August 30, 2010

What Christian Zionists Don't Know About the New Testament

In previous articles, I have discussed how Christian Zionists have manipulated Old Testament history and prophecy to justify their unconditional support for modern-day Israel; support that includes aiding and abetting the occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians—Muslim and Christian alike. Sadly, the New Testament has not been immune to abuse by Christian Zionists, either. Certain passages have been taken out of context to perpetuate the myth that the Jews, as “God’s Chosen” should be allowed to get away with murder.

Romans 1:16 is one of the most notable passages co-opted by Christian Zionists: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

There are many Christian Zionists who believe this verse instructs them to proselytize Jews exclusively before sharing their faith—such that it is—with the neighbor down the street. It is also used to emphasize the supposed Jewish “chosen-ness” as if there is some sort of divine pecking order. While logic dictates that when originally spreading Christ's message, the early apostles would have gone to the synagogues first because they were in possession of the Old Testament history and prophecy that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. More simply, it made sense to go to the people who knew about Moses, Jonah and Isaiah before tackling the people who worshipped Zeus. Moreover, it is evident throughout the whole body of scripture, beginning with the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ to his apostles’ inspired letters to the churches, that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3: 28-29.

Jesus, foretelling signs of end times, states in Luke 21:24:
“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”

This warning is significant, considering the ethnic make-up of modern-day Israeli society. By law, any person born of a Jewish mother has the right to Israeli citizenship. However, the connection between modern Jewry and the biblical Hebrews is virtually nonexistent. After Rome razed Jerusalem in 70AD, Palestinian Jews who fled to Europe, Africa and other parts of the Middle East introduced the local populations to Judaism, drawing a significant number of converts. Thus, modern-day Jews are mostly descended from non-Semitic peoples who have no physical connection to Palestine. Israeli immigration laws have become more liberal to include recent converts to Judaism. Therefore, that the Gentiles to whom Jesus referred are not Arabs, but rather the Israelis themselves.

Furthermore, “Israel” in the Bible does not refer to a future political nation-state. Peter, a disciple of Jesus, uses the same language in reiterating God’s promise to the early Church that was originally made to Moses and the Children of Israel (Jacob) in Exodus 19:5-6: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people…” (I Peter 2:9) This text, taken almost verbatim from the Old Testament, is proof positive that the “holy nation” no longer refers to Israel as a kingdom or earthly nation, but a spiritual body of believers in Jesus Christ, regardless of race, ethnicity or nationality.

Jesus gives us a final warning in Revelation 2:9: “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” All Christians must heed this divine warning by separating themselves from those engaged to a heretical theology of racial superiority that supports ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Christians have a sacred duty to study God’s word so as not to be deceived by false doctrines, including Zionism. Christian Zionists are hindering the fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission to preach his love to the world by throwing all their time, money and resources into aiding and abetting the ethnic cleansing of indigenous people by those who categorically deny Jesus Christ and everything he represents. Once Christians understand Zionism’s opposition to scripture and incongruence with Biblical prophecy, the withdrawal of all forms of support—financial, material, political and spiritual—from the lie that is Israel will surely follow.

August 25, 2010

What Christian Zionists Don't Know About Old Testament Prophecy

Old Testament prophecy and history are interconnected because the ancient prophecies were fulfilled while the books that eventually became the Bible were still being written: fulfillment became history. However, Christian Zionists believe Old Testament prophets foretold the establishment of modern-day Israel and the rebuilding of a Third Jewish Temple, discarding all semblance of historical context.

It may be argued that Zionism, as a political and secular movement, never relied on scriptural land grants as the basis for a Jewish homeland. However, the symbiotic relationship between Christian and political Zionism has already been explored and proven beginning with William Hechler’s unholy alliance with Theodor Herzl.

Israel’s wars of expansion illustrate a sense of divine entitlement rather than a mere desire to create a refuge for the world’s Jewry: the annexation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, seizure of Syria’s Golan Heights, Lebanon’s Chebaa Farms and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula (later returned under duress) and for the past two decades, the United States serving as a proxy to destroy and occupy Iraq. In all the madness, one can sense a certain religious fanaticism reminiscent of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny that led early settlers in the United States to perpetuate atrocities against Native Americans in order to fulfill an imaginary divine decree that the fledgling nation would stretch from sea to sea.

