One of the things that caused a fuss arising out of the Conference last year was the decision to examine the compatibility of ‘Christian Zionism’* with Methodist teaching. At the Conference this year it was reported that this examination was ongoing and we’ll have to see what the outcome of this work will be.
However, an article turned up in my twitterfeed the other day that could well save the church some work. The Institute on Religion & Democracy is a right-leaning US think tank which defines its purpose as to “lead the fight rallying Christians to champion biblical, historic Christianity and its role in democratic society, and to defeat revisionist challenges”. It takes exactly the positions you’d expect on, for example, war and marriage. Well, as I say, I came across an article from the IRD the other day headed Anti-Zionism Escalates at BPFNA Conference. (BPFNA=Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, an organisation of which the IRD clearly disapproves)
To understand what is wrong with Christian Zionism, one only needs to read the terms in which the IRD offers its criticism of the BPFNA. For example, the Baptist speaker they single out is sneered at because he used to protest the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities. (Who knew that McCarthyism was still alive and well?) A good part of what you need to know about what’s wrong with Christian Zionism is to be found in IRD’s defence of it:
- the reliance on weird apocalyptic theories
- the identification of the modern state of Israel with the Israel of the Bible
- the zealous hatred of Islam
- the clear links with a right-wing political ideology
- a reliance on strange interpretations of the Bible, especially the apocalyptic material such as Daniel and Revelation
It is very significant that most of the Christian community in the Holy Land has rejected Christian Zionism explicitly. The Jerusalem Declaration of 2006 is clear
Christian Zionism is a modern 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 programme provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it places an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ’s love and justice today.
We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.
A similar declaration by the Methodist Church would get my vote.
* Not to be confused with Zionism, which is a different thing.