You’re going to want to sit down for this.
The gentleman in the photo is Theodosios, Archbishop of Sebastia from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. “Atallah Hanna” for short. He may look elderly and priestly; you may imagine him to speak Latin and quote Bible verses. But you would be wrong.
Atallah Hanna is feisty. He participates in protests, speaks out against injustice and government oppression, marches in solidarity with people of other faiths, and has been arrested and harassed many times for his activism.
Father Hanna made a statement recently that some Western Christians might find shocking, even infuriating. But it’s a message we need to hear – humbly. And here’s why.
As a group, American Christians seem to think we own Christianity, and our prosperity is proof that we are in God’s perfect will. We know how to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” we know all of the prosperity verses (even if we don’t ascribe to the so-called Prosperity Gospel) and we ascribe our success to God’s blessing.
We look around the world and see poverty, war, and hopelessness – and we think “They need Jesus. When they have Jesus, they can do all things, like us.”
But really, we in the US are prosperous because we built wealth on the backs of enslaved Africans and on the stolen land of indigenous peoples. We should say, “I can do all things through privilege which strengthens me.” Want proof? Talk to the descendant of an enslaved person or native American. Ask them how much wealth they inherited, and how easy it has been for them to succeed.
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But I digress. We were talking about Atallah Hanna.
After a lifetime of prayer and obedience to Christ, he finds himself and his people as downtrodden as ever – even more than ever. Overall, the Christians (and Muslims, Druze, Baha’is, and others) of the Palestinian territories – and those living inside Israel – have lived lives no less godly than we have. They may have had a few more bad apples than we have, but their people have endured much more oppression than we could imagine (this is a topic I’ve addressed before and will revisit soon).
Atallah Hanna has exhorted his people to patience, faithfulness, unity, and courage. He and his flock have loved their enemies and prayed for those who persecute them. They bear on their bodies the marks of Christ.
Yet Hanna and the rest of Palestinian Christians could say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” all day long, and still be detained by Israeli forces, or shot by Israeli forces, or bombed by Israeli forces – or any of a thousand other injustices. That mantra won’t get them safely through an Israeli checkpoint, or cause the gates of their prisons to spring open, or close up the bullet holes in their children’s bodies.
But, fellow American Christians – we have the power to do those things. And here’s how.
Many American Christians embrace the modern state of Israel as a reincarnation or continuation of the ancient kingdom of Israel. We insist that Israel is a holy land, the apple of God’s eye, a miracle that sprang up out of nowhere in 1948. And we endorse whatever it does because we think a strong Israel will somehow usher in the End Times.
This doctrine, called Christian Zionism, ignores hundreds of thousands of people who suffered and lost everything in the course of Israel’s inception – not to mention millions who continue to suffer.
Christian Zionism supports US military aid to Israel – $10 million a day of it – that enables the killing of Palestinians. Christian Zionism supports US complicity in Israeli war crimes before the United Nations.
Many Christians in the West cling to this tenet as though it is the most important teaching of the Bible. In reality, it is not a teaching of the Bible at all, but a teaching of man.
Of course there are a few Bible verses that, strung together, could be interpreted to mean what Christian Zionism promotes – but acceptance of this interpretation literally negates almost everything else Jesus ever taught.
The ascendancy of modern Israel requires the oppression of every Palestinian person in the world. It requires that Palestinians be treated as second- or third-class residents on their own land. It requires, ultimately, that every Palestinian be ethnically cleansed from their homeland.
We prefer not to think about this because it would require us to examine, and then abandon, a belief that we’ve never questioned before. It would require us to love Palestinians whom we’ve always considered “terrorists” (a term that needs unpacking another day). It would require us to admit that we’ve been wrong about this doctrine – and that opens the door to possibly being wrong about other things too.
Which brings us back to Atallah Hanna. A few days ago, this peaceful but feisty man released a statement that we must take seriously. It highlights the damage that we are doing to the Holy Land when we support Christian Zionism (his statement was in Arabic, and was translated by a Palestinian Christian). Here’s what he said:
We denounce and reject all attempts to link Christianity with Zionism; how can Christianity, a religion that calls for compassion and love, be combined with a racist ideology, responsible for all this suffering in the Holy Land and the region…
How can this movement claim to represent Christianity while it advocates for wars and destruction that did not spare anybody, including Christians?
We do not recognize this so-called Christian Zionism because Christianity is a religion that calls for love, peace, and for siding by the oppressed and the dispossessed wherever and whoever they are…
Zionism…is a racist ideology and movement that has been the reason behind so many injustices and catastrophes inflicted on our Palestinian people.
Just because a group in America calls itself Christian and advocates for Zionism, does not mean they represent Christianity.
So there you have it.
Ten minutes ago, you could have claimed ignorance about the devastating results of Christian Zionism on humanity. But now you know a little about it. Now you are accountable. Now you have a responsibility to check it out and decide for yourself. One thing you can not do is go on as though you never read this.
Here are a few resources that you can use to start your journey out of Christian Zionism:
https://www.christianzionism.org/ is Scriptural and contains a lot of information to help you sort out this doctrine.
And if you’re interested, here is a short video from the feisty Atallah Hanna (Christmas 2019):
(If you are energized by challenges to the evangelical status quo like this, you’d enjoy my blog. Sign up for my free newsletter here!)
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MORE POSTS ABOUT ISRAEL, PALESTINE, AND CHRISTIAN ZIONISM:
FEATURED IMAGE: by Johanna Zarate, https://www.flickr.com/photos/131055921@N03/30333216652