Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
The dispute over Israel’s place in modern Christianity is “inside” the faith, pitting those who hold a more traditional stance that Jews are God’s chosen people and are accorded a position of significance against more progressive interests who accuse Israel of “occupying” Palestine and persecuting its Arab neighbors.
Now one Christian ministry leader says she has had enough of such attacks on the biblical foundations for honoring and supporting Israel.
“I realize my response could be as well. Ever feel like you can’t take it anymore? With apologies, I acknowledge that’s where I’m at.”
Her fervor was ignited by an announcement about a coming conference in Bethlehem. The event, called Christ at the Checkpoint,” starts March 5 at Bethlehem Bible College and focuses on an alternative to the traditional biblical understanding that God named the Jews as his chosen people, and therefore they factor into biblical prophecy and hold a place of importance for Christians.
In fact, David P. Gushee and Glen H. Stassen have posted online a letter regarding Zionism that accuses American Christians of impacting their nation’s policy toward Israel and Palestinians “in distressing ways.”
“It is one reason why the United States stands almost alone in the world community in supporting Israeli policies which our international friends generally find intolerable if not immoral and illegal,” the posting states.
They complain that “the prevailing version of American Christian Zionism – that is, your belief system – underwrites theft of Palestinian land and oppression of Palestinian people, helps create the conditions for an explosion of violence, and pushes U.S. policy in a destructive direction that violates our nation’s commitment to universal human rights.
“American Christian Zionism as it currently stands is sinful and produces sin,” they write. “We write as evangelical Christians committed lifelong to Israel’s security, and we are seriously worried about your support for policies that violate biblical warnings about injustice and may lead to the outcome you most fear – serious harm to or even destruction of Israel.”
Markell responds by calling the conference, which will feature speakers such as Ron Sider, professor of holistic ministry and public policy and the president of Evangelicals for Social Action; Mae Cannon, author of “Social Justice Handbook;” Lynne Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church; Imada Shehadeh of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary; Chris Seiple of the Institute for Global Engagement; and blogger Ben White, a “terrible tragedy.”
“The premise of the event is that the Palestinians live under brutal Israeli ‘occupation.’ It is supposedly so bad that Israel is accused of apartheid-like treatment of the Palestinians such as the ‘separation’ experienced in South Africa. The symbol for all of this is the wall of separation between Palestinian territories and Israeli land,” she writes.
But she said the fact of the wall – with its checkpoint – is that lives are being saved by the protection for Israel. She said if America had a wall on its southern border that was successful in eliminating 98 percent of the problems associated with the border, Americans would keep it. She said that’s what the checkpoints and wall do for Israel.
The crux of the issue is the “replacement theology” that she believes is exerting its influence. That belief says God abandoned his promise to the Jewish nation, and the worldwide Christian church has taken its place.
The result is that they believe Israel has become “the Goliath beating up on little Davids, the Palestinians,” she said.
She said that overlooks entirely the history of God’s promises to Israel, and the fact that the nation was, in fact, reborn in the 1940s.
“I don’t think people do get it,” she told WND. “Do you see Israel perpetrating attacks on the Palestinians? No. She’s working them into the economy.”
She cited as typical of the region’s violence the attacks – allegedly by Palestinians – on a Jewish family last year. Family members’ throats were slit.
She said she recognizes that there are Palestinian families who just want to raise their child in a decent environment, who “don’t want to slit the throats of Israelis.”
“Some of them are Christians. I’m all for them and want them to have a decent life,” she said. “But there’s a sizeable [portion] who live to kill. What do you do? You build a wall.
“The whole purpose of this conference is to protest this wall that has cut terror attacks on Israel by 98 percent,” she said.
“‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ says Christian Zionism is a political movement that is ‘ethnocentric,’ privileging one people at the expense of others,” she continued. “Christianity calls believers in Jesus to focus on building God’s kingdom on earth, says Checkpoint publicity, and not futuristic speculations. It is tragic how this bunch sweeps under the rug God’s continued covenant with Israel. These folks have no appreciation of the ‘last days’ spoken of so frequently in the Bible. ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ theologians do not want to consider Jesus as the Messiah of the Jewish people, someday returning to earth to set up His kingdom in Jerusalem to rule as the last Davidic King. Then they would have to acknowledge the continuance of the Abrahamic covenant with the modern state of Israel,” she said.