Jesus' words, when he sent out 72 disciples two by two, like "sheep among wolves" in what might have been the first evangelical mission trip, are found in the 10th chapter of the book of Luke. He instructed them not to waste time with those who refused to listen. He said if a certain city "received them not," they should move on, leaving a ringing proclamation and condemnation behind, "even the dust of your city which clings to us do we wipe off against you." They did not mince words or waste time on those who would not listen, and neither should we.
Our challenge to Christian Zionist churches (1) must continue, especially on the internet and social media, where we are having increased success. More of our time will now be spent most productively in interaction with mainline church leaders who are beginning to understand the tragedy they are witnessing. Several serious and qualified persons have recently contacted us asking if we can help them start vigils in their City, and the answer is yes, and most welcome.
We have held Vigil challenges at many Christians United For Israel spectacles and at dozens of radically committed Christian Zionist churches. We must now recognize that John Hagee is no longer widely respected, even in the evangelical Dispensational circles from which he came. He has become a rich, successful buffoon with a following among only a narrow fringe of State of Israel worshipers. Politically his call for war against Islam, wherever he finds Muslims, is useful only to the John McCain-like warmaking fringe of both parties. We should realize that even McCain does not want to be associated with Hagee's maniacal war chant and Israel worship.
Christians United For Israel was spawned by the State of Israel in July 1991, right after Operation Desert Storm, through one of Israel's propaganda front organizations called Unity Coalition for Israel (UCFI).(2) It was originally called National Unity Coalition for Israel but quietly changed its name by dropping the "National" because all the directors were Israelis. Christians United For Israel was then spun off and handed off to San Antonio Pastor John Hagee.
Art Preisinger, a Lutheran minister associated with the Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism, attended a "Night To Honor Israel" at Hagee's Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas and had this to say: "From dramatic processions to keynote addresses; from offerings taken and offerings given -- there was not a shred, a trace, a scintilla of Christianity in the proceedings. It ('A Night to Honor Israel') could well have been sponsored by the PTA or the Rotary Club."
The fact that Jesus is left out of meetings that honor Israel is finally becoming recognized by some influential minorities in more than a few mainline Christian churches, Evangelical Lutheran, Methodists, PCA and Mennonite. Those who have so proclaimed may have combined memberships of perhaps 30 million members, which is no small minority!
Out of necessity I would guess, CUFI has abandoned any real effort to follow Christ's words in order to stand for and justify every evil act Israel perpetrates against the Palestinians (or to Americans) for occupation and virtual imprisonment to outright torture and murder. Hagee's meetings attract so much Israeli support he is compelled to forget Jesus and replace it with the unspoken but clearly present, Israel is our god.
Churches like Trinity Life Center that support Hagee's meetings lavish praise on, and raise funds for Israel, but do not display enough Christianity to even mention. Jesus’ words of love, tolerance and peace represent a problem for them. rather than a purpose. As we learned from personal contact with its pastor, "Trinity" church might just as well rename itself "Quad-Diety Life Center," for Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Israel.
We have long anticipated eventual help from the Mainline churches because they are free to see Israel as it is. Recently some fifteen mainline denominations have asked Congress to halt military aid to Israel, because Israel simply will not stop occupying and bombing the children of Palestine. One of these is the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA).(3) And In 2004 the National Council of Churches bravely published a valuable brochure, Why We Should Be Concerned About Christian Zionism. (4)
The mainline church has had truth at hand for a long time; it is only now waking up and taking notice. It is time for Project Strait Gate to move on, and at a time when Vigil and Challenge are just starting to be fun because friends want to join in. We must devote more effort to the support of positive voices within recovering mainline Christian denominations challenging military aid to Israel, and saying peace must begin with peace for the Palestinians.
The Philistines, a biblical people (Gaza was the center of Philistine culture) have been denied the statehood promised to them in 1948. Increasingly mainline missionaries and laymen have discovered what Christian Zionism is, and why it must be put back in its bottle. Free Palestinians will mark the end of Christian Zionism.
A “church vigil," for the benefit of new readers, is the delivering of usually unwelcome messages to a church leadership by a personal appearance at the church during worship hours. The messages are usually scriptural, printed on posters held up by the vigil participants. They are clearly understandable, in four words or less, and since they pointedly link to the church’s teachings, they are well understood by most of the congregation. We usually know what the pastor thinks and teaches before we arrive.
Each message repeats a written one sent a few weeks ahead of the visit and is designed to drive a wedge between the mis-leaders and the followers being misled. When we take up what appears to be an adversary position in front of the church, displaying a clearly Christ-like message "BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS," there can be no doubt that we are telling the congregation that its church leaders are ignoring these words of peace -- words that all Christians believe came from the lips of Jesus.
