Christian Zionism comes to Fresno

I’ve written about Dr. John Hagee and Christians United for Israel (CUFI) before. There is no question that this man and his organization are tremendously controversial among American Jews today. Jewish objections to CUFI come from those who disagree with their belief that Israel should maintain control over the territories, from those who are bothered by Hagee’s socially conservative positions on other issues, and those who believe that CUFI has an ulterior motive — that they actually wish to exacerbate conflict in the Middle East in order to bring about the second coming (Christian Zionists strongly deny this, saying that it doesn’t make theological sense).

On the other hand, many Jews accept the Christian Zionists’ explanation that they are following biblical injunctions to bless the Jewish People, and that they believe God wants the Jews to possess the Land of Israel — and are very happy to accept their help in the unequal struggle between Israel and her enemies.

In the very near future (September 9), CUFI and a new local organization called the “Judeo-Christian Alliance for Israel” (JCAI) will be holding a “Night to Honor Israel” here in Fresno. The object of the event is to generate interest in helping Israel among the Christian community and to raise funds.

One of the founders of the JCAI is John Somerville, a long-time Christian Zionist. Somerville told me that he expects most of the attendees to be Christians, and that

We will ask them to financially contribute to an as yet un-named project in Israel, which will be solely selected by the Jewish Federation. All the money will go directly to Israel, none of it will go to CUFI or JCAI. Nor will any of it go towards the cost of putting on the event. All of the money that has been spent so far, rent of the amphitheater, insurance, printing, travel and lodging for speakers, lights, sound, etc., came from one individual who went to Israel with me last year.

Somerville listed the goals of JCAI as follows:

  • To encourage meaningful and supportive relationships between Christians and Jews.
  • To educate and equip Christians to identify with Israel, the Jewish people, and the biblical/Hebraic foundations of the Christian faith.
  • To bless Israel and the Jewish people in Israel and worldwide, through practical assistance, volunteer service, and prayer.
  • To communicate Christian perspectives to the attention of US and Israeli leaders.
  • To demonstrate to the US Jewish community through action and information that Christian Zionism is a reflection of God’s love in the heart of Christians for the Jewish people and the Jewish state and not a veiled attempt to convert or subvert their Jewishness or their beliefs.
  • To counter Anti-Semitism and media misinformation while promoting Israel’s God-given right to exist in her God-given land.

Central California is an interesting place, with an extremely diverse population. Among the Armenians, Hispanics, Hmong, Japanese, Mennonites, Sikhs, and many others there is a large group that traces its origins to the dustbowl of the 1930’s. They brought a strong evangelical tradition with them, which took root and flourished and now finds its expression in several massive megachurches and numerous smaller ones. If you can say there is a ‘dominant culture’ here, this is it.

I think the tiny Jewish community — and especially those who strongly support Israel — can’t afford to ignore this phenomenon, which could represent part of a major historic change in the relationship between Christians and Jews.

From my point of view, I welcome it.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.