After about a quarter-century of public advocacy for Christian Zionism it still throws me off-balance when people come up to the platform and ask whether it isn’t a contradiction in terms to be a Christian and a Zionist.
In fact, the sin of wilful contradiction belongs on the heads of those Christians who reject the obligation of loyalty to Israel in order to stand in the company of the anti-Zionists who dominate the major churches today – not to mention the major media forces and the learned class.
The Old Testament (Tanakh) speaks clearly of a day when the Jews, having suffered through many centuries of abuse at the hands of great and lesser powers of every day, would be installed by Divine action within the stream of secular history, in a land of their own, centered on the place where, around the year 1000 BCE,King David had installed his newly-secured Kingdom. The correct term for belief in this promise is Zionism.
On November 29, 1947, the newly-established United Nations took back the “Mandate for Palestine” that the League of Nations had been given about twenty years previously to Great Britain and pledged to establish “a Jewish State and an Arab” State (NOT a Palestinian State) on the ground of the old Mandate. The Jews of the world solemnly committed themselves on that day to establish peacefully these two states. The Arab nations unanimously rejected the plan, and immediately committed themselves to casting all Jews into the sea.
A Christian Zionist is one who accepts the authority of Scripture – all of it, including the prophetic portions. Doing so, he signs on to the notion that History has a Master. He knows that in making this case he is defying the wisdom proposed by most of the historic Christian denominations – including the Roman Catholic Church and most of the “Protestant” churches. In this company, the State of Israel is just a political entity like all the others. In this company, it does not matter that Israel came into existence as result of the deliberate decision of the United Nations; likewise, in this company, it does not make sense that the seven decades of war which the disobedience of Arab and Muslim nations have imposed upon Israel on account of its obedience to the will of the United Nations has imposed upon all subsequent generations of Christian believers the obligation to stand with Israel.
A Christian Zionist is simply one who accepts the authority of Scripture – all of it, including the prophetic portions. With this, he signs on to the notion that History has a Master. Simultaneously, he signs on to the obligation to defend Israel in her ongoing struggle for existence.
(Here, I must say that I have never felt the need to justify either my Zionism nor my Christian faith to anyone at CIJR, and that through CIJR my appreciation for Jewish scholarship, Jewish Research and the cause of Israel has been greatly broadened. Mazel tov.)
(Paul Merkley is a Professor Emeritus of History,
Carleton University, and a CIJR Academic Fellow)