The essence of Christian Zionism

Elwood McQuaid 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Elwood McQuaid 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The alleged fragmentation of American Christian Zionism is becoming a big story in the West. The recent issue of dueling letters, pro and con, to President Bush on a proposed two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma is being puffed in the press as a major rupture in the once solid evangelical support for the Jewish state. The leadership of the recently minted Christians United for Israel (CUFI) presumed to speak for Zionist evangelicals in denouncing the administration's push for a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Speaking from the other side of the issue, a group of self-ascribed "senior Christian leaders" lauded the president's support for a Palestinian state in a letter bearing the names of over 30 prominent "evangelicals." Their letter roused the passions of many by stating that Israel and the Palestinians are equally culpable for initiating acts of violence. The apparent split in evangelical solidarity was welcomed by liberal politicians and left-leaning media sources as evidence that Christian Zionists and conservatives are breaking rank with the Republican Party and embracing more centrist positions. In reality, the furor might be more one of definition than description, that is, how one defines Christian Zionism and how the movement plays into contemporary political and social affairs. First, let it be said that, in a very broad sense, contemporary Christianity can be broken into three distinct categories. (1) There are the so-called mainline denominations, which can hardly be termed evangelical. They are better described as liberal Protestants who are ill-disposed toward Israel and conservative Christians. (2) Then there are evangelicals whose basic theological center of gravity rests in Replacement Theology. They believe the biblical promises of a viable future for Israel have been rescinded. Consequently, they say, the Gentile-dominated church has now become the favored, true "Israel of God." (3) Then there are Christian Zionists. Their basis of belief is rooted in the Scriptures, where irrevocable promises of an everlasting covenant have been given to the heirs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This covenant is unconditional in substance and perpetuity. Therefore, the belief that Israel and its people have an inherent right to a homeland in Eretz Israel is a steadfast and biblically uncontested reality, whether Jews are in the Land or out of it for extended periods. In addition to this essential commitment, Christian Zionists firmly believe modern Israel possesses an historical, moral, and legal right to the Land regardless of the political and prejudicial winds that blow. It must be said that Christian Zionism is not, in its essence, a political action mechanism. Christians do, however, function in the spirit of what our 40th president, Ronald Reagan said on the subject: "Politics and morality are inseparable. And, as morality's foundation is religion, religion and politics are necessarily related." Thus Christian Zionists do, as other Americans, take their convictions into the voting booth and into movements staunchly supporting Israel and its right to survive. Elwood McQuaid is Executive Editor for The Friends of Israel. His most recent book, For the Love of Zion, is now available online and in bookstores.