Christian Zionists Hit Back at Critics

Theology “not based on end time prophecy”

Last week, mainline Palestinian Christian leaders issued a “Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism“, which slammed the theology and practice of the movement for linking the Gospel to “the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism.”

Now the Christian Zionists have hit back, in a statement of their own reported by Reuters:

The three main Christian Zionist groups in Jerusalem said in a statement that they were concerned at the declaration’s “inflammatory language” and that it was far from the truth.

Reuters doesn’t tell us who the three groups are, but it’s probably the International Christian Embassy, Bridges for Peace, and perhaps Christians for Israel. I haven’t been able to find the counter-statement itself online anywhere, but Reuters gives us some pointers:

“We pray for peace. But we note with sadness that the present Palestinian government is totally dedicated to the destruction of Israel…The problem in the region is not as simple as the Jerusalem Declaration makes out,”…The Christian Zionist groups in Jerusalem said they had no “thirst for Armageddon” and do not base their theological position on “end time prophecy.” They called for dialogue with the clerics behind the declaration that condemned them.

It’s true that not all Christian Zionists are apocalyptic Christian Zionists – Ted Haggard’s powerful church, for instance, supports an Israeli settlement on the West Bank more for political reasons than because of eschatological fervour, and there’s a general Judeophilia among sections of the evangelical movement. But it’s very curious to see the role of  “end time prophecy” so completely downgraded. After all, the Christian bestseller lists are currently headed by John Hagee, whose next tome is entitled From Daniel to Doomsday: The Countdown Has Begun – and that’s just the latest from a significant Christian paperback genre presided over by influential evangelists. I’ve argued that Christian Zionism should not be reduced to apocalypticism, but this is just as unbalanced.

The report also soft-pedals some other Christian Zionist beliefs:

Christian Zionists stress Christianity’s Jewish roots. Some back the movement to settle the occupied West Bank, the cradle of Jewish civilization, which Palestinians want as part of an independent state…Some also believe Jews themselves will have to become Christians or perish.

“Some”, eh? Well, I’ve never yet come across a Christian Zionist who supported Palestinian statehood in any form or under any conditions whatsoever, although I suppose that some of the wider pool of pro-Israel Christians might go along with it should an agreement be made. And the belief that Jews must accept Jesus (like everyone else) is also central – Jerry Falwell was recently forced to repudiate a Jerusalem Post report that he believed in a “dual covenant” position that sees Judaism and Christianity as equally valid (see my blog entry here). Some downplay this by suggesting that Jesus himself will convert the Jews in the very near future, and so Jewish evangelism is not really necessary – but that’s an appeal to the very “end times prophecy” which supposedly is not so important after all…