I've never written a letter like this, but I believe this correspondence is a dire necessity.
I've been involved in the messianic movement since the early 70s. I've served as a messianic pastor for over twenty five years, founded and headed a messianic organization and written numerous articles and blogs on the messianic movement. I've happily observed the messianic movement grow - sometimes to the joy of the evangelical church and other times to their chagrin.
Throughout the years I noticed the messianic movement split into two entities: the messianic congregational wing and the "missionary" model perpetrated by Chosen People Ministries, Jews for Jesus and other lesser known organizations. In light of this duality within the messianic movement we ended up with one segment distancing itself from the evangelical church while the other side remained within the churches to collect contributions to help further their efforts to bringing the gospel to Jewish people.
The bottom line is that the messianic movement has not had the best relationship with the evangelical church. In the midst of this messianic two-headed whatchamacallit
, the Christian Zionist movement grew its own head, wanting nothing to do with messianic Jews but instead reaching out to the Jewish community with their overwhelming love for the people and land of Israel. Of course, many of our Christian Zionist brothers and sisters keep the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation "to the Jew first" hidden behind their backs to make their Jewish guests and dignitaries feel comfortable.
This synopsis of the messianic movement and the growing Christian Zionist community forms a necessary background to what I want to say.
Brothers and sisters -Jews and Gentile followers of Yeshua - we are in the midst of a full on effort by many of our evangelical brothers and sisters to bring an anti-Israel message into the evangelical church.
This "Evangelical Intifada" has crept into the church through several major avenues:
*Theological anti-Israel thought
. Some of us are familiar with NT Wheaton professor Gary Burge and his well known publication Whose Land? Whose Promise? What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and the Palestinians
in which he claims modern Israel has no right to the land today. In a September 17, 2011 article by CAMERA
writer Dexter Van Zile, a strong proponent of Israel, quotes Burge:
More ominously, under Rev. Dr. Burge’s scriptural analysis, Jews who reject Christ have forfeited their land and risk their lives by attempting to live in it. For example, on page 176, Rev. Dr. Burge interprets John 15:6 as follows: “The people of Israel cannot claim to be planted as vines in the land; they cannot be rooted in the vineyard unless first they are grafted into Jesus. Branches that attempt living in the land, the vineyard, which refuse to be attached to Jesus will be cast out and burned.Clearly, under Rev. Dr. Burge’s analysis, Jews living in Israel are transgressing limits set for them by the New Testament.
Another anti-Israel theologian is Vicar Stephen Sizer
from the UK, whose writings attack Christian Zionism and Israel in favor of the Palestinians. Sizer is not only an author but an activist
who has shared podiums with Holocaust deniers, pro-Hamas advocates and has spoken his anti-Israel messages in Iran.
What these evangelical theologians have in common is their dedication to use both Old and NewTestaments to demonstrate God's covenant with the Jewish people promising them the land of Israel through Abraham is discontinued and now the Lord's only covenant is with the church. Therefore, there is nothing divine about the Jewish people having returned to the land of Israel and establishing a Jewish homeland. God's only relationship with Israel is for them to accept Jesus and become Christians.
*Political anti-Israel thought
. The list is rather long when it comes to the political efforts put forth by these evangelicals to support Palestinians, point out Israel's so-called injustices towards the people in the Palestinian territories, attack Israeli government policies in dealing with the terrorist threat, fail to denounce anti-Semitic rhetoric broadcasted by Hamas and Fatah and argue to discredit the validity of a "Jewish" state. I cannot do this aspect of the "Evangelical Intifada" justice.
These Christian political activists include Palestinian Christian as well as American evangelicals like Lynne Hybels
, wife of mega church pastor Bill Hybels; Sami Awad, a Palestinian Christian who advocates a non-violent approach in dealing with Israeli soldiers through his organization Holy Land Trust
yet his tweets
point to the fact he does not support a Jewish state and British journalist anti-Zionist polemicist Ben White who is quick to label Israel as an apartheid state as he does in his book Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide
(for a great response to White click here
You can tell I've quite a list that includes organizations that claim to be dedicated to peace and non-violence yet they send out daily blurbs through tweets, Facebook posts and blogs in which they do nothing but attack Israel and try to convince evangelical Christians to not support Israel. It is only a matter of time before these anti-Zionist Christians start calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. In a recent published set of seven evangelical affirmations
from the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference at Bethlehem Bible College in March 2012, the seventh affirmation reads,
The Bible teaches us to pray for all in political authority. We are called to obey them, whether they are Israeli or Palestinian, as an expression of our faith in God’s sovereign rule. We are also called to be a prophetic voice, challenging injustice creatively and non-violently.
