Monday, August 26, 2013

On the Air (Part 2 of "Radio Daze" series)

It was my first full day on the air, and I hadn’t arrived under the best of circumstances. The previous Music Director/Program Director had been at the station for nine years, and was quite popular with the crew and listeners.  He had continually butted heads with the GM, Gerry, who had been at the station for a couple of decades and had checked-out emotionally from his job long before.  He was a chain- smoking sour puss who thought his job was to write the most insipid copy imaginable for all the local spots the staff (mentioned in the last entry) brought in.  Since commercials were available at rates somewhere along the lines of $2.25 perminute, we were always over inventory on everything you could imagine from dog washers to fertilizer equipment to Big and Tall boutiques for the full-sized woman.  He also would compose myriad public service “liners” that he demanded all DJ’s to sprinkle-in throughout each day-part shift.

So, here I am fumbling my way through my inaugural shift (everyone who’s been in radio knows how nerve-racking this can be with all new control board, music beds, logs, transmitter settings, etc. to maintain while trying to sound cohesive and compelling with between song banter, newscasts,and traffic reports).  When it came time to read the typed-up PSA’s, I had to pick one that would fit the right amount of time I had available out of a box of dozens.  I noticed that on many of them various lines had been re-written by hand…but being new, I didn’t question anything and simply read the corrections without really previewing them. 

The first one was something along the lines of, “You can reach out to help a mentally disabled person here in Elkhorn County who really needs your help and encouragement. Take little Gerry for instance. He is eleven but only reads on a first grade level, and could really use a tutor to help him with his studies.  Call today at 249-3300 for more info.” 

After having read three of them in my first forty-five minutes on air, I noticed some of the staff on the other side of the news room window heaving in laughter.  That’s when it dawned on me…and I looked at all the liners in the box and noticed that each PSA somehow mentioned Gerry, or Gerald, or Gerard or Jermaine.  The staff so despised our boss that they reworked every liner to disparagingly mention him, and yet, and he never even noticed.  From that point on I simply edited them as I read to pass over those bits…but it was indeed hilarious that the others kept reading them that way for a year and he never caught on.

There was also the bane of small market radio that came on around 10:30 each morning called “Swap Shop” where local hayseeds would call into trade goods and services with each other.  It wouldn’t be odd to hear someone call with a set of used tires that they’d be willing to exchange for a cross cut saw.  This was a ten minute segment, and we would literally have the phone lines jammed every day with folks wanting to participate. 

Sometimes we would sneak into another room and call in on a different line and fake an offer. For instance, I recall really stumping Ron one day with the voice of a decrepit stuttering old man, wheezing and coughing, wanting "to massage any grandmothers who were listening in exchange for as much creamed corn as they could broil."  Another time I was a sprightly Irish Spring-sounding leprechaun wondering if there was someone out there who had a vacuum cleaner that could suck a golf ball through a hose.  I was willing to let anyone see my lucky charms in return. Another one of the guys would call in with a really thick hair-lip speech impediment and say he was on staff at—you guessed it—St. Jerome’s Cathedral wanting enunciation lessons in exchange for free bingo games and what not. Ron usually caught on within about fifteen seconds, but often would play along trying to see how far we could go.

Live interviews were always a gamble.  My favorite was with Bon Scott and Angus Young from AC/DC.  As you might recall, Bon was the infamous original lead singer who died choking on his own vomit after a particularly heavy night of hard drinking. About a year before his demise, he and the diminutive lead guitarist entered the studio in a buoyant mood with their Atlantic Records promo rep while I was just finishing a tune from their newly-released Highway to Hell album. Things were a bit harried, and we only got to exchange the briefest of pleasantries before I came out of “Shot Down In Flames.” 

As the song was fading I opened all the mics and introduced Bon and Angus.  “Great to have you with us today, guys” I began.

Without missing a beat, and for reasons known only to him, the hyper front man blurted out, “I ain’t been laid in at least a week, mate!”  He was smiling, and I paused at his unique declaration. 

