I have reported previously about the National House of Prayer (NHOP) in Ottawa. As I write this, Rob and Fran Parker, the husband and wife team who lead NHOP, are planning what they describe as a prayer walk to Israel in late March into April. On March 13-14th the Parkers are also guest speakers at a Calgary conference of a group called the International Christian Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Parker has written on the NHOPâ€™s blog in recent weeks about his plans. â€œRecently God has confirmed to me it is now time to Prayer-Walk Israel,â€ he wrote in February. â€œIt seems that everywhere you turn these days you are hearing that there’s a growing sense of acceleration of God’s purposes. Many Christian leaders are preaching that we have entered into the ‘Signs of the Times’ that Jesus referred to around his Second Coming. In different ways in Canada we believe we are ‘touching’ things for God’s purposes that are massive in light of the days we are living.â€
This is not the first time that the Parkers believe they have been called by God to undertake a project. Ron Parker has a long association with Watchmen for the Nations, a pro-Israel Christian right group based in the U.S. and Canada. After a Watchmen gathering in 1996, Parker organized a prayer-walk from Calgary to Ottawa. He and his wife felt they were being called to set up an intercessory house of prayer in the nationâ€™s capital. In 2004, they purchased a former convent not far from Parliament Hill for $900,000. Theyâ€™ve added staff and volunteers and regularly host groups, including youth, from across the country to engage in formation as prayer leaders and also to visit select MPs. The NHOP personnel appear to have ready access to Parliament Hill. They attend Question Period, sit in on parliamentary committee meetings and lead parliamentary prayer groups. The people who organize the National Prayer Breakfast, held by parliamentarians once a year, have invited the Parkers to lead workshops following the meal.
Parker, in his blog postings, described the focus of the upcoming Israel walk in the following ways: â€œTo pray for a preparation around the events of the Second Coming of Christ. For a blessing on all those who live in the land and on those who labour for God’s kingdom in Israel. To pray for the safety for the people of Israel as they face any possible threats of war from nations hostile to them.â€Â There is no mention, however, of praying for those in the region who are threatened by hostile actions at the hands of the Israeli military.
The NHOP exists within a fundamentalist and charismatic network known for its emotional and enthusiastic forms of worship, including speaking in tongues, holy laughter, and a belief in powers of prophecy and healing.Â Many in the movement are Christian reconstructionists who believe that â€œGod governsâ€ and that government and all of society must submit to the bibleâ€™s moral principles. There are those who call this a recipe for theocracy. A good part of the ardour on display arises from a millenarian belief that we are approaching end times, when Christ will return to reward the righteous and punish sinners.
Reconstructionists believe that the return of Jews from around the world to Israel and establishing an Israeli state in 1948 were the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy, and a foreshadowing of the second coming. This unfortunate merging of biblical mythology about chosen people and nations with current political events explains the unyielding support for any and all Israeli state policies among Christian reconstructionists in the U.S. and Canada.
The NHOP first came to my attention in 2006 when it was advertising a tour to Israel in September-October of that year. The advertisement invited potential tourists to: â€œIgnite your passion and intercession for Israel, the land, the people for God’s end-time purposes.â€ The advertisement quoted Psalm 102, saying, â€œThe appointed time to favor Zion has come.â€ The tour had to be cancelled because hostilities broke out between Israel and groups in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.
The Conservatives were elected in Canada in January 2006, and certain Christian groups made common cause with Canadian Jewish organizations in lobbying the Harper government to take a pro-Israel position in the conflict. The prime minister did not disappoint, when he described an Israeli campaign that took 1,000 lives as a â€œmeasured responseâ€ to the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers. The Canadian government has since 2006 jettisoned Canadaâ€™s previous role as an honest broker in the Middle East and has tilted our foreign policy entirely in Israelâ€™s favour, including unconditional support for the deadly invasion of Gaza in January 2009.
Canadaâ€™s pro-Israel support has now worked its way back into our domestic politics as well, in the most unpleasant of ways. Late in 2009, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) abruptly withdrew funding and severed a long-standing relationship with KAIROS, an inter-church human rights group. Speaking at a conference in Jerusalem in December 2009, Jason Kenney, Canadaâ€™s immigration minister, accused KAIROS of being anti-Semitic and of supporting an economic boycott of Israel. KAIROS and its members, including Catholic, United, Anglican, and Lutheran churches, the Mennonite Central Committee and Quakers, hotly denied those claims.
Then, early in 2010 Canadaâ€™s respected Rights and Democracy organization imploded after new board members appointed by the Conservative government forced the resignation of the organizationâ€™s president RÃ©my Beauregard at a particularly nasty meeting. Mr. Beauregard died of a heart attack later that day. Conservative appointees to the board of Rights and Democracy accused the organization of being anti-Israel. Senior staff members have now been fired and Rights and Democracy has closed a Geneva-based office that which worked in proximity to several United Nations agencies.
The governmentâ€™s ham-fisted actions against KAIROS and Rights and Democracy have sent an intended chill through Canadaâ€™s church and development communities. Question the policies of the Israeli government and you are called anti-Semitic. Question the policies of the Canadian government and you will be punished. These attacks have led others, including former Canadian diplomat Harry Stirling, to question why the kind of debate that occurs regularly within Israel about the country’s policies toward its neighbours is labelled as anti-Semitic when it occurs in Canada.
A common analysis is that in its policies and practices the Harper government is attempting to win the support of Jewish organizations and voters in this country. It may be, however, that an even more important reason for the governmentâ€™s one-sided policy is its desire to appease its base among the Christian right â€“ those who actually believe that a biblical prophecy of end times will be fulfilled by the Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.
Some of those people will gather at a weekend meeting sponsored by the International Christian Chamber of Commerce at the Hyatt Regency in Calgary on March 12-13th. They will talk about Godâ€™s plan for Israel and Rob and Fran Parker are featured as guest speakers. The ICCC advertisement invites registrants to: â€œCome and hear about our unique relationship with the government of Israel. Come and hear how you can stand in a practical way with Israel in Her call to be a blessing to many nations.â€ The ad quotes the bibleâ€™s book of Genesis regarding Israel: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.â€™â€™
Interestingly, Christian reconstructionists believe that only those who have accepted Christ as their personal saviour will be saved in the Last Judgement. Others, and one assumes this includes people of Jewish faith, will be damned if they have not accepted Christ.Â This is, to say the least, an odd basis for a pro-Israel coalition.