More on Christian Zionism
Christian Zionism: The new heresy that sways America
The Political Agenda of Christian Zionism
By Stephen Sizer
08/24/04 Christian Zionism is a theology that supports a political regime based on apartheid and discrimination - yet millions of people in the US express their support for it. How dangerous is it given the US role in the Middle East?
“Only one nation, Israel, stands between ... terrorist aggression and the complete decline of the United States as a democratic world power... If Israel falls, the United States can no longer remain a democracy. ...Arab money is being used to control and influence major U.S. Corporations, making it economically more and more difficult for the United States to stand against world terrorism.”
While many would not necessarily go as far as Mike Evans, it is nevertheless assumed by a large proportion of Christians in Britain and America that it is their biblical responsibility to support the State of Israel and that God’s blessing on them is conditional on their blessing Israel. Dale Crowley, a Washington based religious broadcaster, describes this movement as the ‘fastest growing cult in America’:
‘It’s not composed of “crazies” so much as mainstream, middle to upper-middle class Americans. They give millions of dollars each week – to the TV evangelists who expound the fundamentals of the cult. They read Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye. They have one goal: to facilitate God’s hand to waft them up to heaven free from all the trouble, from where they will watch Armageddon and the destruction of planet earth.’
Christian Zionism Defined
Christian Zionism is essentially Christian support for Zionism. Zionism is a political system based on ethnic exclusivity giving Jews preferential political rights which are denied to Palestinians. The United Nations has defined Zionism as a form of racism and apartheid. Nevertheless, in the words of Grace Halsell the essential message of the Christian Zionist is this: “every act taken by Israel is orchestrated by God, and should be condoned, supported, and even praised by the rest of us.”
The Significance of the Christian Zionist Movement
Estimates as to the size of the movement as a whole vary considerably. While critics like Crowley claim, ‘At least one out of every 10 Americans is a devotee’, that is between ‘25 to 30 million’, Christian Zionists such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell claim weekly access to 100 million sympathetic Americans. What ever the true figure, all are agreed, that number that is growing in size and influence. They are led by 80,000 fundamentalist pastors and clergy, their views disseminated by 1,000 local Christian radio stations as well as 100 Christian TV stations. Doug Kreiger lists over 250 pro-Israeli organisations founded in the 1980s alone.
The Unity Coalition for Israel, for example, which is the largest, brings together 200 different Jewish and Christian Zionist organisations including the International Christian Embassy, Christian Friends of Israel and Bridges for Peace. They claim a support base of 40 million active members. These organisations make up a broad coalition which not only helps keep Sharon’s racist government in power and is also, as we shall see, helping to shape the aggressive stance of US foreign policy in the Middle East today.
The rise of contemporary Christian Zionism can be traced to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 which came to be seen as the most significant fulfilment of biblical prophecy, indeed for many, ‘the greatest piece of prophetic news that we have had in the 20th Century.’ Following the Six Day War of 1967, Billy Graham’s father-in-law Nelson Bell, then editor of Christianity Today, expressed the sentiments of many American evangelicals when, in an editorial for the magazine he wrote, ‘for the first time in more than 2,000 years Jerusalem is now completely in the hands of the Jews gives a student of the Bible a thrill and a renewed faith in the accuracy and validity of the Bible.’
In 1976 a series of events brought Christian Zionism to the forefront of US mainstream politics. Jimmy Carter was elected as the ‘born again’ President drawing the support of the evangelical right. In Israel, Menachem Begin and the right wing Likud Party came to power the following year. A tripartite coalition slowly emerged between the political Right, evangelicals and the Jewish lobby. In 1978, Jimmy Carter acknowledged how his own pro-Zionist beliefs had influenced his Middle East policy. In a speech, he described the State of Israel as, ‘a return at last, to the biblical land from which the Jews were driven so many hundreds of years ago ... The establishment of the nation of Israel is the fulfilment of biblical prophecy and the very essence of its fulfilment.’ However, when Carter vacillated over the aggressive Likud settlement programme and proposed the creation of a Palestinian homeland, he alienated the pro-Israeli coalition of Jews and evangelicals who switched their support to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 elections. Reagan’s election as President gave a considerable boost to the Christian Zionist cause. Don Wagner shows, ‘The election of Ronald Reagan ushered in not only the most pro-Israel administration in history but gave several Christian Zionists prominent political posts. In addition to the President, those who subscribed to a futurist premillennial theology and Christian Zionism included Attorney General Ed Meese, Secretary of Defence Casper Weinberger, and Secretary of the Interior James Watt.’
‘White House Seminars’ became a regular feature of Reagan's administration bringing bringing Christian Zionists like Jerry Falwell, Mike Evans and Hal Lindsey into direct personal contact with national and Congressional leaders. In 1982, for instance, Reagan invited Falwell to give a briefing to the National Security Council on the possibility of a nuclear war with Russia. Hal Lindsey also claims Reagan invited him to speak on the subject of war with Russia to Pentagon officials. In a personal conversation reported in the Washington Post two years later in April 1984, Reagan elaborated on his own personal convictions to Tom Dine, one of Israel’s chief lobbyists working for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC): ‘You know, I turn back to the ancient prophets in the Old Testament and the signs foretelling Armageddon, and I find myself wondering if - if we're the generation that is going to see that come about. I don't know if you’ve noted any of these prophecies lately, but believe me they certainly describe the times we're going through.’
