07-29-2021 CBN News Jonathan Feldstein
An article I wrote last week about misleading inaccuracies in the recent Israeli film, “Til Kingdom Come,” received wide interest from Jews and Christians alike. The film purports to present why Christians support Israel, largely resting on Christian end time theology and support for Donald Trump. It depicts this support, and the receptivity of Israelis of it, as nefarious and bad for Israel. In recent weeks, a number of friends have discussed the film with me. Not across the board but typically, Jews take the film’s misrepresentations as gospel and are uneasy with the phenomena. This is often from a perspective of not knowing, or general discomfort with evangelical Christians, theologically and/or politically. Christians are bothered by the film and its misrepresentations, and believe it’s damaging to the work (of Jews and Christians together) to build bridges among one another and in support of Israel.
My previous article raised issues of the inaccuracies and even deliberate misrepresentations in the film. It is off base and knowingly twists reality, and even actual quotes. The producers showed their bias and reduced the film to having no credibility. But people who don’t know the reality are still being misled.
As an Orthodox Jew building bridges between Jews and Christians through the Genesis 123 Foundation, I know the reality and I am disturbed that other Israeli Jews would produce something so inaccurate. Yet, while addressing the inaccuracies is important, as many Jewish friends have asked, ‘OK, so if it’s inaccurate, why do Christians love and support Israel? Please explain that.’Related
Rather than risking and misrepresenting many Christian friends’ thoughts, I engaged in a dialogue and asked them to explain, in their own words. In an honest dialogue, to understand, it’s imperative to have facts represented and not myths perpetuated. The abundance of people whose input I elicited, and the depth of their thoughts, are far too great to share here. But the Q&A below is actually what they said. Much is edited for brevity, and to avoid redundancy, but nothing is made up or out of context. Because in some cases, some friends requested to be anonymous due to their positions, rather than listing some names and not others, all comments are shared anonymously. The hope is that in reading this, Jewish friends will look at the issue and very significant phenomena of Christian support for Israel with a complete and accurate understanding.
Enjoy the conversation.
What are the main factors that motivate Christian support for Israel?
When asked this question, the floodgates opened, and a stream of dialogue ensued. Unsurprisingly, most of the comments are Biblically based. “(I have a) Biblical mandate to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
“A genuine pro-Israel heart supports the Jewish people because of the Bible. I do not primarily support Israel for any blessing I might get; I do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
“Even though God tells us to honor our parents ‘so our days may be lengthened’ we don’t do that to get anything from God anymore than blessing Israel which He also tells us to do.”
“A Bible-based understanding of God’s relationship with Israel as eternal (is central). As those who love the God of Israel, we want to love the things and people He loves. The heroes of the Christian Scriptures are all Jewish including Jesus and the apostles. How can we not love their natural family?”
“We see the reestablishment of the State of Israel and the return of the Jewish people from the diaspora as evidence in a promise-keeping God. It is a faith builder for us!” Or, as said slightly differently, “Jews being in the Land is, in fact, a fulfillment of numerous scripture and therefore is a clear and present expression of God’s favor and work. Where we see God working, we try to join Him there.”
“God has put a love for Israel and the Jewish people in our hearts. The Bible clearly teaches we are to bless the descendants of Abraham.”
“Romans 11 teaches that God is not finished with the Jewish people as some teach in supersessionism or replacement theology. On the contrary we are in grafted into Israel. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our Jewish brothers. My motivation comes from a supernatural love that God implanted in my heart.”
“The biggest mistake that Christians make is making future predictions based on (the Book of) Revelation. It is a very complex book. God does have a plan for Israel, Christians, Jews, and the whole world. Judgment will occur, but exactly what will happen is unclear. I do not want my support for Israel to be only based on end-time prophecy rather focus on the prophecy that can be lived out today.”
For some, historic antisemitism and current world affairs are also important such as, “repudiation of historical persecution, e.g. the holocaust,” and Israel is a strong “American ally and secure democracy in the Middle East.”
