March 29, 2012
Our UMJC rabbis were discussing whether it was a good idea for Messianic Jewish leaders to attend the recent “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference, which was clearly anti-Zionist and anti-Israel in its orientation. I posted this response, which I’d like to share here:
My view is that some may be genuinely called to attend, being wise as serpents and innocent as doves, but it’s a really complex issue with several important components:
- There’s a public relations battle, in which we need to clearly and forcefully confront replacement theology and anti-Zionism. I’d say that having some MJ attendees could help with this if these attendees continue to confront these false theologies before, during, and after the conference, and to show how the conference supports them. The CATC local committee set up their PR to stigmatize people who refused to attend and we don’t want to play into that entirely. At the same time we need to recognize that public support for their anti-Zionist agenda is probably their highest priority, and be careful not to be used.
- Having said this, I personally would not attend a conference entitled “Christ at the Checkpoint,” especially with its claim to bring “Hope in the Midst of Conflict.” Despite their protestations to the contrary, the organizers set up the conference to undermine Christian support for Israel as the Jewish state, and packaged it as a conference on peace and reconciliation. It’s the mixture of those two themes that I find so offensive, as if the obstacle to Christian hope is the Israeli checkpoint.
- Years ago, when I led a local congregation, I was approached by a man who was helping organize a visit to Albuquerque by Billy Graham. I like Billy Graham and his ministry, but I said that as a Jew I couldn’t publicly support any effort that billed itself as a “Crusade.” It was just too offensive and insensitive to Jewish history, and really to the nature of the Crusades themselves. How much more do I feel like I need to distance myself from a conference whose central image is Christ confronting, or being confronted by, the Israeli presence in Eretz Yisrael.
- But there’s another struggle, which is for reconciliation with fellow Yeshua believers among the Palestinians, and that’s worth fighting for too. I do not want us to fall into the radical and even racist sort of response to Palestinians that is common among Christian Zionists, and I’m afraid, Messianic Jews. And I don’t want to draw a hard line between Arab Christians who support Israel and those who don’t. I’m going to be closer to the former, but still need to reach out to the latter. Furthermore, I don’t find it shocking that most Arab Christians hold to replacement theology—so do most Western Christians! I’d like to find ways for genuine dialogue even with that starting point, and hope that we might influence them to reconsider, even as our community needs to reconsider some of its attitudes toward Arabs in general.
March 16, 2012
The Israeli security fence and checkpoints are often invoked as symbols of the “occupation” and Israel’s oppressive policies. But is this a fair portrayal? How should we assess this structure from the perspective of justice?
I’ve seen the security fence and it is indeed a wall, monstrous, ugly and heartbreaking. I’ve stood at its base outside Bethlehem and felt its hulk towering over me. I’ve seen it at a distance from the lovely balcony of a friend’s home in Mevaseret Zion, and even further off from a car window on the highway headed north from Tel Aviv. It’s a scar upon the landscape of Eretz Yisrael. The suffering and indignities the wall imposes on Palestinians are heartbreaking too. I’ve heard people say, “What are they complaining about? I have to go through a TSA security check every time I get on a plane.” But, of course, that’s an unfair comparison. The Israeli checkpoints can hold you up for hours, not minutes, and you’re not going to be greeted with a nod or “have a nice day” as you go through. Not that you’ll necessarily get that from the TSA either, but for Palestinians, the IDF soldiers manning the wall represent the “occupation” and a steady reminder of the broken and humiliating condition of their daily lives.
read more »
March 14, 2012
Here’s an article on the situation at First Baptist Church in Bethlehem. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/153747#.T2EUihGLWRJ
This church is led by Dr. Naim Khoury, father of my new friend Pastor Steven Khoury. These men and their churches are Palestinian Christians who love the Jewish people and support Israel, and they merit the support and prayers of the Messianic Jewish community as well as Christians everywhere. Let’s stand with them!
March 13, 2012
My statement that the Palestinian Authority told Pastor Naim Khoury “to shut the doors–they were closing down the church” in Bethlehem is not accurate. After a further conversation with Pastor Steven Khoury, I realize that the church was told that the Palestinian Authority no longer considers them legitimate and will no longer accept any paper work from them, such as baptismal or wedding certificates. Obviously, this appears to be a serious infringement of religious freedom, and remains a matter of grave concern. I apologize for creating confusion by my earlier statement that the church is being shut down. Thank you. Please keep my friend Steven Khoury and his father Pastor Naim Khoury, and their ministry among their fellow Palestinians, in your prayers.
March 11, 2012
Amazing timing: “Christ at the Checkpoint” ended two days ago and tonight I met a Palestinian Christian leader who supports Israel and completely rejects the replacement theology that undergirded that whole CatC conference. Steven Khoury grew up in a Christian family in Jerusalem and threw rocks at Israeli soldiers as a kid during the first Intifada. He was finally confronted by too many scriptures to keep going in that direction—scriptures that commanded him to love his neighbor and forgive his enemies, and also scriptures that spoke of God’s unchanging love and promises toward the Jewish people. Steven turned away from his anti-Israel and anti-Jewish attitudes and today, along with his father Dr. Naim Khoury, is one of very few Palestinian Christians who openly support Israel as a Jewish state. They have encountered tremendous opposition and pressure because of this stance, which is based on deep biblical conviction–beatings, bombings, and harassment.
Steven told me that just yesterday, a representative of the Palestinian authority showed up at his father’s church in Bethlehem and told him that they no longer considered his church to be legitimate and would not accept any of their paperwork in the future. The PA left it unsaid that this was about the Khourys’ support for Israel.
We need to pray for the Khourys and stand with them as they seek to reach their own people for Yeshua, and spread a fully-orbed biblical message that honors the people of Israel as well. Check out www.holylandmissions.org and an article at umjc.org that mentions them as well: http://umjc.org/home-mainmenu-1/news-mainmenu-40/1-latest/754-israeli-commentary-on-qchrist-at-the-checkpointq.
March 6, 2012
As I’ve been speaking and writing lately against the new wave of replacement theology (the idea that the church replaces or supersedes Israel in God’s purposes), a few people have asked me why I think this old doctrine seems to be making a comeback today. I’ve referred to this comeback in passing in several of my recent blogs, and you can do your own research to verify that it’s really happening. But why is it happening? I can identify three major reasons.
read more »
March 4, 2012
Since my last blog, the UMJC joined with other international Messianic Jewish organizations to issue another statement on the controversial “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference. You can read it, and an article on the same topic by an Israeli colleague, under “Community News” at umjc.org.
For now I’ll just respond to one complaint raised by the conference sponsors when they received a copy of our first statement. Both statements are pretty critical, and the local coordinating committee of Christ at the Checkpoint took us to task for not going to them privately in accord with Matthew 18:15-20 “in order to resolve differences rather than send a public letter to appeal for dialogue through the internet.” I’ve heard this sort of appeal to Matthew 18 a few times in this sort of context, and it’s worthy of a response.
read more »