The vast majority of Christians that I’ve met are Zionists. They not only espouse a Jewish right to a homeland in Israel, but they refer to Jews as “God’s Chosen People” and believe it is their duty as good Christians to defend Israel no matter what.
When I ask Christians whether Zionism is a valid position to hold, I am not asking whether they believe in the Jewish right to their own homeland. I believe that every group of people should have their own homeland, if they should desire one. Instead, I am talking about the reflexive posture of submission and servility shown by Christian Zionists towards the state of Israel in the belief that doing so will bring blessings from God.
Americans love Israel. While it is not unusual to find people of Irish or Polish descent who love Ireland or Poland, there are millions of Americans who love Israel even though they have no connection to the small, Middle Eastern country. Why is this the case?
Israel is a country with a clear purpose
There are things to admire about Israel. The most important is its clarity of purpose. The primary goal of Israel is to protect the country and its citizens. Israelis take attacks against their people personally. In 2015, when a terrorist stabbed two people in Jerusalem, civilians and even a police officer beat and kicked the terrorist who had already been shot. But Americans and Europeans have been conditioned to think as atomized units, not as a single people. Terrorism, which is an act of war against a nation, is treated merely has a crime.
Israel’s ability to put its own interests first has enabled it to undertake efficient action in defending itself. In 2010, Mossad assassinated a Hamas official in a Dubai hotel. The assassination, which involved nine agents, is like something out of a James Bond movie. When Israeli citizens were hijacked in Entebbe Airport in Uganda, the Israeli Defense Forces undertook a daring overnight raid. And while weak Western leaders hold hands and mouth platitudes after each terrorist attack, Israeli leaders like Benjamin Netanyahu are strong, confident, and unabashedly pro-Israel. For many Americans, cheering for Israel is like supporting a winning team, while their own country’s actions give them little reason to get excited.
The feeling that millions of Americans have about Israel is much deeper than mere admiration. It is better described as idolization. There are several reasons this idolization exists.
First, Israel has a powerful political lobby, AIPAC. American Jews are generally very successful and they use their money to support their politics, and this includes Israel. American politicians from both sides of the aisle, anxious to get donations, make the most boot-licking speeches at the annual AIPAC conference. Thus, it doesn’t really matter whether you elect a Republican or a Democrat. You can rest assured that they will be ardently pro-Israel.
The biggest reason why so Americans love Israel, even more than their own country, is not due to the work of AIPAC. Rather, it is the result of a peculiar Christian heresy—the heresy of Dispensationalism.
Dispensationalism originated with John Nelson Darby, an English Christian preacher who lived in the 1800s. It only received wide popularity, though, through the influence of the Scofield Bible. The Scofield Bible contains Dispensationalist commentary by Cyrus I. Scofield (1843-1921).
There are allegations that Scofield was influenced by Jewish Zionists. Though Scofield was a fundamentalist preacher, he was admitted as a member of the Lotus Club, an elite NYC men’s club. One of the club’s committee members was Wall Street lawyer Samuel Untermeyer. Author David Lutz suggests that it may have been Untermeyer who encouraged Scofield to write his commentary:
Untermeyer used Scofield… to inject Zionist ideas into American Protestantism. Untermeyer and other wealthy and influential Zionists whom he introduced to Scofield promoted and funded the latter’s career, including travel in Europe.
What’s wrong with Dispensationalism
To understand why Dispensationalism is so perverted, it’s necessary to explain what Christians believed before Dispensationalism came on the scene. Traditional Christian theology teaches that the Christian covenant is the “new and eternal covenant” that fulfills all the past covenants including God’s covenant with Israel.
In Second Corinthians, St. Paul says that the old covenant has “faded away.” The Epistle to the Romans says that Christ is “the end of the law” meaning he was both the goal and the termination of the old covenant. Traditional theology also teaches that the Christian Church is the true continuation of Israel: Jesus is Israel’s true Messiah and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Therefore, the Church, which includes gentiles and Christians Jews, is “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16), not Jews by physical descent. Let me say it again for emphasis: the traditional Christian belief is that the Church is the true continuation of Israel.
