Extreme Christian Zionists not helping America or Israel
By Ghassan Michel Rubeiz
Christians United for Israel (CUFI) is a political advocacy network based on an extreme version of Christian Zionism. This network calls on all Christians to offer total support for the State of Israel. As an American organization CUFI is part of the wider extreme right wing culture.
John Hagee, a charismatic pastor of a mega evangelical church in St. Antonio, Texas, founded this movement 14 years ago, but the concept of Christian Zionism has roots in the early history of the Protestant church. In a recent interview on Fox news, Hagee asserted that Israel is “the only state in the world created by God” and the demand of Palestinians for statehood is a “historic Fraud”. His views on American politics are equally piercing: US Democrats are undermining America; socialists are like Nazis; the American family is “broken”; secularism is evil.
Christian Zionism ties Christians to Jews too closely, alienates Christians from Muslims and considers Palestinians recent immigrants to the Holy land. Christian Zionists see the world in adversarial categories: one is either a friend of Israel or an enemy; one can either follow Christ or the anti Christ. Christians and Jews are on one side and Muslims are on the other. If one does not take the Bible as the “word of God”, literally, he is an enemy of the Divine. Read more:
Despite their growing influence in Washington and in Jerusalem the Christian Zionists may be passing through a stage of panic about the changing demography (and ethnicity) in America as well as in Israel. In the US the White Protestant population is proportionally weakening, and likewise, the ratio of Jewish population in Greater Israel is in decline – as a result of Palestinian population growth in the Occupied Territories. Facing demographic pressure at home and abroad the evangelicals are active in the Republican campaign for the re-election of President Trump, and even in the September re-election of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Hagee was a strong proponent of the US embassy move to Jerusalem: He told President Trump “that the moment that you do that [move embassy], I believe you will step into political immortality”
On July 8 CUFI held a two-day Summit in Washington DC to “remind America why Israel matters and celebrate the Jewish State as a light unto the nations.”
CUFI claims to have seven million members, with no poll cited; they speak with “one voice”. This movement has grown rapidly over the past 14 years. Not all Protestants are “evangelicals”; mainline Protestants’ whose theology is not politically predictable, have declined in numbers in recent decades to the benefits of the evangelicals: migration of “souls”. But a recent reliable poll reveals that the evangelicals are also declining, despite the proliferation of their mega-churches in suburban America: “The number of white evangelical Protestants fell from about 23 percent of the US population in 2006 to 17 percent in 2016, and only 11 percent are under 30, according to a survey of more than 100,000 Americans.” So the evangelicals are now a minority which is decreasing in numbers, albeit not in political influence.
The July Summit invited Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton to tout the achievements of President Trump. Legally, the fact that the Administration accepted the invitation is as significant as the invitation, itself. Bolton told CUFI audience that “the world is changing for the better and the American people are safer” thanks to Trump’s foreign policy.
The US officials reported on the effectiveness of the US Administration in weakening the Islamic Republic of Iran and on the series of crucial policy changes related to Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the Palestinian refugees and their prospects for Statehood. Summit Guests from the Israeli government and the Israeli Defense Forces were well represented. Pence said: “Iran should not confuse American restraint with a lack of American resolve”.
The ascendance of CUFI raises four basic concerns about the future of democracy in America: the separation of church and state, religion in fueling tension in society, flaunting international laws and poisoning relations with the Muslim world.
The very title of Christian Zionism suggests crossing a red line, the independence of state from church. CUFI, a tax sheltered religious organization, staged this Summit to lobby for the Republican presidential campaign, offering full endorsement of President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu. In the above cited Fox News interview (with Mark Levine) Hagee said that Trump won the elections because “he was the only one blessing Israel” …and he is “doing a marvelous job as president”. This partisan advocacy is done in the name of God. If America is to preserve its democracy, not to mention the integrity of tax laws, religious institutions are not expected to engage in political advocacy or support of foreign governments.
The second issue is the impact of CUFI-like organizations on societal harmony. CUFI is attacking social welfare minded candidates, labeling them as dangerous socialists and communists. There is an ongoing debate in America about best practices in health care delivery, distribution of income, immigration, welfare eligibility and tax policy. (CUFI stands on one side on all these issues). This debate needs not deteriorate into hateful politics. Most stable and thriving societies adopt mixed systems of socialism and capitalism, a fact which reflects that CUFI is alienated from global realities. CUFI is contributing to a wider trend of “weaponizing” open political debate in American culture.
The third concern is CUFI’s callous position on Palestinians. CUFI supports the continuation and expansion of Israel’s occupation. Such a stand flaunts several known and well respected United Nations resolutions. CUFI activists tend to brag that they advocate US privileges for the Jewish state more than Jewish Americans do. This comparison may annoy some in the US Jewish community. But there are more important reasons- including conflict of values and theology- why Jewish Americans are wary of extreme Christian Zionists.
The fourth concern pertains to interfaith relations. CUFI is hostile to the Muslim world, but the majority of Americans wish to live in harmony with Muslims at home and abroad. Like other extreme evangelicals the CUFI community is Islamophobic. Provoking Muslims, the second largest religious community in the world, from the church pulpit sours interfaith relations and invites reciprocal Islamist sectarian rhetoric. Moreover, with 350 million Arabs who feel robbed and humiliated by the 1967 occupation, no level of aid US Christians offer Israel can guarantee its security. A radically different approach to the Muslim world is needed, an approach which is based on respect of all faiths, all states (including Iran) and all stateless people.
CUFI is not helping America keep state and church separate, stay fair in foreign policy and maintain civility in interfaith relations. CUFI is also not helping Israel take peace seriously.