How to Talk to your Zionist Pastor

June 29, 2014

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How to Talk to your Zionist Pastor: Mainline Christian Churches Offer Help and Hope

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Christian Zionism-10

Applying what we know: Author’s 10 minutes with a Zionist Christian Church leader.

Clearly, Christ followers must make it a personal mission to correct their Zionist leaning pastors and friends since nothing will bring change so fast. The described discussion between this author and Pastor (or Rabbi) Reuben Drubebstadt, a committed Zionist, representing himself as a Messianic Christian, is typical of hundreds of such meetings with pastors and elders outside churches where we have conducted un-welcomed vigils for over a decade. It reveals why it is the members, not the leaders of Zionist churches, who must be dealt with, one by one.

This author met Reuben in front of his tent in the the “Tax Exempt” area of The Peoples Fair, in Denver.  His display was adorned with a big Menorah Ministries banner[1] and a large blue and white Israeli flag. Lots of what seemed to be Christian literature was offered to passers by. My friend, Beth, insisted I visit the booth and try to “talk sense” to these people, having herself had a  frustrating conflict with a person there earlier. “I don’t know who these people are, but they hate Palestinians,” she said.

Gregarious Reuben greeted me with a smile and a handshake, identifying his Menorah Ministries as a Messianic Christian congregation with a sizable membership that he started some 30 years ago. He told me he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, but he is still a Jew as well.  Our chat began by confirming what we had in common, and ended in a chasm of difference, not over what Jesus said, but over political Israel and its occupation of Palestine, that Reuben denied is happening.

Writer Cesar Aharon, himself raised Jewish, explained to me, years ago, that Messianic Christian congregations usually consist of a Jewish preacher teaching a congregation who believe themselves to be Christian, but are being trained to become committed to Jewish ritual forms and beliefs. What Reuben told me fits this pattern perfectly. When he says he remains a “Jew” he means a religious Jew, as well as an ethnic one.  Is not the term, “Jewish Christian,” a self-contradiction?

Reuben stated he believes that all people can be saved through Jesus.  But Reuben made it clear, in spite of anything written in the New Testament, that today’s Israel is still “God’s Chosen People,” awaiting Jesus’ return to Jerusalem for the beginning of a “millennial kingdom.”  He is an example of a typical, dispensational Zionist, believing in an end times scenario, differing little from Pat Robertson’s or John Hagee’s story. He also believed what the apostle, called Paul, said, as I paraphrased it to him, “there is no Jew nor Greek, no male nor female, no slave nor free, but all are one in Christ Jesus and heirs to the promise to Abraham.”  (third chapter, book of Galatians)

Reuben confirmed that he likes what Christian Zionist John Hagee does, but he disagrees with Hagee who says “Jews” need not accept Jesus to be “saved” to eternal life.  Rubin teaches that they do, but they are still religious Jews with a Christian veneer.

Our friendly talk broke down to hard debate over who is Israel?  I asked Reuben what DNA evidence he, or any of his kin have to link them to ancient Israel, or Abraham the Chaldean, from the place that is now Iraq? I reminded him that the name “Jew” is a modern literary form that does not equate to Abraham or David because the word did not exist then, and that “Israel” borrowed the name from the Christian Bible in 1948.

Reuben did not like this challenge to his adopted ancestry. He believes the European Jews of today are of the same blood line as Abraham.  At this, I asked him to let me peak under his little flat cap, so I could see his curly black, Arab hair.  He did so with a grin, revealing a bald dome with a fringe of sandy red hair, starting to gray a little.  So I reminded him with his red hair and rosy complexion he is a very unlikely looking Chaldean.

I then asked him to show me one line or verse in the New Testament (I carry one) that would allow a follower of Christ (like himself) to take the life of a child, or look the other way when Israel does it to Philistine children.

His answer was secular and had nothing to do with Jesus…something like this: “The Arabs also kill Israelis, Arabs are invaders who came there to take advantage of the good life Israel offers, and they do not belong there. Israel is acting in self-defense, so there is nothing he can do for the Arabs (he avoided calling them Palestinians).”

I pressed Reuben on his profession of following Christ, who said: Blessed are the peacemakers…love your brother, even love your enemy…whoever does good to the least of these does so to me..whoever does ill to the least of my brothers does it to me.  How can you believe that, and support Israel too, I asked?

