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Top: Jewish Religions: Christianity: Penetration of The Christian Organizations: Judeo-Christianity
Musalaha Theological Seminar: Jerusalem September 1997
Bringing together Palestinian and Messianic Leaders
Seminar 3. Dispensationalism Examined Politically
Archived here from http://www.virginiawater.co.uk/christchurch/articles/dispen3.html, on June 22, 2022
In this seminar I want to address some of the implications or ramifications of Dispensationalism upon the contemporary political scene here in Israel/Palestine.
During the 1940's both prior to and after the founding of the state of Israel, liberal Protestant Christians such as Reinhold Niebuhr were the principle allies of Israel. However with the annexation of the West Bank in 1967, Liberal Protestants and organisations such as the World Council of Churches increasingly distanced themselves from Zionism, while at the same time fundamentalism grew both in political power and identification with Israel.
In a detailed history of the rise of twentieth century American right-wing fundamentalism prior to 1970, entitled 'The Politics of Doomsday', Erling Jorstad traces the anti-modernist, anti-communist and anti-foreign agenda of the movement. There is significantly, however, no reference to Israel. Similarly, George Marsden's historical overview of the rise of fundamentalism and evangelicalism in America between 1870-1930, shows that despite some evidence of anti-Semitism, there was little interest in contemporary Israel.
1. The 1967 War and the Rise of Dispensational Zionism
The 1967 Six Day War and its aftermath appears to mark a watershed in Evangelical Christian interest in Israel and Zionism. For example, Jerry Falwell did not begin to speak about modern-day Israel until after Israel's 1967 military victory.
Falwell changed completely. He entered into politics and became an avid supporter of the Zionist State...the stunning Israeli victory made a big impact not only on Falwell, but on a lot of Americans...Remember that in 1967, the United States was mired in the Vietnam war. Many felt a sense of defeat, helplessness and discouragement. As Americans we were made acutely aware of our own diminished authority, of no longer being able to police the world or perhaps even our own neighbourhoods...Many Americans, including Falwell, turned worshipful glances toward Israel, which they viewed as militarily strong and invincible.
They gave their unstinting approval to the Israeli take-over of Arab lands because they perceived this conquest as power and righteousness...Macho or muscular Christians such as Falwell credited Israeli General Moshe Dayan with this victory over Arab forces and termed him the Miracle Man of the Age, and the Pentagon invited him to Vietnam and tell us how to win the war.
The combination of the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, the capture of Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967, and the defeat on both occasions of the combined Arab armies, increasingly came to be seen as significant fulfilment's of biblical prophecy by a new generation of American and European dispensational premillennialists.
Coincidentally and very significantly, the New Scofield Reference Bible, a revision of the 1917 version, edited by Dr. E. Schuyler English and a team of dispensationalists including John F. Walvoord, was published in 1967 which, given its timing, must have fuelled interest in Dispensational Zionism. Ironically, English had edited a young person's version of the Scofield Bible, entitled the Holy Bible, Pilgrim Edition, some twenty years earlier, in 1948. It is interesting to note that the popular edition of the Scofield Reference Bible was published in 1917 coinciding with the Balfour Declaration and in the words of Lord Cecil, 'the rebirth of a nation'; the youth edition of Scofield with the War of Independence in 1948; and the 'new' edition of Scofield with the Six Day's War of 1967.
Billy Graham's father-in-law, Nelson Bell, the editor of the prestigious and authoritative mouthpiece of conservative Evangelicalism, Christianity Today, appeared to express the sentiments of many American Evangelicals when, in an editorial in 1967 he wrote,
That for the first time in more than 2,000 years Jerusalem is now completely in the hands of the Jews gives a student of the Bible a thrill and a renewed faith in the accuracy and validity of the Bible.
2. Hal Lindsey and Popular Dispensationalism
The most influential of all Fundamentalist writers is Hal Lindsey. He has been described by Time Magazine as 'The Jeremiah for this Generation', and by his own publisher as 'The Father of the Modern-Day Bible Prophecy Movement.' Lindsey is a prolific writer, with no less than eight books dealing with the end times, his own radio and television programmes, seminars, Holy Land Tours, and for $40 per year, his monthly International Intelligence Briefing.
