[W]e see the theology of Christian Zionism, which encourages Jewish return to Israel as a means to achieve Christian redemption, as… founded on antisemitic interpretations of scripture.
~Jewish Voice for Peace statement on antisemitism
The antisemitic ideology of Christian Zionism, which is an ideology of false friendship with Israel, has made millions of unwitting (and also aware) Christians complicit with Israeli human rights violations. Through groups like John Hagee’s CUFI, Christians United for Israel, self-identified evangelicals provide unlimited funds and support for Israel, in an attempt to bring about the return of the Messiah, at which time, if Jews do not convert to Christianity (in the end times), they will be eternally damned to hell.
In order to drum up support for Israel so that the Messiah can return, Christian Zionists attack supporters of Palestinian rights in their local communities, accusing them of being antisemitic in local papers and in community events. Through libel and slander, these Christian Zionists not only behave in an un-Christian manner, but they also support an ongoing human rights catastrophe in Palestine. This ideology is not confined to Britain where it started, and the US where it has overtaken numbers of “mainline” churches, but it has spread through “missionary work” to the developing world and is rampant in Africa and some parts of Asia where US missionaries proselytize their misguided ideology.
There is no panacea for such rampant misrepresentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but it is imperative that this false ideology be confronted, called out, and challenged at every possible turn. It is important to lay out the parameters of how and why it is erroneous and unacceptable, and further, it should be publicly noted that its end-goal is intolerable.
A worldview that holds all the land that Palestinians live on needs to be “under control of the Jews to bring about the Second Coming of the Messiah” is unholy. The belief that Jews must convert to Christianity or be condemned to eternal damnation is antisemitic. It is nothing short of blasphemous for Christian Zionists to defame those Christian activists who live into the gospel mandate for justice.
Additionally, there is a similar strain of such support for Israel in mainline Christianity, both in the Protestant and in the Catholic traditions. Since it is not in plain sight and is not explicit in ideology, but is evident in practice, it is more difficult to identify. In Zionism and the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land, editors Donald Wagner and Walter Davis describe this kind of Christian Zionism as more insidious because of its more obscure nature. Further, Wagner and Davis discuss “the influence of the Zionist narrative as having acquired dominance in the media, in political discourse, and in the Protestant churches.” In the same volume, theologians Rosemary and Herman Ruether have written extensively about the influence of Zionism on the Catholic Church.
Understandably, after WWII and the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, “mainline” Christianity began to pay for its sins of complicity through an unquestioned support of Israel. Rightly, the Church at large needed to correct course and move away from the Replacement Theology that contributed to the Nazi Holocaust. Because the sins were so great, so was the likelihood of overreaching. Christian guilt set up what’s become known as The Ecumenical Deal in which Christians pay for their sins that resulted in the Nazi Holocaust by remaining silent on the sins of Israel. Jewish Liberation Theologian Marc Ellis, calling for an end to this deal, describes it this way:
With unquestioning support and by turning a blind eye toIsrael’s human rights abuses, churches around the world who don’t speak out now are ironically repeating their sins of silence during WWII, except this time, it’s at the expense of Palestinians.
Christian Zionism merges theology and politics. It teaches that the secular State of Israel is a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy that began when European Jews started moving to Palestine in the 1800s, and continued as Israel became a nation in 1948. Christian Zionists believe and claim that modern Israel is a continuation of Biblical Israel and therefore should enjoy special privileges. They declare that it is the responsibility of Christians to support the State of Israel and its policies.
Zionism is exclusionary because it makes exceptions for Jews only. It is a political ideology that led to colonial settlement in a land that already had a large population of indigenous people. Zionism raises Jewish people above all others, declaring that God has given land exclusively to them; that the land belongs to God and God wants all people to flourish. This exceptionalism of Jews results in outright racism.