Some of the nuttiest American religious leaders today (and in the past) have latched on to one form or another of Christian Zionism.
Frank Schaeffer

The Anabaptists (and those who affiliate with them, ecclesially or theologically) have been profoundly shaped by the work of the Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder, in particular his epic book The Politics of Jesus. A central tenet of Anabaptist theology is the Constantinian heresy, also called Christendom. According to the Anabaptists, Christianity became corrupted when the Roman emperor Constantine declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Empire. Up to that point, Christians, as a marginal and powerless group, were able to faithfully live out the Sermon on the Mount, a life and witness very much in contrast with the violence of Empire. But in the wake of Constantine and the establishment of a “Christian Empire”–called Christendom–Christians, now holding power, had to make critical concessions. No longer could the Sermon on the Mount be followed literally. Thus, Constantinian theologians stepped in to reconcile the teachings of the radical, peasant rabbi with the gilded halls of power and affluence. The two, you might expect, didn’t fit well together. So Christianity became diluted and corrupted. More, Christianity became an instrument of the state. Being a good Christian meant being a good citizen and a flag waving patriot. Jesus and the Empire were now one and the same.
Experimental Theology

“For too long we have read scripture with nineteenth-century eyes and sixteenth-century questions. It’s time to get back to reading with first-century eyes and twenty-first century questions.” – N.T. Wright VIA

I’m not sure what it is, whether it’s the exotic unfamiliarity of Buddhism in contrast to the assumed familiarity of Christianity, or the fact that Buddhists are less numerous and politically significant in the West, or something else entirely. But when the Dalai Lama speaks of ahimsa, people lap it up. But when a Christian speaks of nonviolence, people call it irresponsible.
Matt Stone

It is a tragedy that, among those who uphold the banner of redemptive violence (especially at a global level), the voices of Christians are often the loudest.  What Sharon Baker sets out to do in Razing Hell is remind those who follow Jesus that the way to peace is through restoration and reconciliation, not retribution.
Razing Hell

Thanks to all who keep the Middle East in your thoughts and prayers. Let’s keep praying for an outcome that is pro-peace, pro-justice, pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian…
AMEN

The ancient Jews believed that justice itself was judgment, that rather than pointing the finger or commercializing someone else’s sins all over the tabloids, we should promote justice. Let me explain. If we don’t like war then our role isn’t to be anti-war, rather it’s to be pro-peace. If we want to change the minds of others then we intentionally live out the very things we believe in rather than judging the things we don’t.
George Elerick

God Is Not Emergent” – Tony Jones

I hope that in the next year, emergents and missionals, organics and liturgicals, conservatives and progressives, can stop writing each other off. If I have to stop calling it the ‘emerging’ conversation in order to help missional and neo-pietist folk feel more welcome at the table, I will. Because I think that’s what Jesus – the whole, living Christ – wants.
zoecarnate

On Israel and the raid on the Flotilla:

But my ire today isn’t limited to this current humanitarian/political nightmare. What is really disappointing to me is the automatic support that many Christians give towards ANY actions that Israel takes. Do they equate Israel’s actions to God’s sanctioned will? If so, I’m thinking that is based on some really shoddy Bible study.
Captain’s Blog

A thought on heretics:

As I’ve said before, that stands to reason. As humanity evolves, our understanding of God does as well. Please hear me on that: God does not change, but our view of God does. Or it should. And again, that makes sense if we truly see transformation as a desirable bi-product of faith. Transformation is impossible without heretics; transformation is led by heretics.

It seems to me we’re in good company, as Jesus himself was the great heretic. He was the visible image of the invisible God who declared that existing religious dogma was no longer in force. And as a man, his contrary opinions eventually got him killed.
Waving or Drowning?

Finally, regarding the oil spill:

For too long, we evangelical Christians have maintained an uneasy ecological conscience. I include myself in this indictment.

We’ve had an inadequate view of human sin.
Russell Moore

People haven’t given up on God, just the version with which they’ve been presented. A God who can’t stand gays, thinks less of women, and is always looking to unleash some form of divine retribution just doesn’t jive. Brother Maynard

This is a book I heard about some time ago but haven’t gotten around to reading. I think this will be my next purchase.

The authors [ of The Starfish and the Spider] claim that in the emerging world of the Internet-driven thinking decentralization – that is, the diminishing of hierarchical structure and formal leadership – has become a major asset. The authors call this a “starfish” organization, taking their cues from the decentralized biology of this curious echinoderm, and contrast it with “spider” organization which may look superficially like starfish, but are still essentially command-and-control driven.
Perhaps most challenging and frightening to Church institutions (and professional clergy like me!) is that in a world moving toward decentralization, the very institutional nature of the church is threatened, along with the institutionally protected artifacts…like professionalism itself.