Lindsey's most famous book, The Late Great Planet Earth has been described by the New York Times as the '#1 Non-fiction Bestseller of the Decade.' It has gone through more than 100 printings with sales, by 1993, in excess of 18 million, with a further 30 million copies in 31 foreign editions. Despite dramatic changes in the world since its publication in 1970, most significantly, it remains in print in its original unrevised form. Lindsey has, perhaps not surprisingly, since become a consultant on Middle Eastern affairs to both the Pentagon and Israeli Government.
This particular kind of reading of history, coloured by a literal exegesis of selected biblical scriptures, is dualistic, triumphalist and confrontational. Lindesy's latest book, The Final Battle, includes the statement on the cover "Never before, in one book, has there been such a complete and detailed look at the events leading up to 'The Battle of Armageddon.'" It asserts that the world is degenerating and that the forces of evil manifest in godless Communism and militant Islam are the real enemies of Israel. Various speculative apocalyptic scenarios are postulated, centred upon a great battle at Megiddo between massive armies that will attempt but fail to destroy Israel. These will only hasten the return of Jesus Christ to be the King of the Jews who will rule over the other nations from the rebuilt Jewish temple on the site of the destroyed Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem will be the spiritual centre of the entire world...all people of the earth will come annually to worship Jesus who will rule there.
3. Dispensationalism and Armageddon Theology
One of the reasons some fundamentalists appear so enthusiastic about such a terrible scenario to occur may have to do with the doctrine of the secret rapture in which they believe they will escape the slaughter. Just before the final conflagration they believe Jesus will,
...'rapture' true Christians into the upper air, while the rest of humankind, was being slaughtered below. 144,000 Jews would bow down before Jesus and be saved, but the rest of Jewry would perish in the mother of all holocausts.
Authors such as Lindsey also Goldberg, a professor of Theology and Jewish Studies at the Moody Bible Institute, offer detailed illustrated plans ostensibly showing future military movements of armies and naval convoys leading up to the battle of Armageddon.
The Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary have played no small part in promoting a Fundamentalist and Zionist eschatology among thousands of American ministers and missionaries. Charles Dyer, a professor of Bible exposition at Dallas even includes photographs allegedly showing Saddam Hussein reconstructing Babylon to the same specifications and splendour as Nebuchadnezzar. Dyer warns that this is evidence that Hussein plans to attempt to repeat Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Israel, the only Arab ever to have done so. 'The Middle East is the world's time bomb, and Babylon is the fuse that will ignite the events of the end times.'
An indication of how seriously Fundamentalists take the military aspect of their apocalyptic scenario can be seen from the content of the itinerary used by Jerry Falwell in his Friendship Tour to Israel in 1983. It included meetings with top Israeli government and military officials and an,
.....On-site tour of modern Israeli battlefields...Official visit to an Israeli defence installation...strategic military positions, plus experience first hand the battle Israel faces as a nation.
The demise of the Soviet Union, the rise of militant Islam, the 'success' of the Allies in the Gulf War, and the approaching third millennium have only fuelled more imaginative speculations among Fundamentalists, while the same anti-Arab prejudices and Orientalist stereotypes persist.
Long ago the psalmist predicted the final mad attempt of the confederated Arab armies to destroy the nation of Israel...The Palestinians are determined to trouble the world until they repossess what they feel is their land. The Arab nations consider it a matter of racial honour to destroy the State of Israel. Islam considers it a sacred mission of religious honour to recapture Old Jerusalem.
Following the Gulf War, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism hired the Fundamentalist musician Pat Boon to promote pilgrimages in North America through a series of costly advertisements in Evangelical journals and on television. According to Wagner there are a number of Evangelical Dispensational Zionist leaders even more right wing than Falwell and Robertson, who in the 1980's had direct access to Reagan and the White House. These include Terry Risenhoover and Doug Kreiger who were very influential in gathering American support for the Jewish extremist organisation, the Temple Mount Faithful. These particular Christian and Jewish Zionists believe that the Moslem Dome of the Rock must be destroyed and the Third Jewish Temple built in order to ensure the return of Jesus.
