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Christian Zionism And Israel-Palestine Conflict —A Naga Christian Perspective—

I. God’s Problematic Promise: Israel-Palestine conflict is the most covered News in the world today. This conflict is triggering great interest and subsequent debate to both religious and political perspective all the world over. It becomes the bone of contention between Christian and the Muslim world. Many people believe that the world peace hinges in this volatile and tiny compact area of the globe. The conflict is rooted in God’s promise to Abraham that the land which originally belonged to the Palestinians and Canaanites would be given to the descendants of Abraham. The original settlers/inhabitants were defeated, conquered, harassed and killed in the ‘mighty name’ of the Lord. Although they inherited the ‘promised land’ they could not inherit peace and security.  This ‘Promised Land’ or ‘Holy Land’ has been destroyed completely at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked additional 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times. It has been a scene of innumerable revolts and riots throughout the centuries. Even today, the real peace and security is remote. The superficial peace is now maintained by the military and police power of the State of Israel much similar to that of Romana Pax during the time of Jesus. Christians especially evangelical and Protestant Christians all over the world are rubbing salt to the wound to this battered peace by pursuing the ideology of Christian Zionism.

II. Christian Zionism: It is essentially Christian support for Zionism. Zionism as a movement aimed at helping all Jews return to Israel and control over the whole land of Palestine and everything that covers from Egypt to Iraq as promised in Genesis 15:18. It is to establish the Davidic Kingdom in Palestine (Promised Land). The origin of Christian Zionism was posited to a religious phenomenon among certain Protestant and Evangelical circles, first in Britain and then in United States. It started long before Jewish political Zionism although the real boost came after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent victory of June 1967 War. Gradually Christian Zionism weds religion with politics and interprets biblical faithfulness in terms of fidelity to Israel’s future. It was bred and nourished by a serious but literal reading of the Bible.

III. Aims and Objectives: Although Jesus warned against any speculation regarding his return and the end of the world, sincere Evangelical Christians were searching the Bible for signs of the end of the world. They saw the pervasiveness of evil everywhere around them and felt that nothing short of Christ’s Return would remedy the infectious and malignant spread of evil and sin. These Biblical literalists believed that Bible contained important clues that could help them discern the signs of the times. They give much importance to the biblical prophetic material in which the central players were the Jewish people. These Christians, who were fundamentalist in their approach to the Bible, came to conclusion that Christ cannot physically return to earth unless the Jewish people are living in the land (Holy Land). They have no guilt feelings against picking and using verses from various parts of the Bible and linking them together in a way that produced a scheme of and a chart for the End of Days. Christian Zionists believe that we can know the purposes of God in history through watching what is happening to the Jewish people (God’s supposedly elected people) in relation to biblical prophetic material. Hence Christians simply are destined to help restore the Jews to Palestine. The idea is that all Jews should be brought to Palestine either to annihilate or to convert them to Christianity as the Jews do not recognized Jesus as the Messiah. They believe that this would fulfill God’s purpose in history and usher in the Second Coming of Christ.

IV. Reasons of Christian Zionism Movement: Firstly, these Christian fundamentalists believe that the land (Palestine) be possessed exclusively by the Jews as promised by God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Hence, Christians must help the Jews to reclaim the Promised Land. Secondly, there is the effect of holocaust (repentance of holocaust)—which have created guilty feelings in the mind of many Western Christians. This has forced them to speak out and work for the Jews so that they are not branded again as anti-Semitics. Thirdly, Christian Zionism is necessitated by the belief in the imminent return of Christ and with it eschatology to be followed by millennium. Fourthly, there is the political and economic interest of the imperial countries such as Britain, America, and French etc. to control Palestine— which is situated at a strategic place in the globe. To be honest, Israel is no more than just an extension of American empire today.

V. Ways and Means of Achieving Christian Zionism: Firstly, those who propagate Christian Zionism often equate others who do not support the Movement as Nazis and are charged of denying Jews any future destiny within the plan of God. Secondly, they strongly follow literal and futurist hermeneutics of Old Testament to show that God has given this land as an eternal inheritance to the Jewish people and that they remain as God’s ‘chosen people’ till today.