I quickly glanced at his buddy, Angus, and said, “How has opening for Aerosmith been going on this first leg of the tour?”  To which Young mumbled something thoroughly unintelligible. They both began to giggle. I quickly realized that Angus had an extreme overbite which made every word fairly smeared, especially when gutturally siphoned through a hard-wired Australian accent.  It was kind of like Boomhower and Yahoo Serious channeling through Mortimer Snerd. 

The interview went on for about twenty minutes, and I cut away to a couple tunes to break things up.  The two were quite affable—but I had the hardest time understanding much of anything they were saying—it was reminded me of the old SNL skit where Mike Myers would play the part of the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood.  Just lots of garbled gibberish and chortled phraseology. But I just kept nodding my head and trying to piece together questions that I thought flowed—even though I was often clueless as to what their answers had been.

At several points I’d gaze up at the label executive who was standing behind them, and he would just shrug his shoulders, roll his eyes, and purse his lips in a kind of half-smile as if to say, “Welcome to my world, Mark—I’ve been with them all day, and I can’t figure out most of what they’re saying either.”   We finished with some fun photos, and I met the guys again later after the concert and they were quite nice.  They must’ve felt it went swimmingly.  I hadn’t taped the interview—my guess is that it must’ve sounded hilarious.

Another interview gone terribly awry happened when I was working for a record company and taking then-young songwriter Gary Chapman around to many press and radio appearances in the Chicago area.  We had done about a dozen features in two days, and our final appointment was with the Christian station in the market during afternoon drive time—a good slot for exposure.  We fought through horrible traffic to get there, and Darryl, the DJ, was a bit miffed that we were behind schedule.  But what became more apparent was that he hadn’t bothered to read any of the advance promo materialsI had sent him, nor had he even listened to Gary’s album.  He literally tore the shrink wrap off of it while we were sitting there waiting for the interview to begin.  Gary looked at me with a great deal of apprehension. Darryl looked at us and said, “OK, gentleman, let’s just wing it here.”

After back-selling the previous cut, he then opened Gary’s mic and said, “I have with me here in the studio this afternoon Gary Chapman, who is a new artist on Benson Records, and has had some success writing some big hits for Amy Grant.”  And then, to cover for his lack of preparation, he naively uttered one of the worst questions any serious media journalist can muster: “So, tell us….who is Gary Chapman?”

Once again, Gary looked out of the corner of his eye at me.  I don’t know if he was just weary from all the interviews from the previous few days, or if he just genuinely despised the jock’s cavalier attitude, but he stared a hole into the guy’s forehead.  Then, heaving a deep sigh, he leaned into the mic and said, “Darryl, that is the stupidest question I have ever heard.”

Needless to say, the interview was over.  Darryl gathered himself and replied, “Thanks so much for stopping by, Gary,” emphatically swatting Gary’s mic switch to the “off” position, and immediately went into a bank of commercials.  He glared at me and said, “You know where the door is.”  I think it may still be on file as the shortest interview in history. 

As we were leaving, Gary sealed the deal by saying, “You sir, are a jackass,” as we walked out of the studio.  I don’t think I was granted any further interviews for artists I was involved with at that outlet for the next couple of years.  But Gary and I laughed about it all the way back into the Loop in Chi-town. I figured if he didn’t care about such an awkward career move, why should I? 

The next installment of this Radio Daze series coming next week will feature the dreaded “mic that was not meant to be open.” 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Radio Daze

Every now and then, it is fun to look back at my time as aradio broadcaster about thirty-five years ago.  Here is the first in a series that will feature some of my escapades…

We’ll start at secondary market station, WMIR in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (a bustling resort town midway between Chicago and Milwaukee). Where I was combo Program Director/Music Director, and also hosted the afternoon/early evening drive-time slot.  When you wear multiple hats at small operation like that, it’s not odd to put in seventy-hour weeks.  I took my M.D. job seriously, and since our format was Top 40 during the day and A.O.R. (Album Oriented Rock) at night/weekends, I had lots of music to consider. It was not odd to preview dozens of albums (sometimes over a hundred) per week, as well as loads of singles, and then all the dealings with numerous promo guys from all the labels.  On top of that there were meetings with concert promoters, critiquing air staff air checks, training new jocks, and cutting endless spots for this station that saw nothing wrong with running upwards of twenty minutes of commercials per hour during peak periods (disgusting). 