To what extent is end times theology a motivating factor in overall Christian support for Israel and why?
This is best summarized by Tevye, in Fiddler on the roof: ‘On one hand…’ “It is very important for some groups, like Dispensationalists. The fact is, more than 25 percent of Scripture is prophecy, and most of that centers on Jewish history. But a Christian Zionist can support Israel for any number of reasons, as well, including our Christian duty (in light of the Holocaust) to help protect our Jewish friends physically.”
And on the other hand…. “Most Christians do not see end times events as anything we have any control over. At all. Nada. Christians generally do not think of themselves as changing, or healing, the world, or bringing a returning Christ to Israel or anywhere else on Earth, any more than they think in terms of changing the orbit of the moon. Rather, they focus on spreading the gospel through word and deed and expect God to change, or heal, the world. So, it really is a background controversy I have never seen as a factor in motivating Christians to support Israel.”
“The Bible notes that no one knows the day or hour of Messiah’s returning, so it shouldn’t at all be a motivating factor.”
“(I was troubled that at the end of the film the) pastor gave a typical response to the question asked; however, he actually ended up pronouncing a curse on all Jews because of their resistance to the gospel of Jesus.”
“I’ve never met a Christian that supports Israel because of the end times. We do believe from our scripture about this topic, that it will happen, anyone who doesn’t acknowledge it as a real thing probably is not being truthful. For me and those I know, it’s a motivator for prayer but not for support or proselytizing. We have differences obviously about our beliefs, but it doesn’t change the covenant God has with Israel.”
“We must be very careful not to be dogmatic about our theories of end time events. Theories and interpretations of biblical prophecies abound. While I am aware of these passages, I think that the most important thing we can do is to live faithful lives in service to God and to trust that no matter how future events unfold that the God of Israel will continue to be with us.”
What are the things that other Christians should know about Israel that you know but (you think) they might not?
Christian friends address this from a range of perspectives including faith and geopolitical events and how in many cases understanding Jews and Judaism brings a better understanding of Israel. “Far from (being) a state dependent on the United States, Israel pulls its weight in myriad ways, including the sharing of intelligence information and technology advances.”
“We can pray for the peace of Jerusalem and not be silent for Zion’s sake without making it look like a blanket endorsement of all the things the Israeli government does.”
“The importance (that) Israel is to our faith today, not in the future, not just from the Biblical past. That we agree on many elements of faith — really our big disagreement is in the identity of the Messiah.”
“I would hope that they could see the positive things that Israel and the Jewish people do to improve our world.”
“Understanding Jews spiritually is an important pillar of understanding Israel too. I would love for Christians to see and understand the depth of love many Jews feel for God, and the Bible. Unfortunately, many view Judaism as a rule-based legalistic religion whose adherents don’t have a personal relationship with God.”
“I really do not think Christians get several things about Jews. 1) Many Orthodox Jews actually are walking by faith while they are focusing on their works. 2) “Being Jewish” for many Jews actually is an act of obedience to and faith in God, above and beyond doing all the “Jewish things.” 3) Jews enjoy being Jews and following Torah, 4) Orthodox Jewish values are essentially identical to biblically Christian ones 5) Jews commonly care in concrete ways more about Christian persecution than Christians do. 6) Jews are way more concerned about being Jewish now than what happens in the afterlife.”
What would you like Jewish people to know about why you support Israel that (you think) they don’t know?
This part of the dialogue got very personal. The conversation moved from one that’s more academic, albeit Biblical, to one that’s indeed emotional for many. “Branches of my family have been Zionist as far back (at least) the early 20th century and possibly prior to that. 2) Christian Zionists sometimes sound like idiots and do really dumb things, and that is irrelevant to our support. 3) My support for Israel and Jews is intrinsically bound to my faith in Christ. 4) Christians can’t convert anybody (legitimately) God does. I always make three commitments to Jews in this work: a) I would never want any Jew to be one less Jewish than they already are, b) I would never want any Jew to be less Torah observant than they already are and c) I would never want any Jew to compromise on the oneness of God at all, ever. To this I would add, in my understanding the reality of Jesus as Messiah compromises none of these, but accepting or even discussing this is never a condition of my friendship, only understanding the previous three principles. And I do not discuss this issue unless the values are clearly understood.”
