A church in which true doctrine is no longer taught is … useless. It cannot guide us back to our Heavenly Father and our eternal home. – Mormon Apostle L. Tom Perry
It’s a sad day when a prominent Christian church outsources its theology on Israel and Jews to a fanatical band of anti-Israel activists. Unfortunately, that is the only conclusion that one can draw after reading the latest piece of religious pornography spewed out by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Zionism Unsettled is touted as a congregational study guide for those seeking to understand Zionism’s role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Judging from its content, the booklet could well serve as a study guide – for an Aryan Nations church.
As a Christian bishop, I agree 100% with the following statement by theologian Paul van Buren, quoted in Zionism Unsettled: “God’s church cannot be itself without confirming his choice of, covenant with, and promises to his people Israel.” With this in mind, I set out to examine the theology presented in the booklet to see how the authors could possibly condemn Zionism while citing Scripture.
It was not an exercise for the faint of heart. In the chapters preceding the theological section, the reader learns that Zionism is an ideological movement established to remedy Jewish victimization, an expression of “maximalist Jewish nationalism,” and a racial, exclusionist, “tribal xenophobia.” Indeed, Zionism is so extreme that the Palestinians have become secondary victims of the Holocaust (which, I should note, their leaders at the time supported). As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the booklet’s arguments can be reduced to a sentence in an early chapter: “Put simply, the problem is Zionism.”
When I finally arrived at what passes for a serious theological discussion of Zionism, I learned of the Jews’ “theocratic fanaticism” that cloaks “secular nationalism” with “sacred Messianism.” In a touch of irony, the authors present “Constantinian Judaism,” named for the Roman emperor whose reign, according to Zionism Unsettled, saw anti-Jewish contempt become systemic and pathological (!). The authors’ reasoning is that since Zionism harnesses a religious ideology to political power, it’s fair game to harness the Jews’ religion to the name of a man who hated it. Truth be told, that’s about as logical an argument as any other in a study guide that references “Holocaust theology” and notes similarities between Zionism, apartheid and Jim Crow segregation. I am glad that the guide mentions the Adversus Judaeos (“against Jews”) Christian literary genre, of which it is but the latest example.
The presentation of various Christian theologies of Israel is so pathetic that it barely rates a mention here. As far as I can tell, Israel-hating Presbyterians are very confused about Christian theology vis-à-vis the Jews and don’t have a theological argument to counter the eternal promise made to Abraham and his descendants in the Hebrew Bible. The best these people can do is to call names and propose a “Jewish theology of liberation” that consists of Israel-bashing and the wholesale adoption of the Palestinian narrative of dispossession and grievance.
It is my sincere hope that other Christian bishops and pastors, especially Presbyterian ones, will take this opportunity to weigh in on the anti-Jewish tone and content of Zionism Unsettled. It is shameful for a mainstream Protestant church to sell this guide on its website and to allow Israel-haters to speak for it on issues relating to the Middle East. It is certainly possible for Presbyterians, like Jews, to support the establishment and survival of Israel while reserving the right to criticize specific actions taken by the Israeli government or military. However, this guide is so biased against Israel that it has not even a pretense of objectivity.
There is nothing sacred or religious about this anti-Semitic study guide, and it deserves to be condemned by every thinking Christian. If the Presbyterian Church doesn’t distance itself from the project, it deserves to be ostracized and ignored by Jewish organizations. Surely the God of Israel would agree.
While I intend to continue blogging for the Jewish Journal, I am currently looking for a job opportunity in a smaller city. My wife and I are both from small towns, and would prefer to raise our 4-month-old daughter in a similar environment. If any reader knows of an opening that might be a good fit, I would greatly appreciate your letting me know. Thank you.
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