Wednesday, March 14, 2007

More unease over fundamentalist Christian support for Israel

I've mentioned before that I have always been a bit uneasy about the support that fundamentalist Christians give to Israel. As I wrote then:
In fact, there were entire societies in England (and Scotland) dedicated to the conversion of Jews to Christianity, that seemed to reach their greatest influence in the early to middle 19th century.

The conversion aspect of Christian proto-Zionists seemed to die out as the actual reclamation of Jews to biblical Israel accelerated mid-19th century, and it was hardly mentioned publicly by 1900. Nevertheless, this history is enough to make one pause as to the true intent of today's friendly Christian Zionists. The idea of mass conversions of Jews may no longer make sense but the thought of an ulterior motive that lines Israel's fate up more with perceived prophecies than with what is actually good for Israel is not something that is so easy to overlook, despite the many sincere friends that Israel does indeed have today among the Christian Zionists.

Today's Huffington Post has an article about a featured speaker at the AIPAC conference, Pastor John Hagee, leader of "Christians United for Israel." It describes him as an "anti-semitic Holocaust revisionist," and while this appears to me to be a gross exaggeration, there is enough about Pastor Hagee that is troubling enough.

This article seems to lay out most of the arguments against Hagee. Reading it critically, one can seen that many of the complaints are a little contrived - it tends to draw lines between what he has said and what the author assumes believes, in terms of the "rapture" and other Christian end-times theology, where presumably most Jews will be killed in a final apocalyptic battle. The problem that liberals have with Hagee are probably far more against his evangelical and conservative beliefs than against his purported anti-semitism.

For the other side of the story, this article shows the face he puts on for Jewish audiences. He explicitly rejects "replacement theology" and claims to be 100% supportive of Jews as well as Israel.

Nevertheless, enough of what he has said and done - including the fact that he set up a Christian broadcasting station in Israel to preach to Jews - makes it worthwhile to ask the question of whether Israel needs supporters like Hagee, not to mention whether he should be greeted as a hero by AIPAC. Politics may make strange bedfellows but that doesn't mean that one will not regret it in the morning.