Reuben did not take my offered New Testament, his answer was again totally secular: “Arabs in Gaza fire thousands of missiles and rockets into Israel killing Jews.”  

Reuben and most of the Christian Zionist leaders we have met, when challenged with Jesus’ words, forget all about being “born again” and turn to secular arguments based on their own version of the facts. Reuben wants to claim the Philistines are the aggressors. That is his excuse for watching while Israel imprisons and systematically executes them. He calls Palestinians, who have lived in the land longer than their 500-year-old olive trees, “Arabs.”  He will not call them Philistines, as the Romans did, because that attaches them to the land 2000 years ago. Reuben’s church literature insists they just arrived in Israel.

The key to confronting Christian Zionists, as we have learned from our own mission at so many of their churches, is to realize Zionists claim to believe scripture is to be used as a shield they can abandon when it does not fit their purpose. One must always invoke Jesus’ simple principles of peace and love of one’s neighbor. This is easy enough to do, but hard to remember when confronting someone like Reuben who has memorized lots of scripture he recites on cue.  If one can only remember to stick to Jesus’ words, committed Zionists will eventually resort to playing pretend with secular facts they invent, ducking rather than answering simple questions such as, “Who would Jesus Bomb?”

It is easy to be drawn into a debate over some outrageous factual error one hears and can not resist correcting.  I, too, fell into this trap with Reuben. His final illusive response did not address facts about the relative numbers of Israelis and Palestinians killed. It was about the definition of a missile. He named a dictionary that he said defined a “missile” as any object propelled through the air. This was his justification for telling me, and no doubt his congregation, that Israel has been attacked by “thousands of Arab Missiles.” His definition makes a rock a missile, if thrown from a slingshot. My correct response should have been, “never mind the rockets, Where does Jesus give you license to look the other way while Israel kills those who launched the rockets, and, innocent bystanders? 

Reuben handed me his congregational literature...”send me proof of what you say, and I will look at it,” he said, turning his back on me. His Menorah Ministries‘ literature reveals shocking racism toward the Philistines, and just how far Christian Zionists will go to support Israel.  I quote a few lines from his flier entitled, “An Interesting Questionnaire For Palestinian Advocates“[2], which concluded in part, with this statement: “PALESTINIANS” (are) “GENERIC ARABS COLLECTED FROM ALL OVER–OR THROWN OUT —OF THE ARAB WORLD”, they lack “A GENUINE ETHNIC IDENTITY THAT GIVE THEM THE RIGHT FOR SELF DETERMINATION”…  “THEY CREATED A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION, AND CALLED IT THE ‘PALESTINIAN PEOPLE’ AND INSTALLED IT IN GAZA, JUDEA, AND SAMARIA”…”A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION THAT WILL SOMEDAY BE DISMANTLED.

Christian Zionists, including John Hagee, Rod Parsley, and  Messianic Christian Reuben Drubebstadt, all deny the humanity of the Philistines. There is no room for Christ’s word of peace in their houses of “worship.”  Zionist leaders will be the last to change; they will call for peace only when their churches and synagogues stand empty!  But the attendees can change, slowly, one by one, if given a reason. Washington will respond to calls for peace only when Congress members feel the heat coming from the grass root Christ Followers.

Fortunately, an understanding of Israel’s inhumane practices, and to a lesser degree the role of Christian Zionism in it, is gaining support from within mainline Christian churches.  A good place to start is to get copies of the Presbyterian Church, USA’s Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide.[3] Don’t leave home without them!  And, you might start by watching our award winning 32 minute documentary, Christian Zionism, The Tragedy and the Turning[4], free to download on our website.

On June 20th, delegates of the 1.85 million member Presbyterian Church USA, General Assembly[5], voted for divestiture of the stock of three giant US companies said to be “profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine land.”

The United Methodist Church also voted for divestment[6]. The National Catholic Reporter wrote:  “Last month, UMC conferences in New England, Minnesota, the Pacific Northwest and upper New York voted to divest from several occupation-sustaining companies… The four U.S. conferences join five others that have taken similar action, bringing to a total of nine regional bodies that have passed divestment resolutions. The UMC General Conference, the church’s national body, has been issuing statements condemning the Israeli occupation and settlement construction in the Palestinian Territories since the mid-1990s. In 2004, it passed a strongly worded resolution that not only opposed the continued occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, but also “the confiscation of Palestinian lands and water resources, the destruction of Palestinian homes, the continued building of illegal Jewish settlements, and any vision of a ‘Greater Israel’ that includes the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the whole of Jerusalem and its surrounding.”

