Even a Jewish Rabbi Thinks That Christian Zionism is Bad For Israel (Glen Beck’s Rally – Restoring Courage)

This summer I had the opportunity to meet Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater at the Passadena Jewish Temple and Center.  As I listened to him talk about the differences between biblical and rabbinic Judaism I thought: This guy is like the “Rob Bell” of Jewish Rabbi’s.  Not only is he ridiculously smart, fairly young and hip; but he has the heart of an activist.  He serves as the chair of the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative.

While he was fielding my groups’ questions, the conversation about supporting National Israel came up.  He went on to talk about his feelings toward fundamentalist Christian Zionism and its marriage to the far Right.  His belief is that such an ally actually functions as a nemesis for the cause of peace for his people.  He went on to explain why this is and to mention an article that he had just finished writing.

You may or may not have heard that Glen Beck has partnered with Christian Zionist Pastor John Hagee, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, and others to promote the unwavering support that Americans ought to have for the nation of Israel.  Linking religion to politics in this way leads many Christians to believe that we always must support Israel.  Before we get to Rabbi Grater’s ideas and some of my thoughts, lets watch a short promo video from Beck’s website.

You would think that a Jewish Rabbi would love any support that his people can get.  In Rabbi Grater’s recent article for the Jewish Journal,  he begins by saying:

Glenn Beck is a fundamentalist-extremist. His upcoming rally, on Aug. 24, “Restoring Courage” in Jerusalem is nothing more than a media-driven, money-making, self-serving, end-of-times messianic-lunacy circus show, and that is the very last thing Jerusalem and Israel need at this moment.  I wish that I could dismiss Beck’s rally as not worthy of comment, but with so many Americans — including, to my sheer amazement, some Jews — following Beck’s entertainment programs, coupled with his multimillion-dollar wealth, unfortunately Beck has to be taken seriously.  Not as a thinker, but as a political phenomenon whose words influence others and thus have real consequences.

Here we have an “insider” saying that the kind of support that Beck and the Religious Right bring to the table are detrimental.  Not only so, many might contend that writing about this issue gives Beck and others too much press; but as Rabbi Grater says “I wish that I could dismiss Beck’s rally as not worthy of comment… [but because of his mass influence] unfortunately Beck has to be taken seriously.”  I agree, which is why I’m willing to bring Beck up from time to time.

Rabbi Grater goes on to say:

Beck will “stand with Israel” by preaching that the two-state solution will be the death of Israel… Jerusalem is a tinderbox, and pulling stunts like this can only lead to an explosion.

Rabbi Grater then points to what many believe the best possible path to peace in the Middle East, a two-state solution:

The two-state solution, and President Barack Obama’s attempts to revitalize negotiations based on the same set of principles all presidents, prime ministers and negotiators in the Middle East have used for decades, is the only hope for Israel’s survival as a Jewish and democratic state. But Beck doesn’t care about that because the messianic vision of the “end times” actually involves the destruction of Jerusalem, which paves the way for the Second Coming. This is why Beck and the whole Christians United for Israel movement is actually a false front of “support for Israel,” which, sadly, many Jews have bought into as true support.  In the interfaith work that I do, though, Muslim, Jewish and, especially, Christian colleagues of mine all agree: Glenn Beck is bringing nothing positive with regard to the healing of our fractured world.

While I am no expert on the Middle East, based on what I do know, I agree with Rabbi Grater.  I agree that Israel ought to be quite suspicious of any partnership that does not pave the way toward peace and equality between Jews and Palestinians.  We Christians have for too long allowed fanciful views of Zionist-bent Dispensational theology (the belief that God has two distinct peoples: the Jews and the Church, and that a future rapture will inaugurate the so-called end times) dictate harmful political stances in the Middle East.  Not only so, but Zionist political views (that many assume are God’s views) have led to the suffering and murder of many Palestinian Christians.  There’s no biblical justification for this.  We need to imagine a better way forward rather than being known as the people who blindly support Israel over-against the Palestinians.

Just in case you think I am basing this on poltical opinions, those who believe that the promises to Abraham still stand for a Nation called Israel, consider these two articles:
Does God Have Two People’s In His Story?
God’s Chosen People and God’s Chosen Politics

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  • AmyS

    Good work, Kurt. Be of good courage.

  • Poely

    I like Glenn:)

  • Ian

    That’s funny. It’s probably just because you’ve mentioned him but there’s a goldline ad that says “Trusted and used by Glenn Beck”, a ad giving you 21 ways to frustrate Obama, and a “Show your support for Israel” ad. Funny how stuff like that works.

