I first went to Jerusalem in 1979 to research a book dealing with Christians, Muslims, and Jews. While there I met many third generation Americans, such as Bobby and Linda Brown of Brooklyn, who together with 25 other couples — half of them from the United States — moved onto land of the Palestinians and took the land at gunpoint. They staked off 750 acres and put a strong iron fence around it. Israeli soldiers guard this settlement night and day. That is illegal under every international law.
One evening, we sat under the stars looking at the flickering lights of Palestinian villages. Bobby Brown, with a wave of his arm, said: “All the Palestinians have to leave this land. God gave this land to us, the Jews.”
This incident made a deep impression on me. I knew Bobby Brown could not use an Uzi and confiscate land at gunpoint in Brooklyn. What made it all right for him to use a gun and take land from Palestinians?
And moreover, why did we, as American taxpayers, give Israel the money to pay for the weapons to confiscate Palestinian land?
Had God deeded the land to Bobby Brown?
Had the Palestinians been living there for 2,000 years, just holding it until Bobby Brown could claim it?
I had to ask myself: Did I believe God had a Chosen Land and a Chosen People?
I returned home, and the questions remained. To research these questions, and how others felt about them, I signed to go on a conducted tour of the Holy Land with Jerry Falwell.
On arrival in Jerusalem, our group went to the old City and we approached the large Muslim grounds where the Dome of the Rock and Al- Aqsa Mosque are located. “There” said our Israeli tour guide, pointing to the mosque, “we will build our third temple.”
As we left the site, I remarked to Clyde, a retired Minneapolis business executive, that the guide said a temple would be built there. But, I asked, what about the mosque? It is one of the three most sacred shrines in all Islam, and holy to a billion Muslims around the world.
“Oh” said Clyde, “the mosque will be destroyed. One way or another, it has to be removed. You know, it’s in the Bible that the temple must be built. And there’s no place for it.”
Clyde was convinced that Jews, aided by Christians, should destroy the mosque, build a temple, and reinstate the killing of animals in the temple — all in order to please God.
Many Christians throughout this land feel the same as Clyde. They have organized a Temple Mount Foundation to raise money to help Jewish terrorists destroy the Muslim mosque. I talked with several, including Terry Reisenhoover of Oklahoma, and the Reverend James deLoach of Houston’s Second Baptist Church.
The Rev. DeLoach visited in my apartment in Washington, and was proud to tell me he had raised and spent tens of thousands of dollars to defend Jewish terrorists charged with assaults on the mosque. He was also pleased to relate that he had entertained, in his Houston home, Jewish terrorists charged with assaults on the mosque. He was also pleased to relate that he had entertained, in his Houston home, Jewish yeshiva students who were studying how to slaughter animals, to be used as sacrifice inside the temple they hope to build.
The Christians who want the mosque destroyed — and a Jewish temple built — follow a belief system called dispensationalism. In all the world, in all of history, they place Israel on center stage.
They contend that we must all go through seven time periods. The countdown on history began, they tell us, in 1948, with the gathering of Jews into Palestine and the creation of the modern state of Israel. The dispensationalists believe in a God not of love, but of war: they believe in what is termed Armageddon theology.
Our group also traveled to Meggido, located about an hour’s drive north of Tel Aviv.
As we left the bus, I walked alongside Clyde, the retired business executive. As we looked out over the valley, Clyde exclaimed: “At last! I am viewing the site of Armageddon.”
We continued to gaze at fields — that in size would be lost in any Texas ranch — and Clyde talked of a 200-million-man army that would invade Israel: “Right here!” he said. And a great decisive battle would ensue that would involve all the armies of the Earth. This battle, involving nuclear weapons, would kill most of the inhabitants of this Earth.
A couple years passed, and I received a colored brochure of a Falwell- sponsored trip. Like the first brochure, it was printed in Israel. In this brochure, Falwell did not once mention that we would be traveling to the Land of Christ. Nor, for that matter, did he once mention the name of Christ.
Once we arrived, we had no Christian guide — to any site where Christ was born, died or had his ministry. There was not a single planned visit to a Christian church — or a plan to meet any of the Christians living there, whose forebears have lived in Palestine since the days of Christ.
We had only Israeli guides, and the focus clearly was on military aspects. The Israeli guides gave us endless explanations of why the Israelis should keep all the land of historic Palestine, leaving nothing for the Palestinians.