But since it was a high-falootin’ area where rich folks from Chicago would come for playtime (the first Playboy Club Resort was across the street from the studio), a guy who earned $110 a week in take-home pay had few choices.  As one of my co-workers said, “Without cash, there’s not much to do around here ‘cept go bowling and make babies.”  I’ve never been much for splitting the pins (at least not as a nightly endeavor), and I had very little coinage for trying to woo the opposite sex—so my life was pretty much my work, except for going to loads of concerts in Chicago, or Milwaukee, or nearby Alpine Valley Music Theater via the backstage passes I earned for my position.

These were also the days where you had to select all the music for your show, pull out all your pre-recorded “cart” spots (a version of old 8 track tapes), organize all liners (verbal spots, PSA’s, and teasers to be read on air), phone-in reports from on-site “remote” locations, thoughtful segues, etc. No computer touch screens existed back then to simply trigger the next item on the pre-planned agenda---we had to produce our own shows from top to bottom every day. And there was certainly no such thing as voice tracking where I could get all my breaks sounding completely smooth and “heartfelt” over numerous takes and then load them on the system (what system?).  It was all “live” babeee!  If I got the hiccups, or a record skipped, or had a sneezing fit (not out of the ordinary considering the station was located in a huge field of ragweed that made my sinuses go into hyper-drive during spring and late summer), or a cart jammed, or a mic shorted out, it all had to be dealt with pronto with ease and charm…supposedly.

One area that was usually pretty low on the checklist before any air shift was preparing the newscast (yes—we had a GM that insisted we have hourly news, weather, and sports on top of everything else we had to orchestrate).  Hence, it was the norm for most of us D.J.’s to “rip and read”…that is, go into the teletype room (once again, this was eons before internet news feeds) while a song was playing, and quickly tear off various stories that were coming in from United Press International or Associated Press. We would race back into the studio and quickly glance over the headlines, and edit a newscast on the fly—often with no time whatsoever to actually proof-read what it was we were about to relay to our listeners—with occasionally humorous results.

One particular afternoon, I was just at the top of my shift, and Ron, who was our mid-day host, was still filing carts and LPs in the shelving immediately behind me as I was cold-reading a story about a group of Dairy State elementary kids who had been lost on a field trip expedition. Ron nonchalantly leaned over my shoulder and set the teletype paper on fire with his cigarette lighter.  These kinds of hijinks were common, and I normally could deal calmly with the disruption by adlibbing and moving on to another story while simultaneously tramping the paper out quietly on the floor with my foot.

However, since I hadn’t previewed the article, I had no idea what the outcome was…and it happened to be the last story I had in my stack.  With listeners quite concerned about the fate of twenty-eight second graders who had somehow been “misplaced” I had to pull a Paul Harvey by stating the “the rest of the story” would be given to them in the next hour.  Unfortunately, the article never repeated on the wire service, and I had nothing further to work with since the copy I had was burnt to a crisp. I just blew it off and hoped all my listeners would do the same. But, I’m sad to report, that I got at least a dozen calls wondering what had happened to the cute kiddies. I told each one that due to “technical difficulties” the rest of the cliffhanger was lost, and perhaps they should—horror of horrors—go to our competing news/talk station up the dial in Kenosha to listen for further developments.

Another instance happened during what was supposed to have been my last week on the air.  I had given my notice earlier that month for another radio gig in Chicago. We had some rowdy guys on our sales team, and they felt it was their calling in life to try and get the staff to crack up while on the air.  Knowing that I had not wilted under the pressure of any of their stunts in the year I had been there, they were always concocting new ways to try and get me to lose my composure.

After most of the front office crew had already departed on a Tuesday evening drive-time, these clowns marched into the production room which was on the other side of a large window from the main studio while I was reading the news.  Cranking up Ted Nugent’s “Wango Tango” on the speakers in the adjoining chamber, each dropped their trousers, then their shorts, and began hopping around like little bunny rabbits…their giblets bouncing and swinging hither and yon.  This was not just for ten seconds…it lasted several minutes.  Seeing three chubby twenty-something guys with dress shirts and ties flailing about (as well as….ummm…you know), Hagar slacks bunched around their ankles while pogoing, and colliding into each other like kangaroos on acid is quite the image, let me tell you. 