And a link to a movie trailer on Christian Zionism.

This past Sunday, at my local believer’s meeting, it was The Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem.

First off, let me day that I have no problem with having a day set apart to pray for Israel and for the peace of Jerusalem. That said, the meeting I was involved in quickly devolved into Christian Zionism.

As was explained during the message, Christian Zionism began with the Puritans and their views on prophecies and their fulfillment. These Zionist views continued gaining strength with the dispensationalist doctrines that are rooted in the writings and ideologies developed by  John Nelson Darby and the Brethren Movement. The fact remains that the original followers of Jesus were boldly anti-Zionists. During a time when the Pharisees and Zealots were drumming up support for the Zionist act of having the nation of Israel overthrow Rome, and later to retake Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple, the Christian sect of Jews would have nothing to do with it. The Christians were dead set against this and were persecute as a result. For them, Jesus had prophesied the temple’s destruction. For them, Jesus subverted the idea of nation, land and temple (among other things). For them, the nation was the people of promise, both Jews and Gentiles. For them, the land was all the earth. And for them, the temple was their very life. They had become the temple of the living God. For them, the God of Abraham had fulfilled ALL his promises and covenants throughout ALL the ages in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. For them, the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus and not a nation, a land nor a temple, was the beginning and end.

It was claimed that there was a unified Christianity, that was essentially Jewish and followed the Jewish feasts, that existed for the first 100-300 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Shortly after the destruction of the Temple, the Christians along with the rest of the Jewish people were dispersed. During this dispersion, many varied streams of Christianity sprung up. Because of Paul’s work, many of these streams were non-Jewish. Paul worked hard to bring the idea that now, in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, rather together they were the people of God. God’s chosen people.

The sad truth is that with this influx of gentile believers, early in the first century an anti-Jewish seed was planted. Many of the fragments of what would become the new testament contain modifications by scribes that contained this antisemitism. There were many gospels, letters, acts of believers and revelations written and considered scripture by many different streams in this early period of Christianity, and many of these writings were boldly antisemitic.

Next, the speaker built up a straw man of the ‘replacement theology’ position, which is a version of Supersessionism. It was argued that replacement theologians just replace the word Israel with the word church as they read the bible. This is a blatant over simplification and a caricature of the doctrines. Instead of this replacement theology straw man, consider a theology that is based in the bible. God’s chosen people was never a nationalistic race (Deut 23; Exec 47; Ps 87:4; …), but a people of faith (Philippians 3:3; Romans 2:28). Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, the nation of Israel was admonish to include all strangers and aliens. It is not that the Jewish people are no longer the chosen people but that through Christ, the doors are thrown wide open to all those who are in Christ – Jew and Gentile; all are God’s chosen people.  As Paul himself said:

“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.  But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter;”
Romans 2:28-29

“I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. But it is not as though the word of God has failed For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: ‘THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.’ That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.
Romans 9:1-8

The speaker then claimed 1500 years of antisemitism and hatred towards the Jewish people as an example of the results occurring from replacement theology (all non-Zionist views). This is not only untrue and unfair, it is underhanded. Using [il]logical fallacies, whole groups of people are labeled, demonized and then dismissed. The results[antisemitism] do not follow the accusation [being non-Zionist].

Finally, to ice the cake, examples were given on how not actively blessing Israel will bring God’s curse on our lives; on a national level, the local gathering level and on the individual level. For example:

  • Great Britain is no longer great due to their mishandling of the lands to be returned to Israel after the war.
  • The Germans are now a mess.
  • the USSR has collapsed.
  • and Hurricane Katrina!

As it turns out, according to the senior pastor, this was a public position that is an attempt at getting back to the fundamentals for our congregation.

That being said, one member of the pastoral team came up to me as the meeting was just getting starting and  mentioned that during the last eldership meeting, when Israel was brought up, it was suggested that there should be a study of all the possible positions to be followed by discussion. I think that we were both shocked when we found out that our rulers had already made up their mind and anyone holding to a different view was painted with a bold brush stroke as antisemitic.

For a couple of different views, listen to a sermon and follow up from the meeting house , and a dialogue between a Christian Zionist and someone who is anti-Zionism on Unbelievable.

In closing, let me say that I have no problem with differing beliefs. As a matter of fact, it is my opinion that local congregations should encourage the exploration of differing beliefs. If this is not so, are we not just gathering those who will itch our ears?(2 Timothy 2:3). So, I am not upset with the message per-say, I am upset with the demonizing of people with differing theologies. And I am disappointed that those who claim positions of leadership have discarded dialogue in order to force feeding the flock with their own orthodoxy.