To such Fundamentalists the existence of a Palestinian Christian church is either ignored completely, or maligned as theologically Liberal and spiritually dead, an irrelevancy in the inexorable movement of world history leading to the imminent return of the Jewish Messiah. Basilea Schlink, for example, berates the Palestinian Intifada as 'terrorism....aimed solely at destroying Israel.' Her uncompromising views are typical of many other Zionists who elevate the State of Israel to a privileged status far above any human sanction or criticism.
Anyone who disputes Israel's right to the land of Canaan is actually opposing God and his holy covenant with the Patriarchs. He is striving against sacred, inviolable words and promises of God, which He has sworn to keep.
4. 1980 and The International Christian Embassy
The founding of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem in 1980 represents in some senses the coming of age of Dispensational Christian Zionism as a high profile concerted international movement. The ICEJ was opened with the express intention of bringing comfort and support to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. It was built at a time when other governmental embassies were being moved out of Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in protest at Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem. Their promotional material includes the following explanation.
When the vision of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was first given it was expressed in the following concerns; to care for the Jewish people, especially for the newborn State of Israel which includes standing up for the Jews when they are attacked or discriminated against, and for Israel to live in peace and security....to care that the world wide body of Christ will be rightly related to Israel in comfort, love and prayer for her well-being, to care for the nations whose destinies will be increasingly linked to the way in which they relate to Israel, the care and preparation for the coming of the Lord.
Among other things the work of the ICEJ specifically includes promoting Zionist pilgrimages, and imposing a Zionist agenda on pilgrimage itineraries. ICEJ are not alone in offering explicit support for Israel. Doug Kreiger, an Evangelical Fundamentalist listed over 250 pro-Israel evangelical organisations operating in America and founded between 1980-1985
There are a number of similarities between 19th century British and 20th Century American attitudes to Israel. In both, as the international power broker of their day, the blend of religion and politics became inextricably entwined. In the closing decades of the 19th and early 20th Century, there was a convergence of British strategic colonial interests and Dispensational Zionism within significant segments of the intellectual and political intelligensia. Likewise current American foreign policy in the Middle East largely coincides with that of the powerful Dispensational Zionist lobby. Both parties, now as then, favour a strong and dominant pro-American presence in the Middle East whether for pragmatic reasons of military strategy, or because it conforms to their particular eschatology. Among a consensus of American Dispensational Fundamentalist leaders, these twin motives, religious and political are unashamedly connected and intrinsic to a predicted apocalyptic scenario which one writer has gone so far as to describe as, 'Operation Desert Storm II.'
In 1976-77 several events occurred simultaneously which had the effect of accelerating the influence of Dispensational Zionism as a political phenomenon in America.
A religious and political marriage was consummated between American Zionist organisations, Israeli leadership, and Fundamentalist Dispensational Zionists.
In 1977 the Likud party under Menachem Begin came to power on an expansionist Zionist platform using biblical phraseology to justify the settlement of the West Bank. It was Begin for example who first renamed Israel and the Occupied Territories as Judaea and Samaria. In America the Jewish lobby realised the potential significance of wooing the political endorsement of the powerful 50-60 million Evangelical block vote through their fundamentalist leadership. With this in mind, in 1979, the Israeli government honoured Jerry Falwell with the Jabotinsky Award in appreciation of his support of Israel. They also provided him with a Lear jet to assist in his work on their behalf.
The downfall of President Carter, in part due to his support for a Palestinian homeland and consequent loss of the Fundamentalist block vote; the exploitation of the media by a group known as 'Evangelicals' Concern for Israel' including well known figures as Pat Boone and Vernon Grounds; the rise of Moral Majority as a political campaigning organisation under Jerry Falwell; and the election of Ronald Reagan as a President who publicly subscribed to a Fundamentalist premillennial dispensational theology, all combined to give a considerable boost to the Zionist cause. In the 1980 presidential elections, Wagner claims that 80% of Evangelicals supported the conservative wing of the Republican party, and Ronald Reagan in particular.
The election of Ronald Reagan ushered in not only the most pro-Israel administration in history but gave several Christian Zionists prominent political posts. In addition to the President, those who subscribed to a futurist premillennial theology and Christian Zionism included Attorney General Ed Meese, Secretary of Defence Casper Weinberger, and Secretary of the Interior James Watt....Once the Reagan Administration opened the door, leading Evangelical Christian Zionist televangelists and writers were given direct access to the President and cabinet members. Rev. Jerry Falwell, Christian Zionist Televangelist Mike Evans and author Hal Lindsey among them.
