Friday, December 1, 2023

Uncompromising Solidarity – Evangelicals and Israel: Real Love or Christian Mission?

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Evangelical Christians around the world express their “love for Israel” through the media. However, the love for Israel is systematic.

Many evangelicals see the end times as dawning in the war between Hamas and Israel. They vow uncompromising solidarity with Israel and pray for the coming of Jesus “as Israel’s Messiah.”

They demonstrate their closeness to Israel through numerous vigils and prayers, videos about Israel’s role in God’s plan of salvation, calls for donations on Christian websites, daily newsletters and praise music that has been viewed millions of times.

But Swiss Free Churches urge prudence.

“Jewish mission” out of love?

For university theologian Thorsten Dietz, “Christian love of Israel” has a clear function: In the strong end-time belief of evangelicals, every “conversion” of a Jewish person to Jesus is welcomed as a messianic sign. This means that the return of Jesus, the messianic end time, is getting closer. That is why such baptized people also call themselves “messianic Jews”.

There are around ten thousand “Messianic Jews” in Israel. However, as baptized people they no longer belong to Judaism. However, evangelicals ignore this and continue to talk about “messianic Israel,” which they support with money from abroad, especially from the USA.

Founding of Israel as a divine sign

When Jews “returned” with Zionism and the later founding of the State of Israel in 1948, a biblical prophecy was fulfilled from an evangelical perspective. The coming of Jesus is getting closer. This triggered a wave of imminent expectations among evangelical Christians and mobilized the Christian Israel lobby in the USA. It has been influencing US politics since Ronald Reagan at the latest.

In America, the “Jews for Jesus” are also more numerous. US evangelicals support their emigration to Israel. However, Israel’s Supreme Court does not recognize the so-called “Messianic Jews”. Mission among Jewish Israelis was forbidden for a long time. The State of Israel should be the country in which everyone can be and remain Jewish without being bothered.

Today, the Roman Catholic and most Protestant churches also distance themselves from “Jewish mission”. The Swiss Free Church Association also exercises restraint and even maintains a dialogue with “real” Jews.

Against hatred of Israel and «Israel transfiguration»

Free Church leader Peter Schneeberger emphasizes the deep solidarity with the state and the people of Israel, i.e. with political and religious Israel. The Free Church Association of Switzerland strongly condemns anti-Semitism. He does this self-critically and calls out excessive criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism in his own ranks. At the same time – this is also new – the free churches criticize “transfiguration of Israel”, i.e. excessive love of Israel in their circles.

Thorsten Dietz from the German-speaking Swiss reformed educational work also warns against the unfortunate mixing of politics and faith. But when it comes to “Israel”, it’s difficult to tell the difference.

Israel is polarizing, including in Christianity

The Christian projections on the country, state and people of Israel, Judaism, are too strong. Christianity’s complicity in almost two millennia of hatred of Jews is also too serious.

Thorsten Dietz even sees excessive love of Israel as a symptom of the repression of Christian complicity in the Holocaust. However, this Christian guilt does not make up for anyone who adopts Israel as a Christian today. Such love can also be suffocating.

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