Monday, July 16, 2012

I finally finished the last installment in my new series


"Laying Down a Sword for the Cross:
My Journey Out of Christian Zionism"

Introduction: Why I Ended My Belief in the "End Times"

The Rapture and Its Dirty, Little Secret

The Israel of God: A Matter of Faith or Family?

The Israel of God or Great Britain? (History Every Evangelical Should Know)

It has generated some good discussions and questions.
Drop in if you want to know more about the history of Christian Zionism.
Is its theology solid? Does it bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Israel of God or Great Britian?
(History Every Evangelical Should Know)

For years, as a political conservative and Christian, I defended the modern state of Israel. The leadership of my church taught that the Israelis were critical Middle East allies for the US AND a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.

Anyone who dared to question or criticize their policies was anti-Semitic and inviting a divine curse upon their heads, which was seemingly backed up with proof texts from the Bible.

Today, I no longer believe the modern state of Israel is the Israel of the Bible. I am convinced that as a nation, Israel no longer plays a role in God's timeline for the return of Jesus Christ.

That role now belongs to the Church--believers saved by grace through faith from all tribes, races, and tongues (including Judaism)--whom God defines as His new, "chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9). I wrote on this subject extensively in my last post "The Israel of God: A Matter of Faith or Family?" (see below).

What changed my beliefs? I began to read the entire Bible for myself, actually referencing and keeping each passage within its proper context. I let the Bible interpret itself instead of looking at current events and searching for a Scriptural match. For a more thorough understanding of my position, please read my previous posts in this series:

In this post, I want to attempt to lift out of a complex history a brief and clear account as to how the modern state of Israel came into existence. It is a history very few conservative, Evangelical Christians know.

That's what greatly concerns me. For I, too, was a Christian zionist for many years; yet I never heard the following, readily available information. (Or more accurately, I didn't take the time and initiative to research it for myself. I accepted what was presented to me as truth because it came from the pulpits and pens of popular, supposedly trustworthy Evangelical leaders.)

A successful writer once said in his tips to other writers to imagine one person as your audience and write to them. In this case, I am writing to the younger me during the days I waved the Israeli flag in church, prayed for her military ventures to succeed, and voted only for pro-Israel candidates.

At Israel's historical core is the same problem we face today in the United States of America--people wanting to mix politics with their religion in order to gain power and achieve certain goals. Any time a collective wields such a sword, it slaughters human rights.

Austrian publicist Nathan Birnbaum is believed to have first coined the term "zionism" in 1891 to describe anyone who believes Jews should return to their ancient homeland. A political movement toward this goal was founded by Theodor Herzl in 1897. A quick study into Herzl's life reveals that he despised religion.

According to Israeli journalist and author Amos Elon in Herzl, a biography, Herzl was the son of German-speaking, assimilated Jews. He grew up thoroughly emancipated, antitraditional, and quite secular...a man who who dismissed all religion as uncivilized and spoke of Judaism with "mocking cynicism".

Honestly, when you look back upon the lives of most of the men who were influential Zionists, you're struck by their political savvy. Missing is a personal devotion to God or a religious motivation to their cause. They were driven by nationalism, although they could deftly refer to Old Testament promises for argument's sake.

How odd, then, that today the Zionist movement finds renewed validity and fuel from Evangelical Christianity, whose adherents have elevated it to a divine doctrine.

The greed of British imperialism in the Middle East during World War I afforded the Zionists the right political climate for their goals. Let's see if we can follow a line of events:

It was imperative for Britain to maintain its prominence in the resource-rich Middle East. In 1915, a letter was sent to Hussein, the Sharif of Mecca, from Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Egypt. McMahon promised British support for an independent Arab kingdom under Hussein's rule in return for his mounting an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, Germany’s ally in the war. Hussein had asked for an Arab empire that would encompass the entire span between Egypt and Persia (exceptions were British imperial possessions in Kuwait, Aden, and the Syrian Coast).

Criticism of the correspondence later arose, and McMahon back pedaled to say he was not referring to Palestine when he made the pledge.
Years later, however,  historians and scholars searching through declassified files in the National Archives discovered evidence that indeed, Palestine had been pledged to Hussein. (Palestine Papers 1917–1922, Doreen Ingrams, page 48 and UK Archives PRO. CAB 27/24)

Why did McMahon rush to recant? In order to to save Britain's questionable, back-handed dealings with its allies. It eventually came to light that in the following year (1916), Britain made a secret agreement with France to divide the Middle East into spheres of influence in the event of an allied victory. Under the terms of the Sykes-Picot agreement, Palestine was to be placed under international control. Then, in 1917, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, promising to support the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.

