Without the support of Christian Zionists, Jewish zealots could not have paid the enormous cost of confiscating almost all of the land of Palestinians. U.S. Christians, as is increasingly well-documented, pick up the tab for most of what Israel wants-the building of a Greater Israel. Beyond their near total support of Israel's political agenda, U.S. Zionist Christians are bent on pulling out the roots of their own religion. They do so by a negation of those "living stones"-the Christians who have always lived in the land of Christ.
Christians who put Israel above the teachings of Christ number in the tens of millions indeed, it seems at times, they must include almost all Americans who call themselves Christians. As Christian Zionists, they tend to believe their own salvation depends on a somewhat convoluted scenario that includes a final battle, a destruction of the world and their being saved from damnation by a rapture. They are, in the words of Wagner's title, Anxious for Armageddon.
Wagner has well-researched material on how Christian Zionism began in England. As early as 1585, Thomas Brightman published a document calling for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine in order to fulfill biblical prophecy. John Nelson Darby, born in J 800, founded the Plymouth Brethren to focus on prophecy and carried Christian Zionism from England to the United States, where he influenced such evangelical leaders as Dwight L. Moody, William E. Blackstone and C.I. Scofield whose interpretations in his Scofield Bible come with a Christian Zionist slant.
Meanwhile in London, Lord Shaftsbury cited both spiritual and political motivations for urging Jews to leave England for Palestine. He felt England would thereby gain a foothold in the Middle East, which would permit their opening up vast commercial markets. Then came Lord Balfour who, with his famous 1917 memorandum to the prominent British Jew Lord Rothschild, stated that Britain viewed "with favor" the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people. Balfour cared little that Palestine was not lawfully his to give to others. Nor did he take into account that Palestine already was occupied-more than 90 percent of the population were Palestinian Arabs, about 20 percent of them Christian.
In addition to his thorough research on Christian Zionism, Wagner's book is quite personal, so much so that it might also be entitled, The Education of Donald Wagner-as a Christian. He admits that formerly he was a Zionist, through and through. Whatever Israel did seemed to get his total approval. Then came a shock of recognition. The year was 1973. He was on the staff of a large Presbyterian congregation in Evanston, Illinois, north of Chicago. As a result of a suggestion made by a church member, Wagner began a course on Judaism and Islam. "I arranged for the initial speaker, the Israeli consul general for the Midwest, Shaul Ramati." For the second session, a church staff member invited a Palestinian professor of political science from nearby Northwestern University, Dr. Ibrahim Abu-Lughod. A native of Jaffa, Palestine, the speaker was immaculately dressed, handsome, brilliant, with a doctorate from Yale. "He did not fit my media stereotype of Palestinians," writes Wagner. "I had never heard a persuasive intellectual presentation of the case for Palestinians. Most confusing was the fact that he was a member of the Palestine National Council, the PLO's parliament in exile. As a strong supporter of Zionism, I held a very low view of the PLO, considering it a terrorist organization."
The course continued; the third speaker was a leading Chicago Zionist, then another Arab-American. After the fourth session, a Jewish Zionist called Wagner, demanding that the course be stopped, claiming "it was offensive to the Jewish community and could be interpreted as anti-Semitic." If the course continues, the caller added, "We will have no choice but to picket your church next Sunday." Wagner conferred with his senior pastor, Dr. Ernest Lewis, who responded they should keep the course going. Then came a threat from a caller identifying himself as a Holocaust survivor from Skokie, a predominantly Jewish community west of Evanston. If the course continued, he warned, "something serious" would happen to Wagner.
Wagner was not only shocked, "I was angry. This was pure intimidation. Here I was, a defender of Israel and Zionism for my entire life, and these defenders of Israel were threatening me without bothering to see how fair we had been. When pushed in this manner, my deep sense of injustice was engaged. I began to question the Zionists' motives and tactics. What did these people have to hide?"
Then began his intense journey-outward as well as inward-for the true meaning of Christianity. Near the Sea of Galilee, Wagner spent time with Elias Chacour, who changed so many lives by his moving memoir, Blood Brothers. As Chacour writes in his foreword to this book, "It is not a matter of choice but a must for Christians to take the side of the oppressed, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the prisoner. It is not a matter of choice but an imperative to side with the poor, the persecuted, the downtrodden." Over again, Chacour has one message for Christians, a message that Wagner exemplifies: "We are to bear witness."
Wagner writes of being in Beirut when in 1982 the Israelis began bombing raids, using U.S.-made planes and U.S.-made cluster bombs. "Then I realized: these guys are using our tax dollars. All of these jets and the bombs are gifts from U.S. taxpayers. Wouldn't it be ironic if one of them hit us?...How many innocent Lebanese and Palestinian civilians would die that day?"
Throughout his countless journeys to the Middle East, Wagner quotes native Christian leaders who tell him: Christians of the West are not seeing us. Do they not care-that in the land of Christ, Christianity is dying? Christians are leaving, Wagner writes, "primarily due to economic and political strife and a persistent climate of war. In the Holy Land, the number of Christians among Palestinians in Jerusalem has dropped from 51 percent in 1922 to about 4 percent today." In a generation, "there will be no living church in the Holy Land, only empty churches (museums) and archaeological sites for tourists to visit."
In their zeal to support Israel, Christian Zionists "contradict the message of Jesus, (they) place modern Israel above the church, (and) miss the essential teachings of Jesus, the early Christian writers and the Reformation theologians." Many Christian Zionists believe their theology is consistent with the ancient church and scripture. "It is not," Wagner writes. "In the New Testament, there is no elevation of Israel, either as a people, nation or land." Christians must realize that if Palestinian Christians have no state they will have no future and the West will sit by and watch the Palestinian Christian presence die out during this generation.