How to talk about Christian Zionism

For such an openly hateful ideology, Christian Zionism has been allowed to spread unchallenged. This is in part because people have found it easier to ignore rather than engage or confront.

  • Don’t simply talk about what’s wrong with Christian Zionism.
  • Do clearly articulate Liberating theological alternatives. 

It should be clear that Christian Zionism is a problematic ideology. But it’s not enough to deconstruct Christian Zionism. We also offer an alternative theology that is centered on the liberatory message of Jesus.

A common Christian Zionist talking point is to portray any other Christian theology as “replacement theology,” an antisemitic theology that teaches that Christian church replaced Judaism as the “chosen people.” If we do not state what we believe in, we open ourselves to this critique.

Liberation Theology, on the other hand, says that all people are loved by God, all lands are holy, and that God is not “a racist real estate agent.” Rather, God stands on the side of the poor and oppressed. Being clear on what we are about preempts the false dichotomy between Christian Zionism and replacement theology. 

We know, in fact, that Christian Zionism doesn’t solve any of the problems of Christian antisemitism. It doesn’t problematize Christian supremacy, it doesn’t reinterpret antisemitic readings of scripture, doesn’t do any of the hard work entailed in “post-Holocaust theology,” nor does it seek to deeply understand Judaism or Jewish values. Instead, it shortcuts all of that, implying that supporting Israel is the only needed correction for western Christianity in the face of its role in the Holocaust and centuries of anti-Semitism. Christian Zionism construes Jewish identity and values to fit into a neat stereotype. Christian Zionists do not care about Jewish values, diaspora Jews, or Judaism, but only Israel’s value as it serves the interests of Christian Zionism.

Liberation Theology calls for the liberation of all people from the forces of oppression. It critiques colonial Christianity and imperial religion that claims superiority over other religions and peoples. We confront the antisemitism perpetuated by European Christians, as we recognize its connection to anti-Muslim and even anti-Catholic beliefs. Liberation theology demands that we have an intersectional analysis, not pitting the oppression of one group against another, but recognizing the systems that cause oppression wherever it is found.

  • Don’t get caught up in Theological debates.
  • Do Talk about Real-life consequences of beliefs.

If you hear Christian Zionist pastors speak about Israel, they will often pay lip service to scripture, proof-texting one or two verses but quickly shifting the focus to political realities. While Christian Zionism is often portrayed as spiritual, and not political, the real-world ramifications of such beliefs are destructive for the lived realities of real people all over the world. As such, focus on the real-life effects of the beliefs in question rather than debating abstract theological nuances when discussing Christian Zionism.

When discussing Christian Zionism, we must recognize that Christian Zionism runs in lockstep with American exceptionalism and white supremacy. This is why it wields such power.  Though many evangelicals claim to see Israel through a spiritual lens, their faith has actually been co-opted by an oppressive political ideology. As the events in Israel fit (or can be construed to fit) the theological assumptions of Christian Zionism, the ideology is perpetuated. For instance, the move of the US embassy to Jerusalem, for which CUFI lobbied, was praised as being the fulfillment of prophecy. Even while they invest in specific Israeli policies (and US policies toward Israel) that they see as proving their end time theory, they have little knowledge of the human and environmental costs of such policies.

For those evangelicals and others who truly believe their theology is just but also see support for Israel as a theological obligation, highlighting the inherent contradiction by showing how Christian Zionism perpetuates injustice becomes a key way of talking about it. So, when talking about Christian Zionism, focus on the real life stories of Palestinians who suffer as a result of the policies Christian Zionists push. Name Palestinian home demolitions. Discuss the system of apartheid created by Israel. Talk about children being locked away. Mention increased violence and hostility. These are each manifestations of Christian Zionism’s impact on US policy, an ideology that wants Israel to expand its territory, remove all non-Jews from the land, and protect Israel from any scrutiny by claiming that God will curse those who go against the will of the Israeli government!

  • Don’t take it for granted as a Christian doctrine.
  • Do contextualize it historically and politically.

Christian Zionism is rightly called a Christian heresy because it teaches ethnic exclusivity in direct defiance of the life and teachings of Jesus. Yet, Christian Zionism is often seen as the default Christian understanding, a notion we must debunk. Placing Christian Zionism in its proper historical context reveals it to be a theology of empire. It is based on a theology that is both relatively modern in Christian history and yet already outdated, part and parcel of a long line of imperial Christianity that includes such ideas as the doctrine of discovery, manifest destiny, and slaveholder religion. However, there is also a long and distinguished line of Christian movements which have spoken against such abusive religious ideologies. Liberation Theology is among them.

  • Don’t write it off as a fringe religious ideology.
  • Do recognize its very real influence on U.S. Politics and your community.

Christian Zionism is not constrained to the confines of CUFI summits. Diluted forms of such ideas are widespread. They are prevalent in every Christian denomination and have an effect far beyond Christian circles as well.

Beyond right wing ideologues like John Hagee, the Christian establishment is solidly Zionist. Or, if not expressly Zionist, they at least find it more convenient to remain silent then to stand up for the rights and dignity of Palestinians, who are fighting a liberation struggle against ethnic cleansing. Jewish theologian Marc Ellis has termed this ongoing silence the “Ecumenical Deal.” The silence on Palestine from most Christians has allowed this warped ideology to shape the way most people in America think about Palestine. Christians, therefore, have a unique responsibility to speak out against Christian Zionism and support the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

The struggle against CUFI and other Christian Zionists is not merely an internal Christian battle. CUFI’s influence affects all of us. Their ideology is infused with ideas of white/western “Christian” supremacy. They are turning this ideology into US policy, both foreign and domestic. We are all affected, and we all have a stake in challenging it.

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