The National Council of Churches made the first trendsetting action by a major religious group some six years earlier, disclosing the danger within Christian Zionism in a  published flier, Why We Should Be Concerned About Christian Zionism[7]. It states four truths about Christian Zionism that should make it unacceptable to followers of Christ:

• It is a movement with negative consequences for Middle East peace.

• It fosters fear and hatred of Muslims and non-western Christians.

• It can lead to the dehumanization of Israelis and Palestinians.

• It is not based on traditional teachings or doctrines of the Church.

The Huffington Post published, “Presbyterians Poised for Historic Vote Against Israel’s Occupation of Palestine,” which reports that the attendees at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA heard Desmond Tutu[8] remind them:  “The sustainability of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people has always been dependent on its ability to deliver justice to the Palestinians.”

What the Episcopal Archbishop of South Africa told the delegates was clearly stated in both the Balfour Declaration and United Nations’ mandate creating a Jewish State, that took the name Israel in 1948.

Even more significant than the welcome call for disinvestment, was the move in October, 2012, by some 16 US Mainline denominations[9], demanding that the US Congress reconsider its some $3.5 Billion annual foreign aid payments to Israel for military aid. This issue now reveals a deep and growing moral chasm between Christian Zionists, sometimes misnamed “evangelicals,” and on the other side, traditional Protestants and Catholics. Mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox groups, with some scattered Jewish support, that have begun to oppose foreign aid to Israel on account of its occupation and brutality over the Palestinians. The resulting letter to Congress[9] was signed by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; United Methodist Council of Bishops President Rosemarie Wenner; Peg Birk, transitional general secretary of the National Council of Churches; Shan Cretin, general secretary of the American Friends Service Committee; J. Ron Byler, executive director of the Mennonite Central Committee U.S.; and Alexander Patico, North American secretary for the Orthodox Peace Fellowship.

Divestment has much educational value, making many aware of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. It’s largely symbolic and publicity value must be recognized. But.,as a financial penalty to Israel, it falls short, for Israel gets some $3.5 billions in direct aid from the USA. Denominations’ portfolio disinvestments, probably, will not directly effect the cash flow available to Israel’s war machine necessary to maintain the occupation.

Education is the only permanent solution to the problem caused by the century old campaign to sell Zionism to Christian Churches[4] and national bible study groups. Those who long for peace in our time must learn how to recognize it, and persuade their own pastors, Zionist influenced friends, even their own families to oppose it. For this reason, the PCUSA’Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide[3], wins our vote for potentially the most valuable educational tool. The study guide is a most professional one, a 76-page booklet released on January 21, 2014. It is accurate in vital areas of understanding the Palestinian occupation, and, with an overview of Christian Zionism as a root cause. The PCA announced it thus: “Released to immediate critical acclaim, Zionism Unsettled is aimed to bring about an end to the silence surrounding the impact of Zionism and to encourage open discussions on the topic in church and society. This study guide is a condensed version of a book entitled Zionism and the Quest for Justice in the Holy Land, which will be published in 2014 by Pickwick Publications.”   We have also noticed that it has received the most virulent attack from the Israeli Lobby.  

We Hold These Truths began uninvited, church visitation programs called Vigils, in late 2002, which have been staged at 100 or more Christian Zionist leaning churches nationwide[10]. The project has challenged and exposed churches with a proclivity toward support of US wars and Palestinian occupation.  It has long been our stated position that both peace here and freedom for the Philistines would necessarily have to come from within the traditional, Mainline churches of America.

Chuck Carlson

Links:

[1] Menorah Ministries: http://www.menorah.org/

[2] “An Interesting Questionaire For Palestinian Advocates,” Yashiko Sagamori, Menorah Ministries: http://www.menorah.org/AN_INTERESTING_QUESTIONNAIRE_FOR_PALESTINIAN_ADVOCATES.html

[3] Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide, Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church, (U.S.A.): http://www.israelpalestinemissionnetwork.org/main/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=256

[4] Christian Zionism: The Tragedy & The Turning,” We Hold These Truths: http://vimeo.com/59933668

[5] “Presbyterians to divest stock to protest Israeli policy on Palestinians; 3 companies targeted,” INO.com, 6/21/2014: http://news.ino.com/headlines/?newsid=293298067