'White House Seminars' became a regular feature of Reagan's administration bringing Dispensational Zionists into direct personal contact with national and Congressional leaders. In a conversation reported in the Washington Post in April of 1984, Reagan told the chief Israeli lobbyist, Tom Dine,
You know, I turn back to the ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if-if we're the generation that is going to see that come about. I don't know if you've noted any of these prophecies lately, but believe me they certainly describe the times we're going through.
For Fundamentalists such as Jerry Falwell and Mike Evans, America is seen as the great redeemer, her role in the world providentially and politically preordained. The two nations of America and Israel are like Siamese twins, linked not only by common self interest but more significantly by similar religious foundations. Together they are perceived to be pitted against an evil world dominated by Communist and Islamic totalitarian regimes antithetical to the values of America and Israel. So for example, Mike Evans, founder and president of Lovers of Israel Inc, in the following quotations from his book, Israel, America's Key to Survival, almost mimics and plays on the apocalyptic scenario of Benjamin Netanyahu, offering 'biblical' grounds for their countries mutual survival.
If America goes down, then the whole world goes down. Nothing will remain of the world. If America was not around, the Soviet Union would take over the world in three days. Their goals are to destroy America...to destroy it...to reduce it to nothing; and they feel they can effectively do it through terrorism.
Only one nation, Israel, stands between Soviet-sponsored terrorist aggression and the complete decline of the United States as a democratic world power...Surely demonic pressure will endeavor to encourage her to betray Israel. This must not happen. Israel is the key to America's survival. For God has said of the nations who will oppose Israel, "Yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted...I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curseth thee..."(Isa.60:12; Gen. 12:3)...As we stand with Israel, I believe we shall see God perform a mighty work in our day. God is going to bless America and Israel as well. It is not too late. I believe this is the greatest hour to be alive, and the key is unity, standing tall, proclaiming with a voice of love our commitment to the House of Israel, and to the God of Israel.
Similarly, Ramon Bennett, author of 'Saga: Israel and the Demise of the Nations' and spokesman for Arm of Salvation, a Dispensational Zionist organisation based in Jerusalem, emotively dedicates his book, 'To the men of the Israeli Defence Force who display immense courage when facing impossible odds. To the grieving parents, wives, children, sweethearts, sisters and brothers and friends, whose tears have watered the parched earth of Eretz Yisreal.'
The International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem has, since 1980, become the semi-official voice of this coalition of Christian religious and political Zionist organisations, frequently cultivated, exploited and quoted by the Israeli Government when ever a sympathetic Christian view point is needed to enhance their own policies, and rebut Western criticism. For example, in October 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu the Israeli Prime Minister spoke at the Jerusalem 3000 rally organised by the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem, to support Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem. Following the provocative opening of an underground tunnel by the Israelis from the Western Wall through the Moslem Quarter, he was cheered when he insisted the tunnel, 'is open. It will stay open. It will always stay open.'
5. The 1993 Oslo Peace Accord and the Palestine National Authority
Not surprisingly the 1993 Peace-Accord signed by the Israeli Government and the PLO has been sharply criticised by Dispensational Zionist groups who see it as a threat to the realisation of Eretz Israel. In particular they have opposed the handing back of the West Bank and the threat to the status of the Jewish settlements. For example, Theodore Temple Beckett, Chairman of the Christian Friends of Israel Community Development Foundation, as well as President of the Colorado-based Foundation for Israel, has initiated an 'adopt-a-settlement program among American Evangelical Churches. The Jewish town of Ariel has already been adopted by Faith Bible Chapel in Denver. By the end of 1995 it was Beckett's expectation that around 70 Jewish settlements would have been adopted by churches,
...with larger churches adopting larger settlements and smaller churches adopting smaller settlements and giving all a morale boost to show them they are not alone and are loved by many.
On the 21st December 1995, just hours before the Israeli's handed over administrative responsibility for Bethlehem to the Palestinian National Authority, the Voice of America radio station carried a news report claiming some Evangelical Christian groups had called for a boycott of Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem in protest.
