Bible Belt crazies await Armageddon
Where does the religious aberration known as Judeolatry—the
worship of Jews and things Jewish—lead? In this report,the ominous
and sinister character of this spiritual cancer is revealed in all its ugliness
as an active instrument of Zionist ethnic cleansing and evil in the Middle
"It is my belief that the Bible Belt in America is Israel's
only safety belt right now."
— Rev. Jerry Falwell, a leader of the Christian Right
CBS Sunday, June 8, 2003
NEW YORK—This week, Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
told President Bush that he would start to dismantle some illegal Jewish
settlements on the West Bank as part of an agreement with the new Palestinian
That news has already alarmed those Jewish settlers—and
ultra-Zionist Israelis who believe that the Jewish State should control
all of the Biblical Jewish homeland.
But they're not the only group that feels that way. So do
Christian Evangelicals who make up the largest single religious grouping
in the United States. Correspondent Bob Simon first reported this story
on October 6, 2002.
What's the number one item on the agenda of the Christian
Right? Abortion? School Prayer? No and No. Believe it or not, what's most
important to a lot of conservative Christians is the Jewish State. Israel:
Its size, its strength, and its survival. Why?
Last fall, supporters of the Christian Coalition
gathered on the Mall in Washington to express their faith and to lobby the
administration. The rally was organized by the Christian Coalition, which
wants to make sure that the Bush Administration sees the struggle in the
Middle East between Jews and Muslims their way—the Christian way.
At one congregation in Colorado, it's Israel Awareness Day.
But this is not a Jewish congregation. They are all Christians. Not only
are they holding these pep rallies all across America, they're also streaming
here to Israel, to the dangerous streets of Jerusalem to express their undying
American Christian Zionists say they are now a more important
source of support for Israel than American Jews or the traditional Jewish
"It is my belief that the Bible Belt in America is Israel's
only safety belt right now," says Rev. Jerry Falwell, one of the leaders
of the Christian Right. That's the bulk of Evangelical Christians; Falwell
claims to speak for all of them.
"There are 70 million of us," he says. "And
if there's one thing that brings us together quickly it's whenever we begin
to detect our government becoming a little anti-Israel."
Falwell began to detect just that in April 2002 when President
Bush called on Israel to withdraw its tanks from Palestinian towns on the
West Bank. So Falwell shot off a letter of protest to the White House, which
was followed by a hundred thousand e-mails from Christian conservatives.
Israel did not move its tanks. Mr. Bush did not ask again.
"There's nothing that would bring the wrath of the Christian
public in this country down on this government like abandoning or opposing
Israel in a critical matter," Falwell says. The "Christian public"
is, he says, Mr. Bush's core constituency.
"I really believe when the chips are down Ariel Sharon
can trust George Bush to do the right thing every time," says Falwell.
Prime Minister Sharon can apparently trust the Christian Evangelicals
to do the right thing too. They treated him like a rock star when they flocked
to Jerusalem last fall to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.
What propels them? Why do they love Israel so much? The return
of the Jews to their ancient homeland is seen by Evangelicals as a precondition
for the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, when the Jewish state was created
in 1948 they saw it as a sign.
Israel's conquest of Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967 also
deepened their excitement and heightened their anticipation. And today's
war between Jews and Arabs was also prophesied, they say. They've seen it
all before—in the pages of the Bible.
"The Bible does not contain the word of God," says
Ed McAteer. "Listen to me closely. The Bible is the word of God."
McAteer is known as the Godfather of the Christian Right. He's a former
Colgate marketing executive from Memphis, and a founder of the Moral Majority.
McAteer believes that the current situation is the beginning
of the final battle. "I believe that we are seeing prophecy unfold
so rapidly and dramatically and wonderfully and, without exaggerating, makes
But he's not the only one. Countless millions of Americans
are reading a series of novels called Left Behind. These novels
are topping bestseller lists all over the country and they're being made
into movies. They chronicle apocalyptic times, and the setting is the 21st
century, complete with war planes and TV correspondents.
