Opinion

Religion informs our international politics whether you know it or not | Rich Elfers

What are two things your mother told you to never bring up as a discussion topic? Religion and politics, right? Well, these are the two topics I’m going to discuss in this column, so hang on to your hats! Our topic is Christian Zionism.

This religious-political term affects all of you readers because the U.S. government is a strong supporter of the state of Israel. It gives Israel $3 billion per year, as well as sending Egypt $1.3 billion per year essentially to simply remain at peace with Israel. We’ve been doing this since the 1978 Camp David Accords, overseen by a Baptist president, Jimmy Carter. That’s about $142 billion over 34 years! In addition, many of you readers likely subscribe to some form of Christian Zionism, perhaps without even knowing it.

Let me define the term: First, historic Christian teaching holds that Jesus will return. Based upon one interpretation of New Testament prophecies, there must be a Jewish nation controlling Jerusalem at the time of his second coming.

Zionism, on which Christian Zionism is based, is the Jewish nationalistic movement of the late 19th century started by the Hungarian-Jewish newspaper reporter, Theodore Herzl.

Herzl watched the anti-Semitism of the French military toward a French-Jewish artillery officer by the name of Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus was convicted of treason for passing military secrets to the Germans and sentenced to prison. Eventually there was a retrial that divided France and convinced the young Jewish reporter who covered the story to found the World Zionist Organization. Its purpose was to create a Jewish state in Palestine. Herzl’s goal was to offer sanctuary to persecuted Jews from all over the world.

Eventually, due to the work of Winston Churchill, Chaim Weizmann, Lord Balfour, presidents Woodrow Wilson (son of a Presbyterian minister) and Harry Truman, and the effects of World Wars I and II, Israel was born amid turmoil, war and death in 1948.

Had Roosevelt survived his fourth term, there would likely be no state of Israel. An Episcopalian and not a Christian Zionist, he believed the advice of his counselors that the creation of a Jewish state in the midst of Arab countries would be a long- term headache for the United States and the world. They were right.

Harry Truman, who finished FDR’s fourth term, was a Baptist, educated in the Bible and Middle Eastern history. He was both a Christian Zionist and a savvy politician. He believed God had put him in a position to help fulfill prophecy by helping to form the nation of Israel. He weighed the pros and cons of recognizing Israel both politically (three major electoral states: New  York, California and Florida have high concentrations of Jewish-American voters) and in his religious beliefs. Truman came down on the side of the Jewish state of Israel.

Today, many American Christians support the state of Israel over their Arab neighbors because in supporting Israel they believe they are helping fulfill prophecy. Today, AIPAC (the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee) has tremendous sway in both the halls of Congress and in the White House because of that American sentiment, and politically because of the Jewish vote in many states.

Some of you who read this are actually Christian Zionists and don’t know it. Some of you, on the other hand, believe the Israelis have turned into bullies who persecute and kill Palestinians whose land you believe Israel stole from the Arabs back in 1948, and in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Either way, this nation’s strong Christian Zionist component is a cause of the existence of the state of Israel and of turmoil with Muslims in the Middle East. It is one of the main points of contention in this nation, especially during a presidential

election year. Republicans have accused Barack Obama of not being pro-Israeli enough. President Obama responds by trying to show himself both pro-Israeli and also pro-Arab nations.

Both sides are using this political-religious topic as a wedge issue to sway their bases, win the Jewish vote and, hopefully, the presidential election.

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