The Burden of Arrogance
Hard to believe it’s coming up on a decade that I’ve been writing for RaptureReady. I was looking for something to do when Todd and Terry so kindly asked me to write for them; the column would be titled “Israel Watch.”
I hope you’ll indulge me this week, as I get personal.
I have been actively engaged in advocating for Israel for 20 years. In that time, I’ve attended conferences, published books, written articles, networked, and researched like crazy. I’ve been blessed to visit Israel several times. My friends in the pro Israel community—both Christians and Jews—are precious to me. The whole endeavor is multi-layered and at once simple and complex.
The foundation for all this was laid many years ago. My father was a strong Bible believer and taught me early on the importance of Israel and the Jewish people. I grew up in the era of the Six-Day War and Entebbe.
In 1995 I met Avi Lipkin, the indefatigable researcher, writer, and speaker. It was at a conference in Dallas that Avi helped me learn to pronounce the name of a rising Israeli politician:
It has been my joy to support Israel in my own small way. This global community is amazing and multi-faceted, from grizzled veterans like John Bolton to young social media mavens (see Simone Valdary, Chloe).
One of my favorite memories is being invited to a Hanukkah celebration at the home of a friend near Washington D.C. There I met many neo-conservatives.
Another is meeting Ariel Sharon, with David Lewis, in 1998 in Tel Aviv.
So many memories.
I recently reflected on all this after a conversation with a friend—a long-time veteran of the pro Israel community.
I was telling my friend that something felt “off” to me of late, regarding some relationships and activities I’d been involved in with the pro Israel community. In short, I’ve lost work, friends, and other opportunities. I have been told several times that I need to back-off some strong reporting about, for example, how the Palestinian Narrative has made deep inroads into American churches, thus harming traditionally strong pro Israel support.
“Also, you are perceived in some circles as a Rapture guy,” my friend said.
I like information. I like knowing where I stand with people. That way I can make informed decisions.
My friend graciously told me a lot in one or two sentences.
You see, within the varied pro Israel community globally is a segment that is what I’d call highbrow. They identify as intellectuals who are embarrassed by, for example, the Bible prophecy enthusiasts.
I think we’re all aware of the excesses of the prophecy community. These range from the very unfortunate emphases on fringe topics (just this week I saw a post on Facebook that speculates we are all part of a video game produced by aliens. It’s frankly depressing to see this kind of stuff.), to the very public scarecrows our opponents love to tie us to, such as Harold Camping.
Overall, though, some of the most sophisticated thinkers I’ve ever known are folks in the prophecy community. I recently had a remarkable after-breakfast conversation with Todd Strandberg at a prophecy conference. Scholars like Andy Wood enrich us all. I could go on and on.
A couple years ago I listened to a conference address by Hal Lindsey, who has been vilified by many in the Christian community over the years. Some minor criticisms of him are valid, I suppose; anyone could say at least the same things about any of us.
Yet, if push came to shove, I’d rather stand with Hal Lindsey than with all the highbrows who sniff and turn their backs on us at dinner parties.
And if push really came to shove, I’m happy to stand completely alone. Because at the end of the day, any Israel advocacy is ultimately limited if it doesn’t include some mention of the biblical promises to the Jews.
I so appreciated hearing this a few years ago from the peerless (literally) Bill Koenig, my friend who is a White House correspondent. Bill stood at a press conference and asked the organizers to include such teaching. He was politely dismissed, of course.
And of course, he was totally correct in his assessment.
A few years ago, Porter Speakman Jr. (producer of the Christian Zionist-bashing film “With God on Our Side”) referred to me publicly as a RaptureReady “tool.”
Again, I’ve been told that my alliance with RaptureReady removes me from consideration for speaking at certain conferences, publishing opportunities, etc.
When the smoke clears, I will still be standing with my friends. I am so proud to be able to write for RR, and I hope that when Jesus returns, I will be in mid-sentence for a new “Israel Watch.”
My real friends are much smarter than my sometimes-friends. When my sometimes-friends chatter about Rapture folks and then marginalize me as well, I think of the phrase: They are too clever by half.
So I will double down—check that, quadruple down—on remaining loyal to the community that has been loyal to me.
I could tell you stories that would curl your hair regarding the cowardice at top levels of pro Israel Christian support. Cowardice when it comes to naming names and identifying the real problems with the erosion of Israel support in the American Church.
So often, such leadership and activists call me, email, text…each time wanting information, which I provide. Then publicly they stand quite a few miles away from me because, after all, I’m a RaptureReady tool.
Boy, could I tell you stories.
Maybe someday I will.
Meanwhile, the ones consistently standing for the Word (which is where Zionism originated, after all) will remain the ones I admire.
My sometimes-friends are no friends at all. One day, I will feel sorry for them. I don’t disparage their work; how sad they don’t return the courtesy.
Arrogance must be a terrible burden to bear.