Today the long expected announcement came out that President Trump is moving forward with recognizing the city of Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel and announcing a move of our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. As expected this has caused a great deal of anger among the already angry and easy to trigger Muslim world. I expect some fairly serious violence to erupt as a result. The Muslims are usually up for a good intifada and it has been awfully quiet for a while. Just as predictably, the leader of our "great ally" Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been gushing all over social media, crowing about this decision and calling on other nations to follow suit and move their own embassies. That isn't really likely to happen and even the move by the U.S. embassy will be years down the road. You can also expect a lot of vandalism, terror attacks and low level violence to accompany every step of the building process of the new embassy. I am sure our great friends the Israelis will let the U.S. pay for the whole thing.
So with the wall unbuilt, Obamacare still sort of in place, immigration reform going nowhere even after the travesty in San Francisco, the tax bill still needing leadership to ensure it makes it to Trump's desk, a $20 trillion national debt and so many other issues that need Trump's attention and political capital, you might wonder why he would decide to take this step. On the surface the reason is that he promised to do so and unlike other candidates Trump seems to take his promises seriously. But the real reason boils down to two words.
Neocons and Dispensationalism
The neocons thing is easy to understand. Neoconservatism is a subset of American conservatism that has an outsized influence on the Republican party. It was perhaps at the apex when George W. Bush was President and neocons were the driving force behind the ill-fated Iraq invasion. It is a movement that is heavily slanted toward Israel thanks to having so many Jews as leading voices. Neocons are mostly influential in foreign policy and they favor a highly interventionist stance, especially when we are asked to go to war to "protect" our "allies" in Israel. Since they are led by the most militant of American Jews, it is natural that neocons would be pushing for this gesture to show for the millionth time that "We stand with Israel", although Israel never seems to stand with us in any meaningful sense. Our relationship seems to be America giving money and anything else Israel wants to the Jews and Israel in turn agrees to accept what we give them.
The other side of the coin is the relatively recent theological invention known as "dispensationalism". The teachings of dispensationalism are a little complex but this is a nice summary, note my emphasis underlined:
Dispensationalism is a theological system that teaches biblical history is best understood in light of a number of successive administrations of God's dealings with mankind, which it calls "dispensations." It maintains fundamental distinctions between God's plans for national Israel and for the New Testament Church, and emphasizes prophecy of the end-times and a pre-tribulation rapture of the church prior to Christ's Second Coming. Its beginnings are usually associated with the Plymouth Brethren movement in the UK and the teachings of John Nelson Darby.The critical component for my purposes here is the idea that there is a distinct and separate plan for Israel and the church. While most Christian theology sees a shift with the advent of the New Testament where the nation of Israel under the Old Covenant fades into the background and the church is ascendant as God's final vehicle for His covenant people, dispensationalism sees the church as a "parenthetical" interruption to God's original and continual plan to work through the ethnic Jewish people. It can be said that dispensationalism gives preference to the Old Testament over the New Testament. This school of theology was popularized by the simply awful Left Behind book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, some of the worst literature to ever hit a printing press.
So what? Why does some esoteric discussion of Christian eschatology have anything to do with U.S. foreign policy?
If there is a theological system that dominates the Christian church in America, it is without a doubt various models of dispensationalism. It infects most areas of evangelicalism and even some parts of the Reformed church, although most of the Reformed still hold to Covenant Theology or in much smaller numbers New Covenant Theology. The same people that are most influenced by dispensationalism are also some of the most political active in the Republican party, meaning that a lot of Christians who faithfully vote Republican also think that they have a solemn, religious obligation to support Israel no matter what and in whatever way the Jews say they should. Conservative politicians understand this and suck up to the Jewish Israeli lobby at every opportunity and woe to the Republican that is insufficiently obsequious toward Israel.
For a lot of evangelicals, supporting the unbelieving state of Israel is a high holy obligation on par with their own national allegiance and almost higher than their identification with the church. On days like today or anytime that Israel is in the news, you can be sure people will be (mis)quoting Genesis 12:3 and other Old Covenant passages that refer to Israel as a nation, passages that are obsolete just as the Old Covenant is obsolete and replaced by the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:13).
While it is my understanding that Christians are very limited in how they can operate in Israel (i.e. proselytizing Jews), there is apparently no limit to how much money Jews will take from gullible Christians. I know of many Christians that visit the "Holy Land" as if that is a significant pilgrimage or Christians that donate money to Jewish causes like financially supporting Jews moving to Israel. Why a Christian would financially support moving a lost Jewish person from a country where they can be proselytized to a country where it is next to impossible for them to be evangelized is mind boggling. Why would a Christian supposedly devoted to the spreading of the Gospel willfully make it harder for lost people to hear the Gospel? The only reason is that they have bought into dispensationalism and think that there is another path for Jews. This belief is false.
The Bible is quite clear. There are not two paths to justification, one for gentiles and one for Jews. There is one path, faith in Christ. To teach otherwise is to make yourself a false teacher and to preach "another Gospel", something that Paul condemns in the strongest language possible in the opening to his letter to the Galatians where he was ironically calling out people trying to infuse Judaism back into Christianity via the practice of circumcision.
Dispensationalism is a deception that is used to leech money from Christians that should be used for spreading the Gospel and supporting the needs of Christians, it is a false teaching that preaches a false Gospel to the Jews and it is used by the Jews to manipulate American foreign policy in ways that cost hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars, weakens our position in the world and has led to the death of thousands of American men and women.
Unfortunately as today shows, in spite of President Trump claiming to be all about "America First", the hold of the neocons and the Israel lobby on America is as strong as ever. People who understand the manipulative tactics of the Israel lobby, the deception of the neocons and the confusion of dispensational teachers have a duty to expose the lies of both Israel as an "ally" of America and of Israel as a covenant people on par with the church. These lies cause instability in an already unstable region, cost American money and lives and lead many people to hell that think they get a pass because of their parentage.