Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tampering at the Checkpoint

What is it about modern Israel that offends some Christians to the extent that they feel compelled to unfairly demonize it? Why does someone like Stephen Sizer make it his life’s mission to go around telling fibs about Israel, or exaggerating incidents, or only presenting one side? Why do organizations like Bethlehem Bible College set up propaganda agitating events like the Christ at the Checkpoint conferences featuring the usual anti-Israel reactionaries?

Regardless of their explanations for the innocent “Christ at the Checkpoint” title – it is designed to bring Christ into the Israeli checkpoint equation and shame Israel and the Christian Zionist. It puts Jesus at that checkpoint alongside the Palestinian and evokes the familiar, “What would Jesus say or do?” question.

Here’s a clue – when Hamas, the PA and Hezbollah stop trying to kill Israelis, the Checkpoints and Wall will disappear. When they recognize Israel as a sovereign Jewish state and put away their guns and missiles they will have peace and a State. It’s not that complicated to grasp.

In response to the International Messianic Jewish Community concerns over the possible inflammatory nature of the conference, the folks at Bethlehem Bible College came up with a number of bullet points. Here’s one:

“8. We do not accept the expansion of God’s Kingdom on earth through military means, and therefore we do not see the bloody wars of the Middle East as positive signs towards the establishing of the Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom is established through obedience to Christ’s Great Commission.”

This sort of propaganda asserts as fact a number of false premises about Christian Zionists and dispensationalists as a whole.

But quite apart from the question as to whether obedience to the “Great Commission” will bring about God’s Kingdom – Scripture please – their chosen methodology is bizarre and ineffective. In what sense are they bringing Christ to the Jews or to Hamas and the PA? In fact their relentless trumped up attacks on Israel’s integrity (see Sizer’s blog) are doing the opposite of Matt 5:9 by fomenting the conflict. Moreover, their activism is creating tensions within Israel and making it difficult for Messianic Jewish ministries to evangelize other Jews.

The conference promoters invite pro-Zionist and dispensationalist participation. Yet future participants should take note to tread carefully when interacting with these individuals. John Feinberg delivered a paper in PDF format explaining the dispie position and Hanna (Yohanna) Katanacho felt obliged to do some post-conference “tampering” to the document by highlighting segments in red and adding his own terse comments.

I don’t know if Dr Feinberg is aware of the doctoring but I’m certain that, had Katanacho contacted him directly, Dr Feinberg would have been happy to straighten him out. As it is, the tampering reveals several things about Katanacho. One is his unethical behavior in this regard and another is his apparent unfamiliarity with OT texts despite impressive credentials.

He also denies Jewish ethnicity. In response to the following statements by Dr Feinberg: “Dispensationalists specifically believe four things about these covenants. They were addressed to those who are ethnically, biologically Jewish. They contain promises that include spiritual blessings for ethnic Israel, but also social, political, and economic blessings...” Katanacho attached this comment: “How can you be biologically Jewish?”

So Katanacho, like other anti-Jewish/Israel clergymen, seeks to divorce Israel from any prophetic relevancy and ownership of the land by disputing their ethnic origins. Palestinian Lutheran priest Mitri Raheb also uses this strategy. In fact, Jews can trace their ethnicity better than most other races. See Wendy Wippel’s study HERE for just one example and note the comments in the Raheb link. Ironically, Palestinians who allegedly have “just as much Jewish DNA” exhibit little interest in identifying themselves as such. While people like Katanacho get away with questioning Jewish DNA; in Australia, anyone who dares undermine the Indigenous ethnicity of someone who is outwardly more white than black, will immediately find themselves classified a social pariah.

If you can’t successfully remove the DNA from Jewish blood you can always remove them from the covenant by questioning the Old Testament’s reliability and developing a subjective “new hermeneutic” with that low view of the inerrancy of the OT. Sabeel’s Naim Ateek does - and the late Michael Prior did - just that, as Dr Paul Wilkinson aptly demonstrates in Prophets Who Prophesy Lies In My Name.

When confronted with a difficult passage in the Bible … one needs to ask such simple questions as: Is the way I am hearing this the way I have come to know God in Christ? Does this fit the picture I have of God that Jesus has revealed to me? … If it does, then that passage is valid and authoritative. If not, then I cannot accept its validity or authority.” ~ Naim Ateek (Justice, And Only Justice pp. 81-82). (Emphasis mine)

On page 57 of “For Zion’s sake” Dr Wilkinson notes that Prior accused the OT of having “scandalous biblical texts” full of “menacing ideologies and racist, xenophobic and militaristic tendencies”. According to Dr Wilkinson, Prior claimed that a “straightforward reading” of the Joshua narrative mandates ethnic cleansing and genocide. You can read more of Prior’s ideas in his essay Confronting the Bible’s Ethnic Cleansing In Palestine.

Of course, the anti-prophetic supercessionist who takes an inerrant view of the Old Testament has to manage a different strategy. And that’s an entirely different ball game.


drreluctant said...

Timely article brother. While Israel is as sinful as the next nation it is important that the right information about the Conflict is passed on. Thanks.

mac said...

Thanks for dropping by, Paul.

And you’re absolutely right; it is important to note that Israel is as sinful as the next nation. There is no place for “Israelolatry”, which would be the other end of the spectrum. I believe Mike Stallard has written some good articles addressing this.

Thanks for your efforts on your blog. There’s more material there than my mind can handle at a pinch but I’m learning much.

May God bless your work.