Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 2007, pages 58-59
The Dangerous Potent Elixir of Christian Zionism
By Pat MorrisonALL LINKS ADDED BY ROBIN
WHAT MAY BE potentially the greatest U.S.-born political threat to peace is not terrorist sleeper cells or even the deployment of more U.S. troops to the Middle East. Instead, it’s the prolific spread of a brand of fundamentalist Christian “End Times” pseudotheology linked to massive support—military and financial—for the state of Israel. The threat goes by the name Christian Zionism.
According to expert observers and critics, the movement is harnessing incredible religious, political and financial power, thanks largely to highly visible and well-funded preachers, their churches and congregations’ financial commitment. And the implications of Christian Zionism’s belief system-cum-political agenda are frightening.
One of those experts watching the rise of Christian Zionism—and alerting mainline Christians, as well as Muslims, Jews and the public in general to its danger—is the Rev. Donald Wagner. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Wagner is associate professor of religion and Middle Eastern studies at North Park University in Chicago and executive director of its Center for Middle Eastern Studies. His most recent book is Anxious for Armageddon, a critique of Christian Zionism (and available from the AET Book Club).
In a packed presentation last fall at the Kansas City Sabeel Conference, Wagner outlined the movement’s growth, major proponents and political agenda.
Christian Zionism as a fringe biblical theory has been around in some shape or form since the 1600s, Wagner said—long before the establishment of modern Israel. But most recently it has morphed into a new entity that links its literal and fundamentalist interpretation of the Christian Bible with a convergence of political and sociological trends on the American landscape.
According to Wagner, these include: 1) growth of a “fear factor” in the United States since 9/11, fueled by 2) the millennium and “End Times” prophecy, as well as intensely marketed Christian fiction like the Left Behind series; and 3) the rise of right-wing political conservatism in the United States.
The Bush administration’s talk about “the axis of evil” and its “Crusader” mindset, coupled with the neocons’ constant language of empire, captured the imagination of many Christians who already were reading and identifying with End Times biblical interpretation.
Blend all these ingredients together and you have the perfect recipe for Christian Zionism, Wagner noted, and an audience primed to accept and push it.
Although popular TV fundamentalist preachers like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are enthusiastic supporters of Israel, Christian Zionism’s newest and most ardent promoter is Dr. John C. Hagee. Hagee, who is founder and pastor of the 18,000-member non-denominational evangelical Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, has a worldwide following through his John Hagee Ministries.
Some commentators have described the charismatic and avuncular Hagee as a “kinder, gentler” Rush Limbaugh look-alike, of similar political persuasion. As one critic colorfully summed it up: “If there is one thing worse than Elmer Gantry, it’s Elmer Gantry with a foreign policy.”
Today Hagee is perhaps best known as founder of an ultra-right wing Christian Zionist political lobby in Washington, Christians United for Israel, or CUFI.
According to Wagner, CUFI is completely aligned to AIPAC, the pro-Israel U.S. lobby, and “defends a hard-right maximalist Israeli agenda: They support Israel having control of all of the West Bank and Gaza because ‘God gave it to the Jews exclusively.’”
CUFI also fully supports the Israeli settler movement, Wagner said, and financially underwrites the relocation of European Jews to illegal settlements because Israel is “their land” promised them by God.
At the February 2006 launch of CUFI, Hagee stated that Christians United for Israel “will [soon] have organized offices in every state in the union, mobilizing every Christian and whoever will work with us on a pro-Israeli agenda.”
By mid-July of last year, Wagner said, Hagee had 3,500 CUFI supporters “deployed to every congressional office in Washington, pressing for more arms to be sent to Israel [during the Israeli-Hezbollah war] but also calling for the U.S. to attack Iran [because Hagee sees war with Iran as a prelude to Armageddon].”
In San Antonio last October, more than 10,000 CUFI supporters gathered to work on their political platform and strategies. Among the key conference presenters was former CIA director James Woolsey, a close supporter of AIPAC and outspoken opponent of the peace movement and of churches active in it.
Hagee coined the term “Islamofascist” at CUFI’s founding conference, Wagner noted, “and within a week [President] Bush was using it, then [former Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld.”
Wagner said his two greatest concerns about Christian Zionism—which claims to count up to 100,0000 evangelical believers around the world—is that it is extremely Islamophobic and anti-islamic, and that it projects a militant image of Christianity throughout the world.
