About a week ago pseudo-historian, David Barton, told the hosts of TBN’s “Praise the Lord” show that if the US did not support Israel God would afflict it with “extreme weather, droughts, productivity declines, and agricultural disasters.” Many have become familiar with these inane decrees. Storms and droughts are routinely blamed on the gay community or because of women’s reproductive freedom by religious extremists. But with Israel’s recent murderous assault on Gaza, the specter of Christian Zionism is again asserting itself in American foreign and domestic policy.
Unlike the nationalistic, and largely secular, form of Zionism that formed in the late 19th century in Europe, modern Christian Zionism is primarily an American phenomenon. It gained prominence from the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible, an annotated version of scripture written by Cyrus I. Scofield. He was an American preacher in the early 20th century, with a checkered past and dubious claims of being a theologian.
Scofield’s rather peculiar brand of eschatology, or the fate of humanity, insists that the Jewish people “reclaim” Palestine. The fact that most Jews have never been to Palestine and have no ancestral links to the land outside of religious texts, and that such a reclamation would displace millions of people already living there, are considered logistical problems, not ethical ones. And even though Islam’s third holiest site sits on top of the Temple Mount, and has since the 7th century, it proposes the re-building of the Temple of Solomon. In an attempt to obscure the antisemitism that belies its public face, Christian Zionism generally avoids addressing one part of this interpretation. According to its doctrine, in the end scores of Jews will ultimately reject Jesus as the messiah when he returns, and be eternally damned as a result. Unsurprisingly, this is not a talking point at conferences with Israeli heads of state.
In their lust for Armageddon, Christian Zionists are pouring petrol on the tinderbox of modern geopolitics. This is evident in their fervor to attack Iran and crush any prospects for peace. They are galvanized by an unshakeable belief that we are living in the “end times” and that turmoil is unavoidable. Ironically, due to human caused climate change and the ever persistent menace of nuclear war, humanity may very well be looking at its demise. But to the Christian Zionist, bringing about an end in fire is not only inevitable, it is necessary to ensure the fulfillment of prophecy.
This is the primary reason Israel is so important. It is why various evangelical foundations have been set up in the US to fund illegal, Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank. It is why mission trips are arranged to these settlements to harvest grapes with colonists on the land they have stolen from Palestinians. It emboldens hardline hawks in Tel Aviv to entrench apartheid and military occupation even more, while marginalizing the earnest efforts of Israeli and Palestinian peace activists. And it is what has allowed them to dehumanize and ignore the plight of the Palestinians, and justify nearly every crime the Israeli regime has inflicted on them for decades.
Bombastic minister and head of CUFI (Christians United for Israel), John Hagee, and television evangelist and head of “The 700 Club” Pat Robertson, are emblematic of this movement, and they enjoy huge followings. But perhaps most troubling is the connection and influence they have on foreign policy. They have the support of the biggest, pro-Israel lobby in Washington, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), and virtually every politician is loath to defy them.
Climate change plays an ominous role in all of this. As it accelerates and worsens it emboldens fear mongering, denial, and scapegoating. To the Christian Zionist, these events are punishments for the sin of opposing the Israeli regime. And certain, out of historical context, scriptures, like Numbers 24:9 which says “Whoever blesses Israel will be blessed, and whoever curses Israel will be cursed,” are employed to drive this notion home to the faithful. Science is simply not recognized in this equation because it does not match their scriptural exegesis. If it does not fit this religious narrative it is dismissed in explaining the erratic weather patterns, persistent droughts and rising sea levels that we are witnessing today.
Christian Zionism is an aggressive form of extremism that broadly effects ideology and policy in the American political establishment. It is certainly not a monolithic group of people and it does not represent all of Christendom; but the power of its leaders is both undeniable and menacing. Movements like this are often derided and marginalized in times of calm. But in times of upheaval, which are becoming more frequent, they have an astonishing way of taking center stage and influencing world events. As the West negotiates with Iran in an attempt to avert a war with a nuclear armed Israel, global weather patterns are simultaneously becoming angrier due to our burning of fossil fuels. And this is creating a perfect storm that may inadvertently guarantee that its most destructive prophecies are indeed fulfilled.
Kenn Orphan 2014