An In-depth look into the Unique bond Between Evangelical Christianity and the Jewish State.
DIRECTED BY MAYA ZINSHTEIN/2019
DVD STREET DATE: OCTOBER 4, 2022/KINO LORBER
‘Til Kingdom Come, a documentary released in 2019, provides a concise overview of the strong financial and political support provided by evangelical American Christians for the Israeli settlement movement and the administration of former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Directed by Maya Zinshtein, an Israeli filmmaker who approaches the subject with reasonable objectivity, the film provides ample opportunity for the main figures in the narrative to state their reasons for forging what would seem to many an unlikely and problematic alliance.
On the one hand, there are the Zionist Israelis who believe that they have an inherent and unquestionable right to assert authority and take control over territory inhabited by Palestinian residents. On the other, there are the fundamentalist Christians who espouse theologically-driven beliefs that the establishment and territorial expansion of the modern state of Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecies that accurately predicted these events thousands of years ago. For the Israeli settlers, their claims on disputed land and the challenges they face in building new communities initiate a set of concrete problems to be resolved, especially as they face external resistance and hostility not only from those currently living in the contested territory but also from a global audience of observers who disapprove of actions they consider to be inhumane, perhaps even criminal, in taking control of property in ways that deprive others of their rights and freedoms.
Their discovery of relatively affluent communities of Christians in the USA who fervently endorse the Zionist ambitions to transform Palestine into “Judean Samaria” is an obvious, if somewhat unexpected, boon to their effort. Even though the Israelis and Christians maintain significant points of belief in which they clearly disagree, each party in the relationship recognizes clear benefits to their respective visions for what the future holds. Thus the intractable conflicts that might otherwise induce hostility are instead set aside for the sake of mutual self-interest.
The pragmatic and historic conjoining of two groups (Jews and Christians) who have generally been in degrees of conflict ranging from simmering to savage over the past two millennia presents a fascinating topic to explore, with numerous perspectives to choose from. Though we see quite a few familiar faces (including Netanyahu, Donald Trump and other members of his family and administration, televangelist Pat Robertson and other leaders of the Christian Right), Zinshtein’s choice of focusing primarily on Pastor Boyd Bingham and other members of a small Baptist congregation based in an economically deprived region of Kentucky as our primary entry point into this developing cross-cultural relationship succeeds in drawing our attention to the ideological forces that draw these communities together, seemingly against the odds and obstacles that would otherwise keep them separate.
The director also introduces us to Yael Eckstein, a leader of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, who functions as the primary contact between the organization she leads and the fundamentalist Christians who provide generous funding for ostensibly charitable, humanitarian purposes.
Of course, the rapport established between these groups will land differently for viewers based on their own perspectives or personal stakes in the central matter at hand. If one’s religious beliefs align with either Zionist Judaism or dispensationalist Christianity, ‘Til Kingdom Come serves as a cause for celebration and a statement that builds the case for ongoing collaboration between these movements. More zealous adherents to either of those belief systems might even cite the film as evidence of God’s active endorsement of their efforts in real time and space. However, for viewers who may question or doubt the theological underpinnings of their arguments, the film will likely be seen as evidence of either mass delusion of gullible believers or cynical manipulation of ancient scripture for the sake of accruing political power and control. Perhaps both!
‘Til Kingdom Come is a fairly brief film (76 minutes) but packs a lot into that runtime, with numerous opportunities, if one is inclined, to hit the pause button and contemplate the irony and significance of what’s portrayed on screen. Whether it’s the cognitive dissonance of apparently sincere expressions of belief that seem utterly preposterous to those who hold different views, the human tragedy stemming from violence that erupts when incompatible cultures come into direct conflict, or the anguish felt by realizing that these variants of apocalyptic forecasts will exert their warping influence on human behavior and imagination far into a future that will presumably outlive all of us, this documentary is capable of delivering a potent punch to viewers sensitive to the subject matter and its implications.
The Kino Lorber disc release is minimal – just the film, no trailers, with options for a 5.1 or 2.0 sound mix. For additional context on the situation, in particular to get more direct perspective on the Palestinian side of this conflict (which is touched on here, but only in passing), I recommend another documentary distribute by Kino Lorber. 5 Broken Cameras was released in 2011 and is comprised of footage shot by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat. He originally got into making home videos to record images of his children as they were growing up, but began using his camera to document the incursion of Israeli settlers into the olive groves tended by him and his neighboring villagers. The film’s title refers to the succession of cameras he had to use over the years as they were successively damaged by members of the Israeli police and military forces who were responsible for displacing and evicting Palestinian protestors from the properties coveted by expansionist settlers. 5 Broken Cameras is available on DVD and also is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel through the end of October 2022.