Over the past 35 years, especially in the American South, Christian Zionism has emerged as the most significant new trend in Jewish-Christian relations, even though it continues to perplex and discomfort people on both sides of what Dr. Faydra Shapiro calls the “border” between the two faiths.
This unprecedented and growing movement, characterized by a massive outpouring of Christian support for the well-being of the Jewish state, and its implications for Christian-Jewish relations, prompted Shapiro to write a superb book titled “Christian Zionism: Navigating the Jewish-Christian Border.”
An Orthodox Jew with a Ph.D. in Religious Studies, Shapiro has had a lifelong curiosity about Christianity. In addition to her writing, Shapiro, a Canadian who immigrated to Israel, is the founding director of the Israel Center for Jewish-Christian Relations.
In her book, Shapiro provides excellent insight into the theological, political, historical and cultural factors that motivate Christian Zionists, who base their support and activism on the Bible.
Key to their views are that God has bequeathed the land of Israel to the Jewish people in perpetuity; that those who bless Israel will be blessed; that the return of Jews from throughout the world to their sacred homeland is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, and that the restoration of the Jews will lead to the second coming of Jesus.
Shapiro and others who have studied the Christian Zionist movement believe that we may be at a transformative moment in Jewish-Christian relations.
Writing in the Jerusalem Post in 2017, two years after her book first appeared, Shapiro observed: “Christian Zionism is undoubtedly a controversial topic. But one thing is for certain: Christian Zionism has brought millions of Evangelical Christians into an unprecedented positive relationship with Jews and Judaism.”
“Through their core issue of support for Israel,” she continued “American Evangelical Christians are now far more interested in and sensitive to the Jewish roots of Christianity, the practices and beliefs of Judaism, and the centrality of Israel to our people.”
Today, the author contends, the border between Jews and Christians is being demilitarized. This is happening largely as a result of Christian Zionist activism on behalf of Israel; Christian Zionist groups focusing on the principles and shared Biblical roots which unite rather than divide the two faiths, and their commitment to combat anti-Semitism, in part as atonement for the centuries of atrocities committed against the Jewish people in the name of Christianity.
More and more Jews, in turn, are taking a deep breath and walking toward the border to welcome these overtures. Still it can be confusing — especially to those Christians who continue to see Jews as “incomplete” because they have not yet embraced Jesus as their personal savior, and to Jews who are still uncomfortable with the prevalent belief among Christians that their way is the only way to spiritual fulfillment and salvation.
Shapiro’s book is at its best when she moves from being a commentator and analyst to being a reporter on the front lines, “embedded” among Christian Zionists visiting or living in Israel. She has a terrific ear and sharp eye which serve her well as she takes her readers into the heads and hearts of these dedicated Israel supporters.
She concludes her book with a music analogy. Shapiro basically says that because of shared traditions, histories and roots, Christians and Jews definitely can be members of the same orchestra. But will the sounds their instruments make always be in harmony? Probably not, she concedes. However, she emphasizes, that doesn’t mean that Jews who care about Israel and Christian Zionists should stop trying.