Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, November 2011
Zion's Christian Soldiers by Stephen Sizer
a Book Review By Eileen Fleming
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, November 28, 2011
Many American Christian Evangelicals interpreted the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the return of the Jews to the Hebrews ancient homeland as a precondition for the Second Coming of Christ.
Millions of Americans believe in the theology espoused in the “Left Behind” series of novels that chronicle apocalyptic times set in the 21st century that winds up in Israel where, according to the author’s understanding of the Book of Revelation, the final battle in the world will be fought on an ancient battlefield called Armageddon. These literalists believe that war will be followed by seven years of global tribulation before Jesus returns to begin a 1,000-year rule on earth; but the Jews and all others who do not believe Jesus is God will be annihilated.
The bottom and nearly the last line in the book of Revelation is this warning:
“I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.
These fundamentalists also believe that the only Jews who are following God are the hard line Jewish fundamentalist settlers who occupy legally owned Palestinian property in the West Bank and who were evacuated from Gaza in 2005. The Jewish settlers and Christian fundamentalists share the core conviction that God made a real estate deal with the ancient Hebrews that gives 21st century Jews every grain of sand between the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, and the Mediterranean.
My first book, KEEP HOPE ALIVE counters the theology found in the Left Behind series and the fictional character, Brother Harold nails this particular fundamentalist misunderstanding in Chapter 8.
Harold lifted his almost empty pouch of Crown Royal and exclaimed, “Let’s toast the man, and then I’ll tell you what my daddy told me when I was a kid, when my brothers and I would get out of hand. He’d say, ‘boys, you all are going the way of Cain and Abel, and you’d better quit. For one of those boys was filled with so much hatred and jealousy that he killed the other.’
“Then my old man would be on a roll, and he’d tell us about Sarah, Abraham’s wife. And we loved to hear that part, so we’d quit our fight. You see, although Sarah was already menopaused, she still desired a child. God had even shared a laugh with her about it coming true, but just like a woman, she took the matter into her own hands, and refused to wait for the Lord to deliver. So old Sarah decided to give her maidservant to her old man, and that chick and Abraham made a kid. Everything was fine when Ishmael arrived, but only for a very short while.
“Now, although Sarah was a dried-up old crone, she, too, birthed a son, and named him after the laughter she had shared with God, but called the kid Isaac. Sarah had gotten very territorial and demanded Abraham cast out his beloved first son with his mama Haggar, into the barren wilderness, and Abraham did it! But, as God always hears the cries of mothers and sons, he promised to make a great nation from Ishmael’s descendants, too. And thus, the Arab nation was born.
“By the sixth century before Christ, the conflicts in the land were already old news, and Jeremiah warned the people that all God could see was violence and destruction in the city. Sickness and wounds were all around.
“And then my old man would get tears in his eyes and softly recite:
“For every misunderstanding, every condemning thought, every negative vibration, every tear torn from a heart, every time one grabbed and wouldn’t let go, and they only did it because they did not know. The Divine is within all creation and within all women and men.
“And every tiny kindness you have ever done, every gentle word spoken, every time you held your tongue, every positive thought, every smile freely given, every helping hand that opens, helps bring in the kingdom. And the kingdom comes from above, and it comes from within. Imagine a kingdom of sisterhood of all creatures and all men.”
Dr. Rev. Stephen Sizer is an Anglican priest from the UK and internationally recognized Biblical authority regarding Christian Zionism.
In ZION’S CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS? Sizer sheds much needed light on how Jesus/The Prince of Peace- who commanded of his followers that they must forgive their enemies and love all people equally- has morphed into a militant crusader by many professing Christians.
Sizer’s timely focus on the Holy Land, in particular Jerusalem, The Temple and the future of the world juxtaposed with the current political climate and neo-con ideology could wake up many American Christians who have been led astray by the heretical teachings of John Hagee, Hal Lindsay and Tim LaHaye.
The vast majority of American Christians are unaware that since 1948, the indigenous Christian population of the land we call Holy has gone from 20% of the total population to less than 1.3% today.
Scholars and researches claim that unless things change asap, there will be no Christian witness in the land where Jesus promised that it is the Peacemakers who are the children of God by 2020!
“It is irresponsible to suggest that God will bless us materially if we support the largely secular State of Israel, especially when this invariably means ignoring the plight of the indigenous Christian population of Palestine.”-page 46, Zion’s Christian Soldiers
Sizer’s previous book Christian Zionism-Road Map to Armageddon? is the companion text to ZION’S CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS? which details how a cultish escapist theology fused with neo-con political ideology which has lead millions of US Christians astray as it tips the world on its side heavy with military artillery.
“Zion’s Christian Soldiers” utilizes easy to comprehend diagrams and thought provoking end of chapter questions that could help bring American Bible Study programs into the 21st Century and infuse them with a much needed breath of fresh air.
Having been to Israel Palestine seven times since June 2005, I highly recommend Sizer’s scholarly yet easy to comprehend work to all Christians who have the courage to face reality and reclaim the gospel Jesus taught which is The Peacemakers are the children of God.
