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Church-Based Effort Counters Christian Zionism

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    Church-Based Effort Aims to Counter Christian Zionism By Nathan Olivarez-Giles Los Angeles Times Oct 29, 2008
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2008
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      Church-Based Effort Aims to Counter Christian Zionism
      By Nathan Olivarez-Giles
      Los Angeles Times
      Oct 29, 2008

      Association will distribute a brochure saying the movement fosters
      hatred of Muslims and opposition to Mideast peace. A movement leader
      says the brochure presents a stereotype of Christian Zionists.

      Before the year is up, nearly 45 million people will get more than a
      sermon at their churches -- they'll get a brochure titled "Why We
      Should Be Concerned About Christian Zionism."

      The brochure says Christian Zionism "fosters fear and hatred of
      Muslims and non-Western Christians" and "can lead to the
      dehumanization of Israelis and Palestinians." Its distribution
      reflects the concerns of Christians who are trying to combat what
      they call the growing influence of Christian Zionism in the U.S.

      "If we don't speak up against it -- Christian Zionism -- then people
      will think we don't care or that we agree with it," said the Rev.
      John Hubers, supervisor of mission programs in the Middle East and
      South Asia for the Reformed Church in America.

      The Reformed Church in America is one of the 35 Christian church
      bodies that make up the National Council of the Churches of Christ in
      the USA, which wrote the brochure and began distributing it this

      "To say we're dehumanizing Israelis and Palestinians with our support
      for Israel dehumanizes us," said David Brog, executive director of
      Christians United for Israel, one of the most prominent Christian
      Zionist organizations in the United States. The group was started in
      2006 by controversial televangelist John Hagee, senior pastor of
      Cornerstone Church in San Antonio.

      But what exactly do Christian Zionists believe?

      Christian Zionists say they believe that the creation of Israel was
      ordained by God.

      Detractors say Christian Zionism fosters the belief that the return
      of Jews to Israel has fulfilled one of the steps that will set the
      stage for Armageddon and the return of Jesus Christ to Earth. These
      detractors say Christian Zionists want to hasten that end time by
      promoting conflict in the Middle East.

      About 20 million to 40 million people in the U.S. are Christian
      Zionists, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

      The National Council of Churches includes more than 100,000
      individual churches, made up of about 45 million churchgoers, and is
      hoping it can use its membership to curb the political and social
      influence of Christian Zionism, said Antonios Kireopoulos, the
      group's director of interfaith relations.

      The brochure will be handed out in member churches.

      As a resource for those churches, the council is also creating an
      analysis of parts of the Bible that Christian Zionists use to justify
      their views, he said.

      "We have to wake up Christians," said the Rev. Gwynne Guibord, of the
      Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, also a member of the council.

      "We have to show Christians and others that there is another way of
      looking at these things, a way that isn't so antithetical to who
      Jesus was," she said.

      Guibord and other Christian and Jewish leaders in Southern California
      formed Christians Concerned About Christian Zionism, which held a
      conference on the issue Oct. 4.

      The conference, "Christian Zionism: Rapture and the Holy Land,
      Theology and Politics," was held at Pasadena Presbyterian Church.
      Among its speakers was Rabbi Haim Beliak, who teaches at the Leo
      Baeck Temple in Los Angeles and spoke on the influence of Hagee and
      Christians United for Israel.

      "My religion and my Zionism have been hijacked by Christian Zionists
      and their Jewish friends," Beliak said. "Most of us have the view
      that the outline for the possibility of peace has been sitting in a
      drawer ready to be implemented for at least 15 years, and most of us
      think Christian Zionism is an impediment toward peace in the Middle

      Beliak said at the conference that Hagee and other Christian Zionist
      leaders are using Israel to further their own Armageddon agenda.

      The brochure, which was passed out for the first time at the
      conference, says Christian Zionism leads to a conclusion
      that "involves the death of all non-Christians, including Jews,
      through apocalyptic warfare or divine judgment" and "is not based on
      traditional teaching or doctrines of the Church."

      Brog said Christians United for Israel rejects the brochure.

      "I would say the whole flier seems to me to be describing a
      stereotype of a Christian Zionist," Brog said. "There are some
      Christian Zionists who are opposed to the peace process in the Middle
      East, but that does not define a movement of millions of Christian

      He said the group believes simply that Israel should make all
      decisions regarding its land use and peace effort -- not the U.S.,
      Palestinians or anyone else.

      "Once we start discussing how we go about supporting Israel is when
      the disagreements come in," he said. "When you get beyond that, there
      are lots of disagreements, and that's why we don't really speak about

      As for the argument over Israel's status as political body or godly
      appointment, Brog said, there is room for disagreement.

      "America is a shining city on the hill ordained by God. We have that
      tradition right here in America, and we do see Israel's promise in
      the Scripture," he said.

      Brog said that one way the group urges the federal government to
      support Israel is through "A National Night for Israel," in which
      members of Christians United for Israel gather in Washington to meet
      with lawmakers. In 2007 about 3,000 members made the trip, he said.

      Brog, who is Jewish, said that he's always felt "complete comfort"
      working with Christians United for Israel and that the group has the
      best interests of Israel and Jews at heart.

      "I wish [the council] would be more fair and respectful of our
      teachings," he said. "If they have a problem with us, shouldn't they
      be the ones to invite us to a debate? We've never attacked the
      National Council of Churches, and I think it would be fair for them
      to start that dialogue if they really want it."

      Brog said a debate might surprise those who oppose Christian Zionist

      "If we were sitting in a room together, we might find we don't
      disagree as much as they might think we would," he said.

      Olivarez-Giles is a Times staff writer.


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