Thus, for 1800 years, Christians did not believe the re-establishment of a Jewish state or modern day Israel. They played no role in the biblical prophecy. Dispensationalism changed that. Dispensationalists believe that the Christian Church is God’s “Plan B.” With the Church, God is merely taking a temporary break before getting to what He really cares about—Israel according to the flesh. This can be seen in the picture at the head of this section which portrays three horses—two large Jewish ones (don’t ask me why there are two) and one small Christian one. The Church that Christ died for is an afterthought.
Dispensationalism is largely a Protestant phenomenon. Most Baptist and non-denominational churches subscribe to it, which means that most Evangelical Christians are also dispensationalists. While the Catholic Church does not teach dispensationalism, some Catholics have also succumbed. I had one Catholic on Twitter block me after I told him that the modern state of Israel plays no special role in Christian theology.
Dispensationalism in action
Dispensationalism has practical impacts on how its adherents behave in the real world. Dispensationalist Christians have applied the following verse to Israel and Jews in general: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:3). In context, the verse refers to Abraham the patriarch, but Dispensationalist Christians take it to mean that whoever supports Jews and Israel, will be personally blessed.
This type of thinking is extremely powerful form of conditioning. Everyone wants to be personally blessed by God and here is a passage that Evangelicals believe guarantee them blessings. More realistically, it guarantees Israel a large block of voters who will consistently and unquestioningly support pro-Israel policies. No other countries, including staunch US allies France and Great Britain, have such a solid base of support.
Evangelical Christians are a potent force in American politics so US politicians go out of their way to appeal to this fervor. During one of the GOP debates in 2015, each of the 16 candidates mentioned the security of Israel in their closing statement. This blatant pandering caused Ann Coulter to tweet: “How many f—ing Jews do these people think there are in the United States?” But the candidates were not just targeting wealthy Jewish donors, but all those Evangelical voters who have been programmed to support Israel.
This disordered love of Israel is not harmless. It has helped lead the United States into dubious wars in the Middle East in support of Israel. It has also spurred the development of Islamic fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism. ISIS came about due to US support of “moderate rebels” to depose Syrian president Assad, an enemy of Israel. And blind support of Israel may eventually lead us into a war with Iran—a country that poses no military threat to the US.
The ethical defense of other people
Now that we have examined the “Old vs. New Covenant” dilemma, let us move on to examining whether it’s truly ethical to defend any particular group of people–no matter what they do.
I think it’s a fairly dangerous position to take, and one that leads to very negative logical conclusions. After all, if one has made up one’s mind to defend a person or group of people no matter what they do, then is there any point at which one would hold said person or people accountable?
Is there any crime so vicious, any act so heinous, that your sense of decency (or self-preservation) would kick in and you would want to defend yourself from them, instead of defending those actions?
Or, if the Israeli politicians are “God’s Chosen People” who can do no wrong, do you simply turn a blind eye to anything bad they do out of fear of offending God?
This is a very serious matter, as the Old Testament does say that those who curse the Israelites will be cursed in turn. It puts the thinking man in a difficult position, if he believes in the Old Testament and ignores Paul’s thoughts on the topic.
Of course, the problem is easily solved if it is true that the “Jewish” people currently running Israel have no blood relation to the ancient Biblical Israelites. If that’s the case, then not only are Christians under no obligation whatsoever to mindlessly defend them, but we can also safely hold them accountable for their actions without fear of divine retaliation.
I am a political realist who believes in an America First policy. As a super power, the US will always have a complicated foreign policy. There may be times where the interests of Israel and the US align. In those cases, I don’t see a problem with pursuing a mutually beneficial alliance. But basing foreign policy on a heretical Christian doctrine is not justifiable.