Comprehending Christian Zionism

Comprehending Christian Zionism: Perspectives in Comparison

Göran Gunner
Robert O. Smith
Copyright Date: 2014
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    Comprehending Christian Zionism
    Book Description:

    The question of the Christian Zionism—the religious and political support of the state of Israel—is fiercely debated within theology and the church, as well as in the wider political and social arenas. Examination of the issue is, however, highly relevant and crucial, as it cuts across a wide array of constitutive features and beliefs of Christian life, from interpretation of scripture to religious and political ethics. Comprehending Christian Zionism brings together an international consortium of scholars and researchers to reflect on the network of issues and topics surrounding this critical subject; these essays are the fruit of several years of collaboration by the special working group on Christian Zionism. The volume includes essays from Christian scholars around the globe, as well as Jewish and Palestinian contributors to provide interfaith contextual dialogue. Taken together, the volume provides a lens on the history of Zionism within Christian theology from a variety of locations and perspectives and offers a constructive, multidimensional path for assessment and introspection around the meaning of Zionism to Christian faith and practice.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8964-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Christian Zionism in Comparative Perspective An Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Göran Gunner

    “Christian Zionism” has frequently been used both as a self-description of individuals and groups and as an issue in academic research. Its roots can be traced back through the centuries, even if the term as such is relatively new. This is not a concept that is easily captured by one obvious definition but one that easily creates positive and negative feelings, discussions, and activities. It is complex, with different connotations depending on the point of departure. Still, there is to a large extent a common knowledge about what Christian Zionism entails.

    Individuals and organizations that proudly call themselves Christian Zionists...

  5. 2 Saying “Peace” When There Is No Peace An American Christian Zionist Congregation on Peace, Militarism, and Settlements
    (pp. 15-32)
    Elizabeth Phillips

    In a typical Colorado suburb, a skywalk stretches over a major thoroughfare connecting a 1970s church building with the congregation’s larger and newer facilities (the Family Worship Center) on the other side of the road. At a corner facing a busy intersection, letters five feet tall spell the church’s name (which the members shorten to FBC) and water cascades over them into a fountain below. Large electronic signs face both directions, flashing service times and upcoming events to motorists waiting at the traffic signal.

    On Sunday mornings, nearly four thousand people congregate at FBC, and there are at least four...

  6. 3 “A Fool for Christ” Sense-Making and Negotiation of Identity in the Life Story of a Christian Soldier
    (pp. 33-60)
    Aron Engberg

    More often than not, studies of Christian Zionism approach evangelical affection and support for Israel through the hermeneutical lens of premillenial dispensationalism. From this perspective, Christian Zionism is characterized by its dispensationalist view of history and individual Christian Zionists motivated by this religio-political worldview in their political, economic, and moral support of the modern-day State of Israel. Historically, especially in the Anglo-American world, dispensationalist eschatology has been at the heart of Christian Zionist efforts to facilitate the restoration of a Jewish nation in the Middle East and to comfort and support the State of Israel.

    Yet other aspects of Christian...

  7. 4 Broadcasting Jesus’ Return Televangelism and the Appropriation of Israel through Israeli-Granted Broadcasting Rights
    (pp. 61-84)
    Matt Westbrook

    In 1977, Paul and Jan Crouch, founders of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), broadcast TBN’s flagship showPraise the Lordfrom the Mount of Olives in “the capital city of the world, Jerusalem” using a rudimentary satellite uplink. They were the first Christian television media to broadcast live from Israel, and they continued to broadcast the show live once a year for the next three years.¹ On the 1978 broadcast, the Crouches presented Michael Gidron, representative of the Israeli Tourism Ministry, with a gift of $1,000 “for the beautification of the holy sites in Israel,” and a plaque shaped like the...