[6] “Methodist conferences divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation,” National Catholic Reporter, 7/3/2014:http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/methodist-conferences-divest-companies-involved-israeli-occupation

[7] “Why Should We Be Concerned About Christian Zionism,” National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA,” 12/8/2008:  Article: http://www.ncccusa.org/news/081202christianzionismbrochure.html Brochure:  http://www.ncccusa.org/pdfs/christianzionismbrochure.pdf

[8] “Presbyterian General Assembly Biennial Meeting: My Message on Israel and Palestine,” Desmond Tutu, Huffington Post, 6/16/2014: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/desmond-tutu/presbyterian-general-assembly_b_5499395.html

[9] “Religious leaders ask Congress to condition Israel military aid on human rights complieance,” Presbyterian Church (USA), 10/5/2012: http://www.pcusa.org/news/2012/10/5/religious-leaders-ask-congress-condition-israel-mi/

[10] “Challenging Churches,” We Hold These Truths: http://whtt.org/category/challenging-churches/


Law Society Votes Against Canadian Christian Law School

June 28, 2014

Law grad spurns N.S. bar over ban

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‘Apocalyptic Plague’ Terrorized the Roman Empire and Left Pagans in Despair — but Its Purported Impact on Christianity Might Shock You

June 25, 2014

Following a fascinating archaeological find earlier this month, a historian is claiming that an ancient apocalyptic plague that wiped out scores of citizens in the Roman empire actually helped the spread of Christianity.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

“Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed relics from an apocalyptic plague that some Christians believed heralded the end of the world  an idea that likely helped spread the faith centuries ago,” Dr. Candida Moss, a professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, wrote in a CNN op-ed published Monday.

The plague of Cyprian apparently hit the Roman empire hard, killing up to 5,000 citizens per day in the city of Rome, alone, and spreading fear throughout its lands.

But the deadly pandemic — a disease that modern scientists can only postulate was akin to smallpox — also had a big impact on the Christian faith.

“The plague of Cyprian coincided with the period of time (250-270) when Christians first began to fall afoul of Roman law for being [believers],” Moss told TheBlaze. “The Emperor Decius’s legislation to renew the imperial cult and the letters of Valerian targeting Christians about eight years later put Christians in a dangerous situation.”

In addition to these social and political constraints, the deadly plague added additional challenges for Christians, though she said they ended up acting fearlessly in dealing with both the spread of their faith and the threat of death.

“Christian authors tell us that both Christians and non-Christians were dying of the plague. So, Christianity did not guarantee immunity,” Moss added. “What we learn is that Christians were fearless in their approach to the plague — many ministered to the sick and themselves fell ill and died.”

Bishops at the time noted that Christians embraced the circumstances and were dedicated to performing acts of charity. Believers knew that they, like anyone else, could die from the disease, thus they also became more comfortable with martyrdom and more bold in their approach.

In an odd way, Moss said this helped Christianity thrive, writing that it offered “early publicity that Christianity is worth dying for.”

Still in its infancy, the faith had already spread quite a bit at the time, but the plague actually helped it further progress, especially considering that Christians were given a glimpse of the horrors of disease, making them more adamant about avoiding the pain and suffering that hell could bring in the afterlife.

“While pagans had no explanation for the plague Christians were able to see it as serving a positive role. They described it using the language of education and martyrdom,” Moss explained. “This kind of language is very problematic when used of illness today but at the time — when pagan priests were throwing up their hands in despair — it was clearly persuasive.”

Consider the bishop St. Cyprian who wrote about the plague’s effects on citizens and who seemingly believed that it signaled a possible end of days.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

“The kingdom of God, beloved brethren, is beginning to be at hand; the reward of life, and the rejoicing of eternal salvation, and the perpetual gladness and possession lately lost of paradise, are now coming, with the passing away of the world…,” he wrote in “De Mortalitate” (“On the Mortality”).

Moss’ comments come after the Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor recently discovered a funerary complex in Egypt, which included bodies covered in lime; lime was considered a form of disinfectant at the time.

Evidence of a large bonfire was also nearby — a tool possibly used to burn the remains of plague victim to help prevent its spread. Based on pottery found at the site, archaeologists found that the area likely dated back to the third century and the exact timing of the plague, Moss wrote.

Read more about the plague and its possible relation to the growth of Christianity here.


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