Evangelicals”.
Her honest comment reveals the ultimate danger for many of those blinded by the extreme dogma and theology of the Cult of Israel – that they will ultimately reject completely the Jesus of the New Covenant and return to the Old Covenant and the legalism of Judaism. This is still where the nation of Israel stands today – and this is their justification for the persecution and hatred of the Palestinian People. Tragically many who call themselves Christians stand with them. They stand with the followers of Jesus who wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy their enemies – not with the Jesus who rebuked them. They stand for a Kingdom other than The Kingdom of love and peace heralded by the Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ.
So I plead with my fellow Christians who are in danger of rejecting their Messiah. Please think for yourself – do not blindly follow those who seek to bring you in to the bondage of legalism and the associated repudiation of the law of love as we find it in Christ Jesus.