While George Bush Snr., Bill Clinton and George W. Bush do not appear to have shared the same dispensational presuppositions of either Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan, they nevertheless have maintained, however reluctantly, the strong pro-Zionist position of their predecessors. This is largely due to the influence of the Zionist lobby considered by many to be the most powerful in the United States. Aluf Ben, a spokesman for Shimon Peres, was quoted in the mass-circulation Tel Aviv daily Ha’aretz as claiming “60 percent of all financial help to Democrats came from Jewish sources.” According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, “Most pro-Israel fund-raisers estimate that at least 60 to 90 percent of Democratic campaign funding comes from Jewish sources, which also supply perhaps 40 percent of Republican funding.” Perhaps this is why it is hard to find a single elected American politician willing to criticise Israel publicly.
Three Christian leaders, in particular, each given a White House platform by Reagan, have probably achieved more than any others in the last thirty years to ensure American foreign policy remains pro-Zionist. They are, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Hal Lindsey. became an avid supporter of the Zionist State. Grace Halsell describes Falwell’s conversion:
‘The stunning Israeli victory made a big impact not only on Falwell, but on a lot of Americans ... Remember that in 1967, the United States was mired in the Vietnam War. Many felt a sense of defeat, helplessness and discouragement. As Americans, we were made acutely aware of our own diminished authority, of no longer being able to police the world or perhaps even our own neighborhoods ... Many Americans, including Falwell, turned worshipful glances toward Israel, which they viewed as militarily strong and invincible. They gave their unstinting approval to the Israeli take-over of Arab lands because they perceived this conquest as power and righteousness ... Macho or muscular Christians such as Falwell credited Israeli General Moshe Dayan with this victory over Arab forces and termed him the Miracle Man of the Age, and the Pentagon invited him to visit Vietnam and tell us how to win that war.’
In 1979, the same year Falwell founded Moral Majority, the Israeli government gave Falwell a Lear jet to assist him in his advocacy of Israel. A year later in 1980, Falwell also became the first Gentile to be awarded the Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky medal for Zionist excellence by Israel’s Prime Minister, Menachem Begin. Jabotinsky was the founder of Revisionist Zionism and held that Jews had a divine mandate to occupy and settle ‘on both sides of the Jordan River’ and were not accountable to international law. When Israel bombed Iraq’s nuclear plant in 1981, Begin phoned Falwell before he called Reagan. He called to ask Falwell to ‘explain to the Christian public the reasons for the bombing.’ During the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Falwell similarly defended Israel’s actions:
‘When the massacres occurred at the two Palestinian camps, Falwell just mimicked the Israeli line: “The Israelis were not involved.” And even when The New York Times was giving eyewitness accounts of Israeli flares sent up to help the Phalangists go into the camp, Falwell was saying, “That’s just propaganda”.’
In March 1985, Falwell spoke to the conservative Rabbinical Assembly in Miami and pledged to ‘mobilize 70 million conservative Christians for Israel.’ In January 1998, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington, his first meeting was with Jerry Falwell and with The National Unity Coalition for Israel, a large gathering of more than 500 fundamentalist Christian leaders, rather than with President Clinton. According to Donald Wagner, the crowd hailed Netanyahu as ‘the Ronald Reagan of Israel.’ This time Falwell promised to contact 200,000 pastors and church leaders who receive his National Liberty Journal and ask them to ‘tell President Clinton to refrain from putting pressure on Israel’ to comply with the Oslo accords. In an interview with The Washington Post in 1999, Falwell described the West Bank as ‘an integral part of Israel.’ Pressing Israel to withdraw, he added, ‘would be like asking America to give Texas to Mexico, to bring about a good relationship. It’s ridiculous.’ In 2000, Falwell revived Moral Majority under the name People of Faith 2000, ‘a movement to reclaim America as one nation under God’ and which also takes a strong pro-Israeli stance. Falwell has succeeded, probably better than any other American Christian leader, to ensure his followers recognise that their Christian duty to God involves providing unconditional support for the State of Israel.
While Jerry Falwell may be one of the most influential Christian Zionists, he is also a figurehead, along with Pat Robertson, for a much wider alliance of over 150 influential fundamentalist Christian leaders including Oral Roberts, Mike Evans, Tim LaHaye, Kenneth Copeland, Paul Crouch, Ed McAteer, Jim Bakker, Franklin Graham, James Dobson, Chuck Missler and Jimmy Swaggart who have all taken a pro-Zionist stance in their writings or broadcasts. These Christian leaders and their organisations have regular access to over 100 million Christians, more than 100,000 pastors and combined budgets of well in excess of $300 million per annum. They form a broad and immensely powerful coalition which is both shaping and driving US foreign policy on the Middle East as well as Christian support for Israel today.
