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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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How do we respond?

Although we live in hope that Jesus will return, God calls us to live in the here-and-now

Lutheran theology and biblical interpretation haven’t traditionally been focused on “cosmic drama.” Although Lutherans live in the apocalyptic (see "Key terms") hope that Jesus will return and the brokenness and sin of this world will be corrected, God calls us to live in the here-and-now, serving our neighbors and strengthening human community. The only cosmic drama that draws our attention is the scandal of the cross.

Cross and starHow can Lutherans respond to Christian Zionism? The best way is to recover a clearer expression of Lutheran commitments. The ELCA Book of Faith initiative, for instance, helps us to recover and reassert Lutheran ways of reading the Bible. And resources like Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago professor Barbara Rossing’s book, The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation, help Lutherans recover Martin Luther’s sense of apocalyptic hope — a witness counter to apocalyptic destruction.

Another way to counter the most harmful effects of Christian Zionism is to listen carefully to Jewish and Muslim neighbors. Seek to understand their hopes and fears for Israelis and Palestinians. Within our communion, increase your awareness of Palestinian Lutheran views and the accompaniment relationship between the ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

Listening to our neighbors can help us break through the simplistic rhetoric that too often surrounds the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Christ’s command to love our neighbor extends first to the other we perceive to be most different from us, and even to our enemies (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:44; Luke 10:36-37). In Christian Zionism we find ways of thinking that support policies harmful to our neighbors — especially those Christians, Muslims and Jews who live in the land we call holy.

These are complex conversations, filled with political import and religious conviction. We haven’t been called to simplify what is complex. We are not pundits, but peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). We have been called to the more difficult discipleship of a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), a ministry that fosters peace between the diverse neighbors we are called to serve and love.


Comments

Lois Swanson

Lois Swanson

Posted at 9:48 am (U.S. Eastern) 7/3/2009

The excellent cover story on Christian Zionism by Robert O. Smith was an eye-opener for me.  I had discounted the teachings of Falwell and Robertson as not worthy of my attention.  Now I see that those teachings pose a threat to the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian problem.  I was reassured to read The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism which represents my position very well.  I wonder if the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has made a similar statement.

Robert Smith

Robert Smith

Posted at 3:42 pm (U.S. Eastern) 7/6/2009

Currently, the ELCA does not have a statement addressing the issue of Christian Zionism. However, the Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine does include specific references to Christian Zionism and the need for ELCA Lutherans to engage the opinions of other Christians. It is a topic which deserves the attention of all who would seek peace with justice in the land we call holy.
 
--- Rev. Robert Smith, director, Europe and Middle East Desk, ELCA Global Mission.



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