One of them jumped up on the control board immediately on the other side of the glass and pressed his spotty behind against the surface, flattening the cheeks to the beat of the Motor City Mad Man, while the others were grabbing their own fifth appendage and somehow acting like they were flailing away on “air guitar”…except with their own “instrument,” a unique interpretation of the “whammy bar” if you will.  Concentration can be challenging in a scenario like this, especially when you’re attempting to cover news items like anti-nuclear proliferation treaties, a flu epidemic, and an airline hijacking.  But, as always, I was able to keep collected and focused. Maintaining a straight face, I even nodded, winked, and gave them the thumbs-up for their attempts as I read my stories with all the professional journalistic acumen of Walter Cronkite. 

After about three minutes of this, they realized they had failed once again, and when their ridiculous enterprise sunk in, they sheepishly began pulling up their pants, shaking their heads at their own stupidity while sulking out of the room. As my newscast continued I moved from international affairs to state/local items. 

I shall never forget what commenced as I was reading a sad story about a young guy who had met his demise by sliding off an icy road in the next county and wrapped his brand new Camaro around at tree trunk.  Just as I was heading into the last line or two of the account, one of the salesmen wandered back into the adjacent room, apparently looking for his keys that had fallen out during their escapade.  After he collected them, he looked up and we made eye contact.  Without even touching his belt or doing anything rude, he simply made four little jumps up and down. 

Who knows exactly why, but I started to smile…and just like the phenomenon where laughing at a funeral can feel so wickedly wonderful, I started to chuckle while essentially giving an obituary live on the air. Of course I tried bringing my microphone volume down a time or two, acting as if I was clearing my throat…but it was obviously more pernicious than that.  There is no way to mask laughter, especially in what should be a somewhat somber moment in a broadcast. 

Knowing that I was finally breaking, the other sales guys all quickly rushed back into the room…but rather than disrobe, they simply stared at me with glum faces as if to say, “You wouldn’t possibly go to pieces now would you?”  It was classic.  And it was potent.  The previous twelve months of bottling-it-in through all their shenanigans came sweeping through my mind, and I just started giggling, then chortling, and then stifling howls while I was talking about the deadly accident. Tears were beginning to trickle down my cheeks.  One of the guys quickly scribbled a note on a paper and held it up saying: “Please don’t laugh—you’re talking about a dead person.”  This clearly did not help. I tried explaining to the listeners that something was going on behind the scenes, and bypassed weather and sports to exit into the first song of the hour as quickly as I could…but the damage was done. 

Within fifteen minutes, the General Manager came storming into the building, and burst into the studio screaming, “What the hell is your problem?!  When your shift is done, gather up your crap, turn in your keys, and leave!” 

Oh well…I had grown weary of the joint anyway.  It was on to more radio revelry in Chi-town starting the next week. More of these stories to come, featuring AC/DC’s Bon Scott, rude prankcalls to call-in shows, the dreaded “open mic that should’ve been closed,” and more will grace these blogs in the near future.   

Monday, August 12, 2013

Twin Beauties and a Broken Bed in Bogota

While preparing for my third Radio Vision Trip for Compassion International coming up in ten days, I was reflecting on a touching story from my first visit there 6 years ago...

While in Colombia recently, I met two extraordinary young ladies. Twelve-year-old twins named Monica and Hesblaidy.  They live in a rough southern neighborhood of the sprawling metropolis of Bogata, along with over ten million other souls.  Their mother, Marisol, has raised them and their adorable little sister, Vanessa, on her own since her husband deserted her around five years back.  They live in a meager one room apartment about 15’ x 15’, with tan concrete walls, two beds, two dressers, atiny black and white TV, a little ghetto-blaster tape player/radio, and some stacks of scrap wood and discarded furniture piled in the corner.  The other six families in the small building share a small kitchen and bathroom amongst them.

