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Op-Ed: A time for Christian soul searchingJackie Goodall explains the damaging effect of the Replacement Theology. She highlights that its teachings are often used in anti-Semitism campaigns and for rallying support for anti-Israel organizations.
As the Jewish nation enters Yom Kippur, a day of repentance and affliction of the soul, many in the Christian church might also do well to search their souls and seek their own atonement with God for the dreadful way the church has treated the Jews and the State of Israel throughout the centuries and over the past 70 years respectively.
Some, but by no means all of the mainline churches have strayed far from their Biblical roots and from their original support for the nascent State of Israel. When John Winthrop landed in Massachusetts Bay in 1630, he used Biblical imagery of a promised land when he spoke of “We shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us...” - a speech often considered to have seeded the Christian Zionist movement.
Winthrop and his Congregationalist followers would surely be turning in their graves at the anti-Israel antics of their successor United Church of Christ (one of the largest Protestant denominations in the United States) in the 21st century, whose stated aim is to “contribute to ending the Israeli military occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories: the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.”
The UCC’s biased and deceptive stance results in active engagement with the BDS movement and the labeling of Israel’s actions towards Palestinians as “apartheid.” Similar divisive stances have been taken by the United Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and Episcopal churches.
Although Pope Francis reversed a longstanding opposition to Jewish statehood in an October 2015 address when he declared not only that the “State of Israel has every right to exist in safety and prosperity” but that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism, the recent furore concerning security measures at the Temple Mount might lead one to question just how strong that support is.
The Catholic Church appeared to place the blame for the violence squarely on Israel’s shoulders while referring to the site exclusively by its Muslim name just as the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem expressed its concern about “any change to historical (Status Quo) situation in al-Aqsa Mosque (Haram ash-Sharif),” disregarding any Jewish or Christian connection.
Bishop Munib Younan, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land, commented on Vatican radio that the metal detectors are a form of “collective punishment” that should not be permitted “because of an attack by two persons.” The Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) then joined the bandwagon of condemnation, firmly putting its support behind the Palestinian “Day of Rage” and the subsequent riots and violence.
Much of the blame for this type of thinking within the church can be laid at the door of the theological error known as Replacement Theology - the belief that the church has replaced Israel. Highly damaging, it negates the legitimacy of the State of Israel and the Jews’ right of return. It also allegorizes the many Biblical prophecies concerning the physical restoration of Israel and the ingathering of the Jews into promises of blessing for the church instead.
The over-spiritualization of the Scriptures has not only led some Christians to reject the Genesis account of creation, but also the covenant promises God made with Israel. Many are also of the opinion that the Hebrew Scriptures, known to Christians as the Old Testament, were “nailed to the cross” and are therefore irrelevant to Christianity.
This theology would not be so damaging if it were kept within the confines of church buildings, but the result of its teachings often spills over into blatant anti-Semitism and support for NGOs that are highly damaging to the State of Israel.
That said, since the reunification of Jerusalem 50 years ago, growing numbers of Evangelical Christians are drawing closer to their Jewish roots by standing with and praying for Israel, as well as celebrating the Biblical feasts and holidays. As a result, many Christians and Jews are forming close friendships and ties, with Christians enjoying a new spiritual awakening as they discover aspects of the Scriptures they’d never previously considered.
Many are also questioning the validity of the traditional Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter, with some going so far as to observe their Sabbath from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown instead of the traditional Sunday. These Christians don’t wish to convert to Judaism however; they simply yearn to rediscover the foundations of their 2,000-year-old faith and seek to live a more authentic Christian life.
On Monday, October 10, during the Jewish festival of Sukkot, thousands of Christians from more than 80 countries will throng the streets of Jerusalem for the annual Jerusalem March. Organized by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), these modern-day Christian Zionists will once again declare their love and support for the State of Israel by marching through the streets of Jerusalem waving their national flags. Expectations are that it will be a historic convocation with great prophetic significance, given that this Jubilee Year marks 50 years since Jerusalem’s reunification.
Evangelical Christians are well known for their unequivocal support for the State of Israel. It’s a stance that is not only growing but will always remain solid because it is founded not on whim or circumstance, rather on a committed belief in standing with Israel and blessing the Jewish people; a Biblical mandate found in Genesis where God tells Abraham “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse those who curse you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
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