“Til Kingdom Come” – End of days for whom? [MOVIE REVIEW]

Hands raised in prayer, Middlesboro, Kentucky. Photo by Abraham (Abie) Troen. ‘Til Kingdom Come (2019) Film Ltd

Hands raised in prayer, Middlesboro, Kentucky. Photo by Abraham (Abie) Troen. ‘Til Kingdom Come (2019) Film Ltd

The opening moments of “Til Kingdom Come” are chilling as we watch a man set up targets outdoors and load his automatic weapon as he explains what motivates disenfranchised rural southern Christians. Believing they had been dismissed by Obama, they moved forward with Trump because he pushed their agenda. As he points out, “We are the people who brought him to power.” It was then that Pastor Boyd Bingham IV of Kentucky’s Binghamton Baptist Church raises his gun and begins shooting.

“Til Kingdom Come,” directed by Israeli filmmaker Maya Zinshtein, is a thoughtful and terrifying documentary about the ties between American Evangelicals and Israel. Simplistically put, the Evangelical interpretation of the Bible is that the second coming of Christ cannot occur unless the Jews occupy the Holy Land of Judea and Samaria. A complicated history is made more complicated when one considers their location in the disputed West Bank of Israel.

In 1983, the Fellowship of Christians and Jews was founded by Yechiel Eckstein, an Israeli American rabbi. In a more cynical view, it can be argued that he understood full well the so- called need for Evangelicals to bind with Jews and exploited it for the benefit of Israel. Early on, he found a strong advocate in Pat Robertson and his “700 Club.” Pat Robertson spread the “end time prophesy” that Jesus will come back to the Holy Land. The money started pouring in. The Israeli recipients of this largesse chose to overlook the Christian view of Armageddon where the Jews will perish in favor of the Christians. Pragmatically, money for Israel was money.

As noted, American Evangelicals represent 25% of the voting public. In the Trump administration, both Mikes, Pence and Pompeo, are evangelicals. Trump was acceding to the Evangelical request to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, not to the Israelis. As pointed out by an Israeli diplomatic correspondent, “This is political Christianity in which politics is a continuation of a prophetic vision.” Pat Robertson considered it “to be a fulfilment of God’s promise of what he’s going to do on earth.” From the Palestinian point of view, this was an act of war. Evangelicals have no motivation to bring the Palestinians and the Jews into any kind of coexistence.

Pastor Boyd talking with Yael Eckstein in his church. Photo by Abraham (Abie) Troen. ‘Til Kingdom Come (2019) Film Ltd.

The Binghamton Baptist Church of Kentucky is a central focus of this documentary. Ravaged by poverty and resentful of the loss of their primary industry, coal, the members of this congregation are devoted to their lead minister, Boyd Bingham III, father of the gun-toting pastor in the opening. The Binghams have led this church for generations. Boyd III has a firm grasp of the end of time philosophy and encourages his congregation to send their pocket change to the fund he has set up to aid the Israelis, whether in shoring up the illegal settlements or in charitable endeavors to feed their hungry. He has led groups to Israel where they tour soup kitchens and illegal West Bank settlements. The right wing pro-settlement faction has learned to advance their position using politics based on religion and ideology, ignoring what the manifestation of this type of Christian philosophy is. Yael Eckstein, who became the head of the Fellowship of Christians and Jews following the death of her father, realizes that for Jews, placing Jesus in an Old Testament context is a trigger issue. Because there are huge sums of money involved, it is easier to look the other way.

But that other way is corrupt. This is ultimately a battle of the gods. The Christians believe that it is God’s will that the Jews will perish and they will persevere. Any remaining Jews will have to convert. The Muslim scenario is not all that different in that they believe God will rid the Holy Land, for this, too, is their Holy Land, of infidels.

Who, in essence, has sold out? The Israelis to the Evangelicals? The Evangelicals, traditionally a fount of anti-Semitism, to the Jews? What, indeed, is the end game here?

“Til Kingdom Come” is terrifying in its straight forward approach. Any audience watching this film will bring already established feelings to this issue, but seeing this from the Evangelical Christian point of view only heightens the stakes.

Closing, much like it did at the beginning, we see the pastor and his gun as he talks about God’s plan.

Opening February 26 at the Laemmle Virtual Theater.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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