Sizer’s struggle is also intended to provoke Christians to remember that the Prince of Peace is the fulfillment of the Hebrew scriptures as fundamentalist militant minded Christians have replaced Jesus with the state of Israel.
On 23 November 2011, Stephen Sizer wrote:
After extensive field use, I’ve pruned and, I hope, enhanced the Seven Biblical Answers leaflet. I have removed verses used twice and added two illustrations. I hope you find this useful.
Stephen Sizer Christ Church Vicarage Virginia Water, GU25 4LD www.stephensizer.com
What follows is an excerpt from Sizer’s Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions can be downloaded here: http://www.sizers.org/articles/7answers.pdf
Myth # 1: God blesses those who bless Israel and curses those who curse Israel
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:16, 28-29)
“I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore… and through your seed all nations on earth will be blessed…” (Genesis 22:17-18)
This popular assumption is based on Genesis 12:3. First, note that the promise was made to Abram (that is, Abraham) and no one else. Second, there is nothing in the text to indicate God intended the promise to apply to Abraham’s physical descendants unconditionally, or in perpetuity. Third, in the New Testament we are told explicitly that the promises were fulfilled in Jesus Christ and in those who acknowledge Him as their Lord and Saviour. God’s blessings come by grace through faith, not by works or race (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Myth # 2: The “Promised Land” was given by God to the Jewish people as an everlasting inheritance
Contrary to popular assumption, the Scriptures repeatedly insist that the land belongs to God and that residence is always conditional.
For example, God said to his people, “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23). In Ezekiel, it seems the Lord anticipated the reasoning of those who arrogantly claimed rights to the land because of the covenant originally made with Abraham.
“Son of man, the people living in those ruins in the land of Israel are saying, ‘Abraham was only one man, yet he possessed the land. But we are many; surely the land has been given to us as our possession.’ Therefore say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Since you eat meat with the blood still in it and look to your idols and shed blood, should you then possess the land? You rely on your sword, you do detestable things… Should you then possess the land?’ … I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end.’ (Ezekiel 33:24-26,28-29)
Residence was open to all God’s people on the basis of faith not race. Indeed, the writer to Hebrews explains that the land was never their ultimate desire or inheritance any way but a temporary residence until the coming of Jesus Christ. Our shared eternal inheritance is heavenly not earthly.
Myth # 3: Jerusalem is the exclusive and undivided, eternal capital of the Jewish people
The Christian Zionist assertion that God intended Jerusalem to be the exclusive and undivided eternal capital of the Jewish people has no basis whatsoever in Scripture. God insists in Psalm 87 that Jerusalem must be a shared and inclusive city. Nations specifically mentioned include what is today, Egypt, Iran and Lebanon. Even the hated Philistines are mentioned as “…born in Zion” on the basis of faith not race. Likewise, the vision of Isaiah 2 associates Jerusalem with the end of war, with peace and reconciliation.
“In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:2-3)
But what of Luke 21:24, “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”? The assertion that this prophecy came true in 1967 is problematic since Revelation 11:2 says the Gentile ‘trampling’ of Jerusalem would last only ’42 months’. The context of Luke 21 shows Jesus was referring to the events of 70AD and God’s sovereign use of foreign tyrants to fulfil his purposes. The focus of the New Testament instead moves away from the earthly Jerusalem toward the new, heavenly Jerusalem as the home of all who trust in Jesus (Hebrews 12:22-23; Revelation 21:2; 22-27).
Myth # 4: Believers will soon be ‘raptured’ to heaven before the ‘end-time’ battle of Armageddon
The rapture is a popular idea that Jesus will actually return twice: first of all secretly, to rescue true believers out of the world, then later visibly with his saints to judge the world. There is, again, no basis in Scripture for this novel idea. The Bible is emphatic: the return of Jesus will be personal, sudden, public, visible and glorious. -Matthew 24:30-31
“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the peoples of the earth[a] will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”- 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
The idea of a secret rapture is actually based on a misreading of Matthew 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-35…Our mandate is to be peacemakers not widow makers (Matthew 5:3-10). We are ‘God’s co-workers’ entrusted as ambassadors with a ministry of reconciliation not speculation (2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2)…
A recent Zogby International poll found that 31% of those surveyed in the national poll strongly believe or somewhat believe in the ideas behind Christian Zionism, defined as “the belief that Jews must have all of the promised land, including all of Jerusalem, to facilitate the second coming of the messiah.”
A CNN/Time poll showed that 59% of the American public believes the prophecies contained in the Book of Revelation will come true.
Christian Zionism is an extremist Christian fundamentalist 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 and 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 two hundred year old 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.
Myth # 5: These Christians believe that God fights on the side of Israel
Christian Zionism is also an escapist theology and a match made in hell for neo-con ideology.
These Christians believe that God fights on the side of Israel and they call for unqualified support for the most extreme right wing political positions related to the Holy Land. 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 “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 neglected to respond to these biblical distortions and with disastrous results.
Although the Christian Zionists motives are couched in terms of compassion toward the Jewish people based on a literal reading of scripture their political agenda of territorial expansion Zionists has allowed the ongoing injustices against Palestinians.
