Appreciating Christian Zionists

I’ve historically been cool the idea that the Jewish community would ally with groups seeking our conversion or who eagerly view Middle East conflict as leading to the End of Days. It feels like we’re being used for someone elses salvation.  Plus, we probably don’t agree on most of our domestic agenda, I once thought.  Didn’t Jewish social progress in the US emerge through limiting the influence of evangelical and other “public” Christians. Or at least conservative ones.  As I relax my grip on my noble and enlightened sense of self, these issues have receded and I recently found space to appreciate Christian Zionists.

Last night I watched much of Christians United for Israel’s annual Stand with Israel from Pastor Hagee’s home church in San Antonio.  Pastor Hagee’s son, around 30 years old, spoke about his father’s first attempt to hold a rally for Israel 27 years ago.  After four meetings with the local Jewish Federation, he received no positive response.  At the end of the final meeting, one rabbi spoke up and announced that Jews were very clear about how to deal with enemies or potential enemies, but not at all sure how to deal possible friends.

Michael Oren went on to give his fascinating talk about the history of US Christian Zionism, once called Restorationism.  This idea, that US Christians should aid in establishing a rebuilt Jewish homeland, is not the product of a nefarious Israel Lobby.  Rather, the idea links the early Puritans, a professor of Old Testament at Harvard named George Bush who wrote a best-selling tract about Zion rebuilt in 1844, Abraham Lincoln, numerous agriculturally focused US missionaries to the land (such as John Steinbeck’s grandparents), Mark Twain, industrialists Rockefeller & Hearst and President’s Wilson & Truman.  Mark Twain was so excited by the idea of Zion upbuilt that he went out of his way to meet Herzl in Vienna and promised to bring a translation of a Zionist play by Herzl to Broadway. Wilson, convinced by Brandies, made US entry into WWI contingent on the British adopting Lord Balfour’s idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Mandate Truman went against his advisers by recognizing the new state. Restorationism may seem unique to US Christianity with its Puritan OT matrix of viewing Providence and the American experiment.  However, it is part of the imagination of Christians from many countries.

I still don’t believe that Torah is a real estate contract.  Regardless of Oren’s fascinating narrative, Restorationism is not automatically true because it finds policy in sacred text. Restorationism or militant (revisionist) Zionism cannot reveal the next proper step to ensure secure Israeli borders.

But, on the whole, it’s a good practice to have friends in Christian Zionists. This is a skill sadly underdeveloped in Jewish consciousness today, especially by liberal/progressive Zionist Jews who are conditioned to feel misunderstood and alone.

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One Response to “Appreciating Christian Zionists”

  1. Gil Bailie Says:

    Scott,
    I agree. I also think Jews worldwide, not just in Israel, need all the friends they can get, and having one in the White House would be a good place to start. I can only image what it must be like for European Jews to look around at the convergence of demographics and political mood.
    Thanks for your thoughts on this.
    Gil

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