  8. 5 Walking in the Mantle of Esther “Political” Action as “Religious” Practice
    (pp. 85-124)
    Sean Durbin

    Over the past few decades, the subject of Christian Zionism has attracted a number of critical perspectives.¹ As it has emerged as a seemingly more coherent and cohesive politically oriented movement, particularly since the 1970s in tandem with the American Christian Right, there has been a steady stream of books and articles—both popular and academic—published on the subject. Although some of the more recent work has sought to understand the much longer history and varying nuances of Christian fascination with Israel,² with others treating its more contemporary expressions to social scientific enquiry,³ much of the work on contemporary...

  9. 6 Christian Zionism at Jerusalén Church in Copán Ruinas, Honduras, an “Out-of-the-Way” Place
    (pp. 125-136)
    William Girard

    Studies of Christian Zionism have almost exclusively focused on how this movement emerged in Great Britain and the United States and later came to have powerful consequences for the Middle East. This attention to Great Britain and the United States makes a great deal of sense, especially for those of us concerned about Christian Zionism’s effects in the Middle East. However, as Protestant churches (largely Pentecostal and charismatic) rapidly expand in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, many of them are translating Christian Zionism into diverse spaces and cultures. In order to gain a clear picture of the variety of Christian...

  10. 7 Christian Zionist Pilgrimage in the Twenty-first Century The “Holy” in the “Holy Land”
    (pp. 137-160)
    Curtis Hutt

    What is “holy” about the “Holy Land” to diverse groups of Christian Zionist pilgrims in the twenty-first century? In this chapter,¹ I present the results of two paths of research—one historical, the other anthropological. In addition to comparing predominant Christian Zionist responses to this question with that of Christian forebears, I correlate these answers to those derived from anthropological investigation of Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the present. Attending to context, recent developments are placed side by side with those encountered upon examination of local Palestinian Christian pilgrimage as well as Jewish and Islamic pilgrimage to religious...

  11. 8 Living in the Hour of Restoration Christian Zionism, Immigration, and Aliyah
    (pp. 161-178)
    Faydra L. Shapiro

    Christian Zionism is a general label for a specific orientation and emphasis within evangelicalism that ascribes vital theological, and often eschatological, importance to the Jews living in Israel. Christian Zionists are distinguished from evangelicals more broadly by two intense and intertwined emphases: Israel and the Jews. Those two passions bring together Christians across the evangelical spectrum into both broad, international parachurch ministries, like the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) or Christians United for Israel (CUFI), and local organizations and smaller ministries. Christian Zionists see their Zionism as a logical extension of their commitment to God and his word. In their...

  12. 9 Christian Zionism and Mainline Western Christian Churches
    (pp. 179-190)
    Rosemary Radford Ruether

    There is a danger in discussing Christian Zionism as if it were only a phenomenon of a particular kind of Christian millenarian fundamentalism, and therefore a viewpoint that mainline churches can dismiss as literalist and fanatical. Equally problematic, and perhaps more important in terms of geopolitical influence, are the more pervasive but unnamed forms of Christian Zionism found in mainline churches. These forms of Christian Zionism are deeply entwined with Western Christian imperialism toward the Middle East, represented by the British Empire and now by American empire.

    Christian Zionism is deeply rooted in Britain’s and America’s identifications of themselves as...

  13. 10 Palestinian Christian Reflections on Christian Zionism
    (pp. 191-198)
    Mitri Raheb

    Much has been written about Christian Zionism, yet little of it has been by Middle Eastern Christians, though the topic is present in the thoughts and minds of the people in our region. In this chapter, I would like to present a Palestinian Christian perspective, showing how Christian Zionism is seen and evaluated based on the Palestinian Christian understanding of theology in context. I hope that this Palestinian Christian voice will add to the choir of voices from around the world.

    The seeds for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were sown over 150 years ago in England. These seeds would not have...