However, the plot is ripped from the pages of the Bible, so
it all winds up here in Israel where, according to the Book of Revelations,
the final battle in the history of the future will be fought on an ancient
battlefield in northern Israel called Armageddon. It will follow seven years
of tribulation during which the Earth will be shaken by such disasters that
previous human history will seem like a day in the country. The blood will
rise as high as a horse's bridle at Armageddon, before Christ triumphs to
begin his 1,000-year rule.
And the Jews? Well, two-thirds of them will have been wiped
out by now. But the survivors will accept Jesus at last.
"The Jews die or convert. As a Jew, I can't feel very
comfortable with the affections of somebody who looks forward to that scenario,"
says Gershom Gorenberg, who knows that scenario well.
Gorenberg is the author of the "End of Days," a
book about those Christian evangelicals who choose to read the Bible literally.
"They don't love real Jewish people. They love us as characters in
their story, in their play, and that's not who we are, and we never auditioned
for that part, and the play is not one that ends up good for us."
"If you listen to the drama they're describing, essentially
it's a five-act play in which the Jews disappear in the fourth act."
But if that makes Gershom Gorenberg feel uncomfortable, these
Christians say it's only because he doesn't understand how deeply they love
"The Jews need conversion," says Kay Arthur.
"They need to know that the Messiah is coming. And the Bible tells
us what's going to happen." Arthur heads an organization called Precept
Ministries in Chattanooga, Tenn. She brings thousands of pilgrims
to the Holy Land.
The Christian fundamentalists believe the only Israelis who
are really listening to God are the hard line Jewish settlers who live on
the West Bank and Gaza and refuse to move. The Christians trudge up to these
settlements as if they were making pilgrimages to holy shrines. That's because
they and the settlers share a core conviction.
They believe that God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish
people. "Every grain of sand, every grain of sand between the Dead
Sea, the Jordan River, and, and the Mediterranean Sea belongs to the Jews,"
says McAteer. This includes the West Bank and Gaza.
What about the three million Palestinians who live on the
West Bank and Gaza? McAteer suggests the bulk of them could be cleansed
from this God-given real estate and moved to some Arab country. Nothing
can come between the Jews and their land.
In fact, many fundamentalists believe that when Prime
Minister Rabin signed the Oslo Accords and offered
to trade land for peace, it was not only a mistake, it was a sin.
"They were going against the word of God. You cannot
go against the word of God. And I believe that God stopped it . . . by the
things that happened." says Arthur. She hints that God punished
Rabin by assassinating him. "I think that God did not want
that Oslo Accord to go through."
Many American Jewish leaders who used to shun support from
the Christian Right have changed their minds. Abe Foxman,
head of the Anti-Defamation League, accepts their support.
"On this specific issue on this day we come together.
And what is the issue? The issue is fighting terrorism," Foxman says.
That is precisely what the Bush Administration and the Israeli
Government have been saying since September 11, that they are allies in
the war on terror. But the Christian Fundamentalists go further. They say
it is not just an alliance between nations but between religions.
"A lot of Muslims feel these days that Christians and
Jews are getting together and ganging up on them," Simon said to Falwell.
"That's true. I'm sorry, that's true. I hope it will
cease to be so. But I think that is the fact right now," says Falwell.
Falwell believes most Muslims want to live in peace but, he
says, the lines have been drawn. Christians and Jews are on one side, Muslims
on the other and, he says, those lines were drawn more than a thousand years
"You wrote an approving piece recently about a book called
Unveiling Islam," says Simon to Falwell. "And you, the authors
of that book wrote, '. . . The Muslim who commits acts of violence in jihad
does so with the approval of Mohammed.' Do you believe that?"
"I do," says Fallwell. "I think Mohammed was
a terrorist. I read enough of the history of his life, written by both Muslims
and non-Muslims, that he was a violent man, a man of war."
"So, in the same way that Moses provided the ultimate
example for the Jews and same way that Jesus provided the ultimate example
for Christians, Mohammed provided the ultimate example for Muslims and he
was a terrorist," asks Simon.
"In my opinion," says Fallwell. "And I do believe
that—Jesus set the example for love, as did Moses. And I think that
Mohammed set an opposite example."
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