Represented by literally hundreds of small denominations and churches today, particularly in America, Christian Zionism is today a formidable force and a major actor in global politics. Christian Zionism comes in various shades, but the core of its message is total, unflinching support to the state of Israel and the Zionist imperialist project. Christian Zionists today exercise an enormous clout in the Bush administration. Bush, too, may himself be characterised in some sense as a Christian Zionist, for his policies in the Middle East and elsewhere clearly reflect or tally with the Christian Zionist agenda.
War, conquest and imperialist domination, based on a fanatic insistence on the absolute truth of Christianity and the racial superiority of the Jews lie at the very heart of Christian Zionism. Christian Zionists believe that the Jews are God’s ‘Chosen People’ and that God has given the Jews the absolute right to complete control over not just Palestine but, indeed, a vast stretch of territory, extending from present-day Egypt to Iraq, the so-called ‘Greater Israel’. God, they claim, has selected the Jews above all other people. Hence, they insist, those who oppose the imperialist project of the advocates of ‘Greater Israel’ or the Zionist occupation of Palestine are ‘God’s enemies’, deserving to be crushed by every available means, including outright war and decimation.
Advocating Israel does not mean, however, that Christian Zionists accept Judaism as a legitimate means of salvation after Jesus. Nor does it translate into genuine love for the Jews, a departure from the traditional teachings of the Church that, for centuries, viewed Jews as ‘Christ-killers’. Since Christian Zionists believe that Christianity is the only religion acceptable to God, and that, as the Bible claims, salvation is possible only through Jesus, they insist that Jews cannot be ‘saved’ unless they convert to Christianity. Yet, because Christian Zionists are dogged defenders of the state of Israel and are fiercely anti-Arab and anti-Muslim, they have been able to establish a close nexus with right-wing Jewish groups and with the Israeli state and are today an integral part of the American-Israeli axis.
Christian Zionism is a call for global war. The belief that Christianity is the sole truth, that all other faiths are ‘Satanic’ or ‘false’, that the Jews must all gather in Palestine to fulfil so-called Biblical prophecies, and that a grand global war will soon erupt leading to the massacre of hundreds of millions and heralding the ‘second coming’ of Jesus, who will establish his Christian kingdom extending till the four corners of the world, clearly indicate the hate-driven, global expansionist project of Christian Zionism.
John Hagee is a prime example of a Christian Zionist zealot. He is the founder and pastor of the Cornerstone Church, in Texas, USA, which claims some 16,000 members. As with numerous other similar American Christian fundamentalist preachers, his church is richly endowed and media savvy. Hagee is the president of the ‘Global Evangelism’ media company that broadcasts his daily programmes on television and radio throughout the USA and around the world. He is the author of numerous books on Christian Zionism, some of which have been reprinted by Christian fundamentalist publishers abroad as well.
‘Final Dawn Over Jerusalem’ is one of Hagee’s major writings on Christian Zionism that well exemplifies the imperialist agenda that lies at its very core. The aim of the book is to defend the Israeli occupation of Palestine, to denounce those who seek to protest Israeli atrocities, and to advocate the cause of ‘Greater Israel’, all this in the name of Christianity and premised on the notion of the Jews as being allegedly God’s ‘Chosen People’.
Racism is integral to the Christian Zionist message, as Hagee makes amply clear. The Bible, Hagee, says, describes the Jews as ‘the apple of God’s eye’ [Zech 2:8]. He quotes the Bible as addressing the Jews and declaring, ‘For you are a holy people to the LORD your God’ and ‘the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth’ [Deut.14:2]. This means, so Hagee argues, that those who harm the Jews or the state of Israel or stand in the way of the design of ‘Greater Israel’ will ‘experience the instant wrath of God’. To those who dare to challenge the oppressive Zionist state, Hagee announces, ‘The man or nation that lifts a voice or hand against Israel invites the wrath of God’. Such people will, Hagee insists, be ‘cursed’ by God.