After the issue of the Balfour Declaration,
Commander D.G.Hogarth, one of the heads of the Bureau in Cairo, gave Hussein a solemn pledge that Britain would respect not only the economic but also the political freedom of the Arab population: “The Arab race shall be given full opportunity of once again forming a nation in the world.” So far as Palestine was concerned, Britain was “determined that no people shall be subject to another.” When Britain subsequently refused to recognize Arab independence in Palestine, Hussein felt betrayed and accused Britain of breach of faith.

Thus, the Promised Land was thrice-pledged. Edward Said, for example, in
The Palestine Question (New York, 1979), noted the following about the Balfour Declaration, which he considered highly assumptive:

It was made:

(a) by a European ,power, (b) about a non-European territory, (c) in flat disregard of both the presence and the wishes of the native majority resident in the territory, and (d) it took the form of a promise about this same territory to another foreign group, so that this foreign group might, quite literally, make this territory a national home for the Jewish people.

Notably, the population in Palestine was 91% Arab and 8% Jewish at the time of the declaration.

Although the British had promised France that Palestine would be under international control, evidence suggests the British wanted to control Palestine all along in order to check France and Russia from gaining any power over Egypt and the Suez Canal.

In historian Mayir Vereté's account (“The Balfour Declaration and its Makers,” Middle Eastern Studies, 6, 1 (January 1970), it was the desire to exclude France from Palestine, rather than sympathy for the Zionist cause,that prompted Britain to sponsor a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Other historians claim that a Declaration favorable to the ideals of Zionism was likely to enlist the support of the Jews of America and Russia for the war effort against Germany.

Regardless of the real intent, the lion's share of the land was given to the Jews, although the population was overwhelmingly Arabic (Muslims and Christians). Over the years that followed, an influx of Jews needing more room caused non-Jews to be displaced from their homes and treated as second-class citizens--despite the Balfour Declaration of 1917 that said when a Jewish homeland was established, it was NOT to be at the expense of the civil and religious rights of other inhabitants.

Notice the wording of these documents: the Jews were to have a homeland, not a state...a place to live, not a place to govern. Nevertheless,
most historians will quickly point out that the zionist agenda from the beginning was to eventually have a Jewish state. Indeed, from the beginning of its rule in Palestine, Britain faced increasing pressure from despairing Arabs who quickly watched the displacement of their identity and way of life in defiance of the Balfour Declaration.

Avi Slaim also wrote an excellent and well-researched paper on the Balfour Declaration. He cites Israeli historian, author and journalist Tom Segev:
"Segev (One Palestine, complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate) makes a major contribution to the existing literature on this issue by putting Britain’s record as a mandatory power under an uncompromising lens.

His verdict is that British actions considerably favored the Zionist position and thus helped to ensure the establishment of a Jewish state. The evidence he presents of British support for the Zionist position is both rich and compelling. So is the evidence he adduces for the proposition that once the Zionist movement came to Palestine with the intention of creating a Jewish state with a Jewish majority, war was inevitable. From the start there were only two possibilities: that the Zionists would defeat the Arabs or that the Arabs would defeat the Zionists. British actions tended to weaken the Arabs and to strengthen the Zionists as the two national movements moved inexorably towards the final showdown.

Arab resentment and riots in Palestine persuaded the Lloyd George government to replace the military government with a civil administration, but not to reverse its pro-Zionist policy. And once the government resolved to continue to support a Jewish homeland in Palestine, it could not have chosen a more suitable man for the post of High Commissioner than Sir Herbert Samuel. Samuel’s association with Zionism was intimate and his attachment to the Zionist cause was perhaps the one passionate commitment of his entire political career. Samuel was sent to Palestine not because of—or even despite—his Jewishness, but because he was a Zionist.

The appointment pleased the Zionists but it destroyed the last vestiges of Arab faith in Britain’s integrity and impartiality. Before Samuel took over from the military government, the chief administrative officer asked him to sign what became one of the most quoted documents in Zionist history: “Received from Major General Sir Louis Bols, KCB—One Palestine, complete.” Samuel signed.

The role of umpire became increasingly difficult to sustain with the passage of time. High Commissioners came and went but their hands were tied by the pledge of November 2, 1917. Shortly after his arrival in Palestine, in December 1928, Sir John Chancellor reached the conclusion that the Balfour Declaration had been a “colossal blunder,” unfair to the Arabs and detrimental to the interests of the British Empire.

In January 1930 he sent a long memorandum to London. He wanted to extricate Britain from the Balfour Declaration and to deal a blow to Zionism. His ideas were given a respectful hearing in London and the King asked for a copy.