The Historical Development of Christian Zionism
If you want to explore in more detail the historical roots or the theological basis of the movement, check out the bookstore for some helpful resources.
Instead, I want to concentrate now on six aspects of the political agenda of the Christian Zionist movement and show why Christian Zionists are implacably opposed to the peace process in the Middle East. Indeed I want to show how they may be contributing to the very holocaust in the Middle East which they predict.
The Political Agenda of Christian Zionism
We are going to examine six ways in which Christian Zionist theology has been translated into political action: This outline illustrates the correlation between the movements distinctive doctrines and their political agenda.
Standing with Israel
Facilitating the Aliyah Programme
Supporting West Bank Settlements
Lobbying for International Recognition
Funding the Rebuilding of the Temple
Opposing Peace & Hastening Armageddon
Lets consider each one at a time.
1. The Chosen People : Supporting Israeli Colonialism
The conviction that the Jewish people remain God’s ‘chosen people’ in some way separate from the Church, is deeply rooted in Christian Zionism. A recent Christianity Today survey of evangelical opinion about Israel gives an indication of the strength of Christian Zionism in America. The survey revealed that 24% believe ‘the biblical mandate for Christians is to support the State of Israel.’ This is expressed in a variety of ways:
1.1 Standing with Israel
Following the Six Day War in 1967, apart from the support given by the United States government, Israel has been largely isolated within the international community. Hal Lindsey laments: ‘Up to the time of the 1991 Madrid Conference, the Arabs were “called upon” to “comply”, “desist”, “refrain” etc. four times. Israel was “demanded”, “ordered”, etc. to do General Assembly bidding three hundred and five times. The UN voted six hundred and five resolutions between its inception and the Gulf War. Four hundred and twenty nine of those resolutions, or, sixty-two percent of the total of the UN’s resolutions were against Israel or its interests.’
Citing Isaiah 40, Christian Zionists see their role to, ‘comfort, Israel.’ So for example, in October 2000, just days after Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Haram Al-Sharif, which was deliberately timed to undermine the government of Barak for negotiating with Arafat over a shared Jerusalem, and sparking the second intifada, an advertisement appeared in the New York Times entitled ‘Open Letter to Evangelical Christians from Jews for Jesus.’ In it they called upon evangelicals to show solidarity with the State of Israel at this critical time: ‘Now is the time to stand with Israel. Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, our hearts are heavy as we watch the images of violence and bloodshed in the Middle East ... Christian friends, “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). So must our support for the survival of Israel in this dark hour be irrevocable. Now is the time for Christians to stand by Israel.’
1.2 The Israeli Lobby on Capitol Hill
Until the 1980s, US Middle East policy was largely peripheral to the wider global threat posed by Soviet Communism. The protection of Western Europe through NATO was a higher priority. The collapse of Communism, however, created a power vacuum in the Middle East which the US has filled. Following the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait and then more recently, Afghanistan from the Taliban then Iraq from the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein, the US has significantly increased its influence in the Middle East. Many contend that US foreign policy has become skewed through the disproportionate influence of the Zionist lobby. Michael Lind, the political analyst summarises the ways in which the Israeli lobby has distorted US foreign policy: ‘Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, enabled by US weapons and money, inflames anti-American attitudes in Arab and Muslim countries. The expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land makes a mockery of the US commitment to self-determination for Kosovo, East Timor and Tibet. Beyond the region, US policy on nuclear weapons proliferation is undermined by the double standard that has led it to ignore Israel’s nuclear programme while condemning those of India and Pakistan.’
The Christian Right came to shape US foreign policy largely through the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. His victory over Jimmy Carter gave a considerable boost to the Christian Zionist cause. His election, ‘ushered in not only the most pro-Israel administration in history but gave several Christian Zionists prominent political posts.’ White House seminars became a regular feature of Reagan’s administration bringing leading Christian Zionists like Jerry Falwell, Mike Evans and Hal Lindsey into personal contact with national and congressional leaders. In the same year, the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem, was founded with the purpose of coordinating ‘direct political lobbying activities in cooperation with the Israeli government.’ Along with other organisations making up the Unity Coalition for Israel, their principal strategy is to lobby the US media and political establishment, to challenge what they term ‘disinformation and propaganda’ and to express ‘the truth about Israel.’
