Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism
The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism is a joint statement issued by a number of Palestinian Christian churches dated 22 August 2006. It rejects Christian Zionism, concluding that it is a "false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice, and reconciliation."
The signatories of the Declaration were Patriarch Michel Sabbah, then Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem (a Catholic), Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad, of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, then Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, and Bishop Munib Younan, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
Christian Zionists have responded to the Declaration.
The Jerusalem Declaration begins with a quotation from Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God" and cites Micah 6:8, "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." Also, 2 Corinthians 5:19, "God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting sins against the sinners. He has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation."
Christian Zionism "embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel," according to the Declaration. A rabbi and professor writes, "Frequently, [Christian Zionists] are accused [by their critics] of blocking the way to peace in the Middle East."
Several reasons are given for opposition to Christian Zionism, among them the following. "The Christian Zionist programme provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it places an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ's love and justice today."
The Declaration is not against Zionism, as it does not challenge the reality of Israel's presence. "We affirm that Israelis and Palestinians are capable of living together within peace, justice and security." Yet it criticizes the one-sided political nature of Christian Zionism. It declares: "We call upon all people to reject the narrow world view of Christian Zionism and other ideologies that privilege one people at the expense of others."
The Declaration addresses all Christians:
"We call upon Christians in Churches on every continent to pray for the Palestinian and Israeli people, both of whom are suffering as victims of occupation and militarism. These discriminative actions are turning Palestine into impoverished ghettos surrounded by exclusive Israeli settlements. ¶ The establishment of the illegal settlements... on confiscated Palestinian land undermine the viability of a Palestinian state as well as peace and security in the entire region."
Although the Declaration does not oppose Zionism, affirming that "Israelis and Palestinians are capable of living together...", it condemns Christian Zionist support for the territorial expansion of Israel. "We are committed to non-violent resistance as the most effective means to end the illegal occupation in order to attain a just and lasting peace. ... ¶ God demands that justice be done."
A Christian Zionist response
A Christian Zionist response to the Declaration has been posted, signed by three people representing Bridges for Peace, Christian Friends of Israel, and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. No date is indicated, but it the response refers to the Jerusalem declaration as being a "recent statement". The response makes six points:
- A political position is taken, based on the Bible, applicable today. "God... gave the Land of Canaan to the Jewish people." Christian Zionists here deny that their doctrines constitute a Christian heresy.
- Christian Zionists hold that "Our Messiah and King, Jesus Christ, was born of Jewish parents, into a Jewish society, thus making the Jewish people our 'royal family' to be honored... ". Christian Zionists "reject the hatred of any people group [sic]."
- Christian Zionists "do not claim to know the sequence of events" when, according to the Bible, the world will come to an end.
- Christian Zionist recognize, based on the Bible, that Israel's national existence is regulated by "issues of justice and righteousness and treatment of the strangers in their midst".
- Christian Zionism "is not a threat to anybody, but instead seeks to be a blessing." They have given aid widely and "pray for peace". Yet Christian Zionists remain strongly adverse to Palestinian organizations which seek to destroy Israel. Christian Zionists portray the text of the Jerusalem Declaration as falsely describing the political "problem in the region" as simple.
- The proponents of the Jerusalem Declaration, whose views are considered "unbalanced" and "one-sided", are invited to dialogue. All Christians are called upon to pray for peace and for "Israel's right to live in peace and security, free from the threat of liquidation by Islamic Jihadists." The "Christian Zionist response" ends by stating, "We reject all forms of discrimination."
This response does not claim to speak for all Christian Zionists. For example, Rev. Pat Robertson, a leading Christian Zionist, on principle condemned Palestinians if they challenge Israel's exclusive right to all of the land. Robertson, in fact, attacked even leading Israeli politicians if they negotiated land for peace.
The number of people claiming some connection to Christian Zionism has grown during the last decades, recently surging to increase many fold. Most of these recent additional supporters evidently take a more "sophisticated" view, and reject or ignore the original theology of Christian Zionism with its dark apocalyptic scenarios of death and destruction during the "end times" of planet earth predicted for the near future. Instead, these millions of new Christian adherents simply support Israel, spiritually and/or politically, and view Christian Zionism as a vehicle by which to express their friendship and affection for the Jewish people living there. Accordingly, some of the Declaration's characterization of Christian Zionism may no longer apply to the new majority of those who claim it.
- Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
- Christian Zionism: "Disapproval by other Churches"
- Churches for Middle East Peace
- Voltaire Network
- Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation.org
- Cf., Cohn-Sherbok (2006) p. 194: Palestinian Christians in Israel were "determined to refute the claims made by Christian Zionists." At a conference attended by academics and religious, convened by the Palestinian Christian Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center and held in Jerusalem in April, 2004, some language emerged which was later incorporated in the text of the 2006 Jerusalem Declaration. Cf. Cohn-Sherbok (2006) pp. 194-195.
- Cf. Ateek et al. (2005) pp. 7, 8. In this volume are collected papers presented at the April, 2004, Sabeel event, the Fifth International Conference of this Palestinian Christian group.
- Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism.
- The Revd Dr Stephen Sizer, in his "Christian Zionism: the New Heresy that undermines Middle East Peace", Middle East Monitor August 1, 2013, states that he came to write the first draft of what became the Declaration.
- Cohn-Sherbok (2006) p. 192.
- Rabbi Eric Yoffie, a leader of Reform Judaism in America, said of Christian Zionists, "They see any concession as a threat to Israel, and in this they strengthen the hardliners in Israel and the United States. That may make it difficult for the peace process to go forward." Brog (2006) p.199. A former Mossad agent and NGO director in Israel Yossi Alpher states, "God save us from these people," that is, from Christian Zionists. They encourage Israel and the U.S. to "ignore the Palestinians, if not worse, if not kick them out; expand the settlements to the greatest extent possible--they are leading us into a scenario of out-and-out disaster." Brog (2006) p. 193.
- Kiracofe (2009) pp. 8-71, regarding the role of early Christian Zionism in 19th century imperialism.
- Lindsey (1970) p. 284: "[E]ventually there will be a thermonuclear holocaust in the Middle East," as the battle of Armageddon is unavoidable according to his Christian Zionist interpretation of the Bible. Quoted, cited in Cohn-Sherbok (2006) pp. 152, 153, 203,n6.
- Cf., Carenen (2012) pp. 210-211: moderate Christian Zionist more recently drop "bloody end-times scenarios" and instead support "Israel and its land acquisitions as part of a biblical mandate" and the "command to bless Israel".
- Some Christian Zionists are said to seek the "End of Days" when "Jews govern Israel and have reconstructed a temple on the Temple Mount, where there's now a mosque." Frank Bruni, "Christians loving Jews. Benjamin Netanyahu, John Boehner, and American Evangelicals" in The New York Times March 7, 2015.
- Browning (2005), pp. 250-254. The retired Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA writes (pp. 251-252), "We simply cannot allow either the Israeli or Palestinian people to be lost in a sea of violence driven by fanaticism that threatens to engulf the very souls of both peoples who lay claim to this land." He appeals to the "God of justice revealed in the totality of the scriptures" (p. 250), e.g., Isaiah 58:9, and to non-violence, Gandhi and Martin Luther King (p.253).
- Cf. Halsell (1988) p. 31: "What is the message of the Christian Zionist? Simply stated, it is that every act taken by Israel is orchestrated by God, and should be condoned, supported, and even praised by the rest of us." In Cohn-Sherbok (2006) pp. 192, 204,n1.
- The Declaration states, "With urgency we warn that Christian Zionism and its alliances are justifying colonization, apartheid and empire-building."
- International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem - A joint response by the ICEJ, Bridges for Peace and Christian Friends of Israel
- Brog (2006) writes to convince particularly American Jewish readers that Christian Zionists are true friends of Israel (pp. xiv, 179), like the "righteous gentiles" (p. 237, 239). Yet the majority of American Jews view Christian Zionism with "a discomfort, a wariness, an absence of trust". Liberal Jews see Christian Zionists in support of "the Israel Right" and "as a force that will tip the scales toward extremism and war" (p. 179). Also, Christian Zionists in America support rightest positions, such as school prayer, which cut against the civic religious pluralism favored by American Jews (p. 190, cf. 205). Yet Brog on balance champions Christian Zionism (p. 179).
- Reference is made here to Genesis 17: 7-8, in which God said to Abraham, "I will give to you and your descendants after you... all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession... ." Yet earlier (17: 4, 5) God told him twice, "you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. ...I have made you the father of a multitude of nations."
