Christian Zionism is a movement within Christianity that insists on the Jewish right to seize the entirety of the land of Israel including the West Bank, Gaza, and for some, all of the land between the Nile River in Egypt and the Euphrates in Iraq.
The roots of Christian Zionism are tangled up in the thicket of a family squabble 2,000 years old. Christianity began as a renewal movement within Judaism itself. The earliest followers of Jesus were Jewish. They continued to worship as
Jews in the ancient Temple, continued to abide by all the dietary laws and customs, and continued to be fully Jewish in all their ways up through the destruction of the Temple by the Roman empire some 40 years after the death of Jesus.
The messiness started early on, when the messengers of Jesus opened up the club to those who weren't Jewish. It didn't take long before those who had once been outside began to boot out those who were inside. Through a combination of racism and arrogance Christianity basically said that everything Jewish now belonged to them, that they were the true Jews, the most favored of God.
We are all aware of what devolved after that. Horrible, unspeakable violence has been done to the Jewish people at the hands of the followers of Jesus. The twisted irony at the core of Christianity is that the followers of a nonviolent revolutionary (a Gandhi type) became violent crusaders robbing, raping and pillaging their way into the power of imperial conquest.
The Christian quest to conquer was rooted in a theology, found in the Book of Revelation, that assumed the nonviolent Jesus would one day return to life, but this time, as an avenging warrior who would rule the nations with an iron rod.
This contradiction at the heart of Christian faith has twisted its proclamation into incoherence. For every Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King, there are hundreds of others who, in the name of Christ, affirm that militarism can produce a redemptive good. Christian Zionism is rooted in this twisted double bind of a violent/nonviolent Jesus.
On the one hand, Christian Zionism is a movement of profound penance toward the Jewish people. It is a movement willing to sacrifice for, and serve the interests of the Jewish people as first priority. But, on the other hand, the end game of the Christian Zionist movement is that once the Jewish people have reclaimed the entirety of the land, Jesus will return and kill all the unclean, including the Jews.
This bloodlust, and desire for the end of the world, and for the end of America, is at the heart not only of our alliance with Israel, it is also at the heart of the craziness of the Republican Party, driven as it is by right-wing holy war Christianity.
I'll look at the Book of Revelation in the next column.