The power of the pro-Israeli lobby ensures Israel continues to receive between 3-8 billion dollars annually from the US in grants, loans and subsidies and military assistance. This power can be gauged by the fact that George Bush Snr. was the last US President to criticise Israel in public. During the Gulf War, he enraged the Israeli lobby by pressurising Israel not to retaliate against Iraqi attacks and promised the Arab coalition partners that he would deal with the Palestinian issue. In September 1991, he complained that, ‘there are 1,000 lobbyists up on the Hill today lobbying Congress for loan guarantees for Israel and I’m one lonely little guy down here asking Congress to delay its consideration of loan guarantees for 120 days.’ Lind points out that the pro-Israeli lobby was also responsible for encouraging, ‘the greatest abuse of the Presidential pardon power in American history’ when Bill Clinton, on his last day in office, controversially pardoned Mark Rich, the fugitive billionaire on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list. In a New York Times article in February 2001, Clinton explained that he had done it for Israel:
‘Many present and former high-ranking Israeli officials of both major political parties and leaders of Jewish communities in America and Europe urged the pardon of Mr Rich because of his contributions and services to Israeli charitable causes’
The pro-Israeli lobby is also accused of involvement in the selection, appointing and firing of US government officials and appointees. In 1980, the former US ambassador to Qatar, Andrew Killgore, writing in The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, gave this critique of the Israeli lobby: ‘It is wrong and perverse for fanatical elements within the two and a half percent of our population who are Jewish to hold Congress hostage… America must regard the Israeli progression from penetration to direction of US foreign policy as the work of a master criminal.’
Christian Zionists have also been influential in forging a closer relationship with Israel by facilitating solidarity tours to the Holy Land.
1.3 Solidarity Tours to Israel
Since 1967, following the capture of most of the important biblical sites associated with pilgrimages from Jordan and Syria, Israel has systematically exploited what has been described as a lucrative ‘touristic gold mine’, making tourism a tool of propaganda. Israel’s greatest success, however, has been to enlist American evangelical leaders such as Pat Boone and Jerry Falwell as allies in promoting pro-Israeli solidarity tours. For example, Falwell’s 'Friendship Tours’ to Israel include not only meetings with top Israeli government and military officials but also, .....On-site tour of modern Israeli battlefields... Official visit to an Israeli defence installation... strategic military positions, plus experience first hand the battle Israel faces as a nation.
Christian Zionists are not, however, content to support the State of Israel politically and financially. They are also active in persuading Jews to emigrate to Israel and fulfil their destiny.
2. Restorationism : Facilitating Aliyah from Russia and Eastern Europe
Christian Zionists are convinced that it is God’s will for the Jewish people to return to Israel since it was given in perpetuity to the descendants of Abraham. With the fall of Communism in the Former Soviet Union (FSU) and Eastern Europe, Christians Zionists have become increasingly active in facilitating Jewish émigrés to make aliyah.
Since 1980, a coalition of Christian Zionist agencies has taken the initiative in encouraging Jewish people to emigrate to Israel, seeing this as the fulfilment of prophecy. Exobus was probably the first Christian Zionist agency to turn the doctrine of Restorationism into a reality and assist Jews in the former Soviet Union (FSU) to make aliyah. Founded in 1984 they have assisted over 56,000 Jewish people to emigrate to Israel in close cooperation with the Jewish Agency. Exobus is also probably the largest Christian agency facilitating aliyah, comprising 80 team members, drawn from 13 countries and operating 40 vehicles transporting approximately 1,200 Jews overland from 16 different bases in the FSU each month.
Since 1991, the ICEJ has also paid for the transportation of another 40,000 immigrants, 15,000 of whom were taken to Israel on 51 ICEJ sponsored flights. ICEJ Russian team members are especially active in the more remote regions of the FSU. They locate Jews, persuade them to emigrate, help them obtain documents to prove their Jewish origins, distribute humanitarian packages and pay for exit permits, passports, debt repayment, transport and accommodation. Once in Israel, ICEJ assist émigrés with their resettlement costs, providing food, clothing, blankets, kitchen and school supplies as well as medical equipment. Believing the Jews remain God’s chosen people and that God is bringing them back to the land, it is imperative that they claim all the land God promised their forefathers.
3. Eretz Israel : Sustaining the West Bank Settlements
For religious Zionism, Jewish and Christian, the legitimate borders of Israel are considerably larger than those presently disputed with Syria, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
Christian involvement in the realisation of Eretz Israel includes the military justification of these enlarged borders; the political adoption of the settlement programme; and economic support for the settler movement. For example, David Allen Lewis, President of Christians United for Israel, puts the territorial claims of Israel into the wider context of the Middle East. He observes that, ‘The Arabs already have 99.5 per cent of the land … this cannot be tolerated.’
In response to international calls on Israel to give back the West Bank, Bridges for Peace asks the rhetorical question: ‘What is so sacred about the June 4th, 1967 line?’ Nothing, they argue since historically this was all part of biblical Israel and ‘squarely won in defensive battles in 1967 and 1973.’ This conviction that the entire West Bank is integral to Israel has led many Christian Zionists to ‘adopt’ exclusive Jewish settlements to strengthen their claim to the land.
Adopting the Settlements
Since 1967, using various economic and tax incentives as well as appealing to biblical rhetoric, Israel has encouraged over 400,000 Jews to colonize East Jerusalem, The West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights through 190 illegal settlements. Several Christian organisations have given their full support to this judaization of the Occupied Territories. The Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC), founded by Ted Beckett in 1995, works in partnership with Christian Friends of Israel (CFI) and defines a settlement as: "A piece of land where brave, Jewish pioneers have taken up residence. In most cases it is a barren rocky hilltop set up to establish a Jewish community where none had existed for thousands of years.’