- Cf., Numbers 34: 1-12, also Ezekiel 47: 13-20, for what is included in the territory of Canaan (land of the Canaanites). "The Lord said to Moses, ... When you enter the land of Canaan (this is the land that shall fall to you for an inheritance, the land of Canaan in its full extent)... ." Numbers 34:1. Then follows an extensive description of Canaan, including "Mount Hor" (34: 8) as a northern boundary.
- Yohanan Aharoni and Michael Avi-Yonah, The Macmillan Bible Atlas (New York 1969) at Maps 38, 41, 43, 45, 46, 50, which designate the land of Canaan; Map 50 for Mt. Hor (near the coast, north of modern Beirut, capital of Lebanon). Biblical Canaan included modern Israel and Palestine north of the central Negev, and also most of Lebanon, and central Syria.
- The response here takes exception to the theology of the immensely popular book by Lindsey (1970), which became a Christian Zionist standard.
- The Hamas charter states that "the land of Palestine has been an Islamic inheritance throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection. ... There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by 'Jihad' (holy war)." Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1989; updated reprint 1995 by Anchor ) pages 547-548. "For years Israel had not only tolerated but nurtured Islamic fundamentalism in the territories as a way of weakening the PLO. But [in the early 1990s] as Hamas began to grow in influence and focus its attacks more on Jews than on Arafat, the Israelis deeply regretted having abetted its development at all." Friedman (1995) p. 546.
- The United States considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization. Cf., Shlomo Ben-Ami, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace (2006) p. 299.
- A June 2014 terrorist operation by Hamas apparently led to war in Gaza. Jack Khoury, "Hamas claims responsibility for three Israeli teens' kidnapping and murder" in Haaretz, August 21, 2014.
- Carenen, The Fervent Embrace (NYU 2012) pp. 204-205 (Robertson heads short list of "prominent evangelical Zionist leaders"). Caitlin, however, notes that many Christian Zionists considered "land for peace deals... unpopular but tolerable" for their camp (p. 204).
- "Robertson: Sharon's stroke is divine punishment" in USA Today of January 5, 2006. Prominent Christian Zionist Pat Robertson here blasted Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (1928-2014) for his plans to withdraw from Gaza. He also claimed that earlier God had punished former Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin (1922-1995) with death by assassination for negotiating with Palestinians over land. "God considers this land to be his, " according to Robertson, "and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up to give it away, God says 'No, this is mine.'"
- Ari Shavit, My Promised Land. The triumph and tragedy of Israel (New York: Spiegel & Grau 2013) pages 249-251 (Israel-Palestine peace negotiations, 1993 breakthrough regarding Yitzak Rabin).
- Shlomo Ben-Ami, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace. The Israeli-Arab tragedy (Oxford University 2006) pp. 230, 231-232, 264, 270-272, 309, 327-328.
- Frank Bruni, "Christians loving Jews. Benjamin Netanyahu, John Boehner, and American Evangelicals" in The New York Times March 7, 2015. Christian Zionism "has grown exponentially in size and political sophistication over the past 15 years." Many view honoring Israel as a way of honoring God.
- "Christians United for Israel (CUFI)" in Bill Moyers Journal, October 7, 2007. Pastor John Hagee has suggested that the number of Christian Zionists totals 50 million. Hagee, however, follows the radical apocalyptic theology of the original movement.
- Carenen (2012) pp. 210-211.
Bibliography re Christian Zionism
- Naim Ateek, Cedar Duaybis, and Maurine Tobin, editors, Challenging Christian Zionism. Theology, politics, and the Israel-Palestine conflict (London: Melisende 2005).
- David Brog, Standing with Israel. Why Christians support the Jewish state (Lake Mary, Florida: Front Line 2006)
- Edmond Lee Browning, "Faith as the Solution", in Ateek et al. (2005).
- Caitlin Carenen, The Fervent Embrace. Liberal Protestants, Evangelicals, and Israel (New York University 2012).
- Dan Cohn-Sherbok, The Politics of Apocalypse. The history and influence of Christian Zionism (Oxford: Oneworld 2006).
- Clifford A. Kiracofe, Dark Crusade. Christian Zionism and US Foreign Policy (London: I. B. Tauris 2009)
- Grace Halsell, "Israeli Extremists and Christian Fundamentalists: The Alliance" in Washington Report, December 1988.
- Hal Lindsey, The Late, Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1970; reprint: Lakeland, London).