Arab-Israeli conflict is perpetuated by misguided Christians who are the primary supporters of Zionism, according to a controversial activist clergyman focused upon Middle East issues.
The Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer of Peacemaker Trust spoke on “The Historical Roots of Christian Zionism, its Theological Basis and Political Agenda” October 23 and 24 in Washington, D.C. at successive events held by St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill and the offices of the Jerusalem Fund.
Sizer has drawn criticism from the Board of Deputies of British Jews for alleged anti-Semitic views and comments; including sharing a web site over social media in 2015 that asserted Israel was responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Sizer later issued an apology, and an investigation by his Church of England diocese resulted in the Anglican clergyman directed to suspend use of social media for a period of six months.
Approximately 40 mostly white, retirement-age individuals gathered for the Tuesday night presentation. While the event was sponsored by St. Mark’s, some participants introduced themselves as out-of-town visitors attending Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) programs. St. Mark’s describes itself as expressing a “progressive, somewhat non-theistic approach to worship.” In contrast, Sizer identifies as an Evangelical and is a member of the Anglican network Reform and also the Church Society. Sizer’s theological presentation included an interpretation of covenant theology and supersessionism.
“Zionism is primarily a Christian movement, not a Jewish one,” Sizer asserted, citing a Pew Forum survey that 60 percent of U.S. Evangelicals view it as their responsibility to support Israel.
That support, Sizer insisted, was a danger.
“The Arab-Israeli conflict is perpetuated by misguided Christians,” Sizer determined. The former Church of England vicar asserted that nine out of ten Zionists are Christians, and that a Restorationist movement among Christians preceded Jewish Zionism by 50 years.
Sizer outlined three groups of Christian Zionists: those motivated by messianic claims, including groups such as Jews for Jesus, those motivated by apocalyptic claims, like popular Left Behind author Tim LaHaye, and finally those with political motivations, including San Antonio pastor and Christians United for Israel founder John Hagee.
“Jewish Zionism is heavily reliant upon Christians,” Sizer asserted. He was recently in Oklahoma for the Christ at the Checkpoint conference, a gathering primarily of anti-Israel critics who seek to end Evangelical support for Israel.
The Anglican clergyman listed seven points on what he said was the political agenda of Christian Zionists:
- Lobby the White House and Congress
- Fund emigration of Jews to Israel
- Supporting settlements illegal under international law
- Movement of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem
- Support the temple movement (replacing the Dome of the Rock with a rebuilt temple)
- Denigrate Islam and the peace process
- An apocalyptic future
“They are inflicting an apocalyptic war,” Sizer warned, focusing upon premillennial dispensationalist groups that popularized eschatological fiction novels. “Too many people take these books seriously, and that’s the problem.”
Sizer singled out author Tim LaHaye’s end-times book series as indicative of Christian Zionist views and thus problematic.
“The enemy is the United Nations in New York,” Sizer charged of such novels including LaHaye’s. “It is very much a Chicken Little story, and it is contagious.”
Sizer did not note that few major U.S.-based seminaries now teach dispensationalist theology, or address Christian support for Zionism independent of such theological teaching.
Sizer did discuss pro-Israel political groups active in the United States.
“I think the Zionist lobby is more permanent than your U.S. President,” Sizer announced. “The lobby is very influential, and we cannot blame it on the Jewish minority in this country.”
Instead, Sizer charged that such organizations “rely on the Christian Zionist lobby to influence politicians and pay the bills.”
“There is a plethora of these organizations and they are zealous and diligent in lobbying for Israel,” Sizer added. The Church of England clergyman also critiqued “Christian friends of Israeli communities” active in encouraging churches to adopt West Bank settlements.
“If your church has 20,000 members and a settlement has 100, you can see where the power lies,” Sizer noted.
Sizer portrayed Israel as like a child with its hand caught in a sweets jar, grasping three pieces of candy but unable to extract its hand.
“It wants to be a democracy, a Jewish state and have the land. It can only have two of the three,” Sizer insisted. “As more countries move their embassies to Jerusalem, there is pressure on others to do the same, either with a carrot or a stick.”