While the Bible outlined boundaries for the ancient Israelites, found in Joshua 1:4: “From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun (Mediterranean), shall be your coast,” Zionists use these parameters as a present-day ordinance for the creation of a “Greater Israel,” including not only Palestine, but parts of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. This was evidenced in a 1952 speech by then Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan:

“…our task consists of preparing the Israeli army for the new war approaching in order to achieve our ultimate goal, the creation of an Israeli empire.”

To Christian Zionists, the establishment and expansion of such an Israeli empire is imperative in order to precipitate the return of Jesus Christ to earth, or the Second Coming. They believe that all Jews must be gathered in Palestine in order to fulfill prophecy; furthermore that a “Third Temple” must be constructed where Al-Aqsa Mosque—Islam’s third holiest shrine—now stands.

Chronologically, Joel’s writings are the oldest, dating back to the 9th Century BC. The book bearing his name foretells the manifestation of the Holy Spirit at the Jewish feast of Pentecost in Acts 2. The next set of prophecies was written in the 8th century BC: the Books of Isaiah, Hosea, Amos and Micah all contain warnings of Israel’s destruction, which occurred when the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC. Babylonians defeated the Southern Kingdom (Judah) in 597 BC, marking the beginning of the exile. Amos 9:11 states:

“In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up thee breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.”

At the time Amos prophesied, Babylonian captivity was well over 100 years away, as well as Jerusalem’s subsequent restoration. Amos 9:11 is quoted by James in Acts 15:16-17 when he addresses the church council, indicating the fulfillment of Amos’ prophecy in the person of Jesus Christ, not a literal “Third Temple.”

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Zephaniah all wrote during the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BC. When they foretell the return to Jerusalem, they are referring to the end of the Babylonian captivity, not the eventual creation of a modern political Israel.

In his essay, “Zionists and the Bible,” Christian theologian Alfred Guillaume sums it up:

“These prophecies were fulfilled. The Jews returned to Judea, rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls and rebuilt the Temple. After fluctuating fortunes, they secured a brief period of political independence and expansion under the Maccabees. Thus, the prophecies of the Return have been fulfilled already and cannot be fulfilled again. The Old Testament’s canonical literature contains no prophecy of a second return after the return from the Babylonian Exile, because after the Exile, all Jews who wished to do so returned to the Holy Land, though a great many more preferred to remain where they were….”

Those still insisting that there will be another Temple need only read John 2:19: “Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’” Here Christ is clearly referring to himself as the temple which will be “raised up,” or resurrected. During his ministry, Christ also points to various stories found in the Old Testament in order to refute the “Chosen Race” doctrine:

“And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias (Elijah), when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus (Elisha) the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4: 24-27)

Jesus gives us many more such teachings and parables throughout the New Testament, which will be examined in an upcoming article.

August 20, 2010

What Christian Zionists Don't Know about Old Testament History

I have been comforted by the divine wisdom and promise found in the Bible countless times throughout my life, yet it troubles me how this sacred book has been manipulated by so many into a how-to manual of theft and destruction. Often I have been questioned by non-Christian friends regarding biblical passages commonly abused by Christian Zionists—those who believe that Jews are God’s Chosen and must be implanted in Palestine in order to precipitate the Second Coming of Jesus Christ—“Does the Bible really say that?”

My answer is always a resounding “no.” While it is possible to take certain passages out of context and ignore the historical perspective in which they were written in order to manufacture a case for a modern-day nation called Israel, it is neither accurate nor theologically sound. Yet as many as 70 million people in the United States espouse the doctrine of Christian Zionism which endorses racism, ethnic cleansing and wholesale slaughter as manifested in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This heresy is twofold: Zionist Christians have manipulated both biblical prophecy and the Bible’s historical content to support their murderous agenda.

It is imperative that true followers of Christ actively fight back against this lethal false doctrine that has caused far more death and destruction than any so-called Islamic extremism by first examining history from a biblical perspective. It is very important not to confuse the term Biblical Literalist with Christian Zionist. I probably take the Bible more literally than anyone I know and in fact, the most effective way to rescue otherwise benign individuals from the dangerous heresy of Christian Zionism is through a strict literal interpretation of the Bible.

Beginning with the Book of Genesis, God establishes a covenant with Abram (Abraham) whom modern-day Jews, Christians and Muslims all revere as a patriarch and a prophet. In the Covenant, God promised Canaan (Palestine) to Abram and his descendants (Genesis 17:8).

