“TIL KINGDOM COME”
Jews and Evangelical Christians
Associate Pastor William Boyd Bingham IV, is a reflective soft spoken man, the third generation of preachers to serve in the Binghamtown Baptist Church, an Evangelical congregation in Middlesboro county, one of the poorest in this yet it manages to be a major contributor to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. This organization, founded by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and now headed by his daughter Yael, is now the largest welfare charity in Israel with a budget of $118m in 2018. In addition to helping the needy, it encourages Jewish immigration into Israel and rallies Churches abroad to support the country. American Evangelists now rival Jewish organizations like AIPAC in their fundraising for Israel.
The Evangelists believe in the Rapture, a prophecy that foretells the return of the Jews to Israel will be followed by a period of violent tribulations and will culminate with Armageddon, a terrible final war that will mark the beginning of the return of Christ. Most Jews will perish and those that survive will convert to Christianity. The protests following the move of the American Embassy to Jerusalem led to 58 deaths and thousands injured. Recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and cutting UNWRA funding for Palestinian welfare are part of the plan. Because two key members of Trump’s cabinet were evangelical– Pence and Pompeo— this agenda was being vigorously advanced.
Bingham leads a group of evangelist pilgrims to Israel where they visit and volunteer at a food distribution center. He takes time, alone and away from his group, to politely listen to a Palestinian Catholic cleric complain about the negative influence of evangelists on the prospects for peaceful co-existence between Arabs and Jews. He claims to be unconvinced, but is he secretly rooting for more confrontation and bloodshed? The Ecksteins go on fundraising trips to the United States. Yael visits the Binghamtown church and then pledges $5m of her charity’s money at an IDF fundraiser. We witness the efforts of Israeli settlers who are now engaging directly with evangelist US congressmen to advance their cause.
On WMIK, a radio station owned by the Binghamtown Baptist Church, a news presenter seems to be overjoyed by reports of bombings in Israel, and this gives her hope that redemption is closer. Director Maya Zinshtein allows her protagonists to do the talking and relies on Israeli television presenters to explain the Rapture prophecy for the benefit of Israeli audiences. The film is haunting, beautifully shot by cinematographer Abraham Troen. It is an explosive blend of fanaticism, hypocrisy and cynicism and it shook me to my core.
“Til Kingdom Come” is a documentary that shows why evangelicals and right-wing are sleeping with each other.Spotlighting rural communities in Kentucky it makes you uncomfortable and so it does what it sets out to do. There are a number of Orthodox Jews in America and Israel that welcome evangelical support for Israel. However, we see that evangelicals are not supporting Israel for the same reason as Jews. They want to bring about the end of days.
Part of the film looks at moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Even though there is Jewish support for having the embassy in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem, many presidents held off because of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. For something that is supposed to be a secular event, we can only wonder why were there so many Christian clergy on hand? At the opening of the embassy, John Hagee spoke with rhetoric that makes Jews feel uncomfortable and evangelicals looked at the move as a Christian prophecy. Palestinians looked at it as an act of war. As a matter of fact, there were 58 Palestinians killed and over 2,700 injured during mass protests over the move.
Evangelicals don’t even bother to look at the overall conflict. They focus on getting all Jews back to Israel than have any discussion about human rights. It gets even worse when we realize that hardline extremist settlers are meeting with members of Congress.
When asked about Pastor William Bingham’s comments in a church, Yael Eckstein mentions being triggered whenever Jesus is intertwined into Hebrew Bible teachings. William Bingham is asked about what will happen to Jews when the end times come and we clearly see that evangelicals and Jews have two very different viewpoints. There is really no way to reconcile these views and so we should be really ill at-ease here.
Bingham speaks of Trump’s appeal in his community. He mentions feeling looked down upon by people in larger cities and affluent areas.
Right before the film’s end,it becomes completely uncomfortable. Bingham is asked, off-camera, if there is a degree of hypocrisy between Jews and evangelical Christians has a certain level of hypocrisy and he replies with “you blind stupid Jewish people.” After that statement, it no longer matters what he says, he clearly is an anti-Semite.
Jews must reject evangelical support because of their obsession with prophecy. After watching this film, it’s very scary knowing that there are Jews who accept evangelical support. The film examines how this powerful coalition came together and how its apocalyptic theology poses a lasting threat to the region in its design.
The International Fellowship for Christians and Jews was founded in 1983 by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, who is interviewed in this film, along with his daughter and successor. He was mocked and dismissed by Jewish Israelis, and when his ideas became a tremendous multi-million dollar success, he was scorned for inviting his Christian partners to the table.
What Zinshtein shows us is a matrix of interest groups in an uneasy alliance for a common cause. Evangelicals welcome the vision of Armageddon that welcomes death, wars, pestilence and natural disaster in Israel as signs of prophecy. By its nature this is antisemitic and is counter to peace, the former Trump administration which prided itself on its evangelical base, and Netanyahu’s own government, relying on the votes of the settler movement yet its terms have been accepted. Not only am I uncomfortable after seeing “Til Kingdom Come”, I am very, very angry.