Why are there so many evangelicals friends of Israel? (column)
The two-faced Roman god Janus symbolizes why many evangelical Christians support the state of Israel in recognizing Jerusalem as its capital.
Like the Roman god Janus, evangelicals present two faces that look opposite from each other when they endorse Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. One profile faces the past, reminding evangelicals of an eternal pact God sealed with Abraham, giving him land upon which modern Jerusalem is built. Evangelicals also face the immediate future. They say God approves President Donald Trump’s Wednesday, Dec. 6, declaration of support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Evangelicals believe the ancient divine promise of land to Abraham applies to the modern nation-state of Israel, established in 1948. “The Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country … to the land that I will show you (the site of Jerusalem). I will make you a great nation” (Genesis 12: 1-2).
Some evangelicals skip problems in this text. Abraham didn’t govern a nation-state, such as contemporary Israel. His people were Hebraic nomads. Is it correct, then, to superimpose ancient promises of a special land for Jews on contemporary Israelis?
Ancient Hebrews occupied the land of Canaan after evicting tribes, such as the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Hittites and other native people (Exodus 3:8). These Hebrews believed God wanted them to show no mercy to primitive Canaanites. Invading Hebrews rid this land of any artifacts of Canaanite culture (Deuteronomy 7:2, 12:3).
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Abraham’s followers committed atrocities against Canaan’s original dwellers. Doesn’t their defense of atrocities sound like Christian Protestants’ justification for dislodging Native Americans from sacred lands on the frontier? Did God really tell Christians to rout “savages” from their lands?
Some evangelicals ignore these thorny questions. They support Jerusalem as Israel’s capital because that’s God’s game plan. “While this decision (Trump’s decree that Jerusalem be declared Israel’s capital) was not made exclusively in response to Evangelicals, it would not have been made without the evangelical influence,” declared Johnnie Moore, who serves on President Trump’s evangelical advisory board.
Some evangelicals believe making Jerusalem Israel’s capital fits nicely with biblical prophecy emerging during Donald Trump’s presidency. These Christians cobble together obscure texts, rip them from ancient biblical contexts, and concoct timelines of cataclysmic events preceding the world’s demise.
Some evangelicals believe Jews must seize total control of Jerusalem, a sign that Jesus’ return to earth is imminent. They prophecy how near Jerusalem, an apocalyptic battle will erupt in which two-thirds of the Jews are killed. The remaining third either “confess Jesus as their Messiah,” or are damned.
Consequently, some evangelicals say naming Jerusalem as capital is pivotal for prophecy to unfold when Jews are converted to Christ prior to Jesus’ return to Earth.
Disbelieving Israelis put up with this nonsense because they benefit enormously from U.S. monetary aid and munitions flowing into Jerusalem. In response, evangelicals support Israelis who are ripe for conversion to Christ. Then biblical prophecy comes true.
Earlier in this century, Leon Wieseltier, a Jewish scholar and literary editor of The New Republic, exposed the corrupt bargain between evangelicals and Israel’s leaders. “This is a grim comedy of mutual condescension,” he observed. “The evangelical Christians condescend to the Jews by offering their support before they convert or kill them. And the conservative Jews condescend to Christians by accepting their support while believing their eschatology (end-times prophecy) is nonsense. This is a fine example of the political exploitation of religion” (“Alliance of Religions Focuses on Mutual Enemies,” Maureen Dowd, The Denver Post, Oct. 7, 2002, p. 7B).
Bad religion breeds bad political results, such as making Jerusalem Israel’s capital.
The Reverend Dr. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax exempt Creative Growth Ministries, (http://www.thelivinghistory.com) which enhances Christian worship through dynamic storytelling and dramatic presentations that make God’s history come alive.