On March 20, 2006, I traveled from the Little Town in Occupied Territory of Bethlehem to the Mount of Beatitudes in Israel. This awe inspiring site sits above the shimmering Sea of Galilee where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, and I ended up delivering my own Sermon on that Mount
Four Franciscan Sisters, one each from Syria, Jordan, Malta and Italy care for the shrine and the pilgrim guests at the Hospice Center where I spent two nights and a day of silent reflection of all I had witnessed the previous nine days during my third of five reality tours through occupied Palestine.
At dinner a Catholic Pentecostal from Scotland introduced himself and asked me why I was there and what church I was from. I responded that I have Irish Roman Catholic, Polish Jew, Russian Orthodox and Episcopal roots; but that my rock is The Beatitudes.
He looked even more perplexed when I told him I came to the Mount of Beatitudes to decompress and reflect upon my nine days in Occupied Territory. I asked him if he were aware of the work of Sabeel, the Palestinian Christian founded organization that promotes a theology of liberation based on justice, peace, non-violence and reconciliation for all, regardless of faith path or nationality.
He sternly admonished me, “God gave this land to the Jews! The Bible never mentions Palestine, and that is that! God gave this land to the Jews and that is that!”
I responded just as fervently that the Palestinian Christians are the descendants of those who first followed Christ and they have been denied inalienable human rights by the Israeli government. I told him the Christians in the Holy Land have shrunk from 20% of the total population to less than 1.3% since 1948 and if things don’t change soon, there will be no Christian witness in the land where Christ promised that it is the peacemakers who are the children of God.
He sputtered, “But the Jews have suffered! God gave this land to the Jews and that is that!”
This really got my Irish up and I retorted, “Yes they did because good people did nothing for far too long, and now the oppressed have become the oppressors. In the 21st century good people are unaware, ignoring or are in total denial of the injustice in the Holy Land. And what about all the Hebrew prophets, such as Micah who reminded the people of what the Lord requires: To be just, to be merciful and to walk humbly with your God!”
I could NOT shut up although I knew that that Scotsman was trying to get away-he also looked a bit terrified! But, I was on a tear and barely took a breath as I told him that instead of staying in Israel for his entire visit, he should go and witness life in the occupied territories; go and see the effects of The Wall on his spirit and see what it has done to the Palestinian economy. I told him he should go and tour some of the Bethlehem refugee camps and see the ruins of all the uncompensated home demolitions. I brought it on home by telling him that I also doubt that God was ever in the real estate business!
His eyes had bugged out and his mouth had dropped open while the torrent of words spewed out of me. After I finally shut up, he stammered, “But there is suffering everywhere!”
“Yes there is and Christ always stood up for the poor and the oppressed. And he told us what ever we do or don’t do for the least and the outcast; we do it or don’t do it unto God.”
He shook his head and turned and walked quickly away and never again looked my way.
Nobody else spoke to me the rest of the evening or the next day. That was fine with me, for I was listening to the voice within and what I kept hearing was Luke 23:34: “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
But when you know, if you are of good will, you must do something and education is the way to compassion and compassion is the way to change.
Those needing the most education are those who have been misled into the fastest growing cult in the USA-and also perhaps in Scotland-the cult of Christian Zionism.
What is Christian Zionism?
Christian Zionism is an extremist Christian movement which supports the claims of those who believe that the State of Israel should take control of all of the land currently disputed between Palestinians and Israelis. It views the creation and expansion of the modern state of Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy toward the second coming of Jesus.
Christian Zionism is a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel. The Christian Zionist program provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it laces an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ’s love and justice today.
What is the Christian Zionist connection with the Holy Land?
Believing that God fights on the side of Israel, Christian Zionists call for the unqualified support for the most extreme political positions. They do not have eyes to see or ears to hear their sisters and brothers in Christ, or cousins in the family of Father Abraham who are caught in the crossfire of the military minded.
Christian Zionist spokes persons have attributed Hurricane Katrina to God’s wrath over our failure to stop Israel from pulling out of Gaza. They consistently oppose any moves towards a solution to the conflict which would validate the political aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis.
Who Supports Christian Zionism?
Christian Zionism has significant support within American Protestant fundamentalists, who number between 10 and 20 million. Its reach is broad, by virtue of its favorite themes related to the “End Times” and an Israel-fixated Christian media.
Christian Zionism is both a political movement and a way of interpreting current events. Its focus is on Israel and the Middle East, as much an ideology as a “movement.” Its promoters share many beliefs but are not organized through any one institution.
Throughout history Christians have at times twisted scripture to justify violence: for the Crusades, for Anti-Semitism, and for slavery. Too often the church has been slow to respond to these biblical distortions and with disastrous results.
Today Christian Zionists - particularly those with dispensationalist leanings - are well organized and although their motives are couched in terms of compassion toward the Jewish people based on a literal reading of scripture the political agenda of territorial expansion advocated by Christian Zionists has given rise to the brutal injustices against Palestinians, which fuels the fire of all conflicts in all the Middle East.
For some time, individuals, and theologians have spoken out against Christian Zionism. In the past few years, whole church bodies are adding their official voices to the distortions and injustices perpetuated by Christian Zionism.
The GOOD NEWS is that some mainstream churches have spoken out against this inherently anti-Semitic theology. What follows are but a few words from some of those who have.