On learning that the King would like to hear from him directly about the state of affairs in
Palestine, Chancellor obliged with a 16-page letter explaining why, in Chancellor’s view, Britain’s national home policy in Palestine was misguided, unjust, and impossible to carry out. Chancellor portrayed the Jews as an emotional people:

"What makes them difficult to deal with is that they are, regardless of the rights and feelings of others, very exacting in pressing their own claims. Even as a minority of the population of
Palestine the Jews adopt towards the Arabs an attitude of arrogant superiority, which is hotly resented by the Arabs with their traditions of courtesy and good manners."

Nor did the Jews cherish genuine sentiments of loyalty towards Britain. In spite of what they said on public occasions when it was in their interest to proclaim their devotion, “the bulk of the Jewish population of Palestine have little feeling of gratitude or loyalty towards Great Britain for what she has done for the establishment of the Jewish National Home.”
To me, the scenario is similar to the first nations in America displaced by broken treaties. Many tribes fought back, only to be labeled savages (I guess we'd call them 'terrorists' today). Profiling natives collectively as dirty, untrustworthy brutes made it easier for us to herd them into reservations and care little for the resulting squalor.

Hollywood, Washington, and the textbooks in the public education system painted a one-sided, sanitized version of how "the West Was Won". I fell for it. Didn't you? But I know better now. I grew up, took the propaganda pixie dust out of eyes, and began to ask questions.

Could our perceptions and opinions about other "undesirables" in society be shaped by crafty and well-positioned pundits? Think about the deliberate, systematic shaping of the German mindset that denigrated the Jewish race to the status of vermin in the eyes of their Christian neighbors.

There's more history to be read, as the frustrated British eventually turned their albatross over to the United Nations. The UN governed no better. Its failed policies and partitions ignited a Civil War in Palestine, which led to a major war between Israel and a coalition of sovereign Arab states. Emerging the winner, Israel claimed her sovereignty as a state in 1948.

Religion had nothing to do with it. The Old Testament Scriptures of a future restored Israel was simply an ace in the hand of the prevailing political powers who skillfully played it to win the sympathy and support of two groups: Evangelical Christians and practicing, reformed Jews (non-orthodox).

However, Orthodox Jews back then and to this day insist that Jews were scattered to the four corners of the earth due to their disobedience to God, and will ONLY be ingathered through repentance when their future Messiah appears. They insist the nation that emerged out of battle in 1948 is NOT a fulfillment of Scripture. It is what is referred to in the Old Testament as an Ishmael (pretender), not the Isaac of divine promise. See my post "The Israel of God: A Matter of Faith or Family?"

So there you have it--a British web of intricate deceit, cover ups, and complex spins to save face in a watching world on one hand and--on the other--please influential, political Zionists.

provides this summary in his book (One Palestine, complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate):
"The British entered Palestine to defeat the Turks; they stayed there to keep it from the French; then they gave it to the Zionists because they loved “the Jews” even as they loathed them, at once admiring and despising them. The British were not guided by strategic considerations and there was no orderly decision-making process.

The Balfour Declaration “was the product of neither military nor diplomatic interests but of prejudice...and sleight of hand. The men who sired it were Christian and Zionist and, in many cases, anti-Semitic. They believed the "Jews controlled the world.”

Britain’s belief in the mystical power of “the Jews” overrode reality, and it was on the basis of such spurious considerations that Britain took the momentous decision to sponsor the Zionist cause."

Oh what a tangled web we weave, 
When first we practise to deceive!
Sir Walter Scott, Marmion, Canto vi. Stanza 17.
Scottish author & novelist (1771 - 1832)
The Israelis who are adamant that God gave them the land and therefore, they have a divine right to uproot Muslim and Christian Palestinians, need to read history and their Prophets. The Biblical Jews only kept the land through obedience; the Israel that exists today was birthed from the will of man through shrewd politicians.

The truth is that the original term "Palestinian" never defined a race of people, but a place. Living in that region were Arabs and Jews...a diverse populace of Muslims, practicing Jews, and Christians.

After the establishment of the state of  Israel in 1948, an estimated 700,000 Palestinians (Muslims and Christians) were expelled from the land or took flight. Hundred of homes and villages were destroyed. The Palestinians outside the political lines made by man were barred from the new state of Israel, and the Palestinians remaining within the lines were displaced and severely marginalized.

Most Americans assume that Christians in Palestine and surrounding Arab countries are converts from Islam. Not true! Most of them are the descendants of the Gentiles who embraced the Gospel after Israel rejected her Messiah. Churches were planted, and from these lampstands the good news spread around the world. Today, these anciently rooted families whose patriarchs received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have been maligned, ridiculed, and rejected by the American Church.

