I’ve always detested Christian Zionism more than Jewish political Zionism, although I’m not sure one is more evil than the other. Where Zionist politics is knowingly superficial, absurd and only bent on lies to promote the phony state of Israel, and Israel’s allies knows it’s full of shit, Christian Zionism is a perversion of God’s word and misleads millions.
Trump had developed a sort of 1950s Jewish uncle (tough guy variety) delivery with assorted yiddishisms – Hillary Clinton, he declared has been “shlonged” in the 2008 primary … Now, (in 2017) his daughter was through her conversion, the first Jew in the White House.”
As this ‘pro-Israel” stance maps on so well to Evangelical Christian Zionism it is worth examining the deep background of that now potent phenomenon.
American Protestants, from the colonial period onward, had a particular interest in plans to restore the Jews to their Promised Land. The biblical self-image of the early American colonists, a self-image reflected in the over two hundred biblical place names on the map of the United States, had a profound effect on American attitudes toward the Holy Land. By naming their towns and cities Salem, Hebron, Bethlehem, and Pisgah, Americans were declaring the New World a “biblical” area. They were also asserting an American connection to the places where Christianity originated.
American scholars, foremost among them nineteenth-century biblical scholar Edward Robinson, were among the pioneers of discovery and archaeology in Palestine. Robinson, professor of sacred literature at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary, traveled to Palestine in 1836 and 1852. He was convinced that one could not fully understand the Old and New Testaments without a thorough study of the land of the Bible. Robinson’s five-volume opus, Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mt. Sinai and Arabia Petraea, was widely read by American and European scholars and laymen. Before it was outranked by Uncle Tom’s Cabin it was one of the top bestsellers in W.S. publishing history.
Later in the Nineteenth Century, the founders of the Zionist movement were keenly aware of sympathy for Zionism among some influential Protestants. Zionist publicists wrote in Hamaggid and other Hebrew-language Zionist journals of earlier Christian settlement attempts, and they exhorted Jewish readers to act as bravely and resolutely as Christian Zionists had in their attempts to settle in the Land of Israel.
The Adams colony of Jaffa, Clorinda Minor’s colony in Artas, and the German Templer colonies of Haifa, Jaffa, and Sarona were held up as examples of courage and industriousness by Zionist writers. The seven Templer colonies, built by German Christina Pietists between 1869 and 1907, were models of efficiency and productivity.
As the Israeli historian Yossi Ben-Artzi had noted, these colonies, “as the first truly planned settlements in modern Palestine, were exemplary models that inspired the local Arabs, the Turkish rulers, and most of all the Jews, who in 1882 began reaching Palestine in large numbers with a goal similar to that of the Germans; settlement in agricultural colonies.”
Master strategist that he was, Herzl kept an eye out for potential Christian allies of influence and included them in what he was sure was a historic moment, the First Zionist Congress. Herzl had made a point of inviting Christian friends of the emerging movement to the congress. Among these guests was the Reverend Willian Hechler, chaplain of the British embassy in Vienna.
Herzl understood something that many of his less assimilated Jewish associates did not – that the diplomatic success of the Zionist movement was dependent on the help of Christian sympathetic to Zionism. Once he became aware of potential Christian allies, Herzl was particularly prescient and active in garnering Christian support for his cause.
His successors continued to cultivate that support. They understood, as did Herzl, that assistance was most likely to come from Protestants, and that it was essential to the success of Zionist political aspirations that Christians join Jews in the international campaign to establish a Jewish state in Palestine.
In the late 19th century, thousands of Americans of various Christian denominations traveled to the Holy Land. Mormons were among the most active and enthusiastic of these travelers. In 1836, the prophet and founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, mentioned the actual physical return of the Jews to Zion in his dedicatory prayer at the Kirtland Temple in Ohio. Smith prayed that “Jerusalem, from this hour, may begin to be redeemed; and the yoke of bondage may begin to be broken off from the house of David.”
Smith understood “Zion” as both the spiritual designation of a new American sacred space and a reference to the Zion of biblical Israel, a city that would soon be renewed. The East had its Zion, and now the West, in the United States, would have its Zion. Both Zions would experience “the literal gathering of Israel and the restoration of the ten tribes.”
Mormons were eager to visit Jerusalem, to which Joseph Smith had sent his emissary Orson Hyde. For centuries, Catholics had visited the Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the many other holy places throughout the Holy Land. Many of the Christian pilgrims kept diaries of their journeys, and hundreds of Palestine travel accounts were published and eagerly read by nineteenth-century audiences.
Evangelical support for Zionism was not necessarily phil-Semitic. Rather, it saw Jews and their aspiration for a Jewish state in Palestine as instrumental in hastening the second coming. Another potent factor in the heady mix of religion and politics that shaped Christian Zionism was the long standing American Protestant antipathy to Islam.
In American Christians and Islam, Thomas Kidd, an American religious historian at Baylor University, notes that there is something unique about American antipathy to Islam; it differs substantially from earlier American Protestant campaigns against Catholics, Jews and other religious minorities. Arguing that “the recent American Christian hostility towards Islam derives from a long historical tradition,” he points out that even before the American Revolution Anglo-Americans were predisposed to hostility towards Muslims. According to Kidd, two elements were responsible for the hostility: the widespread notion that all Muslims had to be brought to Christianity and the rampant speculations about the End Time that saw Islam as the Antichrist.