“What [Christian Zionists] are projecting is a Western white, militant Zionist image of Christianity into the region,” Wagner said. “And what this does is give global Muslims, and global Christians, the impression that Christianity is really a militant, Crusader type of religion. In the end, even Jesus comes back in warrior fashion!”
In fact, he said, Christian leaders in the Holy Land are so worried about Christian Zionism’s harmful effects in the region that Catholic, Lutheran and Orthodox church leaders invited Wagner and a group of other experts to speak to them and help them inform their people about the movement’s dangers and its impact on the Muslim world.
Christian Zionism seriously damages Christian-Muslim and Christian-Jewish relations, especially in the Middle East. But what is even more worrisome, Wagner warned, is that because the resources of movement leaders like Falwell, Robertson and Hagee include worldwide missionaries and media outlets, they “have the reach to inflame the entire region.”
Pat Morrison writes from Dayton, Ohio. She has covered the Middle East, especially Israel/Palestine, extensively.
What Christian Zionists Believe
Christian Zionism centers on a literal and fundamentalist interpretation of five biblical beliefs—beliefs, it should be noted, that are not shared by most mainline Protestant churches, or by Roman Catholic or Orthodox Christians—and not even by many moderates who consider themselves Evangelicals.
Its core Bible interpretations are:
- That God’s covenant with Israel is eternal (including the promise of “the land” belonging to Israel in perpetuity;
- That God’s plan was always the redemption of Israel as God’s chosen people. When Israel rejected Christ, the Christian church replaced Israel, but only temporarily. At the Rapture, the church will again disappear and Israel will again become God’s primary agent in the world;
- That one verse in the Book of Genesis—12:3: “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you”—is pivotal, must be taken literally and applied to the modern state of Israel. Hence, Christians are divinely mandated to support the state of Israel and will face divine wrath if they do not;
- That the Bible’s prophetic books—including references to events like the Babylonian Exile, which occurred in 800 B.C.—predict current and coming political events, especially cataclysmic natural disasters signaling Christ’s Second Coming. Favorite biblical books are Daniel and the Book of Revelation, both filled with obscure symbolism and elaborate descriptions of the end of the world;
- That modern Israel is the catalyst for the countdown to the End Times (persecution, the Rapture, coming of the Antichrist, etc.), and that current political alignments will determine the future. A major contemporary belief is that the state of Israel (with financial backing from Christians) is destined to war with the pagan nations (Iraq, Iran, etc.), thus bringing about Armageddon, or the end of the world, and thus hasten the Second Coming of Jesus.
Christian Zionists believe that support of the state of Israel is a divinely mandated obligation in order to ensure their own salvation and to hasten the Second Coming of Jesus. Ironically, Jews are then expected either to convert and accept Jesus (which Christian Zionists consider unlikely) or be damned along with other “infidels” (e.g., Muslims) with whom they war. God is only “using” Israel to save Christians, the new heirs to the new Israel. —PLM
The threat of Christian-Zionism to peace in this world CANNOT be ignored. These Christian-Zionists have infiltrated the current US administration in absolutely alarming numbers. Christian-Zionism IS what is driving the current administration policy.
Just last week, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel banned participation in the Women to Women Conference:
Bridges for Peace is a Jerusalem-based, Bible-believing Christian organization that supports Israel and is engaged, according to its website, in "building relationships between Christians and Jews worldwide through education and practical deeds expressing God's love and mercy. It is our desire to see Christians and Jews working side by side for better understanding and a more secure Israel."
(IsraelNN.com) Participation in the "Woman to Woman" Conference in Jerusalem next week, sponsored by the Christian "Bridges for Peace" organization, has been banned by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. The event is set to coincide with the celebrations commemorating the 40th anniversary of Jerusalem's re-unification in the Six Day War.
And a few weeks ago, a female nationally sydicated Christian talk show host refused to go to Israel for a conference because she all of a sudden learned that prostelyzing Christianity in Israel is against the law. (sorry, I can't find the article currently) IMAGINE!!!!!
This unholy alliance is absolutely baffling to me, except to think that the ONLY reason they cooperate is that "birds of a feather flock together". These Christian Zionists believe that a certain number of Jews must convert to Christianity and then when that number is reached, the RAPTURE will come, and only THEY and the converts will survive. It is an ANNIALIST BELIEF, one centered on death and it is SICK!!!!!
Please read, the seminal article on this issue and how it is affecting politics in the Mideast Christian Zionism and American Foreign Policy: Paving the Road to Hell in Palestine
As for my OWN thoughts on this matter: