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.