Nine Christian Organisations have called their faithful not to go to Bethlehem this Christmas, to protest the transfer of the City to Palestinian rule. One of those Groups is called Bridges for Peace. Its Director is Clarence Wagner.
'There are millions of Evangelical Christians and other Middle East Christians who are concerned about the fact that Bethlehem has been unilaterally turned over to the Palestinian Authority, which is under the aegis of the PLO, and therefore has placed Bethlehem under Muslim control. Historically, Islam has not respected Christian holy sites. And here, Manger Square, the birthplace of Jesus, one of the holiest shrines in Christianity, is sort of quietly being turned over to a Muslim authority and no one is saying anything like, 'What will this mean for the future?...We have no idea what the experience under the PA will be, particularly if more fanatical Islamic Fundamentalism does increase in the years to come.'
...But the Latin Patriarch of the Holy Land, Michel Sabbah...sharply criticizes those who are calling for a boycott of Bethlehem this Christmas.
'They are our brothers, every human being is our brother, but they are coming from abroad and they are bringing in the country feelings from abroad which do not correspond to the views and to the needs, spiritual and human, of the Land. This Land needs reconciliation. So, this is what we need, and not people coming from outside to tell us to boycott this and boycott that.'
The International Christian Embassy, quoted in the Sunday Times, on Christmas Eve 1995 predicted that the celebrations that night would, '...look more like Arafat's birthday than that of Jesus.' Ray Borlaise, writing in the Prayer Bulletin of Intercessors for Britain in January 1996, made similar criticisms of the transfer of power in Bethlehem, but apparently on sound theological grounds,
It is plain from Zechariah 12 that Jerusalem will become a contentious issue leading to conflict. Many feel that Ezekiel 38 & 39 will take place in the last days and will be a conflict between Islamic countries and Israel. There may be previous skirmishes before that battle takes place on the 'mountains of Israel' - some areas of which have just been handed over to the Palestinians. We sense that the peace may falter causing Samaria and Judea to pass back into Jewish hands. Will God allow Bethlehem, the burial place of Rachel, the town of Ruth and the birth place of David (let alone that of Jesus) to remain in Arab hands when it was promised to Abraham, Issac (sic) and Jacob as an eternal inheritance? (Genesis 17)
Borlaise, in one short paragraph, makes a number of typical Christian Zionist assumptions. He assumes, for example, that selectively chosen ancient Hebrew writings relate directly to contemporary events, and will thereby some how determine future events, conveniently ignoring other prophetic passages in which God warns of the expulsion of the Jews from the land as and when they fail to act righteously and with justice. It is also interesting that Borlaise not only refers to the Occupied Territories, as 'Judea and Samaria,' but also assumes that because Bethlehem had an historical significance in Jewish history between 3,500 - 2000 years ago, contemporary Jewish people have some divine right to occupy and confiscate the land of those living there prior to 1967.
At the Third International Christian Zionist Congress, held in February 1996 under the auspices of ICEJ, similar views are reflected in the following resolutions which were passed unanimously. Notice how they demonstrate the explicit religio-political agenda of ICEJ.
Further, we are persuaded by the clear unction of our God to express the sense of this Congress on the following concerns before us this day,
1. Because of the sovereign purposes of God for the City, Jerusalem must remain undivided, under Israeli sovereignty, open to all peoples, the capitol of Israel only, and all nations should so concur and place their embassies here.
2. As a faith bound to love and forgiveness we are appreciative of the attempts by the Government of Israel to work tirelessly for peace. However, the truths of God are sovereign and it is written that the Land which He promised to His People is not to be partitioned... It would be further error for the nations to recognize a Palestinian state in any part of Eretz Israel.
3. To the extent the Palestinian Covenant or any successor instrument calls for the elimination of Israel or denies the right of Israel to exist within secure borders in Eretz Israel, it should be abolished.
4. The Golan is part of biblical Israel and is a vital strategic asset necessary for the security and defense of the entire country.
C. The Islamic claim to Jerusalem, including its exclusive claim to the Temple Mount, is in direct contradiction to the clear biblical and historical significance of the city and its holiest site, and this claim is of later religio-political origin rather than arising from any Qur'anic text or early Muslim tradition.
