The Course of Christian Zionism
Carenen shows how mainline influence waned in the 1980s ("the collapse of the liberal vision") while evangelical influence grew. Jerry Falwell's pronouncement in 1980, "To stand against Israel is to stand against God," is a good index of growing evangelical passion. And from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, the influence of evangelical political activists, often working alongside Jewish activists, has been palpable. Today evangelical zeal is less focused on eschatology and centered more on garnering God's blessing for the United States by blessing Israel. The humanitarian Zionism of 1930s liberals has been replaced by an "entitlement Zionism" which supports Israeli statehood for reasons both biblical and pragmatic.
The Fervent Embrace is to be commended as thorough and evenhanded. But for those who live and work in the evangelical world, it is frustrating to see ourselves summarized through the extreme voices of Jerry Falwell or Hal Lindsey—and today, Pat Robertson and John Hagee. Evangelicals are more complex than this.
Another problem is the glaring omission of any account of evangelical dissent to Zionism. Carenen gives brief mention of Sojourners and Jim Wallis's justice-centered theology, but doesn't seem to realize that there are major publications and organizations today that acknowledge modern Israel while denying it has any special status conferred by Bible prophecy—and they lodge strong dissent about Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Moreover, she doesn't realize that there are many evangelicals—700 of them gathered in Bethlehem last March—who feel a strong alliance with the body of Christ in the Palestinian world and will not deny that commitment based on controversial eschatological positions.
For the advanced student of this conflict, Carenen's work is helpful. I benefited enormously from it. But perhaps we need a sure-handed evangelical scholar like Tim Weber to update the discussion on this subject with a more complete evangelical portrait.
Gary M. Burge is professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. In addition to numerous books on biblical studies, he has published two books on Israel and Christian Zionism: Whose Land? Whose Promise? What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and Palestine (Pilgrim Press, 2003) and Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to Holy Land Theology (Baker Academic, 2010).