“Perilous Times” – Why the United Methodist Church is wrong about Israel
by Jim Fletcher, Green
After he met his Messiah, Paul wrote that in the last days, perilous times would come. People would hate, they would steal from each other, they would be disloyal. They would also lie on a massive scale. All this would happen “in that day,” spoken of so often in Scripture.
Sadly, outrageously, the mass murders perpetrated on America are being used for political purposes by the very regimes that birthed the attacks, and U.S. church leaders are leading the way. The big lie is alive and well.
It was almost inevitable that pan-Arab spin would swirl for a time, but even longtime Middle East watchers are surprised at the propaganda tornado sweeping across our still-shocked country. The U.S. might succeed in rooting-out certain terror cells, but we are losing the propaganda war on a breathtaking scale.
Mainline church news services have long pushed Palestine Liberation Organization demands, such as statehood, the “right of return” (a euphemism for the abolition of Israel), and the division of Jerusalem, among others. The tragic part of all this is, while church liberals have always been obviously complicit, it is the evangelicals who (perhaps) unwittingly serve to further the goals of vicious despots (see Yasser Arafat).
It doesn't help that much of the Administration, State Department, and Congress are made up of mainline members who have been taught since the cradle that the veracity of the Old Testament is in serious question. Scholars tell us so.
Educating mainline folks and alerting them to the danger inherent in such activity is extremely difficult, but well worth examining.
The Foxes Would Seem to be Dogs
In Charles Spurgeon’s last address to his Pastor’s College, he warned against a lack of discernment:
One can ask what this has to do with American involvement in the Middle East, and that’s a fair question. It is my contention that it has everything to do with it, as we shall shortly see.
Spurgeon, of course, was dealing primarily with, in 1892, the rising tide of liberal theology that was bringing great harm to the churches in Europe. Yet it might surprise some to know that Spurgeon, as a Bible believer, understood full well the implications of a future Israel. He had preached earlier on the restoration and redemption of the Jews — a highly unlikely happening, in human terms, from the end of the Jewish Wars with Rome in the second century until the very moment of Israel’s re-birth in 1948. Yet Bible-believers the world over have always understood that “It is written” carries far more weight than the crackpot theories of, say, a Herbert Spencer or John Shelby Spong. Or any official United Methodist source.
It was the devastating propaganda of the German Higher Critics that paved the way for modern society’s ignorance of Scripture. After all, if much of the Bible is myth and legend, what serious person could rely on it? This is the lethal message carried down through the ages, right up to this very moment. Various scholars who in reality loathe God’s Word speak in measured, authoritative tones to gullible audiences, first convincing them of the Old Testament’s “mistakes,” then hacking away at the precious promises of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first wave of assaults on the Bible began with, well, the beginning. Once Genesis was superficially exposed, these scholars moved out of academia into the wider culture, picking at the Bible here and there. The books of the prophets, so clear in their messages, became merely the evolving spiritual thought of the ancient Hebrews. This has led to the devastation of discernment in our own time, as the literal, physical restoration of the Jews is almost completely missed by the majority of the church.
The obvious is not obvious.
Oh, some Baptist and Pentecostal denominations are very strong supporters of Israel, due to their reading of Scripture. However, many more Christians are indifferent or even hostile to the modern ingathering of the Jews. The mainline churches in particular harbor contempt for Israel while at the same time claiming to support tolerance.
Notice, though, the word of the Lord as spoken through the prophets. Far from being an obscure or fringe thought, the future restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land, promised to their fathers by God, is a dominant theme! This is one of the great unknown truths of our day, due I suspect in large part to our ignorance of Scripture (roughly 20 percent of Americans really read and study the Bible).
That evangelicals harm the Jewish state by their complicity in pan-Arab agendas says volumes about American Christianity. Liberal attitudes toward Israel are virtually indistinguishable from those of the PLO. The word of the Lord does not carry weight with the “foxes who would seem to be dogs,” because they talk out of both sides of their mouths. Affirming the authority of Scripture on the one hand, while denying the Jews’ divine right to the mountains of Israel (known in modern parlance as “the West Bank.” The Bible knows nothing of a West Bank), these foxes glide in and out of packs of earnest dogs. They are undetected.
The Jews and Their Lies
After Martin Luther failed in his earnest efforts to evangelize the Jews, he turned on them. This champion of the Reformation wrote The Jews and Their Lies, which paved the way for a wave of anti-Semitism across Europe, which culminated in the crematoriums of the Nazis.
This Christian-sanctioned hatred of the Jews is still very much with us, though not always manifesting itself in physical attacks. More often, it is the philosophy taught in our pulpits and seminaries that leads either to indifference or dislike of Israel, which today is seen as the world's Jew. This development of what I contend is a false world view makes life very hard for the Israelis.
It is no accident that a methodical destruction of the Bible in Europe led to the Holocaust. When German scholar Fredreich Delitzsch addressed a large audience, including the Kaiser, in Berlin in 1902, his topic was “Babylon and the Bible.” The thrust of the message was, of course, that the Bible was influenced by Sumerian myth, not the other way around. Clearly, this left people with the impression that the Old Testament is not authoritative. At roughly the same time, czarist Russia was producing fictional trash like Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an alleged manuscript outlining the worldwide conspiracy of Zionists to take over the world.
Did you know that this book, along with Hitler's Mein Kampf, is a bestseller in the Arab world?
Today, the radical Islamist element is preparing for the Mother of all Holocausts.
It stuns me that our Book of Resolutions and the Discipline are rife with un-Scriptural calls for Israel to “return land” to the Arabs. These pronouncements read so much like the official Charter of the PLO, I wonder about plagiarism. The UMC is on extremely thin ice on this point, and it's doubtful that hell freezing over would solidify the footing sufficiently to avert divine judgment, though this would be laughable to our leadership.
There is nothing more anti-Semitic than denying the Jews their right to the Holy Land.
The reader would be surprised to know what many of our most well-known evangelical leaders believe about the Old Testament, specifically the promises God made to His people. Many talk often about “affirming the authority of Scripture,” then ignore it by buying into Palestinian propaganda. Remember, Isaac was the child of the promise in the Bible, not Ishmael. Evidently it is not enough for the Arabs to also be a numerous people, which was also a promise.
Israel is not perfect. She can be obstinate, but that often comes from living among people who hate her existence. Beyond this physical realm, Israel has wandered from her true, saving love. She has been unfaithful to her Ishi ("my husband" Hosea 2:16), not yet acknowledging her Messiah. She has and does make policy mistakes. Yet, here is the large issue: Israel fights for her survival in a satanic neighborhood. Islamic hatred of everything Jewish is so pervasive, one wonders at the credulity of the United Methodist Church. Surely terrorist groups like Hamas and Fatah marvel at how dumb the dupes in the American Church really are. The Council of Bishops, agencies, journalists — all work mightily to put the screws to the Jews who dwell in existential danger on a tiny strip of land.
Leftists (and evangelicals) in the United Methodist Church bemoan the aid given by the U.S. to Israel, annually. Yet, how much of the laity also hears that we give aid to what are called moderate Arab states. Indeed, money is also given by the taxpayer to Arafat’s Palestinian National Authority, one of the most corrupt and oppressive regimes to ever draw a rotten breath. Egypt’s state-controlled media spare no venom in launching insane print and broadcast attacks on the West. The Egyptians have also used two decades of American aid to arm themselves to the teeth. Are these people our friends?
Please take a few moments to read the stories produced by United Methodist Communications. Check out the United Methodist News Service. Surely the one-sidedness is plain. UM representatives in Israel, working with Palestinian groups, peddle the repulsive lie that American policy in the Middle East — support for Israel — along with policy moves in other areas (sanctions on Iraq) is a major cause of the terrorist attacks in Washington, Pennsylvania, and New York.
This is sick, unconscionable, and wicked.
All this follows many long years of mainline media constantly referring to the Holy Land as “Palestine.” This is a subtle and powerful political tool employed by the PLO: convince the gullible West that the Israelis yanked the proud and ancient nation of Palestine away from the peace-loving Arabs.
Notice something here. Arab propagandists and their Christian lackeys know that only a tiny percentage of Americans will ever investigate the matter for themselves. It is much easier to simply believe what is peddled by velvet-voiced, urbane proponents of the “peace process.” These people don't love you. They don't like you. Rather, their hate is palpable.
The offensive game plan in the wake of the terrorist attacks is to sanitize Islam. To de-fang the religion of Mohammed. From town-hall meetings hosted by network news anchors, to stories churned out by mainline news organizations, the message is: stay on message. Islam is good. Islam is tolerant. Islam would never condone what was done to the United States on September 11.
I have one answer: read the Koran.
Once you've done that, pay attention to the hate-filled sermons spewed onto Arabic audiences by their religious leaders. Check out websites like GAMLA and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. It matters little that sources like this are discredited by PLO groupies; their investigations are quite thorough. There you'll find the truth about the Middle East.
After the terrorist attacks, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress. Netanyahu began by saying that what is at stake is the very survival of civilization. He said we must act now. In his lucid analysis of the situation, the premier that leftists love to hate implored the U.S. not to give in to propaganda. In fact, Netanyahu has long preached about the dangers of pan-Arab propaganda.
In his three years in office, Netanyahu was so despised by his opponents (and here I am talking about the Peace Now crowd; not Arab radicals, per se), that they eventually drove him from office. Why? A simple reason. Netanyahu represents a distinct challenge to our enemies. He understands the aims of terrorism very well. He is telling us, in effect, that this isn't the time to go wobbly.
I have talked with several Israeli leaders, including Ariel Sharon. I have spent several years investigating the Arab-Israeli conflict. I have also interviewed Palestinian sources. For what it's worth, I conclude that pan-Arab propaganda is the greatest danger we've faced in modern times. The implications are so huge, I dare say there is not a second or an ounce of energy to lose.
This was a quaint message before September 11.
Christian leaders who knowingly or unknowingly advance the cause of radical Islam should be called to accountability, in a peaceful manner. By this I mean that all Christians who have the time and energy should research the Arab-Israeli/American conflict and seek to educate your fellow parishioners with all due speed, and with all diligence.
