Coulter in Context and Christian Zionism's Conversion Problem
Richard Bartholomew printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Oct 20, 2007 at 09:51:15 AM EST
She taught that Jews were "completed" when they became Christians. She told her readers of visiting a hospital where she met a terminally-ill Jew whom she urged to accept Christ; with satisfaction, she recounted that the man prayed to Jesus with what was almost literally his dying breath.(1) Not Ann Coulter, but the late evangelist Corrie ten Boom, who often spoke of her love of the Jewish "Chosen People", and who famously saw her father and sister perish in concentration camps after the family was arrested for harbouring Jews from the Nazis in her native Holland.

Coulter's recent comments that Jews become "perfected" when they become Christians has resulted in a predictable furore. Of course, it's hardly remarkable that a conservative Christian (or, at least, a purported conservative Christian - last year Max Blumenthal tried and failed to find anyone who had seen her in church) would want non-adherents to join the faith, and this is no more sinister than followers of any other ideology seeking to convince outsiders of what they consider to be the truth. However, for obvious historical reasons, a special emphasis on Jewish conversion will often appear distasteful, and the Roman Catholic Church recognised this at Vatican II, when a liturgical prayer for the conversion of Jews was watered down. The desirability of Jewish conversion has recently been a source of tension for the alliance between Christian Zionists and the Israeli right.

In Israel, Christian Zionist activities have in recent months provoked the ire of anti-missionary groups. According to a report in Arutz Sheva :

Ze'ev Shtieglitz of the anti-missionary Lev L'Achim organization has presented evidence of actual missionary activity by ICEJ [the International Christian Embassy] to the Chief Rabbinate. "For instance," he recently told Arutz-7, "ICEJ Liaison Officer Doron Schneider is the head of the Messianic Jewish community in Maaleh Adumim... Dr. George Giacumakis, the one-time Chairman of the Board of Trustees of ICEJ, has said straight out that it is hoped, through various 'friendship' organizations with Jews, and by giving financial and political support to Israel, that Jews will start showing interest in Christianity."

The report focuses particularly on a quote from British Christian Zionist David Pawson (emphasis in report):

"One day the people of Israel as a whole will become Messianic Jews... Prayer for Israel is not enough; preaching is also necessary. The church's silence over the holocaust was bad enough; her silence about hell would be a worse betrayal... True lovers of Israel will speak on behalf of Jews to Christians and on behalf of Christ to Jews...We cannot help but be missionaries, and I have discovered that some Jews despise us if we pretend not to be..."

Further:

...Jack Hayford, was one of 1,100 Christian Zionists and Messianic Jews who took part in the Road to Jerusalem conference in California last year.  He spoke there of "helping the church understand what God's doing among Jews today and how to relate to it." Co-speakers at that Road to Jerusalem event were co-founder Rev. Raleigh Washington -- who said, "when a Jewish person recognizes that Jesus is his messiah, he becomes a Jew who has now found his messiah" -- and Rev. Mike Bickle of Kansas City, Mo., who used the phrase "unsaved Jews" and said a Satan-like leader "will be required to exterminate the Jewish race."

The result of all this is that the Chief Rabbinate Council's Committee for the Prevention of Missionary Work in the Holy Land has now announced that it is forbidden for Jews to participate in Christian Zionist events, particularly the Feast of Tabernacles, which is usually addressed by high-profile Israeli politicians.

This is a controversy that has been running for some time, and the Rabbinate told Jews not to attend a Christian Allies Caucus event in May. One Christian Zionist leader, Janet Parshall, complained in March that Israel's attitude was

"We'll take your aid, your support and your tourist dollars, but we won't take your Jesus." Christians should not have to "choose between the cross or Israel," the American evangelical says.

However, Christian Zionist organisations have been cautious to avoid causing offence, which is why Lev L'Achim's "evidence" against the ICEJ is rather lame. Indeed, some Christian Zionists have avoided the subject altogether, despite Pawson's blunt formulation of Christian exclusivity - that non-Christian Jews face a worse fate than the Holocaust, namely, hell itself. For Christian Zionists who believe that the end of nigh, the impending return of Jesus paradoxically means that converting the Jews is less urgent, since many of those living now be converted miraculously. One quote attributed to John Hagee (I haven't been able to track down the source, although someone has spammed it over numerous blogs) is that he and a Rabbi associate

...both know that one day when we're dancing in the streets of Jerusalem together, one of us will have to seriously reevaluate our beliefs.

Hagee has also at times apparently made statements supportive of "dual covenant" theology (at other times he has denied it). This polemical source provides discussion, and gives an alleged quote from a 1988 Houston Chronicle article in which Hagee tells us:

I believe that every Jewish person who lives in the light of the Torah, which is the word of God, has a relationship with God and will come to redemption.

The "dual covenant" concept means that Judaism and Christianity remain equally valid today, and therefore Jews who follow Judaism do not need to be converted to Christianity (although what this means for non-Jewish converts to Judaism remains murky). Some have seen this as a way forward for Jews and Christian Zionists, and there was an attempt last year to ascribe this belief to Jerry Falwell - which Falwell denied vehemently. Agape Press provided a bit of commentary about this from Jews for Jesus:

But [David] Brickner says the incident illustrates an "ongoing agenda" among certain Jewish leaders who he says want to "undermine Christian evangelism by trying to shape Christian theology."

In fact, the Southern Baptist Convention denounced such an agenda in 1996:

Meeting in New Orleans, LA, in 1996-JUN, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) passed its 10th resolution on Jewish evangelism... The resolution passed by an overwhelming majority. It urged the membership to "direct our energies and resources toward the proclamation of the Gospel to the Jews." It criticized "an organized effort on the part of some either to deny that Jewish people need to come to their Messiah, Jesus, to be saved or to claim, for whatever reason, that Christians have neither the right nor obligation to proclaim the gospel to Jewish people."

The mistrust, it seems, is mutual.

Footnote

(1) The anecdote appears in Tramp for the Lord (1974, pp. 105-06), which was ghost-written by Jamie Buckingham. Buckingham was neo-Pentecostal writer who was close to Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, who today runs the Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Eckstein's enthusiasm for Buckingham and Charismatic Christianity has also been controversial, as I explored on my blog here.

Incidentally, one person who has been keen to claim ten Boom's mantle is Mike Evans, who founded the Corrie ten Boom Foundation in Holland. As Bill Berkowitz noted in Talk to Action in July, Evans is a best-selling Christian Zionist author, and he is currently pushing for an attack on Iran.




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