A solitary four foot wide window looked out onto a busy square where dozens of rag-tag children were happily playing soccer with a ball that appears to have been kicked to Pluto and back. A roving gang of glue-sniffing teens were working the neighborhood as well…a dangerous reminder of how sad the downward cycle of poverty can be…little relief from the lack of long-term hope.

As we were invited into the room, we didn’t see any chairs, but Marisol gestured for us to sit on the edge of the two beds.  So a few of us did.  Unfortunately, the workmanship wasn’t designed to hold the weight of five larger Americans, and the frame cracked and collapsed with a resounding thud.  It was one of those moments where having a good sense of humor was equally mixed with shame over wrecking their meager bed.  Several of us surveyed the damage, and felt that it could probably be repaired somewhat easily, but it didn’t lessen the embarrassment. 

We asked our interpreters what they thought it would cost to hire a carpenter to fix something like this.  They conferred for a moment and said “probably no more than $10.”   I quickly offered it to Marisol, but she would have none of it.  We were her guests she explained, and she was honored to have us visit her home…absolutely under no circumstances would she accept any donation.  We nervously smiled and moved on with our visit.

Both girls had quite unique speaking voices—much huskier than most girls their age, with a bit of rasp. But because they were so animated in their sharing, the Carol Channing tone actually was mesmerizing.

They spoke with unbridled enthusiasm about how much they had been learning at school, and proudly showed us their stellar report cards.  They were quite well-read for their age, and could recite large portions of their favorite poetry and scriptures.  When we would ask them about social studies or Colombian history, they would excitedly rattle off information.  One of the parents of teens in our group whispered in my ear that they had forgotten what zest towards education looked like in a young person.

All three girls were sponsored by individuals in America through Compassion International. That sponsorship helped them with their schooling, skills training, supplemental nutrition, and school clothing.  Marisol was so grateful that it also provided her daughters with a safe place to stay after public school since she had to work ten to twelve hours each day. 

The twins showed us prized letters and photos from their sponsors that they had committed to memory.  They went on and on about how much they had been encouraged by those letters and their prayers. It was their goal to be worthy of the expectations their sponsors had for them, and to make them very proud. I whispered back to my friend that I could only think of one or two teenagers I knew in the States who could even approach the responsible tone I was hearing from these tweenies.

We asked Marisol what difference did she see in her children because of sponsorship.  She smiled meekly and said, “They have learned much more about discipline and good manners.  I don’t have to correct them as harshly as many other mothers do their children because they have learned more of the ways of the Lord at the church school.”  The girls looked adoringly at their mom, and nodded their agreement.

After our group of twelve people had finished another twenty minutes worth of questions, Monica politely asked if she and Hesblaidy would be allowed to ask us some questions.  We were taken back by her politeness (especially in such an unforgiving environment as their thug-infested barrio).  We were even more impressed by the depth of their inquiries, like: What cities were we from? What type of careers did we have? Did we miss our families while traveling? When did we come to know Jesus?  How were we seeking to serve Him in our work?  What did we think of their city and their country?  Every response was met by at least two more follow-up queries.  What inquisitive kids they were!

While the conversation was going on between the girls and the rest of the group, I once again tried to reason with Marisol about paying for the damage done to the bed. She resolutely refused to accept anything; despite the fact that I knew she was raising her daughters on a very meager income of $60 per month.  As I kept digging in my wallet, she put her hand over mine and said “Please, no,” in broken English.

A member of my group asked if the twins would like to sing a little acapella duet for us.  What ensued was the loveliest rendition of a medley of Hispanic hymns that you can imagine.  It was obvious that they spent much time singing together, and their sibling harmonies were terrific for such a young age.  They reinforced that they really wanted to use their talents to sing for God—and none of us doubted that they indeed could do just that. 

As it was getting close to the time for us to return to our bus and cut through the late afternoon Bogotá traffic, I suggested that we gather around and have some time of prayer together.  Normally when we would do this at a home visit, different folks in our troupe would take a turn at leading.  But before we could say anything, Hesblaidy asked if she could have the honor of praying for us. “Why, yes!” we all replied. We asked Marisol and the three kids to all gather in our midst so we could lay hands on them as a sign of encouragement and unity.

