The Sin of Christian Zionism

The Sin of Christian Zionism

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has its roots deep in the Bible and the Koran.  The problem lies in the rightful heir, if any, to God’s covenant with Abraham.  Christian Zionists say Israel has sole rights and would exclude any Arab

The father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, after experiencing anti-Semitism while attending the University of Vienna, and witnessing mob violence in the infamous Dreyfus case in France in 1894, began a campaign to establish a political state for the Jews. He was successful in holding six Zionist Congresses in which plans were made for the birth of a Jewish nation. He died in 1904 in Vienna before his dream materialized. In 1949 his remains were brought to Jerusalem where they are interred on Mount Herzl.

History of Christian Zionism

However two centuries before Herzl’s time, Christian Zionism surfaced among the millennialists in England who were expecting the second coming of Christ.  There is a parable of the budding fig tree in the little apocalypse (Mark 13:28) and parallels in Matthew 24:32 and Luke 21:29-30, which they see as a prophecy of the reestablishing of the kingdom of David.

In America a fundamentalist Methodist lay-preacher, William E. Blackstone, raised this issue by publishing a ninety-six page booklet, Jesus Is Coming (1870s) which was translated into 47 different languages. He brought the false doctrine of rapture to the masses and proclaimed what he saw as a Scriptural mandate for the restoration of Israel (cf. Daniel, Revelation and the Rapture Myth)...

In World War I (December 1917) Gen. Allenby, commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Forces, captured Gaza, Jerusalem and Damascus after defeating the Turks on the plains of Megiddo. The British cabinet issued the Balfour Declaration calling for a Jewish home in Palestine warning that “nothing shall be done that may prejudice the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

The UN Partitions Palestine

In 1948 the United Nations approved of the partitioning of Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. Unfortunately the Arabs rejected the partitioning and in their war against Israel, were defeated. Almost twenty years later in the Six Day War of 1967, Israel took Jerusalem and became a regional power. For the millennialists that was a clear sign that the end-time was at hand.

L. Nelson Bell, Billy Graham’s father-in-law and editor of Christianity Today wrote: “For the first time in more than 2,000 years Jerusalem is now completely in the hands of the Jews, giving the student of the Bible a thrill and a renewed faith in the accuracy and validity of the Bible.”

Millennarianism made up of fundamentalists and some evangelicals believe that the last event prior to the rapture is Israel’s control of the land “from the Wadi of Egypt to the Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18). Thus according to their interpretation of the Bible there is no room for an Arab state in God’s plan. Anyone supporting this is opposing the will of God and the Bible.

In answer to Christian Zionism, mainline Protestantism called for the internationalization of Jerusalem. The late Pope John Paul II has expressed the same views.  However the Bible literalists insist that God gave it to the Jewish people. Jerry Falwell said Israel won it as the spoils of war. The National Council of Churches denounced Israel’s annexation of old Jerusalem after the Six Day War because the rights of the Palestinian Arabs were completely ignored.

When P. M. Netanyahu came to the U.S. in 1998 his initial meeting was not with President Clinton, but with Jerry Falwell and more than 1000 fundamentalist Christians. Falwell pledged to contact more than 200,000 evangelical pastors to tell President Clinton to refrain from pressuring Israel’s compliance with the Oslo Accords. He was quoted in Time saying that Israel’s safety belt is the Bible belt.

Israeli West Bank Settlements

John Hagee, televangelist, stated in 1998 that his church had raised one million dollars for Israel to settle Russian Jews in Jerusalem and on the West Bank. When asked whether this is legal, he replied that “I am a Bible scholar and from my perspective the law of God transcends the U.S. Law.”

One of the Palestinian’s chief grievances has been the settlement of Jews on the West Bank. A fanatical Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein, opened fire in a Hebron mosque killing 29 Muslims who were in prayer (February 1994) which resulted in the beginning of the retaliatory suicide bombers two months later. In 1995 at a peace rally an extremist Israeli allegedly acting in complicity with Israeli security, assassinated Rabin, Nobel Peace winner.

No one of good-will denies the right of Israel to exist. However the rights of the Palestinians cannot be ignored. Genesis 16:12 says at the blessing of Hagar who was pregnant with Ishmael, “He shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren” (IJV). “He will live to the east of all his brothers” (NIV -New International Version -footnotes).  “Dwelling at the edge of the land given to Abraham and Sarah’s child” (Jerome Bible Com). These quotations from two widely used Bible versions and a respected commentary promise that the descendants of Ishmael (Arabs) are to share the land and be a neighbor of Israel.

Israel’s Latest Peace Initiative

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, historically a hard liner, in 2004 announced plans to evacuate all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in the West Bank which would uproot over 10,000 Israelis from their home and then hand the Palestinian Authority control over Gaza. This plan revived hopes for a breakthrough in the stalemated peace process. This hope increased after the death of Sharon’s nemesis, Yasser Arafat in November 2004.

This plan originally had the support of 78% of the Israelis. However, with the first steps of the evacuation at hand, the outcry from every side of the political spectrum has been intense. The left accused him of giving up Gaza so that he could hold on to the West Bank. The Likud party accused him of selling out for international approbation.  The settlers being displaced insist that the Bible has given them this land. The support has dropped to 54%.

When President Bush began his “roadmap” to peace, conservative Christians complained. Pat Robertson accused him of trying to placate British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Richard Land of the Southern Baptists advised against pressuring Israel.  The problem lies with the extremists of both sides along with the interference of the religious right who mistakenly believe that the Bible is a political document!

"The Sin of Christian Zionism" is one of the pamphlets on the biblical foundations of the Catholic Church written May 2008 to Nov 2010 by Deacon Paul Carlson of Minneapolis, Minnesota's St Lawrence Catholic Church / Newman Center, a Paulist Foundation. (St Lawrence is the Catholic Church of Southeast Minneapolis and is right in the heart of "Dinkytown USA".)

This blog post is a memorial serialization of those pamphlets written by Deacon Paul Carlson at the request of than Pastor/Director Fr John J. Behnke, who asked Deacon Paul to write brief answers to questions University students often encountered as Catholics.

At couple of weeks before Deacon Paul's death, he said: "If there are any financial gains made from the blog serialization of my pamphlets, please have the money given to St. Lawrence Parish and Newman Center or Paulist Fathers, because what they do is so important." If you can, send memorials to St. Lawrence Parish and Newman Center or Paulist Fathers at 1203 Fifth Street, S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55414. 

Remember Deacon Paul Carlson in your prayers, as well as all the other souls of the faithful departed, who have died in the grace of Jesus Christ.

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