This statement clearly sets the groundwork for BDS on the part of evangelicals spearheaded by anti-Zionist evangelicals. An affirmation like this makes one wonder whether the drafters of these affirmations will ever call for boycotts against Fatah and Hamas for their terrorist attacks on Israelis.
One more examination of these affirmations will suffice. Affirmation number 6 states:
Messianic Jews are the brothers and sisters of all who follow Jesus or Yeshua. We are one family bound together in a fellowship of love. Although diversity in political opinions as well as theological emphasis inevitably exist, we refuse to allow these views to hinder our fellowship in Jesus.Messianic Jews are welcome to attend the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference as long as we can set aside our "political opinions" aka Zionism. If that is true, then why are the conference speakers allowed to speak against Christian Zionism, the Israeli aspirations for a Jewish homeland and Israel's policies towards protecting the citizens of Israel -Jewish and Arabs- against Palestinian terrorist attempts.
This sixth affirmation is a call for Messianic Jews to set aside our Zionistic commitment. Yet once the CATC is over, our pro-Palestinian brothers and sisters will spread out over the globe to broadcast their anti-Israel propaganda messages.
*Anti-Israel propaganda films are also being shown in churches, Bible Study groups and Christian colleges across America: Little Town of Bethlehem, featuring Sami Awad and Porter Speakman's With God on Our Side. Both films are filled with historical inaccuracies regarding the Middle East conflict, erroneous analogies comparing the Palestinian Intifada with the Civil Rights Movement in America and ignoring Islamic Palestinian terrorism aimed at Israel. Both of these films are produced with the greatest of quality but filled with the lowest of bias against Israel. When these films are shown, a panel usually follows for the sake of discussion. The two that I am aware of did not include on the panel a pro-Zionist expert.
Thank the Lord we do have several websites that address the anti-Israel evangelical crowd and we should be familiar with them: HurryUpHarry, ElderofZiyon, MEMRI, SeismicShock, RoshPinaProject CAMERA, ThinkingOutsidetheBlog and many others.
In light of what I've shared, ask yourself, "Can the messianic movement afford to stay away from confronting these books, individuals, blogs, articles, tweets, films and lectures by anti-Israel Christians committed to the Evangelical Intifada?"
It is time for the messianic movement to end the separatism that exists between the church and messianic congregations and come alongside our Christian brothers and sisters to unmask the deception being hoisted upon them by anti-Israel evangelical proponents. Organizations already in churches presenting "Christ in the Passover" or "Israel in Prophecy" need to switch gears and go beyond prophetic messages to tickle the ears of Christians and present substantive responses to the anti-Israel advocates.
I call on messianic leaders and congregants to join in this effort to not sit still while Christians once again present an anti-Jewish message from within the ranks of Christendom. This is not new to us as Jews.
Christianity has presented an anti-Semitic message from the early church fathers, has purged the Holy Land of Jews during the Crusades, tortured our ancestors during the Inquisitions, preached replacement theology in modern times and now has crafted an anti-Zionist theology to once again alienate Jewish people from their own Messiah and Redeemer, Yeshua.
Messianic leaders, I encourage heads of organizations to start meeting and compose plans to deal with the Evangelical Intifada. Dialogue with anti-Israel theologians at Christ at the Checkpoint may be advantageous for a few days, but the Christians messianic Jews dialogue with at CATC are activists not merely theologians. They are on the internet day and night sending out their destructive missiles to convince the church to turn its back on Israel.
I am willing to work with any group to do what I can to help any effort to form a serious, relentless confrontation using scholarly materials to usurp the falsehoods being foisted by the Evangelical Intifada on unsuspecting Christians.
I close with one more example. In light of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration in 2017 a new website has been launched as a 5 year project. The goal of the project is to "promote a series of international conferences and cultural exchanges to enable participants to engage with empathy those who have been negatively impacted by the Balfour Declaration.”
From Stephen Sizer's website it is clear from his own words that he is instrumental in the launching of this five-year project. I strongly doubt if Sizer and his cohorts will give a fair presentation of Israel's side regarding the Balfour Declaration or for that matter anything that occurred after the issuing of that document and the ensuring establishment of the State of Israel.
Can we as messianic Jews afford to be silent while these events take place? Haven't we had enough silence when the church remained closed mouthed as our grandparents and great-grandparents were demonized by Hitler and his twisted theologians.
I do not want to compare what is taking place today to the Holocaust and thereby trivializing the Shoah.
However I do want to impress upon my readers the seriousness of sitting by and doing nothing while the church is once again duped by theologians with an agenda to place all the blame of the Middle East conflict on the Jews and to paint the Israelis as evil oppressors trampling the underdog Palestinians. Sadly, Christians fall for these kinds of comparisons and images. I trust this time we are wiser and that we will heed the call to activism.
In the Messiah's grace,
An Open Letter to Messianic Jewish Leaders and Congregants