So far, CFOIC claims 39 illegal Israeli settlements have been adopted by 50 churches in the USA, South Africa, Germany, Holland and the Philippines. For example, Ariel has been adopted by Faith Bible Chapel, Arvada, Colorado; Hevron by Greater Harvest, Tallahassee, Florida; Alei Zahav by Calvary Chapel, Nashville. To strengthen the settlers’ claim to the land, CFOIC publish maps on their website showing the few areas of the West Bank given back to the Palestinian Authority. CFOIC lament what they describe as the ‘partition’ of the land as ‘the reality of the “peace process” for those living in the Land G-d promised the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for ever!’ The reality is that Palestine is no more. The Separation Wall has cast in concrete the reality that all Palestinians can hope for are a few isolated and impoverished Bantustans similar to the Indian reservations of North America, although on the West Bank they are also denied the freedom of movement between them. Christian Zionists have not only made a clear stand in justifying Israel’s illegal settlement of the West Bank. Their ‘adoption’ programme is also intended to be a means by which financial assistance as well as practical support for the settlers is delivered.
Funding the Settlers
Besides facilitating the emigration of Jews to Israel, several Christian Zionist agencies are active in funding illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. During the 1991 ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles celebration, for example, representatives from 12 countries presented cheques to the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitshak Shamir, to help finance the settlements. Through their ‘Social Assistance Programme’ ICEJ also provides financial support for projects in the Jewish settlements, including bullet proof vests to strengthen the resolve of settlers, living among what they describe as ‘3 million hostile Palestinians.’ ICEJ’s ‘Bulletproof Bus for Efrat’ appeal is also raising $150,000 to purchase an armour plated bus to transport settlers in and out of the West Bank from Efrat settlement. Bridges for Peace (BFP) has a similar scheme called ‘Operation Ezra’ which funds over 50 otherwise unsustainable projects such as the settlement farm, Sde Bar, near Beit Jala and the Herodian. Integral to this strategy is Jerusalem and the progressive Judaizing, occupation and settlement of Arab East Jerusalem and the Old City. For Zionism there can be no compromise, since controlling Jerusalem has always been a barometer of their existence as a nation.
4. Jerusalem : Lobbying for International Recognition
At the core of Christian Zionist support for Israel’s claim to the Occupied Territories lies the conviction that Jerusalem is, and must remain, the exclusive and undivided Jewish capital. Attempts to reach agreement in the wider Arab-Israeli conflict have so far stalled or stumbled over the final status of Jerusalem. Christian Zionists are strongly opposed to any proposal for joint sovereignty or the creation of a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.
As early as February 1984, the ICEJ sent a representative, Richard Hellman, to testify before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in Washington to urge the US to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognise the city as the capital of Israel. Jerry Falwell and the AIPAC lobby also spoke in favour of such a move. Senator Bob Dole later introduced legislation in the American Senate which required the US Embassy to be rebuilt in Jerusalem by 31 May 1999, and authorised $100 million for ‘preliminary’ spending. In October 1995 he stated, ‘Israel’s capital is not on the table in the peace process, and moving the United States embassy to Jerusalem does nothing to prejudice the outcome of any future negotiations.’ Lamenting the failure of the US President to ratify the Senate decision, Dole commented: ‘Jerusalem is today as it has been for three millennia the heart and soul of the Jewish people. It is also, and should remain forever, the eternal and undivided capital of the State of Israel ... The time has come ... to move beyond letters, expressions of support, and sense of the Congress resolutions. The time has come to enact legislation that will get the job done.’
In 1997 the ICEJ also gave support to a full page advert placed in the New York Times entitled, ‘Christians Call for a United Jerusalem.’ It was signed by 10 evangelical leaders including Pat Robertson, chairman of Christian Broadcasting Network and President of the Christian Coalition; Oral Roberts, founder and chancellor of Oral Roberts University; Jerry Falwell, founder of Moral Majority; Ed McAteer, President of the Religious Roundtable; and David Allen Lewis, President of Christians United for Israel: ‘We, the undersigned Christian spiritual leaders, communicating weekly to more than 100 million Christian Americans, are proud to join together in supporting the continued sovereignty of the State of Israel over the holy city of Jerusalem … we believe that Jerusalem, or any portion of it, shall not be negotiable in the peace process. Jerusalem must remain undivided as the eternal capital of the Jewish people.’
Readers were invited to ‘Join us in our holy mission.’ ‘The battle for Jerusalem has begun, and it is time for believers in Christ to support our Jewish brethren and the State of Israel. The time for unity with the Jewish people is now.’
In 2002, Falwell controversially linked the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre with Israel’s exclusive claim to Jerusalem. He called upon his supporters to petition the US President to ‘Keep Jerusalem Free.’ Christian Zionists have therefore been resolute in their efforts to get the international community to recognise Jerusalem as the de facto capital of Israel. However, even more critical to a Christian Zionist reading of prophecy is the necessity for the Jewish Temple to be rebuilt.
