This absorbing work follows on from Merkley's 1998 masterpiece The Politics of Christian Zionism 1891-1948. He believes Christian attitudes to Israel derive from deeply held theological persuasions that ought to be considered in the historical context of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The first part reviews the historical elements that have always been present in Christian attitudes towards Judaism whilst the main body reveals the wide variety of Christian voices worldwide and particularly in the Middle East. Finally, he examines different Christian institutions and their theological and political relations to the Middle East. His arguments derive from verifiable facts and evidence based on the official literature of churches and organizations as well as interviews with spokespeople of the aforementioned and of the State of Israel and the Palestinian authority. Merkley engages boldly and wittily with this arsenal of fact and opinion, unafraid to take a stand, speak his mind and make a case for Israel.
He chronicles the development of the attitudes of different strands of Christianity, including the Catholic and mainstream Protestant churches on the one hand versus Evangelicals on the other, whilst acknowledging that significant numbers of individuals in the first two groups hold personal convictions that correspond more closely with the second. Approved by the United Nations, the establishment of Israel in 1948 occurred in an environment of worldwide approval but even then there were opposing voices. These came from Protestant missionary groups in the Middle East as well as anti-Zionist Jewish organizations in the USA. Soon after the rebirth, the Catholic and mainstream Protestant churches started to shift to a critical stance. Formed a few weeks after this historic event, the World Council of Churches has a long history of enmity to the Jewish state. As the war clouds were gathering in 1967, the WCC remained quiet about the Arab World's bellicose rhetoric and threats of genocide. But immediately after Israel's resounding victory, it pounced with a sanctimonious condemnation of violence.
Since then, the WCC has become notorious for parroting Arab and UN propaganda, culminating in its participation in the hate-fest at the 2001 UN Conference on Racism in Durban. Merkley lucidly exposes the reptile tongue of the WCC and the mass media, demonstrating the similarities with the anti-Semitic propaganda of the Nazis. He argues that the leaders of the WCC are a militant ecumenical elite far removed from the essence of theology and fully committed to political causes. He contends that Christian anti-Zionism is not just a form of generic anti-Zionism but that it draws from the same theological roots as the medieval European blood libels. In this regard, see also The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism by Bernard Harrison. The Christian Left seeks to appease radical Muslim opinion about the existence of Israel, as liberal churches have allied themselves with a movement with which they have nothing in common. Merkley does not pretend to believe in either the meme of the religion of peace or the willingness of Israel's neighbors to live in peace with it. See Peace: The Arabian Caricature of Anti-Semitic Imagery to understand why.
As anti-Zionism gained momentum in the 1970s, more individuals with different convictions started leaving those churches as is evident from the declining membership of the mainstream denominations. And Christians Zionists became actively involved in the support of Israel and her people in the Diaspora. Those of a theologically more conservative disposition have shown themselves to be steadfast and loyal friends of the Jewish State. Organizations like the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, Bridges for Peace, Christian Friends of Israel, the International Christian Zionist Center and CUFI are devoted to the welfare of the country by means of practical and political assistance. Chapter seven provides interesting information on the institutional variety of and theologies of Christian Zionism. Please note that most of them avoid proselytizing. Standing With Israel by David Brog is an informative read on the history and current composition of the movement whilst In Defense of Israel by John Hagee and Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged by Barry Horner explain the theological motivation.
Merkley is uncertain whether the mainstream churches will move further in the direction of what he calls neo-Marcionism (See Lost Christianities by Bart Ehrman for an explanation) in order to appeal to secular liberals, Islam and the Eastern churches or whether it will attempt Jewish-Christian reconciliation. On the Protestant side the signs are not promising with their divestment attempts, while things look more ambiguous in the Roman church in view of the militant rhetoric of Michel Sabbah, Archbishop of Jerusalem. Besides obvious reasons for standing with Israel like its adherence to the rule of law, commendable record of respecting the holy places of all religions, astonishing cultural and technological accomplishments and uninterrupted record of democracy, there is another reason why Christian Zionists are loyal to the Jewish state. It is, like the attitude of the other churches, rooted in theology, but quite overtly based on scripture. To its Christian friends, the rebirth of Israel represents the major miracle of the 20th century. It is a requirement of faith to seek the blessing of Israel above all other considerations; the existence of Israel is considered crucial to the survival of our Judeo-Christian civilization.
Among the valuable contributions of this illuminating work is the refutation of myths, false perceptions and stereotypes fabricated by the mass media. As already mentioned, many Christian Zionist organizations have a strict policy of not seeking converts. They are not all fundamentalists or biblical literalists nor do they profess to know the sequence of events that will lead to the return of Messiah, and least of all do they want the Jewish people to suffer any more than they already have. Merkley provides abundant evidence that anti-Zionism flourishes on the Christian Left today, but further proof is available in The New Anti-Semitism by Chesler and The Deadliest Lies by Foxman. I highly recommend Christian Attitudes toward the State of Israel to all who wish to understand what is happening in this world of lengthening shadows. The book includes notes, a bibliography, references and an index.