Hagee’s notion of God thus appears to be that of a tribal Jewish deity, who functions as a willing tool in the pursuit of Jewish expansionism. The Bible was written by Jewish hands, and given that, as many liberal Christians would themselves concede, much of it is a human product, numerous Biblical verses were written in order to legitimise the interests of the community from which its writers were drawn. This would seem obvious to any discerning layman, but Biblical literalists like Hagee vehemently disagree. For them every word of the Bible is sacrosanct and divine. Biblical literalism is pressed into the service of the Christian Zionist imperialist and racist agenda. Drawing upon numerous verses of the Bible, Hagee argues, ‘God watches over Israel as a protective parent hovers over an only child’. ‘The nation of Israel’, he makes so bold as to declare, ‘was created by a sovereign act of God. All other nations were created by an act of war or a declaration of men, but Israel was intentionally created by God so that He would have a physical place of inheritance on the earth’. Accordingly, Hagee would have us believe that for this god, who is seen as in need of a ‘physical place’ for himself, non-Jews or Gentiles, are second-rate human beings or less, and so can easily be dispensed with if they are seen as coming in the way of Jewish imperialism.
The tribal Jewish version of God that Hagee presents appears entirely unjust and arbitrary, far from being impartial in the way he deals with His creation. Given the fact that the God of the Biblical literalist imagination is a Jewish deity, and not the universal God who looks upon His entire creation impartially, he is seen as blessing Jewish conquests of territories of their enemies. Thus, quoting the Bible, Hagee writes that God gave the land of ‘Greater Israel’, a vast swathe of land stretching from Egypt all the way till Iraq, to the Jews, descendants of Isaac, forever. That being the case, Hagee suggests that people living in those territories, millions of Arabs, both Muslims and Christians, have no right to live there or else must accept to live under Jewish rule. Although Hagee does not say this explicitly, what this means is that those who refuse to accept Jewish rule must, therefore, be either killed or expelled.
The god of Hagee’s imagination appears as an entirely whimsical real estate agent. ‘God established Israel’s national geographic boundaries’, Hagee writes. ‘The exact borders of Israel are detailed in Scripture just as our heavenly Father dictated them’, he goes on, adding, ‘The divine Surveyor drove the original stakes into Judean soil and decreed that no one should ever change these property lines. The real estate contract and lands covenants were signed in blood and stand to this very hour’. Hence, he argues, ‘Jews have the absolute right as mandated by God to the land of Israel and, more specifically, to the city of Jerusalem’. Hence, he suggests, Palestinians have no claim to their own historical land, and must make way for Jewish occupiers.
Hagee’s defence of Zionist imperialism goes to ridiculous lengths. Laughable as this may sound, he argues, ‘Israel has a Spy in the sky’—God Himself. God, he claims, provides Israel, the Jewish people and the state of Israel, with special protection. ‘No nation in the world can match the defensive force guarding the State of Israel. The archangel Michael has a special assignment to guard Israel’. And those who, for any reason oppose Israel, and this includes Palestinians fighting Israeli occupation and oppression, are said to incur God’s wrath. ‘The Lord stands watch in the darkest night with an eye trained on the nation of Israel and, more specifically, Jerusalem. Those who fight with Israel fight with Him’, Hagee asserts.
So central is Israel to Hagee’s tribalistic version of God that he goes to the extent of arguing that the fate of each and every person on the face of the planet depends essentially on his or her attitude to the Jews. ‘Prosperity or punishment depends on how we treat Israel’, he alleges, because, he claims, the Jews, as descendants of Abraham ‘enjoy heavenly favour’. To back his claim he quotes the Bible as saying that when God entered into a covenant with Abraham, He gave him an ‘awesome promise’, saying, ‘I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’ [Gen. 12:3]. Hence, Hagee insists, the United States, and, indeed, anyone else who wishes to please God, must consistently engage in ‘compassionate support of the State of Israel’, adding that, ‘The quickest and most effective way to be on God's side is to stand with the State of Israel and the Jewish people in their hour of need’. By doing this, he claims, one can win God’s favour, because, ‘God blesses the man or nation that blesses Israel or the Jewish people’.
