Mideast action at U.N. casts spotlight on Christian Zionism
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry says his Christianity commands him to support Israel.
September 23rd, 2011
08:12 AM ET

Mideast action at U.N. casts spotlight on Christian Zionism

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - As the Palestinians push for statehood recognition this week at the United Nations, perhaps no group has spoken out more against the gambit - or has been more outspokenly supportive of Israel - than Christian Zionists.

"As a Christian I have a clear directive to support Israel," Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry said in New York on Tuesday, after delivering a speech blaming the U.N. and President Barack Obama for the Palestinian statehood push.

A U.S.-based group called Christians United for Israel, meanwhile, this week organized a campaign of more than 45,000 e-mails of support to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"As you stand before the representatives of so many hostile nations," the e-mails said, "we want you to know that you are not alone!"

The Christian Zionist drumbeat against the Palestinian statehood push at the U.N. has grown so loud that some prominent Christians penned an "Open Letter to America's Christian Zionists," arguing that the movement is damaging prospects for Mideast peace.

While it's clear that they are becoming increasingly importantly players in the global debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, what is less clear to many Americans is exactly who Christian Zionists are and what they believe.

Even many American and Israeli Jews, who would presumably welcome a group that emphatically supports Jews and the Jewish state - some Christian Zionists go so far as to celebrate Jewish holidays and to make repeatedly trips to Israel - are uneasy about Christian Zionist support.

Some Jews wonder whether evangelicals should be embraced as allies at a time of growing Israeli isolation or shunned as covert proselytizers interested in the Jewish state only for its perceived role in provoking Jesus' second coming.

Some prominent Christian Zionists promote the idea that the Jews' return to Israel, which became a Jewish state in 1948, is a sign of the fast-approaching Rapture, when the righteous will ascend to heaven while others are left behind.

The Rapture, many evangelicals believe, will usher in an apocalyptic period that will culminate in Jesus' return. And some Christians believe that keeping Israel in Jewish hands will help expedite that end-times scenario.

These Christians, called dispensationalists because they believe history is divided into different eras, or dispensations, "believe the Jews need to go back to the land of Israel before or immediately after the Rapture and create a commonwealth," said Yaakov Ariel, a religious studies professor at the University of North Carolina.

"This is not believed to be the great Davidic Kingdom that would be ushered in by Jesus' second coming," Ariel said of the Jewish state, "but it is a stepping stone in that direction. Dispensationalists believe they can help pave the way for that."

Activists, academics and religious believers disagree about how influential this kind of apocalyptic thinking is in factoring into Christian support for Israel.

A growing number of prominent Republican figures, including Perry, presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, have couched support for Israel in ways that place them in the Christian Zionism camp, say those who study the movement.

That includes David Brog, Executive Director of Christians United for Israel, the biggest American Christian Zionist group, who says that even Mitt Romney, a Mormon, can probably be described as a Christian Zionist.

At the same time, Brog argues that Christian support for Israel has little to do with a perceived role for the Jewish state in provoking Jesus' return.

"Many Christians think the birth of Israel is a sign that we may be nearing the second coming, but it has nothing to do with their support for Israel," he said. "These Christians know they can't change God's timetable."

"It's theologically impossible for Christians to change God's timetable," for the end times and for Jesus' second coming, he said.

Brog, who is Jewish, says most evangelical support is based on Abraham's words in the Old Testament that those who bless Israel will be blessed and that those who curse Israel will be cursed.

And Brog believes that Christian sympathy to the millennia-old struggles of Jews, from their harsh treatment under Roman rule to the Holocaust, has provoked a kind of Christian guilt that has resulted in support for certain Jewish causes.

"A strong theme in Christian Zionism is a sense of a debt of gratitude that has been ill repaid," says Brog, whose organization counts 750,000 members. "The Jewish people have given us the patriarchs and the first family of Mary and Joseph and every written word of the Bible, and how have we repaid that debt?"

"With the crusades and the Inquisition and Martin Luther, who wrote this horrific anti-Semitic book."

But the founder and National Chairman of Christians United for Israel, a Texas-based evangelist named John Hagee, has written Israel-centered books that hinge on apocalyptic themes, with titles like "Jerusalem Countdown" and "Final Dawn Over Jerusalem."

Ariel, the University of North Carolina professor, says that Hagee, along with Christian Right leaders like Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell, have all framed support for Israel in the context of apocalyptic theology.

Christian Zionism first caught on in the United States around the turn of the 20th century, when fundamentalists reasserted the literal truth of the Bible in the face of new, science-inspired ways of reading Scripture.

Those fundamentalists - the forbears of today's evangelicals - began identifying the biblical Israel with the modern notion of a Jewish state.