Tikkun is Hebrew for mend, repair and transform the world. Tikkun is also an organization that researched to discover that there are three distinct elements energizing the Christian Zionists:
1. A strong commitment to conservative and ultra-nationalist American politics (so strong, I believe, that if the U.S. were to decide to break with Israel, this part of the Christian Zionist leadership would go along with that and drop its defense of Israeli policies).
2. Dispensationalist religious commitments that lead many of the Christian Zionists to yearn for a cataclysmic “end of history” eschatological war in the Middle East that will precipitate the second coming of Jesus and the Rapture in which all true Christians will go to heaven and all Jews who have not yet converted to Christianity will burn in hell for eternity.
3. A widespread understanding among many Christians that atonement and repentance is needed for 1700 years of murder, rape, and oppression of Jews that was frequently generated by the Church (though, of course, the Evangelicals do not recognize that church as their church). In this category are many Christian Zionists who genuinely feel terrible about what has happened to the Jews and genuinely want to help the Jewish people. Their philo-Semitism is real and sincere.- Rabbi Lerner, TIKKUN Magazine page 9, Nov/Dec. 2007
Jews and Christians worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but many fail to comprehend that the first mention of Israel is in Genesis 32:22, when Jacob was renamed Israel for having wrestled and struggled with the Divine.
Thus, to claim that the secular ethnocratic state of Israel has a divine right that supersedes the divine rights of the indigenous people of the land, reeks of racism and misses the point of what the Hebrew prophets were always on about:
“What does God require? He has told you o’man! Be just, be merciful, and walk humbly with your Lord.” -Micah 6:8
“My people are fools, they do not know me! They are skilled in doing evil, they know not how to do good.”-Jeremiah 4:22
“From Moses to Jeremiah and Isaiah, the Prophets taught…that the Jewish claim on the land of Israel was totally contingent on the moral and spiritual life of the Jews who lived there, and that the land would, as the Torah tells us, ‘vomit you out’ if people did not live according to the highest moral vision of Torah. Over and over again, the Torah repeated its most frequently stated mitzvah [command]:
“When you enter your land, do not oppress the stranger; the other, the one who is an outsider of your society, the powerless one and then not only ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself’ but also ‘you shall love the other.’”-Rabbi Lerner, TIKKUN Magazine, page 35, Sept./Oct. 2007
The term Christianity was also not even coined until three decades after Jesus Christ walked the earth.
Until the day of Paul, followers of Jesus were called members of The Way; meaning the way he taught his followers to be!
Christ was never a Christian, but was born and died a Palestinian devout Jew who was a social justice radical revolutionary road warrior that challenged the job security of the Temple authorities by teaching the people they did NOT need to pay the priests for ritual baths or sacrificing livestock to be OK with God; for God already LOVED them just as they were: sinners, poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under a brutal Roman Military Occupation.
What got Jesus crucified was disturbing the status quo of the Roman Occupying Forces, by teaching the subversive concept that Caesar only had power because God allowed it and that God preferred the humble sinner, the poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Occupation above the elite and arrogant.
The problem is not with Christianity, but that too few who claim to be Christians have actually done what Jesus taught and I spin Jesus’ Manifesto this way:
About 2,000 years ago, when Christ was about 33, he hiked up a hill and sat down under an olive tree and began to teach the people;
1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”
In other words: it is those who know their own spiritual poverty, their own limitations and ‘sins’ honestly and trust God loves them in spite of themselves who already live in the Kingdom of God.
How comforted we will all be, when we see, we haven’t got a clue, as to the depth and breadth of pure love and mercy of The Divine Mystery of The Universe.
God’s name in ancient Aramaic is Abba which means Daddy as much as Mommy and He/She: The Lord has said, “My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are not yours.” -Isaiah 55:8
2. Christ proclaimed more: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
The essence of meek is to be patient with ignorance, slow to anger and never hold a grudge. In other words: how comforted you will be when you also know humility; when you know yourself, the good and the bad, for both cut through every human heart.
3. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be filled.”
In other words: how comforted you will be when your greatest desire is to do what “God requires, and he has already told you what that is; BE JUST, BE MERCIFUL and walk humbly with your Lord.”-Micah 6:8
4. “Blessed are the merciful, they will be shown mercy.”
In other words: how comforted you will all be when you choose to return only kindness to your ‘enemy.’
“For with the measure you measure against another, it will be measured back to you” Christ warns his disciples as he explains the law of karma in Luke 6:27-38.
5. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they see God.”
In other words: how comforted you will be when you WAKE UP and see God is already within you, within every man, every woman and every child. The Supreme Being is everywhere, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. Beyond The Universe -and yet so small; within the heart of every atom.
6. “Blessed are The Peacemakers: THEY shall be called the children of God.”
And what a wonderful world it will be when we all seek peace by pursuing justice; for there can be none without the other.
7. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires, theirs is The Kingdom of Heaven.”
And one fine day the lion will lie down with The Lamb; meaning man will make war no more and that would create a sisterhood of man which just maybe the Kingdom of God on planet earth.
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