Once we were on a bus tour, and I thought surely we would stop in Nazareth. “No” said an Israeli guide. The bus would not stop in Nazareth. No one contested the guide’s decision.
On the outskirts of Nazareth, However, our Israeli guide changed his mind. “We will stop in Nazareth for 20 minutes” he announced, “to use the toilet facilities.” And thus we stopped. We left Nazareth without having seen it.
We proceeded to Jerusalem, where Falwell chose to honor Ariel Sharon, the burly general who masterminded the invasion of Lebanon which injured and killed 200,000 Palestinians and Lebanese, most of them civilians.
In introducing Sharon, Falwell said that, in the annals of history, only a few great men came along. He named George Washington, Abraham Lincoln — and Ariel Sharon!
On another night, Falwell gave a big banquet to honor the defense minister, Moshe Arens. Before introducing the defense minister, Falwell, in an aside to Arens, said: “Mr. Minister, I want to thank you for that jet airplane you gave me.”
Falwell, and other dispensationalists, have a working alliance with militant Jewish Zionists. My latest book, Prophecy and Politics, deals with this marriage of convenience between militant Christians and militant Jewish Zionists. Each group uses the other, gains from the other.
Christian Zionists, or dispensationalists, give Israel total support because they think there has to be an Israel there, a place — not for Jews, but for the battle of Armageddon, which they actually believe must occur. It’s part of the required steps, they believe, that will lead to their Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ.
Because of their scenario, they make a cult of the land of Israel.
The seedbed for this dispensationalism is in Dallas, at the Dallas Theological Seminary. I met with John Walvoord, the president, an elderly gentleman who said God had given all of Palestine to the Jews.
In talking with Walvoord, I kept referring to the suffering of the Palestinians. “What about them?” I asked. “I am referring to land,” he said at one point. And he added: “You keep talking about spirit aspects.”
It actually happens: Those who make a cult of the land of Israel put this cult of land above the teachings of Christ.
Jewish Zionists such as Begin and Shamir and Sharon support the Christian dispensationalists because the dispensationalists give them total support. In dealing with the criticism of this alliance between militant Christians and militant Jews, I think it is important to know the difference between religion and politics.
True faith, whether one is Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, is religion. Zionism, whether one is Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, is politics. And it is politics because it deals with land, not spiritual values.
In closing, I want to mention a trip I made to Basel, Switzerland. I attended the first Christian Zionist Congress. I was one of 589 persons from 27 countries attending this Congress.
It was held in the same hall where Theodor Herzl had called the first Jewish Zionist Congress, about 100 years ago. Herzl had stressed that Jews were different and should live exclusively among Jews. Christian Zionists say the same. This conference was supported by the Israelis.
I listened to speakers who were Jewish Zionists as well as Christian Zionists. Rather than provide hope by suggesting steps whereby Jews and Arabs might reach reconciliation, and live together, in peace, each speaker seemed to reinforce the fears of the other. Rather than stress how much Arabs and Jews — and indeed all human beings — have in common, speakers told us: Jews are different. They must live exclusively among Jews.
Christian Zionists believe that God has ordained that the Jews control the land of Palestine, and that they control Jerusalem, and build a temple, and that they reinstate animal sacrifice.
The Christian Zionists approve every military action taken by the Jewish Zionists. If Israel bombs Iraq, as it has done, or invades Lebanon, as it has done, or shoots and kills Palestinian children, as it has done, then Christian Zionists will say: “Well, that is a Chosen Land and a Chosen People. All of that is orchestrated by God.”
Although our aid to Israel is more than we give to many countries, including all India, Africa, and South America, Christian Zionists will support these billions of your taxpayer dollars going to Israel, because of their interpretation that God wants that land as the landing base for the Second Coming of Christ. It is the LAND for which they care. They want it there, in place, so that the rest of their scenario, including their Rapture, can come to pass.
Somehow, in all the sermons of Jerry Falwell and other Christian Zionists, I miss their telling us about the Sermon on the Mount. And I miss these militant Christians reminding us that Christ possessed a way that was NOT based on military strength.
His way was not to steal property and kill people for the sake of a temporary political kingdom on Earth. Rather, as we know, Christ came to advance and enhance life. He came not to speak and support a cult of land. But he came to speak for the suffering, the destitute, the oppressed.
Indeed, He has a Chosen People. We are all chosen to do good, not evil. Chosen to seek and to work for peace, in the Middle East and in the world.