Christian Zionism

Written by: Samiha Khan

The conflict between Israel and Palestine has been one of American’s focal points in the Middle East since the 1960s. Despite the UN, the US and other Western countries pushing for a two-state solution, tensions between both sides have only festered. 

The fact that Evangelical Christians share such a strong sense of bonding with Jews and Israelis is rather puzzling considering that Evangelical religious authorities and individuals have a long history of embracing anti-semitic ideas. This changed drastically in the decades leading up to the establishment of the state of Israel when the support for Zionism was driven by Protestants for reasons that were not related to faith. The Pro-Palestine Federation, a Christian pro-Zionist organization founded in 1930, urged the British government to adhere to the Mandate for Palestine. Some scholars argue that Philo-Semitism from the evangelical community influenced the Balfour Declaration, a public statement by the British government announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine (Inbari and Bumin, 2020). 

Religious Motivations

Modern Christian Zionism is driven not by geopolitical concern, guilt for the persecution of Jews or based on shared cultures but because of the belief that Israel and Jews play a critical role in the Second Coming of Jesus.

Following the Six-Day War of 1967, evangelical interest in Israel was renewed. Many prominent preachers and authors theorised that Jews and the State of Israel play a central role in the “End of Days” events. The return of Jews to Israel signifies one of the most important stages in the second coming of Jesus. Jews will return to their “promised land”, rebuild Solomon’s temple (which many believe stood at the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque) and “trigger a period of genocidal slaughter” (Clark, 2007). 

However, this is not necessarily meant to benefit the Jewish population as Jeremiah 30:7 states that the end of days “will be a time of trouble for Jacob”, since they will be considered lacking in faith. Thus, the return of Jews to Israel is important to Evangelicals as it plays an essential role in their divine plan for redemption (Gorenberg, 2000). 

One of the fundamental principles followed by evangelicals is Biblical literalism, the belief that the Bible should be interpreted literally unless it was intended as an allegory. Genesis 12:3 states that whoever supports Abraham’s offspring will receive the blessings of God. And the fear of God’s wrath drives Christian support for Israel. Clark (2007) suggests that “if America abandons Israel, then God will cancel America’s most Divinely Favored Nation status.” They are further driven by the fact that there is a statistical correlation between American pressure on Israel to compromise and natural disasters taking place in the United States (Koening, 2011).

Although a minority, some support Israel due to a sense of guilt, stemming from the belief that antisemitism in the Christian community played a role in the Holocaust. The Founder of Christians United for Israel, Pastor John Hagee stated that “A thread connects the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Martin Luther’s attacks on the Jews, Adolf Hitler, and the Final Solution. All these acts were committed by baptized Christians.”

Some scholars argue that evangelical support of Israel is bordering on antisemitic as the Second Coming will result in the mass conversion of Jews and Israel is the site of Armageddon (Michaelson, 2018).

Political Motivations

While religious beliefs certainly play a role in Christian Zionism in the US, it is not the only reason. Political support for Israel has remained widespread on both sides of the political aisle, despite this sentiment weakening among younger liberals (Gries, 2015). This isn’t surprising considering that Israel holds many socio-economic and political values as Americans, such as rule of law, individual liberties and limited government. 

More importantly, both countries share similar geopolitical and strategic interests. Sturm (2010) argues that in the decades since 9/11, Muslims have replaced the Soviet Union as America’s biggest enemy. In response to this threat, American befriended Israel as its democratic partner against radical Islam and Iran. Finally, most evangelicals see Israel as guarantors of Christian access to their holy sites in Israel. 

Christian Zionism and the US

White evangelicals have been heavily involved in American politics since the 1970s and while their focus remained mostly on domestic political issues, support for the state of Israel has remained their most important international political agenda. 

One would not be remiss if they think that these beliefs held by 77% of evangelical Christians do not affect policy. You do not have to care about climate change if you think the end of times is imminent. You are less likely to care about solving violence in Palestine and the wider Middle East because it signals the imminence of the rapture.

And these beliefs do not just come with support, they come with material aid as well. John Hagee, the founder of CUFI, has donated more than $58 million to far-right Israeli organizations since 2001 (Michaelson, 2017). A good deal of that money also goes to building Israeli settlements in Palestine. Christian Zionists also provided millions to support Jews who wish to immigrate to Israel. Some organizations, such as the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, have announced that they would set up immigration agencies to facilitate the move. This is, of course, based on the belief that at least half of the world’s Jews must be in Israel to bring about the end of times. 

This ultimately manifests in political support. Israel receives more American foreign aid than any other country. Much of this support is attributed to a very strong pro-Israeli lobby, where Evangelical Christians make up a majority of the power base. And although Israel receives a lot of financial support from the 14 million Jews around the world, 80% of the 70 million Evangelicals in America support Israel, making them the largest pro-Israeli voting bloc in the world. Furthermore, Christian Zionists actively lobby against negotiations and compromise in the Middle East. This is due to the belief that peaceful settlement between Israel and Palestine is against God’s will. 

I will not comment on the beliefs held by Evangelical Christians, but it is important to note that Christian Zionists together with the Jewish lobbies have gained significant political support to back their cause. Countering this support won’t be easy because the other side is up against deeply held religious beliefs. 


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Thumbnail Courtesy: Inside Arabia

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