Shalom Goldman, a research professor of religion at Duke University, says American Christian identification with Israel goes back even further, to America's founding, when the country was seen as a historical exception, a kind of modern-day Israel, or Zion.

"Israel is the metaphor by which America created itself," Goldman said. "So many American churches incorporate the word Zion, and it has to do with the self-concept of America."

Goldman argues that it's this broader historical and cultural identification with Israel that underlies Christian Zionism. He estimates that a more apocalyptic view of Israel explains the thinking of a small fraction of Christian Zionists.

"Right now, Christian Zionism is identified with the ideology of the end times but it's not an accurate identification," he said. "The idea is so sexy and sensational that it gets all the attention but it's a small segment of Christians."

Still, many Jews are queasy about evangelical support for Israel because they believe Christians have ulterior motives.

"There's an uneasiness in the community with evangelical support," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

But Foxman said that he has made his peace with Christian Zionism. "As long as the support is not conditioned on American Jewish support for the conservative Christian political agenda or on us converting,," he said," they can be my guest."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Israel • Politics

soundoff (462 Responses)
  1. Prof M H Settelen

    One would think that a Christian Prince from a church in Idaho would make a pilgrimage to the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, now a World Heritage site & the Church of the Holy Sepulchre*, Jerusalem, built by the Christian Prince, Constantine!
    *soon to be WHS

    July 30, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  2. Joe Rioux


    I no longer believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Great Pumpkin.

    But deaf ears I expect. You can't fix crazy or stupid.

    November 27, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  3. Cassarit

    As a Christian (Roman Catholic) I have a clear directive NOT to support anyone who does not believe in salvation in Christ. And that includes anyone who calls himself a Christian Zionist. Christian Zionists are false Christians! Tell the world.

    November 27, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Joe Rioux

      Riiight. Check your meds, crazy man.

      November 27, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • David

      Christian zionism started in europe to help the jews get back to israel. They concoted a different view of what the dispora meant and changed the fundamental meaning in which not all hebrew and christians subscibe to. The zionist ideology is in part why jews inhabit all post of govt in USA and that of Hollywood so that the public perception can be bent to the will of Israel. Take away that influence and you have successfully debunked the fraud they commit on nation not of their own.

      November 29, 2011 at 9:22 am |
  4. Muneef

    Prophet of GOD Abraham s.a.w ;
    History of the building of the Ka’aba. "In Mecca,Arabia"

    Qur’an in Sura Baqra Verses 121 to 127 described it clearly that Allah had ordained his servant Ibrahim to build the Shrine there for worship of One God. During Kusayi’s time it was rebuilt and fortified. During the early years of Prophet Muhammad (SA) before he announced his ministry, the Ka’aba was damaged by floods and it was rebuilt again. 
    "When the Black stone was to be put in its place the Makkans quarrelled among themselves as to who should have the honour to place it there. They had just decided that the first comer to the quadrangle should be given the task of deciding as to who should have the honour. Muhammad (SA) came in and was assigned this task. He advised them to place the stone in a cloak and ordered the heads of each Tribe each to take an end and bring the cloak nearer the corner on the eastern side. He himself then took out the stone and placed it in its position. It has been fixed there ever since".
    More at the link;

    Aren't we really needing such "Truthful,Honest" Men to deal with resolving our manmade complications in such simplicity to free and save people from quarrels or disputes among themselves by contributing jointly and in equality,no tribe better than tribe or man than man;

    "He advised them to place the stone in a cloak and ordered the heads of each Tribe each to take an end and bring the cloak nearer the corner on the eastern side. He himself then took out the stone and placed it in its position.!!!

    September 26, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  5. Loretta

    No true conversion would be a forced conversion nor would it be done by trickery or subterfuge. As far as herding along God's plan – there may be some who believe that but I doubt many.

    Whether you believe that the Bible is an ancient historical text (which it is) or that it has deeper religious meanings, it is apparent that the Jews have an ancient historical and religious right to the land of Israel. Does that prohibit the Palestinian Arabs from living there? God is love and would surely make room and provision for any people that would respect His will and behave honestly and justly. But He is also just and would abhor the desire to persecute, defame and murder any race of people. The leadership of the Palestinian Arabs should encourage their people to embrace peace and love with their neighbors and to discontinue the call to annihilate Israel.

    September 25, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Muneef


      Lovely name....

      My dear it is not what the "Jews,Christians,Muslims" wants, it is more about what those people above "Zionism" wants or rather drive these congregation into...!!

      September 25, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  6. Muneef

    Read might you learn more where you stand;
    I thought that Arianism was of the Whites? But turned to be of Persia ?
    The Origins of Aryan People
    The race of the Iranians have been mentioned as Aryan.

