On September 9, Fresno will host a ‘Night to Honor Israel’, an event put on by Dr. John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel (see my previous articles, ‘Rabbi Yoffie and Pastor Hagee‘, and ‘Should Jews support Christian Zionists?‘). The event will raise money, all of which will go to Israel and none to CUFI or even to pay for the event (the cost of the event has been paid by a Christian donor).
I expected that there would be differences of opinion in the Jewish community about this, but I wasn’t prepared for the strength of feelings expressed by those who opposed it (I should know better).
The local Jewish Federation has endorsed the event. The (by far) largest congregation in the region has pointedly not endorsed it, although their rabbi will be giving the invocation.
The reasons that I’ve heard for oppostion are the following:
- They only support Israel because they believe that there will be a massive battle of Armageddon in which the Jews will take part, and then be converted to Christianity with the Second Coming; and they are trying to bring this about.
- They think Israel should keep the territories and therefore are anti-peace.
- They want something from us in return — although they say that they don’t, they will call in their markers later.
And finally, what I think is the most important part:
- They are members of the ‘Christian Right’ who want to destroy the separation of church and state in the US and change the US into an explicitly Christian nation, who want to destroy public schools, prohibit gay marriage and abortion, etc.
‘Christian Zionism’ is a term that can be applied to many completely different theological points of view. To be fair to Dr. Hagee we should look at his own words:
The support of Israel is a biblically based mandate for every Christian. All other nations were created by an act of men, but God Himself established the boundaries of the nation of Israel. God gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob a covenant of land that was eternally binding, and it’s recorded in the book of Genesis. God also told Abraham that He would make Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and through them He would bless all the families of the earth. In the same passage, God said He would “bless those who bless you” (Abraham), and “curse him who curses you” (Gen. 12:3). That gets my attention. I want to be blessed, not cursed, by God.
The Bible shows God as the protector and defender of Israel. Psalm 121:4 says that He never slumbers or sleeps in His watching over the nation of Israel. The prophet Zechariah said that the Jewish people are “the apple of God’s eye” (2:8). Any nation that comes against Israel is, in effect, poking God in the eye-not a very wise thing to do! If God created Israel, if God defends Israel, if God considers Israel the apple of His eye, then it is logical to say that those who stand with Israel are standing with God.
Every Christian should remember the debt of gratitude the Christian community owes to the Jewish community. The Jewish people do not need Christianity to explain their existence or their origin. But Christians cannot explain their existence without Judaism. It was the Jewish people who gave us the written Scripture. They gave us the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They gave us the disciples and the apostle Paul. The Jewish people gave to Christianity the first Christian family, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus-our Savior! If you take away the Jewish contribution to Christianity, there is nothing left.
I don’t see anything about starting a war there, do you? Opponents of CUFI insist, in the most insulting way possible, on not believing Hagee’s words and attributing the most extreme view possible to him.
I agree that Christian Zionists tend to align themselves with those who want Israel to keep the territories, and they are not especially sympathetic to the Palestinians. But differences of opinion about these issues are rife among Zionists in Israel and in the US, and shouldn’t disqualify a group from helping Israel. The money that has been raised by CUFI in the past has not gone to build settlements, but rather toward such things as mitigating the effects of the Hezbollah rocket attacks on Northern Israel, building shelters, etc.
As far as ‘wanting something’, yes, they do want something: they want legitimacy for their fundraising efforts (which they will not have if Jews reject them) and they want to extend their hand in friendship to make up, in part, for years of antisemitism by Christians. Should we slap it away?
Finally — they are members of the dreaded Christian Right, who helped elect George Bush and oppose everything that is modern and just. It’s true that these are the same people — they belong to the group of 50 to 150 million Americans who identify as Evangelical Christians. I think that although most liberal Jews are not going to find common ground with them on the issue of abortion, for example, it might be worthwhile for us to try to understand the source of their concerns.
And I think that just as they are prepared to agree to disagree with us on these issues, we can do the same so as to support one cause — the survival of the State of Israel — that we all agree upon.