Tony Campolo wrote an emotionally charged article titled Christian Zionism: Theology that Legitimates Oppression for Sojourners. This one article highlights why Christ at the Checkpoint is so keen to get influential evangelical leaders to their 2012 conference. They want to woo and win them for the Palestinian political cause and convert their theology from a pro-Israel one to one that delegitimizes Israel and especially her Christian supporters.
Campolo also repeats the lie that the exodus of Christians from Bethlehem is due to Israel rather than the Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank and the Islamic fundamentalist that are pushing Christians out. He falsely blames Zionists by using the devise of putting words into their communal mouths by claiming they say “good riddance” to Christians. If the Zionists are the cause for the Christian Exodus from Palestinian Authority controlled areas, why then are Christians flourishing and growing in Israel!
I recently returned from a speaking engagement at the Bethlehem Bible College; and what I witnessed firsthand sent chills up my back. Listening to the horror stories told to me by oppressed Palestinians elicited feelings ranging from indignation to compassion. What was particularly upsetting were the pained questions of an elderly Christian Palestinian woman, who asked, “Why don’t our Christian brothers and sisters in America care about what is happening to us? Do they even know we exist? Do they know that their tax dollars paid for the Israeli tanks that destroyed my house and the houses of my neighbors?”
Twenty-five years ago, Bethlehem was 70 percent Christian. Today less than 15 percent of its population is Christian. Sometimes heartless and dehumanizing treatment that Bethlehem Christians have had to endure over the years has led most of them to emigrate to other countries. To this exodus, many religious Zionists say, “Good riddance!” Presently, 42 percent of all Israeli citizens believe that all Palestinians should be removed from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The most serious threats to the well-being of the Palestinians in general, and to the Christian Palestinians in particular, come not from the Jews, but from Christian Zionists here in the United States. They are armed with a theology created in the middle of the 19th century by a disaffected Anglican clergyman named John Nelson Darby in Plymouth, England. With this theology, called “Dispensationalism,” they argue that according to their interpretation of Genesis 15:18-21, the Holy Land should belong exclusively to the Jews. They contend that all of this land is what was promised to “the seed of Abraham” and, according to their interpretation of biblical prophecies, Jesus cannot return until all of this land is occupied by Jews, and all others are forced to leave.
Of course, the Darbyites completely ignore the fact that the Arab peoples are also the seed of Abraham, having descended to the present day from Hagar, one of Abraham’s servants. They fail to notice that Abraham affirmed both Isaac (his son by Sarah) and Ishmael (his son by Hagar) as his seed and called both to be present to bury their common father (Genesis 25:9). Furthermore, they are also prone to ignore that the land that Christian Zionists argue should be occupied only by Jews stretches from the Euphrates River to the Nile (Genesis 15:18-21). This includes the land now occupied by Arabs in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. That would mean that all of the Arabs in those countries would have to be forced to leave their homelands. I need not spell out the ramifications of what that would mean.
It should be noted that no prominent theologians until Darby (i.e., Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Aquinas) ever mentioned anything remotely resembling these claims made by dispensationalists. This Johnny-come-lately theology of John Nelson Darby has permeated American Protestantism via the publication in 1908 of the incredibly popular Scofield Reference Study Bible. Too often Evangelicals have treated the Scofield reference notes at the bottom of each page of scripture with almost as much reverence as they do the holy writ at the top of each page. So prevalent is Darby’s dispensationalist theology that most Evangelicals would be surprised to learn that his prophecies of a “rapture” and the historical events that he taught would accompany the rapture are nowhere to be found in Christian theology prior to the mid-19th century. Darby’s prophecies make the early church fathers, along with the apostle Paul, seem stupid since Christ could not possibly have returned during their own times, as they were prone to expect.
Darby’s influence on American Protestantism has recently received an enormous boost with the publication of theLeft Behind series of books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Their series of books which are imagined accounts of events leading up to the rapture have sold more than 100 million copies.
You can gain some idea of the huge ideological support Christian Zionists have gained as of late by considering the extremist claims of television evangelist Pat Robertson, who says that Palestinian Christians have no right at all to any part of the Holy Land, even though in many instances it has been land that their ancestors have lived on for generations.
There are those who blame the Jewish lobbies for the 30 percent of all U.S. foreign aid that has gone to the State of Israel and which has enabled the Israelis to create the fourth most powerful army in the world. In reality, however, it is the Christian Zionists, led by such powerful televangelists as John Hagee who have been the primary sources of pressure on the U.S. Congress to financially back the Israeli military that has made the injustices I have described possible.
The following video is Campolo being interviewed by Stephen Sizer where Campolo blames “Christian Zionists” for the problem rather than “Jewish Zionists”! He then conflates his theological disagreements with Dispensationalism with the complex politics and history of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Long dead Christian preachers John Darby and Cyrus Ingerson Scofield are blamed for “the mess” and not a word is said about any wrongs done by the Arab world. So according to Campolo the Arabs are not to blame, the Jews are not to blame, it is really all Darby and Scofield’s fault! Campolo hold a proxy anti-Zionism, blaming his fellow Christians, who are Christian Zionists rather than taking aim at Jewish Zionists and whitewashing the Arab Palestinians of any blame.
Whence comes Campolo’s confidence…? Well he claims that God is on his side.