“We are not trying to convert Jews to become Gentile Christians. The Jews have all they need for faith in God. They have the Law, the prophets, the covenants. In that context we are to love one another and not try to force anyone to conform to our faith practices.”
“Support for the Jewish people is motivated by love of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and love of Yeshua/Messiah. To have a heart for Israel and the Jewish people is part of being authentically Christian.”
“Our Savior is Jewish, they know that, but do they know that because of Him God has implanted in our hearts a love very deep without strings for His family? Israel feels like our homeland too, we know it’s yours, but we want to care for it and you as family. We love Israel because God does.”
“We are deeply sorrowful for the events of history which caused such pain to the Jewish people. Since we can’t change the past, we would love to change the future of our interaction one with another.”
“We want to bless, rather than curse. We believe that blessing you is something that pleases the Lord.”
What’s the hardest part of being a Christian supporting Israel? In what ways can you point to tangibly being blessed because of your support and blessing Israel?
Sometimes, doing the right thing is not easy, and there are direct consequences even as a Christian among other Christians. “(I have lost) friends in certain circles. But it is a privilege to support Israel.”
“It can be hard and intimidating sharing about it at work or in an environment that is anti-Jewish and anti-Christian. I take comfort in the verse of being strong and courageous and finding ways to share about Israel that builds bridges.”
“The hardest part is the spiritual warfare associated with it, and apathy from the Christian world in general.”
“Most Christians do not comprehend the importance of supporting Israel, first because the impetus is a bit abstract, but also because it is a classic case of a sea of the urgent drowning out that which is important.”
Despite the challenges, there are abundant blessings that are no less significant. “My life has been immeasurably enriched by learning from Jewish scholars about the Bible. Living in Israel, I see much to admire.”
“The biggest blessing has been knowing Jews well. I have often compared it to recovering a lost branch of the family; like a younger brother with no memory of but only stories about an older brother, previously estranged, then searching for, finding, and now getting to know that older brother.”
“I can understand the Bible, all of it, better, therefore, understand Jesus’ better. I actually feel closer to Jesus, Messiah. It does not detract from or add to my obedience or devotion to Him at all, but rather I understand Him better.”
“When the Lord spoke to my heart about 12 years ago to put Israel first about the nations, I had never been to Israel our church and never done anything in Israel, but those instructions tapped into a very deep, lifelong love that I had for the Jewish people since I was a child instilled by God when I was a child (learning) the stories of King David, Sampson, Moses and many others. Since that inward voice from the Lord came to me over 12 years ago, I have been to Israel 26 times and have developed many friends both Jewish and Christians and currently support Jewish organizations in Israel with a “non-conversion” approach with our relationship.”
“I am able to enjoy more holidays.”
What limits if any should there be on Christian support for Israel? Recently a prominent Christian leader suggested that Christians would turn away from Israel because of the new government. What did you think about that?
“To my mind, there is no reason to turn away from Israel.”
“Christian support for Israel and praying for the Land is not dependent on who is in government – it is based on a Biblical mandate. Christians have a responsibility to make sure what they are supporting – in time and resources – are for organizations and people who operate in and walk with integrity.”
“I think the exact opposite. Now is the worst time to think such thoughts, it is a time to stand united and change such thinking within the borders of Israel through actions, good deeds and prayer.”
“That reasoning is ludicrous because God did not make a Biblical covenant with Israel based on who is in power politically. His covenant is unconditional and so should our support be. Israel is not perfect and makes mistakes, but ultimately God made a covenant with Israel.”
