While Peter the Hermit was in Jerusalem on pilgrimage, Jesus came to him in a dream and told him to go back to Europe and gather an army that would return to liberate the Christian East from the Muslim infidels. This was the popular face of the origin of the Crusades at the beginning of the second millennium. These bloody wars went on for about 200 years.
Simon Sebag Montefiore, in his book “Jerusalem: The Biography,” quotes a church figure who says of those days that violence had seized control over nations, and fraud, deceit and betrayal overshadowed everything. That was the spirit that prevailed in Europe on the eve of the Crusades. One could similarly describe the condition of the United States under the representative of the Christian evangelicals, President Donald Trump.
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Nearly 1,000 years after the Crusades, a similar figure appears in Maya Zinshtein’s upsetting film, “’Til Kingdom Come.” Pastor William Boyd Bingham IV has had a difficult experience: He suffered from cancer and recovered and complains about the humiliating attitude of American high society. Now he acts out of a sense of mission. Evangelicals believe that redemption will come only after the war of Gog and Magog, and that the Jews who will remain after that will have to choose between two options: Convert to Christianity or be burned.
Pastor John Hagee, Israel’s greatest friend in the entire world, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, explains that God says: I will bring them, the Jewish people, back to their land. How? His answer is “the hunters.” Hagee explains: “Hitler was a hunter,” who chased the Jewish people back to their land. “How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen.” In other words, it wasn’t Hitler, it was God. Blind nationalism motivated the old Nazis, and now religion, according to a warped interpretation, is motivating the new Nazis.
Poverty and government neglect brought Kentucky to the bottom of America’s socioeconomic ladder. Thirty percent of the state’s residents live in poverty, 49 percent of its children are below the poverty line, and if that weren’t enough, one of every four residents suffers from some sort of addiction. But instead of rolling up his sleeves to help his community, Pastor Boyd Bingham takes coins from the children of these impoverished believers to support Israeli settlements in order to hasten the war of Gog and Magog. The pastor abandons his brethren to poverty and addiction and instead supports land thieves. Two sins at once.
In 1095, Peter the Hermit wandered around on a donkey, wearing rags. One thousand years later, Bingham wanders around in a nice car, wearing fine clothes. While Peter called on his believers to come to Jerusalem to liberate the Holy Land, according to his warped beliefs, the hermit of today collects donations so that the Jews across the sea can do the work for him, so they can be a spearhead against the peoples of the East.
During the Crusades, the Jews were the first victims; today, their Jewish collaborators are the overwhelming majority on the political map. This is blind collaboration; everything the nut case does there is accepted here with cries of joy. But in the end, they are serving the evangelical spirit.
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In the movie, the evangelical broadcaster Tamasa Rosner says, I hear the explosions [in our region] and it gives me hope that our redemption is near.
The only hope was in the confrontation between the American pastor and Rev. Munther Isaac, academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College and the pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem and of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Beit Sahour, in the West Bank.
The two read the same passages from Scripture and came away with opposite insights. The Palestinian clergyman says that God loves all people without distinction, while the American is waiting for an apocalyptic war that will bring redemption.
If there’s a chance for a life of peace and prosperity for the two peoples, then we must adopt the path of the Palestinian priest, a son of this suffering and bleeding land. The path of the evangelical pastor is frightening not only for Palestinians and Jews, but for all of humanity.