7. While Gentile believers have been grafted into that household of faith which is of Abraham (the commonwealth of Israel), replacement theology within the Christian faith, which does not recognize the ongoing biblical purposes for Israel and the Jewish People, is doctrinal error.
8. Regarding Aliyah, we remain concerned for the fate of imperiled Jewish People in diverse places, and seek to encourage and assist in the continuing process of Return of the Exiles to Eretz Israel. To this end we commit to work with Israel and to encourage the Diaspora to fulfill the vision and goal of gathering to Israel the greater majority of all Jewish People from throughout the world.
6. Netanyahu and Dispensationalists
Under Netanyahu's influence, the Israeli government remains enthusiastic to nurture the support of Dispensational Zionists. Exploiting the association of Megiddo with the apocalypse, Israeli planners and architects, with Netanyahu's blessing, have began creating a three dimensional 'virtual Megiddo'. While some critics have described it 'Apocalypso', Israeli officials are keen to capitalise on the millions of additional visitors, 'expected to flock to mark the end of the millennium in gloomy style.' Ze'ev Margalit, the official in charge of the development claimed, ...the beauty of this place is that it has a 6,000-year history that can take people back to the dawn of civilisation, a vibrant present and an apocalyptic future. Anxious to avoid creating a 'Disneyland of the apocalypse', Margalit added, 'There are a lot of different ideas on how to deal with this. It is easy to get kitsch and we must avoid that. So we will leave a lot to the imagination.' Keen to encourage greater numbers of Christians to visit Israel leading up to the Millennium, Netanyahu has recently taken part in programmes broadcast on Evangelical radio stations.
Boosting evangelical tourism dovetails with his plans to deepen Israel's ties with leaders of America's Christian far right, many of whom are sympathetic to Zionism...Netanyahu has a long history of nurturing these ties. He believes the conservative Christian influence in American public opinion, and particularly within the Republican party controlling congress, can be used to counter liberal Democrats such as President Bill Clinton, who want Israel to cede land to the Palestinians.
Armstrong is not alone in tracing in Western Christian Zionism evidence of the legacy of the Crusades. Fundamentalists have, she claims, 'returned to a classical and extreme religious crusading.' Ruether also sees the danger of this kind of Dispensational Zionism in its, 'dualistic, Manichaean view of global politics. America and Israel together against an evil world.'
This 'simple dualism' and 'highly dogmatic thinking' is something a number of sociologists have observed as common to much American Fundamentalism in particular.
It is so; God chose the Jews; the land is theirs by divine gift. These dicta cannot be questioned or resisted. They are final. Such verdicts come infallibly from Christian biblicists for whom Israel can do no wrong-thus fortified. But can such positivism, this unquestioning finality, be compatible with the integrity of the Prophets themselves? It certainly cannot square with the open peoplehood under God which is the crux of New Testament faith. Nor can it well be reconciled with the ethical demands central to law and election alike.
7. The MECC and a Critique of Dispensational Zionism
The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), representing the indigenous and ancient Oriental and Eastern Churches, has been highly critical of the activities of Dispensational Zionists, and the ICEJ in particular. They assert, for instance, that the ICEJ has aggressively imposed an aberrant expression of the Christian faith and an erroneous interpretation of the Bible which is subservient to the political agenda of the modern State of Israel. Indeed they represent a tendency to,
...force the Zionist model of theocratic and ethnocentric nationalism on the Middle East...(rejecting)..the movement of Christian unity and inter-religious understanding which is promoted by the (indigenous) churches in the region. The Christian Zionist programme, with its elevation of modern political Zionism, provides the Christian with a world view where the gospel is identified with the ideology of success and militarism. It places its emphasis on events leading up to the end of history rather than living Christ's love and justice today.
In 1988 the MECC went further insisting that Dispensational Zionism had no place in the Middle East and should be repudiated by the universal Church because it was 'a dangerous distortion' and significant shift away from orthodox Christocentric expressions of the Christian faith .
(This is) ...a fundamental disservice also to Jews who may be inspired to liberate themselves from discriminatory attitudes and thereby rediscover equality with the Palestinians with whom they are expected to live God's justice and peace in the Holy Land.
