“’Christian Zionism’ is a dangerous movement that distorts the teachings of the Church, fosters fear andrnhatred of Muslims and non-Western Christians, and has negative consequences for Middle East Peace.” Thus read the first line of a December 2008 news release from the National Council of Churches (NCC).
So exercised is this liberal federation of mainline denominations, which claims to represent some 35 member communions, that a brochure titled Why We Should Be Concerned About Christian Zionism has been published by its Interfaith Relations Commission.
The brochure purports to define Christian Zionism both broadly and narrowly. The broad frame: Christian Zionists recognize and therefore endorse the national revival of the Jewish people and the modern State of Israel as a legitimate factor in the divine plan.
“More narrowly defined,” it reads, “Christian Zionism is an ideology grounded in beliefs which consider the State of Israel to be divinely ordained and scripturally determined with a central role in ushering in the end of history, where unconverted Jews and unbelievers (including Christians who are considered to be of questionable status) are judged by God’s wrath. It is the narrower form that causes concern.” Five concerns are listed:
• It is a movement with negative consequences for Middle East peace
• It fosters fear and hatred of Muslims and non-Western Christians
• It can lead to the dehumanization of Israelis and Palestinians
• It is not based on traditional teaching or doctrines of the church
• Evangelical Christians are concerned
In sum, evangelicals who endorse the existence of the modern State of Israel as biblically documented, internationally legal, and morally justified are, according to the NCC, the real troublemakers in the world of religion and, more specifically, Israel and the Middle East.
Few accusations by those who claim to be frontline seekers of peace and tranquility could be more slanderous or perverse. Furthermore, in addition to other gross inaccuracies in the brochure, there is this one: Christian Zionists “treat Israelis and Palestinians not as neighbors to be loved, but as pawns in a cosmic drama of divine vengeance and retribution. The conclusion of this drama involves the death of all non-Christians, including Jews, through apocalyptic warfare or divine judgment.”
No genuine Christian Zionist can justifiably be accused of “the dehumanization of Israelis and Palestinians.” The very hint of such an accusation is preposterous.
Sadly, the clarifying paragraphs of the brochure reveal the guts of an agenda based more on reactionary bigotry than scholarly research and legitimate observation. It is but one more example of an organization that has consistently endorsed, defended, and enabled the most radical elements in society while targeting those with whom it disagrees. Never mind the protestations about an inclusive, loving embrace for people of all faiths, stripes, or distinctions.
Mark D. Tooley, director of the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, put his finger on the problem. In an article titled “Christian Zionists: The Real Terrorists,” published in December in FrontPageMagazine.com, he wrote,
What actually frustrates the NCC is that pro-Israel sentiment in the U.S.—which includes but is far from restricted to evangelicals—has prevented the U.S. from forcing Israel into surrender and a disastrous settlement. A 2003 Pew poll showed that U.S. white evangelicals favored Israel over the Palestinians by 54 to 6 percent, compared to general American support, which tips toward Israel by a robust 41-to-13 percent. Mainline Protestants and Catholics favored Israel by two-toone margins. More than 60 percent of evangelicals thought Israel would play a role in the Second Coming, along with 21 percent of Mainline Protestants and one quarter of Roman Catholics.
That Americans as a whole . . . are more partial to Israel than the Palestinian cause is informed not just by Israel’s role in the Bible but by modern history. Democratic Israel is seen as a miraculous regathering of an ancient people into a successful nation state. The Palestinians, who have never had a nation, often seem more enthusiastic about destroying their Jewish neighbors than creating a country of their own.
And what about the claim that Christian Zionists ignore or minimize the suffering of Palestinian Christians, believers in Iraq and Iran, and Muslims under such radical Islamist rules as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the horrifically murderous Sudanese Islamists? Take a look at who is praying, reaching out, rescuing, and speaking out for these beleaguered people. You’ll find that a large majority are Zionist Christians who understand what is going on and other believers, many in mainline churches, whose compassionate convictions are at odds with their leaders’ prejudices.