BY JAN MARKELL, OLIVE TREE VIEWS—
A terrible tragedy will take place March 5-9 in the holy city of Bethlehem. Our Lord’s city of birth will host a conference called, “Christ at the Checkpoint.” Which Christ? Not the Christ of the Bible. The premise of the event is that the Palestinians live under brutal Israeli “occupation.” It is supposedly so bad that Israel is accused of apartheid-like treatment of the Palestinians such as the “separation” experienced in South Africa. The symbol for all of this is the wall of separation between Palestinian territories and Israeli land. Their perception is that this represents a military checkpoint. Israel’s perception — and reality — is that the wall saves Israeli lives.
Some 30 Christian leaders will be gathering at the Bethlehem Bible College to raise the banner of “Palestinian Liberation Theology” as the only true hope for reconciliation and peace in the Middle East. The target of the speakers will also be Israel’s divine right to the land.
“Christian Zionism” will be “brought into the conversation” during the conference–but you can bet not in a friendly manner. No matter how benign Christian Zionism is, the Left side of Christianity’s aisle believes we look forward to Armageddon and we blindly root for the Israelis because they’re the chief players on the end-time stage and feel Israel has a right to their land. If the truth were known, we’re a puny band of evangelical Christians who are even outcasts in most of the major denominations today.
Christian Zionists are roundly scolded by this crowd. You can read that here. Our biggest problem is that we take the Bible literally! When did that almost become a crime? “Checkpoint” folks say we Christian Zionists support the “occupation” but it isn’t an occupation! We rejoice that on May 14, 1948, God just kept His word. Tony Campolo scolds us, too. We’re blind followers of Schofield and Darby and we need to get over it.
“Christ at the Checkpoint” says Christian Zionism is a political movement that is “ethnocentric,” privileging one people at the expense of others. Christianity calls believers in Jesus to focus on building God’s kingdom on earth, says Checkpoint publicity, and not futuristic speculations. It is tragic how this bunch sweeps under the rug God’s continued covenant with Israel. These folks have no appreciation of the “last days” spoken of so frequently in the Bible. “Christ at the Checkpoint” theologians do not want to consider Jesus as the Messiah of the Jewish people, someday returning to earth to set up His kingdom in Jerusalem to rule as the last Davidic King. Then they would have to acknowledge the continuance of the Abrahamic covenant with the modern state of Israel.
“Palestinian Liberation Theology” is heralded, however. It is all about the Palestinian struggle for “freedom” from their “occupied land.” Followers of this sentiment see the Israelis as an “occupier” trying to oppress the Palestinians. Reality shows that Israel has worked them into their society, given them seats in the Israeli parliament, and given them a decent standard of living. Israel gave the Palestinians so much freedom that they let them elect the terror group Hamas to govern them. As a thank you, Hamas shells Israeli towns and settlements regularly. This conference will tell the world — and the church — that Israel brings this on due to their repression.
Many of the participants are part of the “religious Left” but some evangelicals show up yearly, including Lynne Hybels, wife of Willow Creek’s Pastor Bill Hybels. We believe she should know better.
The most troubling person at such events is Vicar Stephen Sizer who has a war against the Jews as well as Christian Zionists. It seems he cannot — or perhaps chooses not — to see the brutality of Israel’s enemies. Sizer writes books against Christians who stand with Israel but he has a distinct aversion towards talking about Israelis being brutally slaughtered. To him, the now-infamous wall represents repression rather than safety.
To balance his position, Sizer needed to speak out a year ago when a family was wiped out in Itamar, Israel. The Fogel family has become the symbol of Palestinian aggression, not Israeli aggression. In watching sessions of past Checkpoint conferences, I hear little or no reference to the root of the conflict. I hear a one-sided argument that is decidedly anti-Israel in tone and a case consistently made for Israel as Goliath slaying David every day.
The Checkpoint conference claims to oppose “all forms of violence and racism.” Yet a few of the Checkpoint speakers — including Sizer — have given me reason to question this. Why? In part because at least Sizer seems to be a defender of the Gaza flotilla sent to Israel in May 2010 by Turkish Islamists. Those on the Turkish boat headed for Gaza were lovers of jihad. Participants on that ship sang songs calling for the murder of Jews.
I maintain you cannot have conservative Christians take an event like “Christ at the Checkpoint” seriously when Stephen Sizer is on the program unless you have a blatant Christian Zionist like me on the ticket as well. Someone needs to challenge this guy and reveal just who is the real racist. Sizer does not like Jews.
Critics of this event are scorned for not considering the issues of peace, justice, and reconciliation. The truth is, we recognize only the millennial kingdom as a time of peace and justice. Reconciliation with the Palestinians is not possible due to their corrupt leadership. The Arab world has wanted the Palestinian people to be political pawns for 60 years so they stuck them in squalid refugee camps decades ago. That is the real reason there can be no peace. Hard line Hamas and Fatah leadership stand in the way, not the Israelis. This conference will not address that.
The tragic roots of Replacement Theology can be cited as the fuel driving events like this. The church did not replace Israel. If God could forsake the Jew, He could also turn His back on the Christian. Replacement Theology allowed the church to go along with Adolph Hitler 75 years ago. God forbid the church participates — or looks the other way — in some future Holocaust. Frankly, Replacement Theology replaces reality.
Even some solid evangelicals were perplexed as to how all the promises to Israel could unfold before the 1940s. When it blossomed in 1948, students of the Bible should have collectively stood up and cheered and not jeered as a few denominations did. Today the “miracle of the millennium” is living proof that God is not a liar. “Christ at the Checkpoint” will not talk about this. Instead they will grumble about Israel’s brutal “occupation.” Jesus lived and ministered in that “occupied territory” but that won’t change their perspective.
Words like “occupation” and “checkpoint” are incendiary — almost war-like. I realize my response could be as well. Ever feel like you can’t take it anymore? With apologies, I acknowledge that’s where I’m at.