Like Birds in a Cage, David M. Crump (Foreword by Gary M. Burge). Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2022
Summary: A book that argues what is wrong with Christian Zionism from a biblical, geo-political, and eyewitness perspective.
David Crump grew up believing in Christian Zionism, that the restoration of Jewish people to their ancient lands fulfilled prophecy as part of a dispensational premillenial schema. He describes how that changed under the influence of his college fellowship where he learned to study the Bible for himself and came across Romans 4 and understood that when he believed, Abraham became his father and that there was no basis for the belief that an ethnic Israel must be restored to its ancient land. Further study, including reading dispensational theologians only further convinced him that Christian Zionism was wrong.
This in turn led to an unblinking study of Israel’s modern story, the seizure of Palestinian lands, the brutal treatment of Palestinians, and the efforts to conceal this history, with an eye to maintaining evangelical support of the Jewish ethnocracy that Israel has become. The final strand in Crump’s journey was to visit Israel/Palestine himself as a guest of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Breaking the Silence, a group formed by former Israeli Defense Forces. These are not the standard tours most Christians take, and exposed the author to the demolition of homes, the expropriation of land, and the devastation of brutal suppression efforts.
This book weaves those three strands together into an argument contending that Christians have supported the oppression of Palestinian people, including many Christian Palestinians in an effort that is unsupported by scripture, that relies on a distorted narrative of history by Israel, and turns a blind eye to efforts to erase the Palestinian presence in a Jewish ethnocracy.
Crump begins with biblical interpretation, arguing that we must read scripture as did the apostles, first front to back, and then back to front–making sense of the former scriptures in light of the gospel of Jesus. He then turns to the rise of Jewish and Christian Zionism in chapters 2-4, and then intersperses accounts of Palestinian life under Israeli rule, with further discussions of what he sees as flawed interpretation. In the latter part of the book, Crump describes the ethnic nationalism of Jewish Israel, which denies standing to Palestinians. He also deals with the argument that any form of anti-Zionism is also antisemitism, arguing that while all people must oppose genuine antisemitism, this does not mean that Israel cannot be called to account for injustices to Palestinians. He concludes with a plea that others would awaken to the way Christianity has been held politically captive to Zionism and to pursue justice.
The most compelling parts of the book are the eyewitness accounts, one of how a family reunion was disrupted by Israeli forces who utterly demolished the home where the party was taking place, without warrant. Another account describes the killing of three Palestinian youth where rock-throwing in protest of the presence of Israeli troops in Palestinian areas was met with live fire. Pictures of wounds are included as well as the devastation of bombed out homes.
The organization of the material felt disjointed to me at times–it had a bit of the feeling of a collection of articles, back and forth between biblical material and eyewitness accounts, historical material, and advocacy. It is an approach that breaks up more academic material with riveting first-person accounts with images, but is thus less linear and more episodic.
The author does not defend the wrongs of Palestinians but does help us grapple with the actions of Jews from the beginning of settling to never declare borders, to ignore the UN partitions, to seize land owned by Palestinians, acting as if the land was empty and turning them into prisoners in their own home. The irony is not lost on the author of the situation many of these Jews had fled in Europe.
The author notes that evangelical Christians make up Israel’s most ardent supporters. The author advocates for a re-examination of that support, and that there is no biblical warrant for the injustices Palestinians have experienced. For American Christians, the parallels with our own treatment of indigenous peoples, often with similar rationalizations and tactics, ought to give us pause. Should we not know better?
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program.