As apocalyptic rumblings over the Millennium converge with the waning timetable of the Oslo peace process, an especially spicy media topic of late has focused on the extent Bible prophecy shapes Christian views on the Arab-Israeli conflict. And while the mainstream press have been generally respectful in their treatment of Christian Zionism, there are disturbing expressions of outright contempt from some Christian quarters.
One reporter in a Catholic journal recently suggested a gathering of pro-Israel Christians resembled "a lunatic fringe," while an evangelical ministry's release derided their "manipulation ... meant to discourage public sympathy for suffering Palestinians." But it was an October issue of Christianity Today which paraded this hardening tone towards fellow Christians who share a God-given love for Israel and the Jewish people. A neatly-packaged but seriously-flawed cover article on the "dispensationalist" movement charged past adherents with being "elated" over wars and posited that today's Christian Zionists are heartless and mindless when approaching the Palestinian cause. An accompanying piece by a Mennonite professor protested that "devotion to Jerusalem without righteousness leads to unholy nationalism," while a following feature sainted one widely-respected evangelist working among Palestinian Muslims who has appeared on stage with the mullahs of Hizb'Allah.
Such public attacks evidence a deepening polarisation within Christianity over the questions of Israel/Palestine and Jerusalem. But as pro-Palestinian elements desperately scramble for the moral high ground, the path taken appears less the "straight and narrow" than a steep and slippery slope.
To be bold but fair, for vast portions of Christianity, claims to moral authority in today's world are weakest when it comes to passing judgement on the real or imagined faults and excesses of the Jewish return to Zion. The Church's own dark history over nearly two millennia contributed more than any other factor to the dire necessity for a safe haven for the Jews. Our theologies demonised them, eventually breeding the Nazi Holocaust. Our Crusades, Inquisitions and pogroms hunted them down in every corner of Christendom. The sense that much of the same anti-Semitic spirit of the past still pervades many Christian circles is inescapable. Having compounded the problem, we should be more careful now about casting stones at the only just and workable solution--the state of Israel.
Nor can Christians claim the backing of Scripture for their anti-Zionist views. The Bible puts its full weight behind the promised ingathering of the scattered and beleaguered Jewish people to the Land of Israel. Indeed, the Almighty spoke of it in very forceful and personal terms through the prophet Jeremiah (32:41): "I will assuredly plant them in the land, with all My heart and with all My soul." To this all the prophets agree, as do the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. Although it is impossible to make a convincing biblical case otherwise, some pathetically try. Christian Zionists ought not to have to apologise to others in the fold for agreeing with the plain Word of God.
CERTAINLY, Christians must have compassion for all men to be faithful to our creed, and Israel and its Christian supporters are not beyond criticism. We must handle responsibly revealed biblical truths, and their accompanying warnings, in the fear of God. Accordingly, one of the most "anti-Arab" things we could do is hide from them the eternal truths of Scripture concerning Israel.
But the increasing intra-faith barrage against pro-Israel Christians is unwarranted and contains an undeniable scent of self-righteousness. Those Christians who prefer photo-ops with Yasser Arafat and "the children of the stones" show their own lack of principle and discernment by associating themselves so closely with the Palestinian nationalist movement and its grave moral lapses. For all this free advice about how we must love the Arabs (agreed!), I fail to see the compassion of Christ in "the Palestinian flag flying from the mosques, minarets and churches of Jerusalem". I fail to see godly virtue in encouraging those who would sacrifice "our blood and soul for thee, O Palestine!" I fail to see righteousness in honouring a PLO leadership that has killed more fellow Arabs than Jews in its self-destructive campaign of violence and terrorism. I fail to see uprightness in advocating the transfer of precious people and land to corrupt thugs and the preachers of jihad. I fail to see character or conscience in refusing to hold the Palestinians accountable for peddling a counterfeit "Palestinian" Jesus--whose Body here is still being "crucified" by the Jews.
Before the watching world, the Church increasingly stands as a "house divided." I am convinced our Lord and His Word grants plenty of room to care about the Palestinian people, but no leeway to aid and abet devious and violent opposition to Israel's existence and destiny. So when some Christians pontificate about the "evils" of Zionism and the "blind" support of their Christian allies, pardon me for turning a little deaf as well.