The Presbyterian Church in the USA at its July 2004, National General Assembly issued a statement on Confronting Christian Zionism: “Christian Zionism promotes a theology that justifies grievous violations of basic rights of people who are also made in the image of God, and is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The United Church of Christ in July 2003, at its National General Synod offered An Alternative Voice to Christian Zionism: “We believe that the tenets of Christian Zionism neither reflect the intention of the teachings of Jesus and the prophets, nor promote peace in the Middle East, and respectfully recommend …an alternative voice to this theology.”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in June 2005 at its Chicago Metropolitan Synod issued a Resolution to Encourage the Study of Christian Zionism: “the movement of Christian Zionism based on these biblical interpretations seeks to influence U.S. policy toward Israel in a manner that would arguably facilitate mistreatment of Palestinians, continued occupation of the land, opposition to a two-state solution, and exclusive Israeli control of Jerusalem.”
The United Methodist Church, in June 2005 at its Illinois Conference on Unwrapping the Rapture warned, “Every household should give prayerful consideration as to how God will actually judge us for our silence about and complicity in the crushing of the Palestinian people.”
The Episcopal Church, in November 2004 at its Diocese of Chicago Confronted Christian Zionism: “A partial response to Christian Zionism would be to say that we read Scripture in light of [Jesus’] two great commandments - to love God and our neighbor.”
In 2006, The Nation reported that Christians United for Israel/CUFI pressed White House officials to adopt a more confrontational posture toward Iran, to refuse aid to the Palestinians and to give Israel a free hand as it ramped up its military conflict with Hezbollah.
The White House has not revealed the names of the officials who met with the CUFI lobbyists, which is a venomous tentacle from the Armageddon-based foreign-policy view of its founder, John Hagee. Hagee is a fundamentalist, fire-and-brimstone preacher and a leader in the fastest growing cult in America: Christian Zionism, which is inherently anti-Semitic.
While Jewish Zionism began with the hope that all Jewish people would have a safe and peaceful dwelling place, these corruptors of the gospel Christ preached, adhere to a 200 year old convoluted interpretation of disparate scriptures that they have chosen to weave together to support their fear based judgmental narrow minded doctrine.
Hagee has mesmerized nearly 18,000 misled Christians at his Cornerstone Church with his take on whom the anti-Christ is. He also hosts a major TV ministry where he explains his views of how the end times will unfold. He blatantly corrupts and denies the message that Christ preached.
Hagee, Hal Lindsay and the Left Behinder’s are doomsday false prophets who believe that the only way to defeat-what they and the current USA Administration refer to as- “Islamist fascists” is with a full-scale military assault.
The cult of ‘Christian’ Zionism is what the concept of the Anti-Christ is all about.
This heretical theology of Premellenial Dispensation worships a god of Armageddon and not the God of love, forgiveness and compassion that Jesus/AKA The Prince of Peace modeled even while being nailed to a cross.
The Left Behind series of fiction is the epitome of what millennia of theologians have always understood to be what the term anti-Christ is truly about
The term “antichrist” only appears five times in the Bible, but a cult not based on sound theology has created an urban legend that seeks Armageddon. The term “antichrist” never appears in John’s Revelation or Daniel, two disparate works of literature written three centuries apart and under very different circumstances, yet the Left Behinder’s weave them together.
The small texts that mention the “antichrist” were written to attack the Gnostic understanding of who Christ was. A Gnostic relies on intuition and not on dogma and doctrine. Gnostic’s were most certainly free spirits and most all of the writings we have about Gnostics, have been the attacks upon them. That all changed when the Nag Hamadi Library was translated and published, for what had been deemed heretical by those in power in the fourth century can now be read in most every language.
Biblical scholars today agree that many books of the Bible were written by others in the name of an apostle, for the quickest way to gain credibility is to trade on another’s reputation. We may never know if the author who coined the term “antichrist” was actually the apostle John who wrote I John and 2 John-the only sources where the term appears.
John also say’s much more: “Dear Children, as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many have come.”- I John 2:18
“This is how we know who the children of God are not: anyone who does not do right; nor anyone who does not love his brother.”-I John 3:10
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Let us love with actions and in truth.”-I John 3:17
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out all fear because fear has to do with punishment [and God is love].”-1 John 4:18
The theology promoted in the Left Behind fiction is a theology based on fear and punishment. These misinformed Christians worship a punitive father as God. They do not have eyes to see that nature is God’s primary temple, and war the greatest abomination.
The theology of the fictional Left Behind series is the epitome of the spirit of the anti-Christ: which is the evil within ones own heart that leads one to fear “the other” and compels them to violence.
Thomas Jefferson did America and the world a great service when he penned The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth which illuminates just how far these Christians have strayed from the message Christ delivered and modeled with his life: which was consistently compassionate and nonviolent. To be just: justice comes from virtue which comes from the heart. To treat people the way we want to be treated. To always work for PEACEFUL resolutions, even to the point of returning violence with COMPASSION. To consider valuable the things that have no material value. Do not judge others, do not bear grudges, be modest and unpretentious. To give out of true generosity, not because we expect to be repaid and that being true to ones self is more important than being loyal to ones family, and those who think they know the most are the most ignorant.
According to Christ, to be his follower, one must do what the Father requires. The Hebrew prophet Micah summed it up best: “What does the Lord require? He has already told you o’man: Be Just, Be Merciful and walk humbly with your God.” -Micah 6:8:
To be just is to be fair and reasonable. To be merciful means to treat all people the way we want to be treated. To be humble is knowing oneself; the good and the evil, for both cut through every human heart.
Jesus taught that the only way to resist evil is with good and he modeled that one must always work for peaceful resolutions, even to the point of returning violence with compassion and forgiveness. Jesus did just that, even after being mocked, whipped and nailed to a cross for he prayed: “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
What will it take for those that call themselves Christian, to actually be one?
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