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Christian Zionists hinder justice and peace in the Middle East
by Graeme J. Davidson

Originally appeared in The Dominion Post Religion and Ethics column 21 January 2006

The Middle East Council of Churches, representing 90% of Christians in the region, frequently laments the harm Christian Zionists do.

.... The web cam on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives Hotel points at the Chapel of Ascension next door, enabling anyone logging on to www.olivetree.org to watch for Jesus’ second coming at the place where many believe he ascended to heaven.
....An influential group of Christians believes that at Jesus’ return, faithful Christians will go to heaven and Jews will either accept Jesus as their Messiah or perish.
....Christian Zionists, not to be confused with Jewish Zionists, insist God blesses those who love Israel. Planeloads of them tour the Holy Land. They donate millions to Jewish causes, sponsor Jewish immigrants to Israel and support politicians who want an extended ‘Greater Israel’.
....Christian Zionist organisations exist in over 55 countries, including a New Zealand branch of The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, in Auckland. Their answerphone greets callers with “Shalom”. When spokesperson Judy Lillywhite rang me back, she discussed her perception of the Kiwi media’s bias against Israel and underlying anti-Semitic attitudes.
....There are about 20 million Christian Zionists in the US and they have political clout in Congress and the White House. Evangelical leader Rev. Jerry Falwell once boasted, “The Bible Belt in America is Israel’s only safety belt”.
....Falwell has a point. Christian Zionism’s literalist approach to the Bible appeals to America’s 70 million born-again Christians. When President Bush asked the Israelis to remove their tanks from the Palestinian town of Jenin in 2002, over 100,000 emails hit the White House. Bush backed down.
....Despite unease over their agenda for Judaism, and Israel’s future, many Jewish leaders welcome this support as one of Israel’s best weapons.
....According to Christian Zionists, the last six decades of Middle East history fulfil God’s promise. This includes the migration of Jews to the Holy Land, Israel becoming a state in 1948 and the capture of the West Bank – the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria – during the 1967 war.
....Christian Zionists claim that God’s 4000-year old covenant with Abraham and later biblical prophecy guarantee that Israel will possess the lands from the Egyptian border to the Euphrates River. The third rebuilding of the Jewish temple will occur in Jerusalem, where the Muslim Dome of the Rock now stands. After that, Christ will come again and lead Jews in defeating the Antichrist.
....This is also the theme of the blockbuster ‘Left Behind’ series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, with sales over 65 million – twice as many as The Da Vinci Code.
....The New Testament book of Revelation provides the plot. According to the ‘Left Behind’ books, after the final battle at Armageddon there follows seven years of adversity before Christ triumphs and begins a 1000-year rule. Many Jews die, but the survivors accept Jesus.
....Israel’s harsh General-turned-Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, was a hero to Christian Zionists. That was until he reversed his policy of Jewish colonial settlements in the occupied territories and withdrew from Gaza. Many felt betrayed when Sharon set up the Kadima Party to fight the upcoming Israeli election with popular local support for dismantling some West Bank settlements and returning part of this territory to Palestinians.
Televangelist Pat Robertson reacted by angrily declaring that Sharon’s recent stroke was the result of his "dividing God's land".
....Israel retaliated by pulling the plug on a US $50 million contract with Robinson to build a biblical theme park near the Sea of Galilee. Robertson apologised, yet he spoke what some Christian Zionists think: Sharon wasn’t following their script, so God zapped him.
....Rejected by most mainline churches, Christian Zionism is bad theology — and dangerous.
....It’s dangerous because it obstructs justice and peace efforts. The Middle East Council of Churches, representing 90% of Christians in the region, frequently laments the harm Christian Zionists do.
....This movement adds to Middle East tension by backing Israel against Muslims and Palestinian Christians. Its followers claim that Palestinian identity is a creation of Yasser Arafat and dismiss as illegitimate in God’s eyes demands from Palestinians who want back homes and lands seized by Israel. They tell Palestinians, including those whose families have lived in the Holy Land nearly 2000 years, to accept what Israel offers or go elsewhere.
....It’s bad theology because these Christians don’t accept that Revelation and other apocalyptic scripture use allegory to encourage believers to stick to their faith in the face of persecution at the time of writing. Instead, along with many doomsayers over the last 1700 years, they readily find texts to support their peculiar end-time predictions.
....Christian Zionists seem to have forgotten that Christianity isn’t about supporting one particular racial group or grasping plots of land, but a forgiving, loving relationship with God and all people based on faith and trust.



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