Americans have lumped their Christian brothers and sisters into one of several ambivalent, bigoted piles: "all them Arabs", "all Arabs are terrorists", or "all Arabs are Muslims". As mentioned earlier in this article, some Americans also think the term "Palestinian" refers to race, but a Palestinian is simply someone who lives in Palestine, much as we would say "New Yorker or Southerner". Remember, all of the land was originally called Palestine and its inhabitants--Jewish and Arab--were called Palestinians until it was geo-politically divided by the British.

Historically, believers who made pilgrimages to the Holy Land would stay in the homes of other Christians--Arab or Jewish.

Dr. Stephen Sizer, vicar of Christ Church, Surrey, England, and a leading expert on Christian Zionism, recounts
Augustine (354-430), John Chrysostom (344-407) and especially Gregory of Nyssa (335-394) recognized the dangers of associating sacredness with particular shrines. Consequently, they actively discouraged Christians from undertaking pilgrimages to Palestine. Augustine and Chrysostom insisted:
'God is indeed everywhere, and he who created all things is not contained or shut in by any one place.'
'The task is not to cross the sea, nor to undertake a lengthy pilgrimage... both when we come to church and when we stay at home, let us earnestly call on God.'
Nevertheless, the visit of Constantine's mother (Helena) to Palestine toward the end of the fourth century ensured that a pilgrimage to the Holy Land became a fashionable as well as a religious duty. Despite the costs, hazards and arduous nature of such a journey, pilgrims increasingly traveled to the Holy Land to do penance, to obtain redemption from serious crimes, and to secure relics for their churches.

Many Christians are still enamored with the Holy Land today; however, now their loyalties on such pilgrimages lie with political Israel instead of their impoverished and imprisoned brethren.

Several years ago, former Alaskan governor and 2008 GOP Vice-President candidate Sarah Palin made a three-day trip to Israel. On one occasion, the Guardian newspaper (UK) reports:

"She pulled up to the Bethlehem checkpoint run by the Israeli border police to the south of Jerusalem in a mini-van with her husband, Todd, her assistant and Israeli guides.

"None of the occupants left the car nor did they speak to the police officers at the checkpoint, according to photographers at the scene. They then turned around and drove away. A spokesman for the Israeli police said there was no incident at the checkpoint and a spokesman for the Israeli army said that Palin's group had not coordinated a visit to the occupied Palestinian territory.

"Tourists need to carry passports to cross checkpoints into the occupied Palestinian territory and Israelis are not normally permitted to enter areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, such as Bethlehem."
Palin has not been very vocal about the incident. Some people speculate that she didn't have a passport, but that's obviously not true. Others believe she may have left her passport at the hotel and could not return due to a tight schedule. Many reporters claim she did not know that Bethlehem was located in occupied territory.

Palin is not alone. A 2006 poll shows that only 15% of Americans realize that Bethlehem is a Palestinian city with a mixed Christian-Muslim community, lying in the occupied West Bank.

Regardless of her reasons, Palin could have stepped out of her vehicle for a quick photo op or later back at her hotel. Even if she could not express herself as an American patriot, she could have taken a few moments to speak kind words of hope to her Christian brethren under occupation. Would she have not done so for persecuted Christians in any other country?

Did you realize Christian tourism is one of Israel's major industries? (
3.45 million foreign tourists visited in 2010, reaching an all-time high.)

Dr. Sizer conducted extensive research into how modern pilgrimages to the Holy Land have affected the indigenous Christians in Israel and the occupied territories. Here's just one graph from the article:

The second survey was of Pilgrimage Tour Operators. Of the 25 companies investigated, none referred to Palestine or the Occupied Territories and five used maps showing the West Bank as part of Israel. The overwhelming majority offered itineraries that included visits to many places of Jewish significance.

The most frequently visited extra-biblical sites are Masada, Yad Vashem, the Wailing Wall, a Kibbutz and the Knesset, This evidence would appear to confirm the claim that itineraries are largely structured and promoted by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism to instill in visitors a positive image of Israel.

In contrast, in 1994 only one Operator explicitly recommended pilgrims meet with Palestinian Christians. By 1997 there were two Operators known to do so.

(For information on groups and ministries that promote ethical tourism that focuses on fellowship with Christian communities in the Holy land, visit Living Stones.)

Palestinian Christians living in the occupied territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip) represent 2.1 to 3.4% of the population. In 1947, they comprised around 51%.