    History of the Ancient Aryans: Outlined in Zoroastrian scriptures.

    Well well see who conspired on Jesus...;

    The Pharisees were Persian Oversee-ers.

    Semites and Anti-Semitism

    September 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Muneef

      The Tradition of the Aryans of Persia.—The Aryans of the Iranian branch, with whom we are here concerned, were the first to be civilized and to acknowledge one god, and consequently they have special claims on our interest. They possessed a tradition that they quitted their ancient home because the Power of Evil made it ice-bound and uninhabitable. Perhaps this may mean that they were irresistibly urged forward by a change of climate, just as aridity possibly caused the hordes of Mongolia to swarm westwards, and incidentally to blast the civilization of the countries they overran.

      September 25, 2011 at 7:50 pm |
  7. Muneef

    If it wasn't to Arabs fought on the side of Allies, how would have the present map looked like?

    -Arabs fought the Ottoman empire army;

    -Muslim Africans fought with French army to free France from Nazi invasion;

    -African Muslims participants in the Second World War;

    -S.E.Asians Muslims confrontations to Jpn's invasions ; 

    -Then the Islamic belt that was created and called for by Allies to consume the communists..in MidEast & in Asia.

    We were there beside you all the time but now all is over we now became the enemy...!?!
    It won't be long before you come to ask for Muslims assistance to clean up the mess you have created and to save your skin....!

    September 25, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Reality

      And if it were not for the Muslims, the following would not have occurred:

      The Muslim Conquest of India – 11th to 18th century

      ■"The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      and the 19 million killed in the Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C by Muslims.

      and more recently

      1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

      1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

      2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

      3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US troops killed in action, 3,480 and 928 in non combat roles. 102,522 – 112,049 Iraqi civilians killed as of 9/16/2011/, mostly due to suicide bombers, land mines and bombs of various types, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

      4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

      5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

      6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

      7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

      8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

      9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

      10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,385 killed in action, 273 killed in non-combat situations as of 09/15/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

      11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

      12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

      13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

      14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

      15 The daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings in the terror world of Islam.

      16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

      17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

      18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

      19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country's controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011

      20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011

      21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.

      22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) - Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.

      September 26, 2011 at 12:41 am |
    • .........

      spam alert hit report abuse on all reality copy paste posts

      September 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • ADiff

      Reality sounds like...well, reality. Like it or not, it's the truth.

      October 4, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  8. Gambino

    The global GIANTS will think-up a "Truly Final, Final Solution' and bring military force to bear against the grasshopper-Israel. To take Jerusalem- and force a South Africa style solution on Israel. Conflict between Giants and grasshoppers will ensue. Grasshoppers will win, GIANTS......not so much!

    September 25, 2011 at 7:58 am |
  9. Facts on Israel

    Only the Evangelical Christians are on your side, Jews, rain and shine. We have no ulterior motivations. We love you simply because of your Messiah Jesus and because we know you are forever special to our God. You haven't been faithful to God, but His covenant with you is eternal and it cannot change. It's easier for the stars and planets to lose balance and go off from their orbits than for you not to be preserved and glorified by God.

    September 25, 2011 at 3:47 am |
    • Facts on Israel

      Read the Book of Jeremiah.

      September 25, 2011 at 3:48 am |
    • Reality

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
      ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


      September 25, 2011 at 7:31 am |
    • Guest

      Ancient sky god stories were created by primitive people as a possible explanation of how they and everything around them came to be. Despite different gods coming and going in and out of vogue over many centuries, the one constant was the idea of a god in the sky. These stories, handed down over many generations, are the basis of today’s religions. Where you were born, geographically, largely determines your beliefs. Childhood indoctrination is a tough shackle to remove. Children find it very difficult to believe that the adults they trust to teach and guide them could be wrong. This, obviously, can carry over into adulthood. The problem with all of these stories, including your Jesus stories, and the reason that atheists and agnostics exist, is the total lack of evidence. No one has ever proved anything other than these stories are just that, stories. Anything written about Jesus must be taken with a very large grain of salt. He is never mentioned in writings that were written during the years that he lived, which is in itself amazing for someone who could, allegedly, walk on water, cure the blind, deaf and lame, and even raise the dead. One would think that these amazing feats would be docu-mented during his lifetime. People were so impressed, that nothing was written about him until decades after his death. By then, what you had were fish stories and hearsay. Jesus may have, very well, convinced himself that he was the son of god. Today, he probably would be committed to a mental inst-itution.

