Interesting story in the New York Times this morning:
Many conservative Christians say they believe that the president’s support for Israel fulfills a biblical injunction to protect the Jewish state, which some of them think will play a pivotal role in the second coming.The story does a better job of capturing the issue's complexity than I could do here, but I do have a few thoughts and responses to add.
First of all, I find it sad that modern American Christianity has been hijacked by a nineteenth-century eschatological construct: namely, the idea of a "rapture" that is somehow separate from the return of Christ to judge the world. The construction of elaborate timelines and pseudo-scientific accounts of "The End Times," as this camp describes the age in which we live, is a hallmark of this movement. You can see examples of proponents' handiwork everywhere, from Bible commentaries to the New York Times best-seller list. Tim LaHaye and Jerry. B. Jenkins of Left Behind fame are perhaps the most prominent pop-theologians for this brand of theology.
The most disturbing part of the phenomenon, for me, is that these folks take prophetic accounts and literalize them in order to establish an account that artificially imposes human ways of understanding over the power of God. Ultimately, this insistence on human ways and methods is what is wrong with the Evangelical movement's support of Israel, as well.
Evangelical support of Israel springs directly from the writings of people who hold this Rapture/Tribulation/Second Coming view of eschatology. Their logic is that, since the Biblical book of Revelation talks about the existence of a Jewish people (which they conflate with the modern nation-state) in the "Last Days," the existence of a nation-state comprised of Jews must be necessary in order for the prophecies to be fulfilled. They further assume that it is the United States' role to ensure the prosperity of said state.
Secondly, in their blind support of "Israel," Evangelicals ignore the misdeeds of the Jewish state and its officials. Israeli leaders have been responsible for many civilian casualties, and they have resisted sensible plans to allow the Palestinians a home for the past 60 years. Their resistance has embittered and hardened the Palestinian people to an enormous extent -- perhaps to the point of making a lasting peace impossible.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, it is not the role of Christians to ensure that God's plans succeed. He has no need of our pitiful political machinations. If He wants to use the modern nation state of Israel as a vehicle to fulfil prophecies, that's His prerogative. What we should not -- indeed, must not -- do is to impose our own notions of "the End Times" over God's plan. We should focus on doing what Christ commanded: loving the Lord with all that we have and are, and loving others more than we do ourselves. If God wants to do things in Israel, I bet He can take care of that without our think-tanks and pro-Israel rallies and careful plans for bringing about the Second Coming.