“I wish that all Christians would support Israel in some way. I have lived in Israel through eight different prime ministers. I have experienced the disengagement from Gaza, Oslo, two intifadas, suicide bombings, scud missiles from Iraq and more. Christians did not agree with all the decisions made or all actions, but they never stopped supporting Israel. Governments come and go, but as true believers in God, our support is based on our love for Him.”
How does your support for Israel as a Christian govern your political activity/advocacy/voting?
While expressed differently, the response was pretty uniform that, indeed, support for Israel does influence one’s political thinking and voting habits. “A candidate’s Israel support is my litmus test.”
“It’s very important, but not the only factor.”
“I vote for those who support Israel and will not vote for those who do not support Israel.”
“Yes absolutely, if we desire our nation to be blessed, we must stand for Israel. There may be a time when we don’t agree with what Israel does but we must always pray for the Land and His chosen people. I vote for Israel because it is the right thing to do. Israel is our partner in seeing good spread throughout the world and we stand against common enemies because of our shared values.”
“I vote from my conscience. I try to vote for the one that best reflects my value systems. Support for Israel is always an important issue.”
What are your views vis a vis Israel making peace with our neighbors, and specifically the Palestinian Arabs?
In the film, a Bethlehem pastor accuses evangelicals of looking at the West Bank/Judea and Samaria as “empty,” not considering the reality and rights much less well-being of Palestinian Arabs. That’s far from the truth.
“Palestinian autonomy would work with completely new leadership for the Palestinians. I do not support a two-state solution due to security concerns for Israel. Many of my Christian friends are surprised to hear some Palestinians say they prefer to live under Israel law.”
“I pray daily for the Palestinian people; I pray they would be given freedom from a terrorist government. I pray they would be healed from evil indoctrination.”
“It would be amazing if the Palestinians could love their children more than they hate their Jewish cousins, but more than 75 years of the modern Jewish state desiring peace with its neighbors has brought nothing less than more war and suffering on both sides.”
Some see and articulate the nuance is multifaceted. “It is not my responsibility – it is an Israeli decision – hence, any opinion of mine is purely academic. However, in my idealistic world I would recommend a confederacy of three states accompanied by the right of return for Palestinians only up until the second generation that originally left (full citizenship to all the rest in the nations that they reside in), and that only with an oath of loyalty and a concomitant right on the part of Israel to permanently exile those who will not make or who violate that oath and add to this the disbanding of the refugee camps.”
Christians also care about the global peacemaking that started a year ago. “I’m very excited about the continuing fruit of the Abrahamic (sic) Accords.”
If you’ve seen “Til Kingdom Come,” what are your thoughts on how it depicts Christian support for Israel?
“(The film shows) entirely unnatural and fabricated depictions that irked me and did not represent the Christian Zionist/Evangelical world as a whole. Why did they choose a poor Appalachian community to tell the story of Christian evangelicals and their love for Israel?”
“It is guilty of only focusing on the right-wing narrative neglecting the other side. It would have been a better film if she showed that not every evangelical thinks this way.”
“It was painful to watch. Would like to hear more representative sample from other Christians (different ethnicities, geographic areas, etc.) and other Christian and Jewish orgs in the pro-Israel space.”
“The way the film was made was really poor documentary integrity because why show Christian children who are taught to bring a blessing to Israel as being drained like skinning a tomato—bringing their pennies? It gave the appearance that they were a cult. Why was there so much emphasis on money and politics?”
“In the film, they portray an extreme narrative of Political Christianity and show (perceived) negative effects evangelical Christian beliefs can have on politics.”
“I don’t like the film at all. There were possibly some good statements but overall, it portrayed Christians who support Israel as unintelligent and insincere. There are those factions within Christianity, but the scope was so limited. I also didn’t think it portrayed the IFCJ well either. It gave the impression all Israeli nonprofits only want Christian money and not relationships with them.”
“I’m sad because I am a Christian who supports Israel and the Christians in this film don’t represent me. It feels like a very biased and narrow look at Christians. Christianity is extremely varied and nuanced yet this film stereotypically and prejudicially paints all Christians with one brush.”