At no time before, Hagee firmly believes, has support for Israel and Zionist imperialism, been more crucial than today. This is because, he claims, Jesus is returning to the world soon, and Israel must be protected in order to welcome the Messiah. Hagee’s image of Jesus in his ‘second coming’ bears no resemblance to the familiar notion of the suffering, loving Jesus. Rather, in his description Jesus appears as a fierce warrior, rallying Christians to arms and heralding the final, global war, ironically in the name of the ‘Prince of Peace’. In the doomsday scenario that Hagee outlines, what he calls ‘fanatical attacks’ by Arabs on Israel, particularly Jerusalem, would mount. In response, Christians the world over, he says, must rally behind Israel. At this hour, he insists, ‘we must let the world know that if a line has to be drawn, it will be drawn around Christians as well as Jews. We are united and indivisible’.
The city of Jersualem, Hagee believes, is the crux of the final battle before Jesus’ ‘second coming’. This city, considered sacred by Jews, Muslims and Christians alike, has been ordained, so Hagee argues, by God to be ‘under the exclusive control of the Jewish people’ until Jesus arrives again. The final battle of Armageddon will, he writes, be centred on this city, with Arabs or Muslims seeking to wrest control of it from the Jews. In this regard, Hagee says, Christians, for their part, must staunchly defend Israel and must refuse any peace offers, such as allowing for a shared Jerusalem or joint control of the town by Jews and Arabs. In particular, he appeals to the United States to do everything in its power to back Israel and to crush its opponents, claiming this is the only way to win God’s favour. If America fails to do this, he warns, it would be crushed by God Himself!
Quoting various verses of the Bible, Hagee describes what he sees as the unfolding of events of cosmic proportions, ushering in a global war the like of which has never been witnessed hitherto and heralding the ‘second coming of Jesus’. In this global war, he says, Muslims, whom he regards as followers of a ‘false’ religion, would ally with the Russians to fight against Israel. This would lead to a global nuclear war, with hundreds of millions being killed. At this point, the ‘Anti-Christ’ will appear, attack Jerusalem and will take over the reigns of the world, falsely claiming to usher in peace. But, this grand deception will not last long, and, instead, will only lead to even more devastating wars. At this time, Hagee says, Christians must defend, by every means possible, the Jews and Israel, and wage war against the armies of those opposed to God’s ‘Chosen Race’, the Jews. Only then can they be saved, he insists.
After years of global war and terrible destruction, Hagee writes, Jesus will be sent by God to deliver the world. Mounted on a white horse, he will arrive at the battlefield at Armageddon. Defeating the ‘Anti-Christ’ and his army, he will establish his global kingdom with his capital in Jerusalem, there to ‘rule and reign forever’. Hagee’s description of Jesus’ future global kingdom offers little cause to cheer for non-Christians, including, ironically, even the Jews whom he so ardently defends. It would, as he himself makes clear, be nothing short of a global Christian empire, and an antiquated one at that, with kings and queens and presidents still in place! How they would continue to be around when Jesus rules the whole world is a mystery that Hagee leaves unsolved.
Ruled by Jesus, Hagee writes, ‘Jerusalem, the apple of God’s eye, will become the joy of the world. The city will become the international worship center, and people from all over the world will make pilgrimages to worship in the holy temple. Kings, queens, princes and presidents shall come to the Holy City’ to adore Jesus. Presumably, these all will be Christians themselves, for Hagee quotes the Bible as predicting that ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’.
As Hagee’s book clearly indicates, Christian Zionism, rooted in tradition of the Crusades and a long history of Church triumphalism, is a recipe for global war and Christian imperialism. Moreover, it reflects a total lack of genuine spirituality, seeking to reduce the notion of God into a petty, whimsical and racist dictator who willingly urges the slaughter of innocents in order to protect the expansionist designs of his supposedly ‘Chosen People’. Of course, Christian Zionism is hardly unique in its use of religion for such blatantly political ends, but given the immense clout enjoyed by its advocates today, especially in America, it is a much more menacing threat to world peace than is sometimes imagined and cannot be simply dismissed as the ravings of lunatics on the fringe.
Dr. Yoginder Sikand writes in Mukto-Mona from Bangalore. Yoginder Sikand did his MPhil in sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and his PhD in history from the University of London; he is the author of several books including Sacred Spaces: Exploring Traditions of Shared Faith in India (Penguin, 2003) and Muslims in India Since 1947: Islamic Perspectives on Inter-Faith Relations (Routledge Curzon, 2004). etc.
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