  14. 11 From the Institutum Judaicum to the International Christian Embassy Christian Zionism with a European Accent
    (pp. 199-230)
    Yaakov Ariel

    Contemporary observers identify Christian Zionism with conservative evangelical Christians who hold to a dispensational premillennialist messianic faith and global vision. The support that Christian Zionism receives, at times from the Dutch Reformed in Holland or Lutherans in Finland, is generally overlooked or considered of marginal importance. Historically, however, Reformed and Pietist European Protestants have played an important role in constructing messianic theologies that have placed the return of the Jews to Palestine at the center of the events of the end times. A number of such thinkers and groups did so even before the rise of evangelical Christianity in the...

  15. 12 Mischief Making in Palestine American Protestant Christian Attitudes toward the Holy Land, 1917–1949
    (pp. 231-256)
    Mae Elise Cannon

    The history of American Christian engagement in Israel and Palestine is one of the most controversial and influential factors contributing to US involvement in the Middle East. American Christians have been personal friends with Israeli prime ministers.¹ American Protestant missionaries have advocated for justice on behalf of the Arab communities and Palestinian refugees with whom they serve. Christian Zionists have raised millions of dollars in support of the Israeli government and the growing settlement movement. American presidents, motivated by Christian influences, have both supported Israel and criticized her policies. These are just some of the examples of ways that American...

  16. 13 Israelis, Israelites, and God’s Hand in History Finnish Christian Attitudes toward the Creation of the State of Israel
    (pp. 257-274)
    Timo R. Stewart

    News of the approval of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine reached most Finns via radio on Advent Sunday 1947, perhaps after returning from their traditional Lutheran church service in the dark, cold days of early winter. Due to the time difference between New York and Helsinki, the vote came too late to appear in Sunday’s papers. On Monday, however, front pages were brimming with news from soon-to-be formerly British Palestine. Many of Finland’s numerous Christian papers also covered the event with enthusiasm. There was widespread excitement over the decision to create a Jewish state, yet war in the...

  17. 14 The Rise of Hitler, Zion, and the Tribulation Between Christian Zionism and Orthodox Judaism
    (pp. 275-300)
    Gershon Greenberg

    While Nazi persecution expanded into the Holocaust (1933–1940), a central concern for both Orthodox Jews and Christians was the Holy Land. Zionist Christians and Jewish religious thinkers shared many common themes. Both linked suffering to sin, and sin to salvation.¹ Together, they viewed dispersion as the result of sin. Both interpreted empirical, historical events in concert with higher, mythical processes directed by God. They shared the conviction that Israel was unique and superior. They also brought the cataclysmic events onto an apocalyptic stage; they understood that the persecution was unprecedented and believed that redemption was imminent. But they approached...

  18. 15 Inverting the Eagle to Embrace the Star of David The Nationalist Roots of German Christian Zionism
    (pp. 301-324)
    George Faithful

    It is no secret that Christian Zionism in the United States has long been paired with American patriotism.¹ Since at least as far back as William Blackstone’s 1891 “Memorial,” American Christian Zionists have proclaimed that their support of a Jewish homeland bolstered their own country’s privileged relationship with God.² Less obvious is the link between German nationalism and Christian Zionism in that country in the period following the Third Reich. Whereas American Christian Zionism has been marked by militarism and triumphalism, the German variant has been understandably penitential in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Nonetheless, this chapter will demonstrate that...

  19. 16 The Quest to Comprehend Christian Zionism
    (pp. 325-336)
    Robert O. Smith

    Christian Zionism is an old phenomenon. Interest in the subject has intensified since the 2006 founding of Christians United for Israel, when it became an important topic of media speculation and religious debate. Because the subject sits at the intersection of religion and politics, Christian Zionism engenders controversy and broad interest. The subject is a locus of rich intra-Christian conversation since it touches on a variety of topics, including biblical interpretation, fundamentalism, and evangelicalism.

    In addition to popular interest, Christian Zionism is an important topic for academic investigation. Specifically, Christian Zionism provides opportunities for reflecting on the intersections of religion...

  20. Index
    (pp. 337-347)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 348-348)