Later, in Genesis 17:19-21, God specifically establishes His covenant with Abraham’s son Isaac. Unfortunately this is an early point of contention between Christianity and Islam, as Muslims believe it was Ishmael (Ismail PBUH) whom Abraham was ordered to sacrifice in a test by God while Christians believe it was Isaac. Yet even in the Bible, God does not exclude Ishmael and his descendants from the original promise to Abraham of all the land between the Nile and the Euphrates Rivers. Christian theologian Alfred Guillaume (1888-1965) addresses this point:

“It is generally supposed that these promises were made to the Jews alone. However, this is not what the Bible says. The words ‘to thy seed’ inevitably include Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, who can claim descent from Abraham through his first son Ishmael. Ishmael was the reputed father of many Arab tribes…”

The name Israel is first heard in Genesis 32 when God renames Jacob, the son of Isaac. From this name are derived the terms “Children of Israel,” “Israelites,” and “Twelve Tribes of Israel.” Christian Zionists base Jewish claims to Palestine on the ridiculous notion that they are directly and purely descended from the biblical Israelites, as members of a Jewish “race” rather than adherents to the religion of Judaism. Ironically, anyone who converts to Judaism has legal rights to immigrate to the Jewish State regardless of heritage.

Intermarriage was prevalent early on, beginning with Isaac’s marriage to Rebekah, whose father was Syrian. Hence Arab blood was already present in the Israelites’ lineage. There are numerous other instances of intermarriage throughout the Old Testament, including Moses, whose father-in-law is identified as a Midianite, of an Arab tribe. Ruth, whose story is told in the Old Testament book bearing her name, was not Jewish but Moabite. In the first chapter of Matthew, Ruth is listed as a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ. Jacob’s youngest son, Joseph, married Asenath, daughter of Potipherah who was an Egyptian priest. She bore him two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (Gen. 41: 50). Jacob (Israel) later adopted Manasseh and Ephraim hence the two of the Twelve Tribes of Israel bear their names.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel were to divide the aforementioned land. The Levites, to whom Moses and Aaron belonged, were chosen as a caste of priests, thus not entitled to any land. Ironically, those with the surname Cohen claim to be descended from the Levites, not knowing if this were indeed true, they would have to relinquish rights to any land in Palestine! Likewise, the tribes of Gad, Reuben and half of Manasseh elected to settle east of the Jordan River.

When Israel split in the 6th Century B.C., the Northern Kingdom (which retained the name Israel) was comprised of ten tribes. The remaining two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, formed the Southern Kingdom (Judah). From 734-732 B.C. the kingdoms were at war with each other; the Assyrians routed the Northern Kingdom ten years later. The Babylonians conquered Judah in 597 B.C., the beginning of a seventy-year exile. The majority of those who eventually returned from the Babylonian captivity were from the tribe of Judah, from where the term “Jew” is derived, first appearing in the Second Book of Kings 16:6.

Another name found in the Bible is Ashkenaz, a son of Gomer. From this word comes Ashkenazim, referring to Jews of European heritage. However, Gomer was descended from Japheth (I Chronicles 1:6) and not Shem; therefore the name itself defines them as non-Semitic people.

Biblical origins of names become very important when confronting Zionist Christians, as evidenced in this inane statement from Craig Winn, author of such inflammatory titles as Prophet of Doom:

“The name ‘Palestinian’ was derived from the Roman Latinized name of the Philistines. The Assyrians murdered the last of the Philistines in 585 B.C. There are therefore, no Palestinians alive today. There haven’t been for over 2,500 years.”

In reality, the Philistines were only one of seven Canaanite nations and inhabited the area immediately around Gaza. Canaanites were descended from Ham, not Shem (Genesis 10), thus were not Semitic and cannot be related to modern day Palestinian Arabs who are true Semites. One of the many biblical prophecies warped by Zionist Christians is found in Zechariah 14:21b “…and in that day there shall be no more Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts.” They use this passage to justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, when in fact Palestinians are not Canaanites.

An upcoming article will be devoted entirely to other biblical prophecies that Zionist Christians have taken out of context and twisted to fit their homicidal master plan.

August 15, 2010

The Roots of Christian Zionism

It is common knowledge that many so-called Christians throw unconditional, unyielding support behind the Jewish state. Known as Christian Zionists, or more recently “Israel-firsters”—indicating their degree of loyalty over and above the interests of their own country—it is estimated they are over 50 million strong in the United States alone. By stripping biblical passages out of their proper context and ignoring historical perspective, Christian Zionist leaders have convinced the masses that Jesus Christ will return when all Jews are gathered in Palestine, even if it means the systemic destruction of the Palestinian people.

