What motivates Christian Zionists?
I am a Christian. And I am a Zionist. But it took me years of being both to realize that I’m a Christian Zionist.
Christians praying in Jerusalem Photo: Travelujah
I am a Christian. And I am a Zionist. But it took me years of being both to
realize that I’m a Christian Zionist.
Though I consider myself a strong
Christian and a committed lover of Israel, out of college I was leery of calling
myself a Christian Zionist.
My definition of a Christian Zionist was
unclear and muddled by stereotypes I had absorbed over time.
Where I got
those stereotypes is no mystery. Any time you hear interviews with prominent
Christian Zionist leaders, certain questions are guaranteed to come up:
Bauer from American Values, tell us why Evangelicals are so eager for the
“Susan Michael from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, is
Church support for Israel merely a tool to convert the Jews?”
“Earl Cox from
Israel Always, do Christian Zionists only support Israel to realize the scenario
The answers to these questions rarely matter. The question
itself attempts to unmask alleged conspiracies of Christian Zionism and expose
ambiguities in the alliance between pro-Israel Christians and Jews.
outsiders, Jews and Christians seem strange political bedfellows — Jews,
traditional loyalists of the Left and persecuted by the Church; and Evangelical
Christians, the conservative base of the Right and tainted by a persecutor’s
Jews, who believe the Messiah has not yet come; and Christians,
who believe the Messiah came once and will come again.
Skeptics of the
Jewish- Christian alliance question this seemingly tenuous
They assume the worst motives from both parties to explain
away the alliance. Christian Zionists support Israel to speed Armageddon and the
return of Christ. Jews use Christian Zionists to further their pro- Israel
I am not one to hold judgment here. If I — daughter of an
Evangelical pastor — had so many misconceptions about Christian Zionism, I
expect others to as well.
Therefore, I consider it my duty to assure the
skeptics that Christian Zionists have no ulterior motives. As vice president of
a major pro- Israel Christian organization, I have been to dozens of Christian
Never once have I heard talk about pushing Israel
toward its doom just so Jesus will come back. I have never heard scheming about
mass conversions. And as a natural cynic, I have been listening for
Here are the real motives of Christian Zionism: Repentance,
thankfulness and obedience.
Repentance for Christianity’s long history of
persecuting Jews. Thankfulness to the Jewish people for Christianity’s spiritual
Obedience to the biblical commands to bless
These three tenets best expose what I call the “Jewish heart” of
Rabbi Irving Greenberg, a pioneer in
Jewish-Christian dialogue and an expert on Jewish-Christian theology, once
remarked that he did not care what religion or denomination you belonged to, as
long as you were embarrassed about it. The Christian Church has plenty to be
embarrassed about. For 2,000 years we made a habit out of affirming Christianity
by negating Judaism.
Anti-Semitism started early in the Church out of a
desire to separate Christianity from Judaism. As the Roman Church gained power
this desire for distinction evolved into oppression. At best Jews were
forcefully converted; at worst they were burned at the stake.
was excused by blaming Jews for the death of Jesus. Even more so, persecution
was justified on the basis of a false teaching that said when Jews rejected
Jesus, God rejected the Jews.
This prevalent belief is known as
Replacement Theology teaches that God has cut his
people off from the covenants and has no future plans for the nation of
Of course, Replacement Theology has a tough time explaining the
supernatural survival of the Jewish people and the miraculous rebirth of the
nation of Israel after almost 2,000 years.
Christian teachings of
contempt fed the fires of anti- Semitism for centuries. It took the horrors of
the Holocaust to finally bring Christians to their knees, in spiritual humility
repenting of the sins committed against the Jewish people.
Zionists in the 20th century started a theological revolution in the Church to
redefine the relationship between the Church and Israel. The first steps were to
reject Replacement Theology, recognize Judaism as a living religion, and embrace
the fact that God’s covenant with the Jewish people is eternal. It’s a simple
acknowledgement. When God says “I will make an everlasting covenant with them,”
he is talking about the Jewish people.
Christian Zionism has since become
a loud voice against anti-Semitism. We now stand in support of Israel as a way
to right our wrongs. Our aim is to turn afflictions of the past into blessings
of the future.