5. The Temple : Identifying with Religious Zionism
Dispensational Christian Zionists, in particular, are convinced the Jewish Temple must be rebuilt because, based on their futurist eschatology from Daniel, the anti-Christ must desecrate it just prior to the return of Christ. David Brickner claims that the preparations for rebuilding the Temple began in 1967 with the capture of the Old City of Jerusalem. Lindsey is equally sure that, ‘right now, as you read this, preparations are being made to rebuild the Third Temple.’ Contemporary Christian Zionists are working to achieve this.
Promoting the Temple Mount Movement
Randall Price is the leading dispensational expert on the imminent plans to rebuild the Jewish Temple. In his 735 page The Coming Last Days Temple, he provides comprehensive details of all the Jewish organisations involved in attempts to seize the Temple Mount, destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, rebuild the Jewish Temple and re-institute Temple worship, priesthood and sacrifices. These include the Temple Institute and Temple Mount Faithful. Gershon Salomon is the controversial figurehead of the movement and founder of The Temple Faithful. Zhava Glaser, of Jews for Jesus, praises Salomon for his courage to talk about ‘the most important subject in the Jewish religion.’Speaking as a guest of the ICEJ, at the Christian Zionist Congress in 1998, Salomon insisted:
‘The mission of the present generation is to liberate the Temple Mount and to remove - I repeat, to remove - the defiling abomination there ... the Jewish people will not be stopped at the gates leading to the Temple Mount ... We will fly our Israeli flag over the Temple Mount, which will be minus its Dome of the Rock and its mosques and will have only our Israeli flag and our Temple. This is what our generation must accomplish.’
In a London Times, interview Salomon insisted that the Islamic shrine must be destroyed: ‘The Israeli Government must do it. We must have a war. There will be many nations against us but God will be our general. I am sure this is a test, that God is expecting us to move the Dome with no fear from other nations. The Messiah will not come by himself; we should bring Him by fighting.’ Since 1967 there have been over 100 armed assaults on the Haram Al-Sharif by Jewish militants, often led by rabbis. ‘In no instance has any Israeli Prime Minister or chief rabbi criticized these assaults.’
Facilitating the Temple Building Programme
In order to sustain a fully functioning Temple it is also necessary to identify, train and consecrate priests to serve in the Temple. According to the Book of Numbers, the ashes of a pure unblemished red heifer, itself previously offered by a ritually pure priest, must be mixed with water and sprinkled on both them and the Temple furniture. With the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD the ashes used in the ceremony were lost and the Jews of the Diaspora have therefore been ritually unclean ever since.
In 1998, however, Clyde Lott, a Pentecostal Mississippi rancher, formed Canaan Land Restoration of Israel, Inc. for the purpose of raising livestock suitable for Temple sacrifice. According to Newsweek, in 1997, the first red heifer for 2000 years was born at the Kfar Hassidim kibbutz near Haifa and named ‘Melody’. Unfortunately she eventually grew white hairs on her tail and udder. Undaunted, Chaim Richman, an Orthodox rabbi and Clyde Lott, the Pentecostal cattleman, have teamed up to breed red heifers in the Jordan Valley, in the hope of producing a perfect specimen for sacrifice.
The design and construction work, furnishings and utensils, the training of priests and breeding of sacrifices all require funds and in large measure, like the red heifer, these are being provided by Christian Zionists. According to Grace Halsell, Stanley Goldfoot raises up to $100 million a year for the Jerusalem Temple Foundation through American Christian TV and radio stations and evangelical churches. ‘Jewish longing for the Temple, Christian hopes for the Rapture, and Muslim paranoia about the destruction of the mosques [are being] stirred to an apocalyptic boil.’
6. The Future : Opposing Peace and Hastening Armageddon
The US-Israeli Alliance
Jerry Falwell offers a simple explanation for the close relationship between America and Israel. God has been kind to America because ‘America had been kind to the Jew.’ Gary Bauer, president of American Values, put it like this. “Terrorists don’t understand why Israel and the United States are joined at the heart.” Mike Evans, founder and President of Lovers of Israel Inc. describes the special relationship between Israel and America: ‘Only one nation, Israel, stands between ... terrorist aggression and the complete decline of the United States as a democratic world power ... Surely demonic pressure will endeavour to encourage her to betray Israel … Israel is the key to America’s survival … As we stand with Israel, I believe we shall see God perform a mighty work in our day. God is going to bless America and Israel as well … If Israel falls, the United States can no longer remain a democracy.’
For Christian Zionists such as Falwell and Evans, America is seen as the great redeemer, her super-power role in the world predicted in scripture and providentially ordained. The two nations of America and Israel are like Siamese twins perceived to be pitted against an evil world dominated by Communism and Islam both antithetical to the Judeo-Christian democratic values of America and Israel.
Antipathy Toward Arabs
Ramon Bennett illustrates how such prejudices remain common today describing the modern Arab nations as ‘barbarous’. ‘The customs of hospitality and generosity have changed little in 4,000 years,’ he claims, ‘nor have the customs of raiding (thieving, rustling), saving face or savagery.’ Bennett argues that the Arab ‘is neither a vicious nor, usually, a calculating liar but a natural one.’