Questions remain how such a blatantly un-biblical doctrine hijacked an entire segment of the Christian community; moreover, how the doctrine came to be so widely accepted not only in churches but in the halls of political power.

It has been argued that Christian Zionism originated as a spin-off of secular Zionism; that Christians were co-opted by political Zionists in order to gain support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Ironically, Palestine was sixth on the list for such a homeland at Theodor Herzl’s First Zionist Congress in 1897, behind locales including Argentina, Uganda and Turkey. It was in fact the Christian Zionists who were orchestrating the takeover of Palestine from the beginning.

The Politics of Christian Zionism 1891-1948 by Paul C. Merkley provides startling evidence that the poisoned theology of Christian Zionism predates Herzl, long considered the father of Zionism. In fact, Herzl received a tremendous amount of support from William Hechler, the son of Anglican missionaries and author of an 1893 pamphlet entitled “The Restoration of the Jews to Palestine According to Prophecy.” It was Hechler who arranged meetings between Herzl and Kaiser Wilhelm II, promoting the Zionist ambition to usurp Palestine among world leaders.

Early support for Zionism among United States policymakers was manifested through a handful of misguided religious nuts who manipulated leaders by flattering their sordid egotistical fantasies. According to Merkley, President Harry S. Truman compared himself to Cyrus, the Persian king who allowed Jews to return to Palestine in ancient times after the Babylonian captivity, although Zionist sympathies have run deep in America since its foundation.

The Puritans drew a parallel between themselves and the Children of Israel, escaping religious persecution in Europe just as the ancient Hebrews were led out of Egypt. America was their “Promised Land,” making way for the doctrine of Manifest Destiny (that it was God’s divine will for the new country to stretch from sea to sea) that justified the abhorrent treatment of Native Americans. By the same token, Christian Zionism justifies the killing and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to this day. Plymouth Brethren minister John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) popularized the doctrine under the name “dispensationalism,” which was further spread by the Scofield Reference Bible published in 1909. That edition contained copious footnotes instructing readers how to interpret Bible verses and prophecy centered around the re-establishment of Israel as a modern nation-state.

Thus the Zionist heresy was mass marketed to a largely ignorant populace who are convinced they do not have enough sense to read the Bible for themselves. Today, support for Israel has gained momentum through apocalyptic preaching by televangelists who make large profits for supporting Israel. They have co-opted Christian laypeople into thinking they can bring about Christ’s return, ending suffering on earth.

It would be scary enough if such ideas were confined to churches, but Zionist Christians have organized political lobbies such as Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Arguably, they have considerable influence over US foreign policy, particularly effective with neo-conservatives as witnessed during the George W. Bush administration. Numerous Christian groups encourage Jewish immigration to what is now called Israel through financial contributions while assisting ultra-orthodox Jewish groups to promote settlement expansion on Palestinian land.

Not only do Zionists distort biblical history, they spread lies about more modern events as well. Proponents of Israel will often pander the tired Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini obfuscation in an attempt to connect all Palestinians to Adolph Hitler. Husseini was imposed upon the Palestinians in 1921 by the British Mandate's first high commissioner, a British Jew named Herbert Samuel. Husseini was selected over the rival Nashashibi candidate and favored by the Zionist Commission. Husseini allied with Hitler to oppose the British, falling into the trap as so many others who have believed “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

In this manner Christian Zionists have the ability to reach outside their own cult and snag more secular (although nonetheless misguided) individuals by linking Arabs—particularly exploiting the blood connection between Husseini and late President Yasser Arafat—with the epitome of “anti-Semitic” evil. These same “Christians” are poised to use the anniversary of the September 11 tragedy to accuse Muslims of celebrating the attacks. In reality, the end of Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr, coincides with that date this year. Meanwhile, Florida pastor Terry Jones, leader of the innocuous-sounding Dove World Outreach Center, is encouraging Christians to burn a Qur’an on September 11.

Although emboldened by all the media attention, proponents of these views are fortunately far from mainstream Christianity. The problem is that Christians who do take seriously Christ’s message of love are reluctant to gently—or not so gently—correct those hate-mongers masquerading as Christians. We must be willing to take back our faith by outspokenly refuting the heresy of Christian Zionism and its hateful manifestations both at home and abroad.