Know going in that there is not one official UMC source that publishes the truth about the Middle East. You'll have to dig for it.
Write to our agencies, to the bishops, to the pastors, to the missionaries. Confront them with basic facts. Ask them why they demonize Israel and puff the Palestinians. And don't forget: this is an ideological fight. We are dealing with two different world views — the one that believes the Bible is finished, clear revelation from God; and the other, which believes that there are mistakes in the Bible, which means that each of us can interpret it for what we think it means.
A case in point. The famous “Dry Bones” prophecy of Ezekiel 37 has long been used as a sermon text for churches that are lifeless. God, however, says that He is referring to “the whole House of Israel.” The entire chapter is a history of the Jewish people, the chapter's denouement coming with a glorious, physical and spiritual restoration in the Land of Israel. Not the Land of Palestine, but forever Israel.
This is a teaching hated by much of Christendom. Symbolism, you see, has been the teaching in American churches for so long that those few who haven't grown bored with such a neutered Bible have developed a passionate dislike of the truth of the Jews' restoration.
For example, the Book of Zechariah says that one day, Messiah will come from the sky and set his feet on the Mount of Olives. Because the liberal Church will not accept such a deity, they have long said that the whole passage is representative of Jesus coming into someone's heart. Perhaps it's a sweet analogy, but that isn't the primary meaning. It means just what it says. God is coming to settle the score with a wicked generation.
So, this bad scholarship of symbolism/spiritualizing, saturating our sermons and literature, has skewed the Bible's message for millions. It follows that if one spiritualizes a large part of the Bible, where do we stop? The point is, the marvelous, literal promises to the Jews no longer have anything to do with the Jews, so the liberal church says. We come, then, to a place where critical support is given to her enemies, in her darkest hour (Psalm 83; Jeremiah 30).
Need more convincing that faulty exegesis brings great harm? Consider the case of Edward Said.
Said, who teaches at Columbia, and is one of the most articulate spokesmen for pan-Arab goals, wrote in his autobiography Out of Place that, in the ostensibly Christian atmosphere in which he was raised, Sunday school was a “senseless ordeal.” You can be sure that he was not taught the authority of the Word of God. Anywhere, anytime.
Today, tragically, Said is one of Israel's most bitter enemies. He may differ on tactics with Yasser Arafat, but this former member of the Palestinian National Council never learned who the God of the Bible really is — the One Who loves Jews and Gentiles, and Who provided a way to salvation.
The Bible is not cryptic. It isn't hard to understand. It's hard to believe. The heart of man is in rebellion toward God. The natural man does not accept a future time of divine judgment for the world. The natural man sees Israel as that “burdensome stone” (Zechariah 12:3). This is the foundation of humanism and of naturalism. Man can solve his own problems, and he doesn't have to bother himself with an outdated, dusty book. This teaching is the foundation of the modern United Methodist Church. Not ironically, it dovetails with the pillars of the Olso peace process. Man can bring peace to the troubled Middle East.
But the Bible says only Messiah can do that! How profoundly sad that the world rejects that great hope.
The day is not far off when the world will turn its attention to Israel and conclude that Israel must go.
It is tragic that today the Church looks across the ocean and sees what historian Dwight Wilson has called “the supposed[!] restoration of Israel.” How incredibly deluded we are, that the greatest story of the last 2,000 years is only “supposed,” as if it didn't really happen. It reminds me of the commentary provided in the old Interpreter's Bible, that dreamy mishmash of old-line liberalism, fathered by Higher Criticism.
If liberal commentators believe anything, it's that the Bible can mean everything. Except exactly what it says.
In the account in Numbers 13 of the Israelites spying on the Land of Canaan, the commentator, confronted with the miraculous appearance of human giants, says that for the Israelite spies, “that's only what they thought they thought.”
Gadzooks! Modern liberals, attempting to extricate themselves from the plain meaning of Scripture are able to not only discern what the Hebrews saw, but what they thought! There couldn't be real giants; that's Grimm's Fairy Tale stuff. So it must have been symbolic of the giant task of possessing a land already inhabited.
This absurd hermeneutic is far-reaching. Do you see how this free-wheeling interpretation has brought us to the point that Israel's existence in her own land is an aberration? This is where years of terrible teaching have brought us.
An Israeli friend of mine told me once that when he was a child growing up during World War II, whenever a Christian pastor or a Jewish rabbi would affirm the Bible by saying that one day the Jews would return, the prediction was met with a wink or a low chuckle. It was fantasy. Crazy talk. A dispersed people doesn't gather from every country and become one again after millennia.
“But then,” my friend went on, “the damn thing happened.”
And so it has. The world hates that reality. It grieves me to say that the UMC largely hates that reality. But that doesn't negate it. The damn thing has happened.
I listen carefully whenever I hear a Philip Wogaman urge us to “take the Bible seriously, but not literally.” I pay attention when my Church calls for a divided Jerusalem. I read again and again the letter from a famous UMC evangelical who insists that the ancient Jews are not to be confused with modern Israel.
But I also remember what my father once told me: Israel will outlive her many enemies. And I know why.
It is written.
Green Forest (Arkansas) UMC
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