“(I have great) heartache from another flawed documentary; however, I could never encourage others to view, and I certainly would not want my face on a film such as this one. It was just poorly produced.”
“It certainly does not represent (my) world. It certainly was not a faith-based advocacy story about evangelicals, nor did it help in combatting Christian nationalism within congregations…it seemed somehow to promote it.”
“The church of today is such a far cry from what we grew up in or as young adults zealously in love with God, the Bible and Jesus. It gives Jewish people the wrong idea of a genuine Christian with a heart for Israel and for being a blessing. At the same time, it also gave an impression that all Jews want our money and they come to us to collect it–but they do not want us as friends.”
(The false impressions create a) double edge sword (that risks) pushing Jews and Christians further away from one another.
The topic and reality of Christian support for Israel is important indeed. But rather than look it as a sideshow in a circus, alternately staring and staring away, for a real understanding one needs to be part of the dialogue. Generously, “Til Kingdom Come” can be used as part of that, even if its misleading and of limited integrity. One can agree or disagree, but it’s crucial to understand the facts as facts.
This is a small sample of the heartfelt responses I got. To be honest, there are people who have other motives. I know that. I have experienced that. But these are not the majority. Sometimes, Jewish friends ask, “How do you know they’re being honest to you Jonathan?” The implication being that, as a Jew, they’re going to mask their true belief and motivation. I understand why people raise the question, but they shouldn’t be so quick to sentence and convict if they don’t know only after the prosecution makes its case. Minimally, intellectual integrity requires that.
The fact is I have many deep and warm relations with many Christians. These cannot be and are not artificial. Occasionally, I have been told outright that I need to accept Jesus in order to be saved. Some say they’re praying for me. I disagree and tell them why: because I am a member of God’s original covenant that He never broke, and if He were to do so with the Jews, He could do so with Christians. The one thing I know is that in most cases, though it’s hard for Jews to understand, I know it comes from actual love. I disagree, but I get it.
How do I know they’re being honest with me? Sometimes, I am the only Jew in the room. Surely, not everyone has memorized their lines to pull the wool over my eyes. Many don’t even know I am there. Indeed, it’s BECAUSE I am a Jew that I am privy to conversations that some would not share with others. One recent heartfelt and very private conversation with a friend was so revealing, I am counted as one of a literal handful of people to whom this was revealed. “I no longer consider myself an evangelical,” my friend declared woefully, quietly. “I’m an ex-evangelical.” In a statement that most Jewish friends would never imagine, or believe, if they believed “Til Kingdom Come” had any authority as representing support of Donald Trump as a pillar of Christian support for Israel, my friend continued. “I’m no less a Christian and am no less supportive of Israel based on sound Biblical principles, but I cannot be part of a church that has made things so political.” My friend noted that’s not the reality for all evangelicals, by far. But it is too much the reality for now, and that was enough. My friend noted that returning to be considered an evangelical is not out of the question, but a label is not needed as much as being rooted in solid Biblical values. In context of revealing conversations like this, it’s specifically because I am a Jew, because I have no conflict of differences among Christian doctrine and don’t judge, that friends can, and have been, open in ways that they wouldn’t be with their own relatives. I count that as a blessing.
Neither this perspective, nor the depth and breadth of why Christians support Israel, was depicted in “Til Kingdom Come” and so the movie, at best, swings and misses.
Because it’s important to explain why Christians actually do love and support Israel, as well as to address the false impressions and inaccuracies in the film, the Genesis 123 Foundation hosted a webinar on July 29 at 10:00pm Israel time, 3:00pm eastern (US), to explore issues with the film, including what was said, and what was not said but critical to understand. Advance registration is required. Pastor Boyd Bingham of the Binghamtown Baptist Church who was featured in the film will share candid insight about the film, along with Dr. Tricia Miller, Christian Media Analyst of CAMERA, an authority on false and misleading depictions of Israel in the media with expertise in the Christian world.
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