Which way to take?
Whether in UK, USA, Australia, or indeed anywhere, the church is at a crossroads. Not for the first time for followers of Jesus: and also not for the first time we are in danger of carrying on down what seems to be the main road but will actually be a dark and dangerous blind alley. Worse, unlike the ‘darkest valley’ of Psalm 23 there will be plenty to fear because we will have abandoned God’s way.
‘Prosperity’ teaching has a growing influence, comfortable living is attractive, but it isn’t what Jesus promised his disciples. That unbiblical teaching aligns itself with teaching that should be equally offensive to Jesus’ followers, except too many of them (us) are so compromised we don’t notice. This is the pseudo-Christian new-imperialism that praises Israel and denies Palestinians even the recognition of existence.
In supporting the modern state of Israel we demean ourselves and undermine the good news about Jesus; good news intended, as at the beginning, both for Jews and non-Jews. Instead of showing leadership our leaders, with few notable exceptions, follow the line of least resistance – don’t offend the Zionists.
But scripture offends Zionism. The blessing of Abraham on every people is in righteousness and justice, and even in our imperfect condition we should expect good fruit from God’s people. If it is by our fruit, our deeds, that people can tell we are ‘Jesus’ People’ it is small wonder that many, not least in the Middle East, hate Christians and Christianity. Notice that, by and large, they don’t hate Jesus.
Time and again Palestinian Christians have cried out to their brothers and sisters for help, not merely for themselves but for their friends and neighbours whether muslim or Jewish. What has been the church’s response? Again, with few exceptions, the ‘problem’ has been thought ‘too difficult’ and been pushed off the agenda; we don’t want to offend our interfaith partners. We must be able to continue our meetings even when the conversations are meaningless.
Justice and peace? Yes, let’s talk – about Colombia, or Myanmar, or Russia, even about UK and USA; but Israel-Palestine? Too difficult. Even people who are horrified by what they see and hear are too frightened of being called an antisemite to speak out. To associate with someone who criticises Israel can bring down the furies of Zionist apologists.
We are at a point where many Palestinians have lost all hope. Not just of a homeland, nor even of the security of an internationally recognised identity, but the means of a decent life. Were Christian leaders to be in ignorance they might have an excuse, but they are not and they don’t. Some don’t feel the need of an excuse for they have totally committed to the Zionist project.
Others excuse themselves that they have other God-given priorities. So they may; does that give them a get-out clause for saying nothing? If you are called as Christian leader then you must give a lead. That lead must be fully biblical not some ‘pick-and-mix’ justification for what makes us feel good and ignoring evil done in God’s name.
The world is watching, and so is Jesus. God calls us to righteousness, to be blessing people with the vision that brings purpose and hope. Christian Zionism points away from that grace of God in Jesus our king, and back towards a version of imperial colonialism that is nothing short of evil. Christian Zionism is in fact heavily antisemitic.
So Christian leaders, can we hear you? Will you speak, will you act, for justice, for peace; or what will you say when called to account.