Christian Zionism: Road Map to Armageddon?
Ayoon wa Azan (Don't Know Much)
Jihad Al Khazen Al-Hayat 2005/01/7
No matter how deep I delve into Christian Zionist thought
and their activities, I still do not know as much as
the real experts on the subject, such as Reverend Stephen Sizer.
He is the vicar of Christchurch, Virginia Water, Surrey, England
and chairman of the International Bible Society (UK).
His book, Christian Zionism: Road Map to Armageddon?,
based on his PhD thesis, has been long-awaited, especially since
an 84-page condensed version was published earlier this year.
The new 298-page book is a milestone publication and excellent source.
The book is published in London; the author is still seeking a publisher
in the U.S. Sizer's book was launched at a meeting hosted by the Council
for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), which colleague Suzannah Tarbush
attended and provided me with a substantial run through of the book.
Dr. Sizer explained that he tried to do three things in his book:
Firstly, to show that the historical roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict
can be largely attributed to Christians in Britain in the 19th century
who combined their biblical views with political expediency to control
the Middle East and promise the same bit of real estate to the Jews
and the Arabs while promising the French we would keep it for ourselves.
Secondly, the way in which this movement from Britain went over
to the U.S. and developed a theology that sacralises a land,
which elevates a people, the Jews, to a status superior to that
of other races, which sees Jerusalem as this exclusive capital,
that is supporting the settlement program and the rebuilding
of a Jewish temple, and which has an apocalyptic view of the future,
that is deeply disruptive of any peace settlement,
and is justifying, essentially, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Thirdly, which is the most controversial,
is a look at the political consequences of this theology.
Sizer said, "What I've really done is join up the dots between
those who've written about Zionism and those who've written
about what is known as "dispensationalism" in the U.S.,
a theological framework that says the Jews have a separate place
in God's purposes, apart from all of the other races.
All I've done is join up the dots up until this is what
they're teaching, and these are the consequences on the ground."
"The summary of the book would be that Christian Zionism
is a heresy in Christian terms, and it's the most influential
and destructive Christian movement in the world today.
And the book is a contribution of challenging that stance.
It's a lonely journey, controversial, it's strategic
and it's an unfinished journey," he added.
Sizer warned that the church in Palestine is close to extinction
numerically, and that the situation will worsen in the ongoing
confrontation with the Christian Zionists.
Perhaps it is beneficial to note some of the main points in Sizer's book:
The Christian Zionist movement is at least ten times larger
than the Jewish Zionist movement, conservative estimates suggest,
and has become a dominant lobby within contemporary American politics.
The theological system underpinning Christian Zionism is based
on ultra-literal and futuristic reading of the Bible, while its
origins are rooted to the Reformation and Puritanism,is essentially
the product of early 19th century millenialist sectarianism.
Christian Zionism through its active and public support of Jewish
restoration to Palestine, predated the rise of Jewish Zionism
by at least 60 years. While the strategic value of a Jewish homeland
in Palestine was a factor in British foreign policy during
the 19th century, it became a feature of American foreign policy
by the end of the 20th century. Without the sustained political
support of Christian Zionists in America, and significant
government funding, it is doubtful whether the state of Israel
would have remained in existence since 1948,
let alone continued to occupy and settle the West Bank since 1967.
Dr. Sizer explains the Rapture better than I did in my last few columns.
He speaks of two stages; the anti-Christ will rise and Jesus' Second
Coming to save the believers. The book cites Zionist organizations that
dissociate themselves from the apocalyptic dispensationalism.
"This hope in a secret Rapture perhaps explains why dispensationalists
are either complacent or disinterested in what will happen to the Jews
during the Tribulation," he says.
In the book, Sizer includes a table of the constructive
and destructive aspects of Christian Zionism and
"the ways it may be seen as a blessing curse for the Jewish people."
The constructive aspects, which are not unique to Christian Zionism,are:
Encouragement of dialogue between Jews and Christians;
commitment to share the gospel with the Jewish people;
stand against anti-Semitism;
education of the gentile church in the Jewish origins
of the Christian faith;
and compassion for a humanitarian work among Jewish refugees.
But against these five constructive aspects are seven negative aspects:
Justification of apartheid within an exclusive Jewish state;
Undermining Christian witness in the Middle East
by partisan support for Israel;
Encouragement of religious intolerance and Islamophobia;
Tacit acceptance of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians
by the support for Jewish settlements;
Denigration of moderate Jews willing to negotiate
a land-for-peace settlement;
Incitement of religious fanaticism by supporting the rebuilding
of the Jewish Temple on the Haram Al-Sharif and apocalyptic
eschatology in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Stephen Sizer is not alone, many agree with views.
Garth Hewitt, director of the Amos Trust, singer,
and songwriter, introduced Sizer at the CAABU meeting.
Hewitt said, "For many people, Christian Zionism is a mystery:
where has this come from, what is it, why is it having an impact?"
Hewitt added that Sizer can happily be described
as an evangelical theologian;
his book is an opportunity for everyone to realize
that there is another viewpoint;
a viewpoint that is opposed to Christian Zionists' viewpoint.
Hewitt said the book gives us the history,
"And as I read that history, I thought my goodness you
[Christian Zionists] are barking mad, it's really strange stuff."
He focused on the importance of other Christians, and the whole world,
the thought of the Christian Zionists; since they influence U.S.
foreign policy, which means they affect all countries,
not just Middle Eastern countries.
Hewitt noted that despite Christian Zionists' support
of the Jews, they have a patronizing viewpoint of them
- they consider them in some way, cogs in some celestial plan
to achieve the Second Coming of Christ.
In contrast to Hewitt and U.S. and British Christian organizations'
support, there is opposition. I conclude tomorrow.