The twelve-year-old’s ensuing intercession was the definition of meekness.  She tenderly expressed deep appreciation for the opportunity to meet brothers and sisters from America who traveled all this way just to visit them.  She thanked God by name for each of their sponsors, their children, and even their pet dogs.  After many more words of appreciation for their health, provision, and unity, she then pondered Christ’s love for all of us, and pled forgiveness for when she had let Him down with her selfishness. With the utmost respect and humility she asked God again, “If it be Your will, we would very much like to serve You with our singing, and we patiently wait for You to lead us.” We were all in awe of the gentle spirit of love that had descended upon this household and was demonstrated in and through these little women.

While everyone had their heads bowed in fellowship with her heartfelt yearnings, I quietly stepped back from the circle and tucked $50 under the well-worn Bible that was on the rickety dresser.

May those amazing ladies continue to find good rest in Him.  Sleep well, you Bogotá beauties.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Christian Zionism: The Heresy that Undermines Middle East Peace

by Reverend Dr. Stephen Sizer
At least one in four American Christians surveyed recently by Christianity Today magazine said that they believe it is their biblical responsibility to support the nation of Israel. This view is known as Christian Zionism. The Pew Research Center put the figure at 63 per cent among white evangelicals. Christian Zionism is pervasive within mainline American evangelical, charismatic and independent denominations including the Assemblies of God, Pentecostals and Southern Baptists, as well as many of the independent mega-churches. It is less prevalent within the historic denominations, which show a greater respect for the work of the United Nations, support for human rights, the rule of international law and empathy with the Palestinians.
The origins of the movement can be traced to the early 19th century when a group of eccentric British Christian leaders began to lobby for Jewish restoration to Palestine as a necessary precondition for the return of Christ. The movement gained traction from the middle of the 19th century when Palestine became strategic to British, French and German colonial interests in the Middle East. Proto-Christian Zionism therefore preceded Jewish Zionism by more than 50 years. Some of Theodore Herzl’s strongest advocates were Christian clergy.
Christian Zionism as a modern theological and political movement embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism. It has become deeply detrimental to a just peace between Palestine and Israel. It propagates a worldview in which the Christian message is reduced to an ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it places an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ’s love and justice today.
Followers of Christian Zionism are convinced that the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 and the capture of Jerusalem in 1967 were the miraculous fulfillment of God’s promises made to Abraham that he would establish Israel as a Jewish nation forever in Palestine.
Tim LaHaye’s infamous Left Behind novels, together with other End Times speculations written by authors such as Hal Lindsey, John Hagee and Pat Robertson, have sold well over 100 million copies. These are supplemented by children’s books, videos and event violent computer games.
Burgeoning Christian Zionist organizations such as the International Christian Embassy (ICEJ), Christian Friends of Israel (CFI) and Christians United for Israel (CUFI) wield considerable influence on Capitol Hill, claiming a support base in excess of 50 million true believers. This means there are now at least ten times as many Christian Zionists as Jewish Zionists. And their European cousins are no less active in the Zionist Hasbarafia, lobbying for Israel, attacking its critics and thwarting the peace process. The United States and Israel are often portrayed as Siamese twins, joined at the heart, sharing common historic, religious and political values.
Pastor John Hagee is one of the leaders of the Christian Zionist movement. He is the Founder and Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church, a 19,000-member evangelical church in San Antonio, Texas. His weekly programmes are broadcast on 160 TV stations, 50 radio stations and eight networks into an estimated 99 million homes in 200 countries. In 2006 he founded Christians United for Israel admitting,
“For 25 almost 26 years now, I have been pounding the evangelical community over television. The Bible is a very pro-Israel book. If a Christian admits ‘I believe the Bible,’ I can make him a pro-Israel supporter or they will have to denounce their faith. So I have the Christians over a barrel, you might say.”
In March 2007, Hagee spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee                             AIPAC) Policy Conference. He began by saying:
“The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened. There are 50 million Christians standing up and applauding the State of Israel…”
As the Jerusalem Post pointed out, his speech did not lack clarity. He went on to warn:
“It is 1938. Iran is Germany, and Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler. We must stop Iran’s nuclear threat and stand boldly with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East… Think of our potential future together: 50 million evangelicals joining in common cause with 5 million Jewish people in America on behalf of Israel is a match made in heaven.”
Christian Zionists have shown varying degrees of enthusiasm for implementing six basic political convictions that arise from their ultra-literal and fundamentalist theology: 
The belief that the Jews remain God’s chosen people leads Christian Zionists to seek to bless Israel in material ways. However, this also invariably results in the uncritical endorsement of and justification for Israel’s racist and apartheid policies, in the media, among politicians and through solidarity tours to Israel.
As God’s chosen people, the final restoration of the Jews to Israel is therefore actively encouraged, funded and facilitated through partnerships with the Jewish Agency.
Eretz Israel, as delineated in scripture, from the Nile to the Euphrates, belongs exclusively to the Jewish people, therefore the land must be annexed, Palestinians driven from their homes and the illegal Jewish settlements expanded and consolidated.
Jerusalem is regarded as the eternal and exclusive capital of the Jews, and cannot be shared with the Palestinians. Therefore, strategically, Christian Zionists have lobbied the US Administration to relocate its embassy to Jerusalem and thereby ensure that Jerusalem is recognised as the capital of Israel.
Christian Zionists offer varying degrees of support for organisations such as the Jewish Temple Mount Faithful who are committed to destroying the Dome of the Rock and rebuilding the Jewish Temple on the Haram Al-Sharif (Noble sanctuary of Al-Aqsa).
Christian Zionists invariably have a pessimistic view of the future, convinced that there will be an apocalyptic war of Armageddon in the imminent future. They are deeply sceptical of the possibility of a lasting peace between Jews and Arabs and therefore oppose the peace process. Indeed, to advocate an Israeli compromise of “land for peace” with the Palestinians is seen as a rejection of God’s promises to Israel and therefore to support her enemies.