Thirdly, they mix political fervor with religious Zionism so that those who get the support of Christian Zionists became more powerful than others in political affairs. Fourthly, those who propagate Christian Zionism selectively use biblical books/passages like Ezekiel, Daniel, Revelation, etc., and transpose promises made to the ancient Jewish people to the contemporary State of Israel and then relating it to a consistent picture of the Last Days. Fifthly, this movement has been actively propagated through sermons, writings, seminaries, etc, etc. Pastors, Tele-Evangelists and theologians such as John Hagee, Jerry Falwel, Gary Baur, James Kennedy, Pat Robertson, Kay Arthur, Derek Prince, Hal Lindsey among others are well known Christian Zionists. Sixthly, the Christian Zionists were able to affectively lobby the support of politicians, millionaires, bureaucrats and other powerful people to support the movement financially, politically and morally.

VI. Effects: For most Jews, the State of Israel may have less to do with God than it has to do with ethnic or cultural survival. Christian Zionists in collaboration with Jews has made Palestinians invisible as they are irrelevant to the politicians and the Zionists. It has affectively ignores the Palestinian people as people of this land. They are made demonic because they are considered a hindrance to the establishment of Jewish State according to God’s Promise. This movement’s ideology has narrowed God’s universal interest on a land, a locale, a place. It has undermined the saving act of God through Jesus Christ which is for the whole world. The whole teaching of New Testament—where a new community is formed on the basis of belief – is ignored and marginalized.  Christian Zionists much akin to Indian religious fundamentalists (e.g. RSS, VHP), have victimized and demonized people of other faiths especially the Muslim community. This movement has resulted to political insecurity and spiral violence not only in Palestine but also affecting many parts of the world.

Conclusion: Who do we support—the original inhabitants of the land (Palestinian people) or the immigrants (the people of Israel)? Imagine ‘a group of people’ coming into our land in the name of God and forcefully evicted us and settled down. What would be our response? From 1947 onwards, huge influx of immigrants (claiming to be Jews) took place from Russia, Poland, US and other from European countries and settled at the expense of local Arabs.

Interestingly, all Jews are not Israeli. The present new settlers with empire-oriented mentality are mostly from the USA with money and power—who gets citizenship immediately as they reach the land. Millions of native Christians and Muslims are displaced. The people of Israel, instead of ‘blessings to all nations’ (Gen 12:3b), have displaced, maimed, and killed thousands of innocent people. On the basis of God’s ‘chosen’, they have developed superiority complex and look down on others. The once-oppressed people of Israel have become the oppressors today.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is a great challenge to Naga society today not only because that more than 90% of Naga population are Christians but also that we are identifying ourselves as “Nagaland For Christ” and also use ‘Rainbow’ as our national emblem. This kind of using particular symbolic representation can lead us to become very ‘exclusive’ and ‘rigid’ in our dealings with other people. We have to ask: Is it that God belongs to a particular nation, a locale or a place? Or God belongs to everyone as manifested through Jesus Christ whose saving work covers the whole Universe? We Nagas must give up the temptation to assert our identity using “Nagaland For Christ” because the resurrected Christ transcends all human-made boundaries such as sexism, ethnicism, casteism, racism, classism and religious dogmas and creeds. We should not use Bible to oppress someone. We are all one in Christ and that any exclusive claim made in the name of Jesus Christ is totally uncalled for in this global world. We need to search for a theology that recognizes the ethnic and religious diversity of the land so that peace and security prevails and the Kingdom of God would be experienced here on earth.

Input from a Book by Naim Ateek, Cedar Duaybis and Maurine Tobin (eds), “Challenging Christian Zionism: Theology, Politics and the Israel-Palestine Conflict, London: Melisende, 2005.

*The essay is written by  ZK Pahrü Pou.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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1 Response to " Christian Zionism And Israel-Palestine Conflict —A Naga Christian Perspective— "

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