Christians began to emigrate from Palestine
after the establishment of the state of Israel. Many Palestinian Christians emigrated to countries such as Australia, Jordan, Lebanon, the United States and Canada, and a larger number to Latin America (primarily Chile and Argentina).

In the aforementioned poll
of Christians in Bethlehem by the Palestinian Center for Research and Cultural Dialogue, 90% reported having Muslim friends, 73.3% agreed that the Palestinian Authority treats Christian heritage in the city with respect, and 78% attributed the ongoing exodus of Christians from Bethlehem to the Israeli occupation and travel restrictions on the area.

That same poll revealed quite a difference in American perceptions of Bethlehem and its inhabitants!
Americans are more likely (45.9%) to blame Israel's blockade of the town on Islamic politics and are reluctant (7.4%) to blame Israel.

While four out of ten Americans believe that the wall exists for Israel's security, more than nine out of ten Bethlehemites believe it is part of a plan by Israel to confiscate Palestinian land.

More than two-thirds of Americans believe Bethlehem is unsafe to visit, while 80% of Bethlehemites consider their town safe for visitors.

While the US survey showed that Americans are skeptical about Muslims and Christians living contentedly alongside each other--only 17% thought they lived together peacefully, the Palestinian survey showed they do: around 90% of Christians said they had Muslim friends, and vice-versa.

US Christians, meanwhile, are likely to be shocked by the discovery that seven out of ten Christians in Bethlehem believe Israel treats the town's Christian heritage with brutality or indifference.

On the other hand that more than two-thirds (73.3%) of Bethlehem's Christians believe that the Palestinian Authority treats Christian heritage with respect.

Because of the United States' unequivocal support of Israel and its military/occupational might, Americans usually only hear and see one side of the news. I do NOT approve of violence from any quarter. However, understanding the dynamics of the conflict is important if we are to correctly address the problem on the world stage as Christians and as an ethical nation.

Where can a person begin?

First, one group of Christians taking another look at the Jewish/Palestinian issue are the people behind the ground-breaking film "With God on our Side".  Below is one of the earlier trailers for the film while in production:

The film is now available on DVD. Visit the website and see what noted Christian leaders are saying about the release, and what resources are available to help your church sponsor a showing.

Dr.  Stephen Sizer has produced an excellent Study Guide to complement the film. I also highly recommend his pioneering classic  Zion’s Christian Soldiers.

After viewing the DVD and reading the book, there is a wealth of like-minded people and organizations to check out:

If you are planning your first trip or a return visit to the Holy Land, please consider an itinerary that includes a pilgrimage to see your brethren in Christ in occupied territories through a ministry such as Living Stones.

Visit these excellent ministries:

Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding

World Vision Middle East

Christian Research Institute

Bethlehem Bible College

Breaking the Silence

Grassroots Jerusalem

Musalaha Ministry of Reconciliation

B'Tselem -
The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

If Americans Knew

Am I against the Jewish people? No! Am I against a Jewish homeland? Again, no! The British kept their promise to the Jews, right or wrong. Now, we must focus on the broken promise to the rest of the Palestinian population and the egregious breach which the people of God in Christ are equipped to address.

The sacrifice that pleases God is one of action, not pious self-denial. In Isaiah 58:1-12, He challenges us to cast aside judgment and genuinely care for the needy and free the oppressed. This leads to abundant blessings upon us and a reputation as people who build rather than tear down...servants who repair what is broken and restore paths in which to safely dwell.

What kind of reputation does your church have among unbelievers? What do people in your town currently think about Christians in general? How do you think Christianity in America is perceived by Palestinian believers?

The bottom-line? Justice! Period. We must seek to right wrongs on both sides with the true heart of God that no longer deals with man according to earthly ethnicities.

Since Calvary, God recognizes only two spiritual, not natural distinctions of mankind: those in Christ and those who remain in Adam. No earthly nation or race is favored by God over those who are found in His Son, Jesus Christ, which He calls His new nation...His new race of priests and kings (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 5:10)

It is time to reject politicized Christianity and its Constantinian leaders who love the power of the state and empire building.
We must cast down the un-Biblical teaching of Christian Zionism with its shameful excuses for the mistreatment of others--even our brethren in Christ. We must carry the message and ministry of reconciliation to both Jew and Gentile.

"So he is our peace. In his body he has made Jewish and non-Jewish people one by breaking down the wall of hostility that kept them apart." (Ephesians 2:14-God's Word translation)

Christian, do you really believe this?

No other place on earth should be the proving group for this truth than the Holy Land itself. No other people should have a stronger voice for peace and justice for all than American Christians. Where is your voice?