Old accusations of Jews being Christ-killers
have given way to thanksgiving to the Jewish people for the Bible and Mosaic
Law. Pro- Israel Christians want to appreciate our Jewish brothers and sisters
for passing down the fundamentals of the Christian faith, especially since in
the past this debt has been ill repaid.
Jesus, born a Jew, lived an
observant Jewish life.
According to the New Testament, Jesus kept the
Sabbath, wore tallit katan and celebrated Jewish feasts and festivals.
have no idea what Jesus looked like, but the one thing we do know about his
physicality is that he was circumcised.
For many Christians, Jesus’s
Jewishness is an attribute often disregarded and definitely not
Of course, it doesn’t stop with Jesus. The prophets,
patriarchs and authors of the Bible were all Jewish. The disciples and the
Apostle Paul were Jewish. Pastor John Hagee, founder of Christians United for
Israel, often quips that “out of all the authors of the Bible, there wasn’t a
Baptist in the bunch.”
Eighty percent of the Christian Bible was written
in Hebrew, by Hebrews, for Hebrews. Fundamental Christian sacraments such as
communion and baptism are Jewish in origin.
Understanding Judaism is
essential to understanding Christianity. While Judaism doesn’t need Christianity
to explain its existence, without Judaism there would be no Christianity. It
would seem Christians have a lot to be thankful for.
Loving the Jewish
people out of repentance for the sin of anti-Semitism and thankfulness for our
spiritual inheritance are not theological motives but moral
Theology, however, is the greatest driving force behind Christian
Zionism. Religious belief is what mixes with and reinforces Christians’ moral
reasons for supporting Israel.
Christian Zionists emphatically
believe they have a biblical responsibility toward Israel and the Jewish
In Genesis, we find the cornerstone of Christian Zionism when God
tells Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and those who curse you I will
curse.” Isaiah gives them their call to action: “Comfort, yes, comfort my people
says your God... speak tenderly to Jerusalem.”
The commands to bless and
comfort Israel are given to all peoples, but according to the Apostle Paul
Christians have additional obligations.
There is a whole chapter in the
New Testament book of Romans where Paul talks about Christians’ unique
responsibility toward Jews. Paul wrote: “If the Gentiles have shared in the Jews
spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material
blessings” (Romans 15:27). Christian Zionists take this passage and similar ones
as a direct command to provide for Israel’s needs.
How do they do this?
Christian support of Israel usually comes through one of three resources: money,
prayer and political power, none of which are in short supply. Over the past 20
years, Christian Zionists have given hundreds of millions to support aliya, aid
victims of terror and provide for Israel’s poor. Whether privately at home or
with large groups at church, Christian prayer for Israel is happening around the
clock. And Christian Zionists even in the past few years have grown more savvy
and organized on the political advocacy scene.
There is a
movement among Christians today. Christian Zionism is growing as
believers are getting more educated and informed about the plight of modern
Israel. Christians are coming to realize that Israel’s story offers a chance to
see God’s hand at work in the world today. The conservative estimate of
Christian Zionists in America is around 15 million, a third of the Evangelical
population. This movement is going mainstream and I’m so thankful to be part of
“Shelley Neese from Jerusalem Connection, what motivates Christian
Zionists, like yourself, to support Israel?” What I say is this: Christian
Zionism is based on love.
Love for God and love for the people of God.
Christian Zionism is based more on the promises in Genesis than the prophecies
We believe Israel is a fulfillment of prophecy and
evidence of God’s faithfulness.
The survival of the Jewish people, truly
against all odds, is proof of God’s fidelity.
The birth of a Jewish state
is not a political coincidence or a grand social experiment.
It is a
miracle. For Christian Zionists, if God ordained the creation of Israel, and
defends Israel, then those who fight with Israel are on the right
To Jewish friends reading this, or to skeptics who cannot accept
this progression of thought, I say that today is a new day and we are a new
generation of Christians.
American Jews may be weary of a partnership
with Christians because of religious differences, disagreements on domestic
politics, or a tortuous history that time has not yet healed.
matters relating to Israel, Christian Zionists and Jewish Zionists are the most
natural of allies. Our motives are pure, our actions are telling, and our offer
of partnership is genuine.
The writer is vice president of The Jerusalem
Connection International (www.TJCI.org).