• OPINION \ May 17, 2024
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    A time is coming and has now come - By Alex Awad
A time is coming and has now come - By Alex Awad

The writer of the Gospel of John offers his readers an amazing conversation that took place in what we call today, the West Bank (the Palestinian territory west of the Jordan River). The spirited dialogue was between Jesus and a woman from Samaria. When the Samaritan woman asked Jesus the contentious question about the proper place of worship, she was expecting him to make a choice between Mount Zion in Jerusalem and Mount Gerizim in Samaria. The Samaritans insisted that Gerizim was the right place of worship, but the Jews claimed that Mount Zion was the right place. To her surprise and to the surprise of millions of worshipers who have lived and worshiped since that day, Jesus dismissed the significance of the location and suggested something new. Starting with the statement, ”Yet a time is coming and has now come…” Jesus ushered a new way of thinking concerning the location of worship when he told the woman, “…the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (John 4:23-24). Jesus was introducing a new order regarding worship; an order that emphasizes the spirituality or the condition of the hearts of those who worship while deemphasizing the significance of the territory or place of worship. Had Jews, Christians, and Muslims paid attention to these words of Jesus, they would have avoided bloody religious wars that caused immeasurable pain on much of humanity.

Two millennia ago, Jesus said, “…a time is coming and has now come….” As an evangelical writing to evangelicals, I beg my siblings in faith to focus on the words of Jesus and stop endorsing territorial violence. Hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Jeremiah stood outside the gates of the Temple in Jerusalem as the people were gathering to worship. This was his prophetic message to them:
“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!’ If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless. Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, ‘We are safe’—safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:3-11).
Jeremiah did what the majority of Christian Zionist leaders fail to do. He was critical of the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of the Jewish nation of his day. Our evangelists and preachers are in full support of the State of Israel regardless of the multitude of its crimes against Palestinians. Our evangelical leaders and politicians should heed the warning that Jeremiah delivered to his contemporaries. Our TV evangelists are supporting the fanatic Temple Mount Faithful group who are advocating building a Jewish temple in the place of Al Aqsa Mosque. Evangelicals are raising millions of dollars to help the group prepare the raw materials for building the proposed “Third Temple,” and they are breeding a “red heifer” that, they assume, is essential to purify the priesthood at their anticipated future temple. How I wish my evangelical brothers and sisters would stop and imagine the pain, injury, and death that their eschatological temple theology has heaped on millions of Arabs including Arab Christians.
While dispensationalism [1] began as a harmless theological position, it gave birth to a strong and militant movement within evangelicalism. Christian Zionists believe that God called them to promote the return of Jews to Palestine, help Jews capture Jerusalem, rebuild a third temple, and resume animal sacrifices. All of this is done to speed up the second coming of Jesus Christ.
In the last 150 years Christian Zionists and secular Zionists collaborated to set in motion the campaign that helped establish a Jewish state in Palestine. From the early beginnings of Zionism until today, Christian Zionists, blinded by their eschatology, could not see Palestinians as people equally important to God and who deserve to live. Until today they continue to be callous to the pain, destruction, and death that their theological and political perspectives inflict on Palestinians and other Arabs. In their churches and assemblies, they preach and sing about the love of God, but their actions and inactions testify that the love that they sing and preach every Sunday morning does not extend to Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. Two millennia ago, Jesus declared, “…a time is coming and has now come…” I call on my evangelical brothers and sisters to examine the consequences of their theology that continues to place territory above true spirituality. Here is what our faulty eschatology has accomplished. Each of these tragic events flows directly or indirectly impacted by Christian Zionism:
• They succeeded in restoring millions of Jews to Palestine, but in 1948 and 1967 they caused over a million Palestinians to become permanent refugees.
• In the span of more than ten wars and uprisings, hundreds of thousands of Jews and Palestinians were killed, injured, or displaced.
• Since 1967, the Palestinians in the West Bank have been immensely oppressed by a brutal Israeli occupation, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been subjected to torture in Israeli jails. Israel, in violation of international law, seized large areas of Palestinian land in the West Bank and used the land to build illegal and segregated Jewish settlements.
• The Golan Heights were illegally occupied by Israeli forces since 1967, causing deadly tensions between Syria and Israel. The political turmoil spilled over to Lebanon and caused the creation of Hezbollah, a force that threatens the security of the State of Israel.
• September 11, 2001, Arab militants directed by Ben Laden attacked two towers in New York city killing close to 3,000 people and injuring thousands more. In retaliation the US invaded Afghanistan and later Iraq causing the injury and the slaughter of over a million people including thousands of Americans.
• Before October 7, Israel maintained a siege against Gaza that has choked the people of the enclave for 16 years. In response, on October 7, Hamas attacked the southern settlements in Israel leading to the death and injury of over a thousand Israelis and 140 being taken hostage.
• Over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since October 7. Among them there are more than 12,000 children. Israel destroyed 60% of all homes and buildings in Gaza including most schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, bakeries, and humanitarian care centers. Scores of places of worship for both Muslims and Christians were destroyed. Over a million Gazans became refugees among the ruins of their destroyed enclave.
No list that I draw can fully assess the pain of millions of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, due to an eschatology that worked to force-plant a Jewish state in the heart of the Arab world against the desires and aspirations of the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine. As long as we evangelicals keep holding this theology in our minds and hearts, we will continue to support death and destruction in the Middle East. If we stay on this path, we will fail to obey the command of Jesus to be peacemakers.
How many more Palestinians must be killed, maimed, or ethnically cleansed on the altar of our eschatological speculations before we heed the words of our Lord, “…a time is coming and has now come….”? time has come, for us to wake up and examine the theological foundations of our uncritical support of the State of Israel. We need to return to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ bearing in mind all the pain that our theology has brought on humanity.

[1] “Dispensationalism is a theological framework of interpreting the Bible which maintains that history is divided into multiple ages or ‘dispensations’ in which God acts with his chosen people (the Jews) in different ways”.