At the time I began my research for my book Prophecy and Politics, I discovered the average American I met in Washington, DC, and New York was not interested in TV evangelists and their link to Israel. Neither were book editors. I went to 25 top editors in New York with my book idea on religion and politics. Michael Korda of Simon and Schuster was typical. "Jerry Falwell? Pat Robertson? Who is interested in those crazies?"
By the time my book came out those "crazies" were on the front page of every American newspaper and on every news channel. Of course, I didn't give them this instant fame, which extended throughout the world. Two of them earned it themselves by being in the middle of scandals.
The press told us that Jim Bakker had committed adultery and that Jimmy Swaggart regularly visited a prostitute. A fellow marine said Pat Robertson never had to dodge bullets in Korea because he had used his father's influence as a senator to escape front line duty. But almost everyone ignored the biggest scandal of all: the peculiar mixture of prophecy and politics professed by these and other Christian Zionists.
The Christian Zionists Message
What is the message of the Christian Zionist? Simply stated it is this: Every act taken by Israel is orchestrated by God, and should be condoned, supported, and even praised by the rest of us.
"Never mind what Israel does," say the Christian Zionists. "God wants this to happen." This includes the invasion of Lebanon, which killed or injured an estimated 100,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, most of them civilians; the bombing of sovereign nations such as Iraq; the deliberate, methodical brutalizing of the Palestinians-breaking bones, shooting children, and demolishing homes; and the expulsion of Palestinian Christians and Muslims from a land they have occupied for over 2,000 years.
My premise in Prophecy and Politics is that Christian Zionism is a dangerous and growing segment of Christianity, which was popularized by the 19th-century American Cyrus Scofield when he wrote into a Bible his interpretation of events in history. These events all centered around Israel-past, present, and future. His Scofield Bible is today the most popular of the reference Bibles.
Scofield said that Christ cannot return to earth until certain events occur: The Jews must return to Palestine, gain control of Jerusalem and rebuild a temple, and then we all must engage in the final, great battle called Armageddon. Estimates vary, but most students of Armageddon theology agree that as a result of these relatively recent interpretations of Biblical scripture, 10 to 40 million Americans believe Palestine is God's chosen land for the Jews.
Has the power of the Christian Zionists diminished?
I do not think so. Rather, we are seeing how the Christian Zionists, motivated by religious beliefs, are working hand in glove with politically motivated, militant Jewish Zionists around the world. It is the Christian support of Zionism that emboldens Zionists to believe they can dictate to relatively weak and dependent countries such as Austria, whom they may choose as their president.
It is the Christian support of Zionism that allows Manuel Noriega to remain the strongman in Panama, misusing his power, regardless of what harm he causes to the United States, his neighbors, and his people.
It is the Christian support of Zionism that enables the militant Israelis to take over Palestinian homes surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque in pursuit of their well-documented plan to destroy Jerusalem's most holy Islamic site, sacred to a billion Muslims around the world-one-fifth of humanity.
Christian Zionists and the Iran-Contra Scandal
Remarkably,it was this Christian cult of Israel that brought us the Iran contra scandal, perhaps the most self-destructive act in the history of the United States. Marine Col. Oliver North, the perpetrator of this misguided series of actions, is a Christian Zionist. A born-again charismatic figure, he endeared himself to the militant Israeli Zionists who plotted Iran-contra. "He is more Israeli," said one Jewish general, "than we Israelis." This is often the case. In his zealotry, the Christian Zionist can become more Zionist, more militant, than the Jewish Zionist.
In the Iran-contra hearings, Sen. James McClure (R-ID) explained to North that the US had a stated policy of neutrality in the Iran-Iraq war. That policy differed radically from Israel's policy of selling arms to Iran. Yes, agreed North, the two policies were not the same. The question, to which McClure's efforts yielded no response, then becomes: Why would the US forego its American policy to pursue Israeli policy?
The answer, unfortunately, lies in the belief system of Christian Zionists: They believe that what Israel wants is what God wants. Therefore, it is perfectly acceptable to give the green light to whatever it is Israel wants and then conceal this from the American people. Anything, including lies, theft, even murder, is justified as long as Israel wants it.
Another perfect example of a Christian Zionist is Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI). Throughout the hearings on the Iran-contra scandal, the Hawaiian kept the focus on the contras and steered determinedly clear of any criticism of Israel. If, in answer to questions, witnesses sought to explain the seminal and continuing role of Israel, Inouye abruptly broke off the line of questioning that had led the hearings to this unwanted destination.
Despite the political problems created by its lay practitioners and the scandals that rocked some of its TV ministries, this belief system-this cult of Israel-has not been diminished.
Indeed, I hold that Christian Zionism threatens not just the lives of Palestinians and other Arabs, but the very existence of the United States. Because of the cult of Israel, we have become a nation that does not have its own Middle East policy, but the policy the government of Israel tells us to have.
Despite the terrifying aspects of the alliance of militant Christians with militant Jewish Zionists, I find some encouraging developments. In my visits to colleges, clubs, and churches around the country, I have found strong support for the message and warning in Prophecy and Politics. It has come not only from liberal congregations, but from across the whole spectrum of Christianity, including those Christians who call themselves fundamentalists. These supporters see Christ as the bearer to humanity of God's message of peace, brotherhood, love, and reconciliation. These Christians do not endorse either the cult of Israel or its killIngs and beatings of Palestinians.
I have found many such Christians in my frequent visits to my home state of Texas. There and all over this slowly-awakening land of ours, I have found a small but increasing number of ministers and lay people who are deeply alarmed by the cult of Israel and willing to stand up and speak out about it.
Grace Halsell is a Washington, DC-based writer and author of Journey to
Jerusalem and Prophecy and Politics