    Anyway I’m totally with you. I’m of the opinion that the modern nation of Israel is probably not the one that many dispensationalists point to as evidence that the Second Coming is soon. Or perhaps it is and they take all the land that God has promised to them by force and forget that they were called to bless other nations and not destroy them. I would liken it to Abraham taking Hagar as his wife because he wanted the promise now because they don’t trust God to deliver on His promise. But anyway I highly doubt any of that.

    And Glenn’s going the Oprah route and having a whole network named after himself? Ironic and hilarious. 

  • Peter Thomas

    If I am reading this correctly you are using the message of a Messiah-rejecting Jew and Mormon as basis to discredit what you call “fanciful” dispensational theology. Why don’t you pick a Dallas Seminary prof and go after them? The overly simplified picture you paint in this blog is very careless in my opinion and quite frankly its offensive to me as a dispensationalist.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @google-43b9cdbd0867f2fcf89ef79f563f23b7:disqus … come on Peter… i mentioned the partnership between Beck and John Hagee… the dispensationalist of all… Certainly, there are some dispensationalists with a better approach to these issues.  I have a feeling that some so called “progressive dispensationalists (like Darrell Bock) might be a bit more reasonable.  here… I could of clarified by saying fanciful dispensational zionism I suppose.  Nevertheless… time and time again, it has been demonstrated that dispensational theology and its poor appropriation lead to hyper conservative pro Israel policy that has led to the suffering of many Palestinian Christians.  This might be the single most pressing issue associated with believing that God has “two peoples.”  In this case, does God favor the Jews or Palestinian Christians more?

      On another note… I long for the day when I see a comment from my childhood chap that is affirming the content of my article.  I think that you might only read ones that you disagree with.  I find it hard to believe that you would disagree with what I wrote on Monday :-)

      • Peter Thomas

        Kurt, There is not time or space to debate the Jewish-Palestinian issues in this blog. That is a complex issue…much more complex than you describe. Certainly God does not favor any Christians more than others. From a political standpoint, the Jews have no allies in the middle east and would be wiped out if we did not support them. From a spiritual standpoint, both the Jews and the Palestinians are mostly non-Christian and need Christians to go them to preach the good news.

        I believe the Abrahamic covenant still stands today for the descendants of Abraham (Jews)…literally. I see the land promises and earthly blessings for the Jews (to be used to bless the earth) to still be in affect. I don’t believe that because of talk show hosts or the Left Behind series, but rather because my Bible study methods lead me to this conclusion. Call that “fanciful” if you want. I would be happy to debate dispensational theology with you sometime.  My reaction to this post is not because of your position regarding middle east situation but because I feel like you characterize dispensationalists wrong over and over again on this blog (what dispensational theologians do you read anyways? Ryrie? Scofield? Darby? MacArthur? Pentecost? Hendricks? Ironside? Soucy?)

        Keep longing for that day…I might surprise you soon! (I’m longing for the day when you point out a problem with liberal theology). 

        Grace and peace brother!

  • James Preston

    Good article Kurt.  Some more food for thought:  If Jerusalem is so important to God AFTER The Cross, why would God allow it to be entirely decimated by the Romans, the worst of Gentiles?  Even allowing them to burn pigs on the altar in the holy of holies?

    You may really enjoy this guy’s theology:  http://newparadigmthinkers.wordpress.com/ 

    Or not.  But great article none the less.

  • James Preston

    Good article Kurt.  Some more food for thought:  If Jerusalem is so important to God AFTER The Cross, why would God allow it to be entirely decimated by the Romans, the worst of Gentiles?  Even allowing them to burn pigs on the altar in the holy of holies?

    You may really enjoy this guy’s theology:  http://newparadigmthinkers.wordpress.com/ 

    Or not.  But great article none the less.

  • Chadmiller

    Kurt,  I have just read an Amazing Book called “How to win a cosmic War”   Rezlan,   He articulates powerfuly how the narrative of the christian right (and the Bush White house) has feed into the narrative of the Jihadist.   He also has lectures on the same  stuff.. here is a link, http://www.rezaaslan.com/cosmicwar.html   

    ps.  as a fellow mennonite I am very encouraged by your blog

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-McLaughlin/100000039777325 Matt McLaughlin

    Right-on Rabbi Grater.

  • Evelyn Sweerts

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