We know the Christian Zionist churches are, by definition, supporters of the serial wars being perpetrated primarily in only Israel's interest. When we display the message "WHO WOULD JESUS BOMB?," we are telling everyone within sight that the leaders of that church support those who are doing the bombing? We have learned how to put this point forward to thousands of parishioners and their leaders, with our handful of volunteers. The Internet has added greatly to our exposure.
Trinity Pastor Chuck Seielstad, dressed in formal dark blue, twice walked the 150 yards or so across the church parking lot to both greet and confront us where we stood on two sides of his mega church while the "Concert to Honor Israel" was going on inside. As its Senior Pastor in charge of education, Seielstad is probably the key personality in this mega church and school. He informed us, somewhat condescendingly, that he has a PhD and reads the Bible in its "original Greek and Hebrew."
He also came as a benefactor, showing Christ-like love for us by bringing us water. This is a familiar pattern in many churches. He warned me, and our little group, to stay off the landscaped raised bank that surrounds the large parking lot of Trinity Life Center which "belongs to the church," saying that we could use the sidewalk that runs on the outside of it on the South and East sides of the church property.
Some churches bring coffee and donuts, and some ask to pray with us. We have developed answers for these always self-serving efforts to neutralize our message. I told Pastor Seielstad we would accept his water on condition that he would accept and watch to the end our classic DVD, Christian Zionism: The Tragedy and The Turning, Part 1.(5) He agreed and accepted two copies. Later he came back and asked for two more copies, stating he planned to use it in a class he is teaching. Had he declined our material, we would have rejected his water even if thirsty. We normally tell church messengers bearing gifts, such as water, to send the gift they offer us to the Philistine children, many of whom never see clean water, because Israel controls every drop.
Seielstad’s second visit of the day, ostensibly to see to our safety, gave me a chance to ask him two questions: My first question was, "Where in Jesus’ words do you find leave to help those who occupy and often kill the Palestinians?
Seielstad responded with with a patented Christian Zionist dodge. He said, "There is no occupation of Palestine...why?... because there is no country named Palestine and there never was." Note that I asked him a direct, faith-based question about Jesus’ words, and he gave me a political answer about statehood. He reasons, since the State of Israel and the US government (with others) have for 65 years prevented the United Nations from recognizing "Palestine" territory as a legal state, the people have no right to property, security, or life itself. His answer has nothing do with Jesus’ words. Pastor Seielstad went on to say that God gave the land to the Jews through Abraham, the standard land claim made by Christian Zionists, no matter what they call themselves. Our video which Pastor Dave carried away explains the myth of the non-land grant that was never made to the non-Israelite State of Israel. I hope he watches it.
My second question was: "Do you really believe Ariel Sharon (former Prime Minister of Israel) has a direct bloodline to Abraham?" Pastor Chuck dodged, saying he did not come out to argue and he had duties inside. It is almost inconceivable that a pastor in an $800 blue suit with PhD degrees in theology would not know his statements are false, that Israel does occupy the Palestinian people of West Bank and Gaza, and that God did not give the land to a country that did not exist for 3000 years, and that simply borrowed its name from a book, like the parents of every Paul, John, Mary, and Benjamin have done. To call Seielstad a victim of self-deception gives him the benefit of the doubt, more than he deserves; it grants him ignorance as a cover.
Our vigil at Trinity Life Center in Sacramento was a modest success. Volunteers from several local and National Peace and Justice organizations unexpectedly arrived to help us. These included a young lady from Jewish Voice For Peace who rode her bike ten miles to get there, Allison Weir, founder of If Americans Only Knew and Chairman of Washington-based Council for the National Interest, and a Methodist Pastor from a local activist Mainline church joined us. Everyone's words and actions were exemplary.
The turnout for the free "Concert to Honor Israel" may have been a disappointment; probably only about 1/3 of the members who normally attend the church services were there, judging from the number of cars in the parking lot. However, CUFI has ramped up its program in Churches, hiring full time speakers and organizers over regions, and is now sponsoring rallies by various names, all to "honor Israel" one or two a day! American Christians are Israel's support base for its occupation of Palestine, and continued US military aid, as revealed in the Jerusalem Post article, "In praise of Christian Zionists,
(6) Radical Christian Zionism may be on the decline. Those who believe the state of Israel is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, and that all the evidence and accounts of Israel's abuse and occupation are imaginary, are aging fast and are failing to convince youth to take their places. We have learned that the young adults in churches are the answer because they get their news more from social media. We also look forward to help from our new big ally, the mainline churches who are speaking out at last, and have no reason not to speak out.