‘Christian Zionism’ Grabs Spotlight As Mike Pence Addresses CUFI

On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence delivers the keynote speech at the annual summit of Christians United For Israel — signaling what some see as a new ideological shift for the White House.

“His speech marks a fundamental change in the language that the White House has historically employed to articulate the United States’ relationship with Israel,” Dan Hummel a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, wrote in the Washington Post.

That fundamental change is towards Christian Zionism, an ideology that bases its political support for Israel on the belief that the modern state of Israel is a manifestation of prophecies in the Bible — and that the very fate of the United States is prophetically linked with Israel.

“Christian Zionists argue that the fate of the United States hinges on how fervently it supports Israel,” Hummel wrote. The uncritical support of Israel that goes along with this belief, Hummel went on “threatens to exacerbate the recent erosion of Democratic support for Israel.”

CUFI calls itself the “largest pro-Israel group in the United States,” claiming more than 3 million members. It was founded in 2006 by John Hagee, an evangelist from San Antonio who endorsed Donald Trump for president in May 2016.

Hummel describes Pence as “ardent Christian Zionist” who expresses his support for Israel in explicitly prophetic terms. His appearance at the summit “signals a new era of Christian Zionist influence in the White House.”

American popularizers of Christian Zionism include Hal Lindesy, author of the apocalyptic 1970s bestseller “The Late Great Planet Earth.” The ideology is also associated with political conservatives — with leaders of the Religious Right like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell advancing the belief that America should support Israel because the Jewish state is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

Pence once again pledged that the Trump administration would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, this time to Christian supporters of Israel who have become increasingly restive at President Donald Trump’s failure to make good on his campaign promise

“To the men and women of Christians United for Israel, this president hears you,” Pence said to cheers Monday evening at the annual CUFI conference in Washington. “This President stands with you. And I promise you that the day will come when President Donald Trump moves the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It is not a question of if, it is only when.”

Earlier Monday, a panel including Pastor John Hagee, who founded the movement 12 years ago, expressed concerns that Trump, who otherwise was presented at the conference as preferable to his predecessor, President Barack Obama, was losing credibility by not making good on his campaign promise. “Moving to Jerusalem would prove that our president stands by his word,” Hagee said.

Trump in June renewed a waiver on a law passed in 1995 mandating the move, as all of his predecessors have done, and has backed away from the pledge.

Pence, who has long been close to the pro-Israel community, has said several times that Trump would fulfill the promise.

Email Sam Kestenbaum at kestenbaum@forward.com and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum

Author

Sam Kestenbaum

Sam Kestenbaum

Sam Kestenbaum is a staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at kestenbaum@forward.com and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum.

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

‘Christian Zionism’ Grabs Spotlight As Mike Pence Addresses CUFI

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close