Franklin Graham, President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, made similar but unguarded remarks in an interview for the Charlotte Observer in 2000: ‘The Arabs will not be happy until every Jew is dead. They hate the State of Israel. They all hate the Jews. God gave the land to the Jews. The Arabs will never accept that.’
Hatred of Arabs is personified in attitudes toward Yasser Arafat. In February 1999, for example, Arafat was invited to attend the 47th annual Congress-sponsored National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. The breakfast is normally attended each year by more than 3,000 political and religious leaders but on this occasion Arafat’s invitation generated considerable controversy. The Traditional Values Coalition, founded by Pat Robertson and representing 40,000 churches, urged congressmen to boycott the breakfast. The ICEJ said that attending the breakfast with Arafat would be ‘like praying with Satan himself.’ Despite considerable pressure from pro-Israeli groups the invitation was not withdrawn. It was left to the White House press secretary, Joe Lockhart, to defend the invitation. He lamented, ‘it’s done every year in the spirit of reconciliation. And it’s unfortunate that there are some who don’t fully understand the spirit of reconciliation and inclusion.’ But I’m afraid it gets worse…
Justifying the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
Frequently, defending Israeli security leads Christian Zionists to deny Palestinians the same basic human rights as Israelis. Some are even reluctant to acknowledge the existence of Palestinians as a distinct people. Dave Hunt is typical of those who equate Palestinians with the ancient Philistines, and use the term Palestinian in an entirely pejorative sense.
Central to the Middle East conflict today is the issue of the so-called Palestinian people... Palestinians? There never was a Palestinian people, nation, language, culture, or religion. The claim of descent from a Palestinian people who lived for thousands of years in a land called Palestine is a hoax!.
Based on Hunt’s logic presumably the same arguments could be used against the right to self-determination of citizens of the United States or indeed of several dozen nations founded in the 20th Century. The history of the persecution of the Jews illustrates how easily the denigration of an ‘inferior’ people or a denial of their existence as a distinct people can lead to the rationalizing of their eradication.
In May 2002, Dick Armey, the former Republican House Majority leader, made ground breaking news by justifying the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. In an interview with Chris Matthews on CNBC on May 1st 2002, Armey stated that: ‘Most of the people who now populate Israel were transported from all over the world to that land and they made it their home. The Palestinians can do the same and we are perfectly content to work with the Palestinians in doing that. We are not willing to sacrifice Israel for the notion of a Palestinian homeland … I’m content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank … There are many Arab nations that have many hundreds of thousands of acres of land, soil, and property and opportunity to create a Palestinian State.’
Matthews gave Armey several opportunities to clarify that he was not advocating the ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians from the West Bank, but Armey was unrepentant. When asked, ‘Have you ever told George Bush, the President from your home State of Texas, that you think the Palestinians should get up and go and leave Palestine and that’s the solution?’, Armey replied, ‘I’m probably telling him that right now … I am content to have Israel occupy that land that it now occupies and to have those people who have been aggressors against Israel retired to some other arena.’
Armey’s view that Palestinians should be ‘retired’ is only the latest in a series of calls in the mainstream US and UK media for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. While such racist attitudes among Christian Zionists toward Arabs are common, as are the stereotypes that Palestinians are terrorists, it is more especially Muslims who are demonised.
Anti-Arab and Islamaphobic sentiments have become even more widely tolerated since 11th September 2001. Such views have recently been described as a form of new ‘McCarthyism’. In February 2002, for example, Pat Robertson caused considerable controversy when he too described Islam as a violent religion bent on world domination. He also claimed American Muslims were forming terrorist cells in order to destroy the country. Robertson made the allegations on his Christian Broadcasting Network ‘700 Club.’ After clips showing Muslims in America, the announcer, Lee Webb asked Robertson, ‘As for the Muslim immigrants Pat, it makes you wonder, if they have such contempt for our foreign policy why they’d even want to live here?’ Robertson replied: ‘Well, as missionaries possibly to spread the doctrine of Islam ... I have taken issue with our esteemed President in regard to his stand in saying Islam is a peaceful religion. It’s just not. And the Koran makes it very clear, if you see an infidel, you are to kill him … the fact is our immigration policies are now so skewed to the Middle East and away from Europe that we have introduced these people into our midst and undoubtedly there are terrorist cells all over them.’
At the 2002 Southern Baptist Convention held in Florida, the former national convention leader, the Rev. Jerry Vines, pastor of the 25,000 member First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, brought applause from several thousand participants of the pastors’ conference when he described Muhammad as ‘a demon-possessed paedophile’ Such antipathy toward Arabs, denigration of Palestinians and hatred of Islam invariably leads Christian Zionists to also oppose any peaceful resolution of the Arab Israeli conflict which might require or coerce Israel to relinquish territory or compromise its security.
