At a time when there are so many heresies to choose from in Western Anglicanism, it’s tempting to think that selecting Christian Zionism – which, whether you agree with it or not, can hardly be counted heretical since it does not deny any foundational doctrine – is little more than yet another attempt to bash the only Middle Eastern country that bears any resemblance to a sane democracy – Israel.
Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek counsels the Anglican Church of Canada to “work to curb its political influence”. This would be a first for the ACoC since almost all it does normally is seek to exert, not curb, political influence; thankfully, it exhibits just as much impotence in this as in everything else.
The Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, the Palestinian Anglican who heads the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem, told a conference in Vancouver April 23 that Anglicans were instrumental in developing the doctrine of Christian Zionism over hundreds of years, and should now work to curb its political influence.
British Anglicans as early as the 16th century promoted the belief that the Jewish people must be restored to the Promised Land of Palestine to fulfill a biblical prophecy before the Second Coming of Christ, said Ateek.
His speech began a three-day conference organized by the Canadian Friends of Sabeel at St. Mary’s Kerrisdale in Vancouver. The conference, Seeking the Peace of Jerusalem, was co-sponsored by the Anglican Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the United Church of Canada and Friends of Sabeel North America.
Theologically, Ateek said he objects to Christian Zionism—which he labelled “a Christian heresy”—on several grounds. It violates Christ’s message of love, justice and peace, he said. Its prophecy of the world ending in violence contradicts the view of a loving and merciful God. And it accepts, unquestionably, a tribalism evident in some parts of the Old Testament that is based on racial exclusivity.
To counter any possible objections that might be based on the Bible, Ateek advises selective use of the troublesome book; leave out the bits you don’t like:
He said that Anglicans should use the biblical text “as Jesus used it,” to convey messages of justice and love. He said that Jesus never quoted from books in the Hebrew scriptures of Numbers, Joshua or Judges or any passages that were “punitive, imperialistic or exclusionary.” Texts that appear to promote tribalism should be used carefully, if at all, said Ateek. He encouraged visits to Palestine and Israel so that people can “discover for themselves the reality on the ground.”
Ateek was introduced by Michael Ingham, well known for promoting unity, love and harmony in his former Diocese of New Westminster.