Within the Christian Zionist worldview, Palestinians are regarded as alien residents in Israel. Many Christian Zionists are reluctant even to acknowledge Palestinians exist as a distinct people, claiming that they emigrated to Israel from surrounding Arab nations for economic reasons after Israel had become prosperous. A fear and deep-seated hatred of Islam also pervades their dualistic Manichean theology. Christian Zionists have little or no interest in the existence of indigenous Arab Christians despite their continuity with the early church.
In 2006, I drafted what became known as the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism signed by four of the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem: His Beatitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch, Jerusalem; Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem; Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East; and Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. In it they insisted:
“We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as a false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.
"We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organisations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of world.
"We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from ideologies of militarism and occupation. Instead, let them pursue the healing of the nations!
"We call upon Christians in Churches on every continent to pray for the Palestinian and Israeli people, both of whom are suffering as victims of occupation and militarism. These discriminative actions are turning Palestine into impoverished ghettos surrounded by exclusive Israeli settlements. The establishment of the illegal settlements and the construction of the Separation Wall on confiscated Palestinian land undermines the viability of a Palestinian state and peace and security in the entire region.”
The patriarchs concluded:
“God demands that justice be done. No enduring peace, security or reconciliation is possible without the foundation of justice. The demands of justice will not disappear. The struggle for justice must be pursued diligently and persistently but non-violently.” The prophet Micah asks, “What does the Lord require of you, to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
It is my contention after more than 10 years of postgraduate research that Christian Zionism is the largest, most controversial and most destructive lobby within Christianity. It bears primary responsibility for perpetuating tensions in the Middle East, justifying Israel’s apartheid colonialist agenda and for undermining the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
The closing chapter of the New Testament takes us back to the imagery of the Garden of Eden and the removal of the curse arising from the Fall: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb… On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22:1-2) Surely this is what Jesus had in mind when he instructed his followers to act as Ambassadors of peace and reconciliation, to work and pray that God’s kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.
The Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer is the Vicar of Christ Church in Virginia Water and the author of Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? (InterVarsity Press, 2004); Zion’s Christian Soldiers? (2007) and In the Footsteps of Jesus and the Apostles (Eagle, 2004). For more information see