Opposing the Peace Process
While Christian Zionists endorse Israel’s unilateral claim to the Occupied Territories, they oppose similar Palestinian aspirations to self determination since they believe the two are intrinsically incompatible. Christian Zionists have been most vociferous in opposing the Road Map to Peace initiative of the US government, UN, European Community and Russia. Hal Lindsey, for example lamented “I am heartbroken over the latest stage of the “road map to peace”, describing it instead as a “Odyssey to Holocaust” He went on to rebuke the US president.
“I was sickened to watch a well-meaning Christian American president talk incessantly about his vision for a Palestinian state and Jewish state living side by side in peace.” At the Interfaith Zionist Leadership Summit, held in Washington May 2003, Jewish and Christian Zionist leaders met to consider how to turn the “road map” into a road-block. Gary Bauer, called the president’s initiative “a Satanic roadmap”. To many Christian Zionists, peace talks are not only a waste of time, they demonstrate a rebellious defiance toward God’s plans. Such infallible certitudes lead some Christian Zionists to anathematise those who do not share their presuppositions.
Forcing God’s Hand
Christian Zionists often attempt to silence critics with the threat of divine retribution. For example, recently Hal Lindsey said this,
“My great fear is that President Bush is ignorantly leading the United States into God’s judgment. For God warns that He will judge all nations that have contributed to keeping Israel from living in the land He sovereignly gave them.”
Christians are left in no doubt which side to ‘uphold.’ On the 1st January 2002 edition of the CBN 700 Club, Pat Robertson warned that if the US
‘wants to interfere with Bible prophecy and wants to move in and wrest East Jerusalem away from the Jews and give it to Yasser Arafat … heaven help this nation of ours … If the United States takes East Jerusalem back and makes it the capital of the Palestinian State, then we are asking for the wrath of God to fall on this nation.’
Robertson even suggests that Rabin’s assassination was an act of God, a judgement for his betrayal of his own people: ‘This is God’s land and God has strong words about someone who parts and divides His land. The rabbis put a curse on Yitzhak Rabin when he began cutting up the land.’
Such pronouncements coming from highly influential Christian leaders appear little different from those of Muslim fundamentalists who call for a ‘holy war’ against the West. Karen Armstrong is not alone in tracing within Western Christian Zionism evidence of the legacy of the Crusades. Such fundamentalists have, she claims, ‘returned to a classical and extreme religious crusading.’
7. Conclusions: The Political Implications of Christian Zionism
We have seen how Christian Zionism as a movement has profound and deeply destructive political consequences. Christian Zionists have shown varying degrees of enthusiasm for implementing six basic theological convictions that arise from their literal and futurist reading of the Bible:
1. The belief that the Jews remain God’s chosen people leads Christian Zionists to a justification for Israel’s military occupation of Palestine.
2. As God’s chosen people, the final restoration of the Jews to Israel is therefore actively encouraged and facilitated through partnerships between Christian organisations and the Jewish Agency.
3. Eretz Israel, as delineated in scripture, belongs exclusively to the Jewish people, therefore the land must be annexed and the settlements adopted and strengthened.
4. Jerusalem is regarded as the eternal and exclusive capital of the Jews, and cannot be shared with the Palestinians. Therefore, strategically, Western governments are placed under pressure by Christian Zionists to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem and thereby recognise the fact.
5. The Third Temple has yet to be built, the priesthood consecrated and sacrifices reinstituted. As dispensational Christian Zionists, in particular, believe this is prophesied, they offer varying degrees of support to the Jewish Temple Mount organisations committed to achieving it.
6. Since Christian Zionists are convinced there will be an apocalyptic war between good and evil in the near future, there is no prospect for lasting peace between Jews and Arabs. Indeed, to advocate Israel compromise with Islam or coexist with Palestinians is to identify with those destined to oppose God and Israel in the imminent battle of Armageddon.
Clearly, not all Christian Zionists embrace these views with the same degree of conviction or involvement. Nevertheless, it has been argued, the overall consequences of such uncritical support for the State of Israel, especially among Evangelicals, is inherently and pathologically destructive, not least to the very Jewish people they claim to love. At the first major international and ecumenical conference to examine this issue, held in Jerusalem in April this year, under the auspices of Sabeel, over 600 delegates affirmed a declaration which included the following. “We reject the heretical teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support … a form of racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ.
Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from ideologies of militarism and occupation and instead to pursue the healing of the world …
We will stand for justice. We can do no other. Justice alone guarantees a peace that will lead to reconciliation and a life of security and prosperity for all the peoples of our land. By standing on the side of justice, we open ourselves to the work of peace -- and working for peace makes us children of God.”
Garth Hewitt has written many songs about the plight of the Christian community in Israel and Palestine. One of them, based on some verses from the Jewish Talmud, is called ‘Ten measures of beauty God gave to the world’. I would like to close by using it as a prayer.
May the justice of God fall down like fire
and bring a home for the Palestinian.
May the mercy of God pour down like rain
and protect the Jewish people.
And may the beautiful eyes of a Holy God
who weeps for His children
Bring the healing hope for His wounded ones
For the Jew and the Palestinian.