To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
BY FATHER ANDREW MCNAIR, LC
Last summer, Israel’s military, searching for Hezbollah
terrorists, pounded Lebanon
with cluster bombs, killing scores of women and children.
While political and religious
leaders called for restraint, one man did not: Texas televangelist Rev. John Hagee.
He believes calls to restrain Israel violate
the Jewish people. Hagee is on a crusade to educate
all Christians, including Catholics, about what he calls a biblical imperative
to support Israel’s
actions. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hagee’s
message sounds attractive to a number of Americans.
For instance, more than 3,000
Christians gathered in Washington, D.C., last month to hear Hagee
military campaign for doing God’s work in a “war of good vs. evil.” Sens. Rick
Santorum, R-Pa., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., were the most prominent Catholics
As our nation wages war on
terrorist groups like al Qaeda and Hezbollah, we can expect to hear much more
from religious leaders like Hagee. These leaders will
call for all Christians to close ranks behind Israel as part of a biblical
mandate. In the past, Protestants and Catholics have joined forces on key social
and moral issues.
Can we, as Catholics, join forces
with religious leaders like Hagee? Should we pledge
our unconditional support to Israel
for biblical reasons?
To answer these questions, we need
to take a look at the theology behind the national movement that turns out
religious leaders like Hagee. It’s called Christian
Christian Zionism, as a
theological belief, holds that the people of Israel remain the chosen people of
God along with the Gentile Christians. Consequently, Christian Zionists support
Zionism since God favors Jews as his chosen people.
Take for example, Rev. Jerry Falwell, a well-known evangelical Zionist preacher, who
echoes this point: “To stand against Israel is to stand against God. We
believe that history and Scripture prove that God deals with nations in
relation to how they deal with Israel.”
As an effect of Christian
Zionists’ unconditional support for Israel, the belief of the dual
covenant dogma emerged: a belief that God’s covenant with the Jews in the Old
Testament will save them now just like the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus
Christ will save the Christians today.
Moreover, Christian Zionism
evolves around certain prophetic texts of the Bible. They supposedly predict
certain inevitable future events: the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and the establishment of the State of Israel in
1948. Many Jews will eventually accept Jesus as their Messiah, and Israel’s
struggle for existence will anticipate the great war of Armageddon at the end
With the growing popularity of
this movement, some Catholics wonder about the compatibility of Christian
Zionism with Catholicism. Can the two agree or find common ground? The answer
is an unequivocal No. Here’s why:
To begin, Catholics, like the
first Christians, look exclusively to Jesus Christ for salvation. Christ
created a New Covenant in his blood for the salvation of all. The New Covenant
in Christ’s blood perfects, fulfils and surpasses the
Old Covenant made to the Jewish people. This means the Jewish people no longer
enjoy a special status based on ethnicity before God or others.
Christ’s New Covenant created a
New People of God — the Church. The Catechism points this out: “He [God]
therefore chose the Israelite race to be his own people and established a covenant
with it. He gradually instructed the people. … All these things, however,
happened as a preparation for and figure of the new and perfect covenant which
was to be ratified in Christ … the New Covenant in his blood; he called
together a race made up of Jews and Gentiles which would be one, not according
to the flesh, but in the Spirit” (No. 781).
In light of the theological
reality of Christ’s New Covenant, the dual covenant dogma crumbles. It
ultimately contradicts one of the most basic tenets of Christianity: that
salvation comes from Christ. Sacred Scripture read in view of Tradition affirms
this: “For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by
which we can be saved” (Acts: 4:12).
Flawed theology often leads to
unorthodox pastoral practices. For example, Christian Zionist groups like
“Christians United for Israel”
have opted not to talk about Jesus Christ with the Jews they support. David Brog, the Jewish executive director of Christians United
confirmed this practice in an interview earlier this month.
“All activities of Christians
United for Israel
are strictly non-conversionary,” said Brog.
“Christians who work with Jews in supporting Israel realize how sensitive we are
in talking about conversion and talking about Jesus. So those who work with us
tend not to talk about Jesus more, but talk about Jesus less.”
For any mature Catholic or
Christian, this is absolutely unacceptable. In obedience to the Gospel, all
Christians should witness to Jesus Christ in word and deed. “Go out to the
whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation” (Mark 16:16), and “For
whoever is ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed
when he comes in his glory, and the glory
of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26).
We cannot keep silent about Jesus
Christ or our faith in him. That’s non-negotiable. In a few words, what should
we say to the invitation of joining forces with Christian Zionists?
No, thank you.
Legionary Father Andrew McNair is a theology professor
at Mater Ecclesiae
College in Greenville, Rhode Island.