Although ICEJ's support for Israel is primarily political, MECC has been concerned more with its theological basis, and ICEJ's attempt to sacralize a political ideology beyond human criticism or ethical standards and to treat the security of a Jewish State within the entire land presently occupied as a fundamental axiom of their supra-historical eschatology. The declarations following the first, second and third Christian Zionist Congresses, organised by ICEJ in 1985, 1988 and 1996, according to MECC, show a significant shift away from orthodox Christocentric expressions of the Christian faith. Based on the writings of ICEJ's spokesman, Rev. Jan Willem van der Hoeven, MECC argue that the 'Christian Zionist',
......is placed in a reductionist eschatology by engaging in actions designed to bring 'comfort and support' to modern political Israel. Accordingly, Jesus is de-emphasised, as is His death and resurrection, while salvation and judgment are redefined.... Christians will be judged solely according to their actions on behalf of the state of Israel. True Christians are those who leave their Gentile background and become 'Israelites of God'
It is therefore perhaps not surprising that among the Middle East churches generally, Dispensational Zionism is regarded as a devious heresy and an unwelcome and alien intrusion into their culture, which advocates an ethnocentric and nationalist political agenda running counter to their work of reconciliation, and patient witness among both Jews and Moslems. As one leading Anglican cleric described it, 'Making God into a real estate agent is heart breaking...they are not preaching Jesus any more.' They are, in the words of another Palestinian clergyman, 'instruments of destruction' Another senior churchman was equally forthright,
Their presence here is quite offensive....projecting themselves as really the Christians of the land... with total disregard for the indigenous Christian community.
Similarly outspoken criticisms of the Israel Trust of the Anglican Church (ITAC) have been made by Palestinian Anglican clergy.
CMJ are propagating Zionism rather than Christianity. It is working against the interests of the Anglican Church in Israel.
Essentially, Dispensational Zionism fails to recognise the deep seated problems that exist between Palestinians and Israelis; it distorts the Bible and marginalises the universal imperative of the Christian gospel; has grave political ramifications and ultimately ignores the sentiments of the overwhelming majority of indigenous Christians. It is a situation that many believe Israel exploits to her advantage, cynically welcoming American Christian Zionists as long as they remain docile and compliant with Israeli government policy. Consequently,
Local Christians are caught in a degree of museumization. They are aware of tourists who come in great volume from the West to savour holy places but who are, for the most part, blithely disinterested in the people who indwell them. The pain of the indifference is not eased insofar as the same tourism is subtly manipulated to make the case for the entire legitimacy of the statehood that regulates it.
Kennth Cragg offers this astute critique of Christian Zionism,
The overriding criteria of Christian perception have to be those of equal grace and common justice. From these there can be no proper exemption, however alleged or presumed. Chosenness cannot properly be either an ethnic exclusivism or a political facility.
Dispensational Zionism appears, at least in the eyes of its critics, to offer an uncritical endorsement of the Israeli political right and at the same time shows an inexcusable lack of compassion for the Palestinian tragedy. In doing so it has apparently legitimised their oppression in the name of the Gospel.
In the light of this principle, it is legitimate to ask whether dispensationalism is not orientated more from the Abrahamic Covenant than from the Cross. Is not its focus centred more on the Jewish kingdom than on the Body of Christ? Does it not interpret the New Testament in the light of Old Testament prophecies, instead of interpreting those prophecies in the light of the more complete revelation of the New Testament?
Bass insists that,
No part of historic Christian doctrine supports this radical distinction between church and kingdom. To be sure they are not identical; but dispensationalism has added the idea that the kingdom was to be a restoration of Israel, not a consummation of the church.
Clearly such views, whether promulgated by respectable Christian theological institutions like Dallas Theological Seminary and Moody Bible Institute, Jewish fanatics such as Baruch Ben-Yosef and the Temple Mount Yeshiva, or simply by naive members of pilgrimage parties, are anathema to the majority of Jews, Christians and Moslems living in Israel and the Occupied Territories who see in all forms of fundamentalism religion used as a blunt weapon of political oppression.
It is perhaps pertinent to remember Jesus made peacemaking a condition of being called "Children of God."
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