      September 25, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • .........

      spam alert repeat garbage hit report abuse on all reality posts

      September 25, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • .........

      spam alert hit report abuse on all reality posts

      September 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  10. Israel My Love

    Israel, loving you is like courting a fiancee who keeps rejecting me. We are engaged, but you keep saying you don't love me. We are destined to marry so I keep waiting until you come to love me. It breaks my heart and tortures my soul. But because I truly love you, I never force myself on you. I wait for God's timing. (written by me, an Evangelical Christian, for Israel) Israel, you belong to your Messiah Jesus forever. Both God and we Evangelicals will keep loving you unconditionally until you return to Him. You will never understand the Song of Songs apart from your Messiah Jesus.

    September 25, 2011 at 3:41 am |
    • That's just creepy...

      Replace Israel with any girl's name and you sound like a certified stalker. Run, Israel! Run!

      September 25, 2011 at 9:37 am |
    • Loretta

      You sound like you need to get out more. I've never heard a Christian phrase it quite that way, nor has Israel behaved that way. And exactly where does it say that Christians will marry the Jews? You are waxing poetic or something, huh?

      September 25, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • daoud

      ugh! evangelicals are nauseating. more nauseating than french kissing a blue bottle fly that just enjoyed an afternoon fecal snack.

      September 26, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  11. Dear Israel

    This article really sums up. As an Asian Christian, I or my home countries have no relation to the Jews historically but we always knew God loves Israel and she is special from reading the Bible. And Jesus our Lord was a Jew. The Jews can rely on the Evangelicals. We simply love them and believe Israel has right to exist happily especially after what they went through. The timing of rapture did not matter to us Christians. Like the President Nixon's mother, we simply love the Jews and wish their best spiritually and physically. Read Romans chapter 9 in the Bible.

    September 25, 2011 at 3:38 am |
    • Cassarit

      You are a false Christian. You will never be saved.

      November 27, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • David

      To you an asian christian who I bet is Korean are what I call neocon emulators. Your thought process is very much like a neocon christian evangelical but jsut imagine what the hebrew neocosn have done in USA what if they did the same in Korea would be just as supportive to see non korean at all your top postions in govt and the entertainment industry in Korea?
      I bet you would feel very alienated being in a country of your own but the top decision makers are not korean or half kroean/hebrew mix. But this is what is happening in USA and you think its ok? It is not right at all be it morally or ethic wise. It is a pretty sad time we live in to see this happening and the CIA and FBI are unable to do a darn thing about it.

      November 29, 2011 at 9:32 am |
  12. NostalgicTreasures

    Zion stands forever. Whoever hates Israel hates God and will be utterly destroyed as the Bible says. Israel will trust in her Messiah Jesus at the last days and will be all saved.

    September 25, 2011 at 3:37 am |
    • AGuest9

      The concept of an ancient country started by a bunch of nomadic shepherds in their monotheistic dream-world claims that their made-up big guy in the sky who lives somewhere between the floodgates of the firmament and the stars, sent his angels the Nephilim, to steal women from earth. JUDGES 20:43-48 The Israelites killed 25,000 men, then put everyone in the towns "to the sword, including the animals and everything else they found." They then burned the towns. Sound like barbarians to me.

      September 25, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  13. david

    This was good reading thanks to whoever did it. Now the next time you see somebody with a 666 tattoo or some song by a heavy metal group that scream to the bottom of their lungs "I am 666" whatever you get it...these idiots are witnessing Jesus to the world and they don't have a clue that by referencing 666 their confirming Jesus actually was real...right? We all know that real evil lives next door to you and me like the crags list killer guy, he looked like a cleaned cut college dude...the point is if you want to be really evil you morons shut up about this 666 crap...heck man the Sunday school preacher talks about it so why you supporting his beliefs.

    September 25, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  14. Tomm Katt

    Well I think that Yoda and Harry Potter will have a say in this!!! The most terrifying thing to sane people is that these 2000 years old fairy-tales have such an effect on people.

    September 24, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
  15. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Hey, everyone! There's a new reality show! It's called "Most Idiotic Zealot"! If you nominate your favorite zealot now, he/she can compete for the opportunity to be burned at the stake!!

    I'm nominating Heaven Sent and Adelina.

    September 24, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      Herbert for crying out loud quit blessing everyone. It is weird. You are too creepy.
      The rest of you, too many words. TOO MANY WORDS. For crying out load I am trying to watch the Daily Show and get some right wing common sense working here. God Bless, Amen or whatever....jeez

      September 24, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • The Original

      Tom, thank you for remembering me. I'm honored to be remembered by you. I will always love you and pray for you, Tom. Come back to Jesus, obtain eternal life, and make your mother happy.

      September 25, 2011 at 3:33 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.