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Christian Zionism: The Opiate of Some People.

If ever there was a doctrine floating around the Christian world that rightly gets the tag of “opiate of the people”, it is Christian Zionism. If ever a doctrine has kept a people in a drunken “spiritual” stupor so as to blind them to the real historical and material causes of a conflict, Christian Zionism is that doctrine.

The doctrines of today’s Christian Zionism are not put together by any of the University trained  Christian teachers or theologians of any of the three major denominations of the Christian faith. So insulated from Biblical scholarship are the prophets of Christian Zionism, that they can publish books like John Hagee’s “Jerusalem Countdown” without the slightest concern for what type of critical review they might get from trained  theologians. This is because trained theologians consider books like that just mentioned to be basically a joke in so far as their attempts at Biblical exegesis go as well as the fact that the leaders of the Christian Zionist movement generally consider trained theologians to be the enemy.

Many conservative evangelicals and Pentecostals have an innate distrust of the formal academic study of theology. They fear that such study will undermine their simple “child like” faith in God’s word and turn them into cloistered academics who no longer love Jesus. They consider many of the mainstream theological colleges and seminaries to be hopelessly liberalized and hence demonic. They generally take the words of “mega pastors” to be inspired almost on a similar level to scripture. These Pastors have concocted a parallel reality for their flock with regards to the telling of history, science, politics, economics and religion. This parallel reality is drummed into the faithful unerringly.

The reality that the rest of us deal with is pure delusion in their eyes. Trying to have any reasonable dialogue with such believers takes patience to say the least. Most trained theologians seem to prefer to stay out of the firing line of the culture wars that rage through the west, particularly in the U.S., until the last minute. A few scholars have, however, started to stand up and be counted in the debate that Christian Zionism has created in the Christian church. Stephen Sizer has probably been the most active with a number of books on the subject being written by him. The prolific scholar N.T. Wright and Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, Gary Burge have also joined the fray to some degree.

A few comments from them will suffice. Gary Burge says of Christian Zionism that:

“No New Testament scholar has written in its defense. Its advocacy groups such as Christians United for Israel and Camera, are generally run by political activists. Its books come from the pens of popular television preachers or lobbyists. I have been invited to debate some of their leaders and find myself with people who have no training in theology. How can such a widespread movement in the Church be successful without a thoughtful theological undergirding?” (2010,  p. 123)

The Anglican Bible scholar N.T. Wright says of Christian Zionism that it is:  “the geographical equivalent of a soi-disant  ‘Christian’ apartheid, and ought to be rejected as such.” (1994,  p 53 – 77)  and more recently he added in a discussion of eschatology:

“For some, alas, the very phrase ‘second coming’, and even perhaps the word ‘eschatology’ itself, conjures up visions of the ‘rapture’ as understood within some branches of (mostly North American) fundamentalist or evangelical Christianity, and as set out, at a popular level, in the ‘Left Behind’ series of novels by Tim F. LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, and the theology, if you can call it that, which those books embody. That scheme of thought, ironically considering its fanatical though bizarre support for the present state of Israel, is actually deeply un-Jewish, collapsing into a dualism in which the present wicked world is left to stew in its own juice while the saints are snatched up to heaven to watch Armageddon from a ringside seat” (Paul: Fresh Perspectives, 2005, p. 141).

References:

Wright, N.T. (2005). Paul: Fresh Perspectives. First Fortress Press. MN, U.S.A.

Burge, G. (2010). Jesus and the Land:  The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology. Baker Academics, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Wright, N.T. (1994). Jerusalem Past and Present in the Purposes of God. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Craig Nielsen

ACTION FOR PALESTINE

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