Donald Trump praying in a rally for evangelical voters
Donald Trump praying in a rally for evangelical voters
Photo: AP
Donald Trump praying in a rally for evangelical voters

Evangelicals to the left, Iran to the right

Opinion: Trump thirst for more supporters both in conservative circles and voters has firmly brought the evangelical community into the halls of power and influence, but at what cost for him and for us?

Liran Friedmann |
Published: 02.22.20 , 14:17
There is a church in the little town of Bethlehem. It was built on the spot where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born. It's called the Church of the Nativity.
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  • If you consult either UNESCO or various travel experts, they'll tell you the church resides in Palestine.
    Donald Trump praying in a rally for evangelical voters Donald Trump praying in a rally for evangelical voters
    Donald Trump praying in a rally for evangelical voters
    (Photo: AP)
    But last month, trivia game show Jeopardy determined the church's location to be Israel and not Palestine, as the contestant said, and a firestorm erupted on social media, with the most fervent of pro-Israel and pro-Palestine supporters taking a firm position on both sides of the line.
    Lately, another group has entered the muddled picture of Mideast politics, which has become more and more influential both in the U.S. and the Middle East – American evangelical Christians.
    This group today is one of the most politically powerful voting blocs in the United States, with them holding unprecedented power in Donald Trump's administration.
    Their numbers are extraordinary: polls show that in 2016, more than a quarter of American voters identified as white evangelical Christians.
    They've turned almost fanatic support for Israel and equally fanatic animosity towards its enemies into a core tenet of American conservative ideology, which is deeply rooted in the group's interpretation of the Bible.
    Church of the Nativity Church of the Nativity
    The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
    (Photo: Courtesy)
    One of the main differences between evangelicals and other strains of Christianity lies in their relationship with the Bible.
    Conservative evangelicals believe that the Bible is the literal truth. For them, it is a sort of prophetic road map for modern life, with events described and prophesied within the scripture destined to come true.
    For evangelicals, the most important prophecy is the second coming, the return of Jesus Christ to Earth. The Bible doesn't mention when this will happen, but it does mention where – the land of Israel.
    Several senior evangelical pastors meet with Trump on a regular basis. These are the leaders of megachurches with tens of thousands of followers.
    Many of these pastors follow the belief of Christian Zionism, the concept that the return of the Jewish people to Israel is just one of a series of events that will trigger the second coming of the Messiah.
    According to this theology, God will reward those who help Israel and punish those who don't - a belief that leads directly to a clash with Iran.
    For evangelicals, the return of the Jewish people to Israel, the expansion of its borders and its current control of the holy sites in the West Bank is clear fulfillment of biblical prophecy.
    The main groups now battling Israel in the region - Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah - are all backed by Iran, making the Islamic Republic a crucial factor in the evangelical vision of the world today and in the future.
    According to Christian Zionism, if the U.S. wants to be on the right side of this biblical prophecy, it needs to do everything possible to protect Israel and punish Iran.
    This helps to explain why a different Bible story is also important to evangelicals.
    The Book of Esther, about an ultimately thwarted plot to destroy the Jews of Persia, is so important to Christian Zionists that they've made multiple movies out of it.
    Evangelicals who are very wrapped up in this theology see modern-day Persia - namely, Iran - as this Bible story come to life and played out on the international stage.
    Mike Pomepo and Mike Pence Mike Pomepo and Mike Pence
    Mike Pomepo and Mike Pence
    (Photo: AFP)
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence both identify as evangelical Christians, and both have enormous influence on American foreign policy.
    A ProPublica investigation found that Pence has routed millions of dollars in foreign aid that was earmarked for humanitarian projects in Iraq and diverted it towards Christian groups in the country.
    When Trump approved the drone strike that killed Iranian top general Qassem Soleimani in January 2020, it was, according to the Washington Post, at Pompeo and Pence's urging.
    When Trump moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the move, according to an AJC poll, had more support from American evangelicals (53%) than American Jews (46%).
    This evangelical support isn't an accident; the Trump administration actively courts it.
    After Trump revealed his "Deal of the Century" peace plan last month - a plan that would give Israel unprecedented control in the West Bank - the Christian Broadcast Network interviewed U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
    "You're talking about opening up the Bible, bringing it back to life in ways that I think your listeners could not have even imagined," said Friedman.
    "It's an opportunity for Biblical tourism that I think will grow and flourish in profound ways."
    To American evangelical Christians, the Bible isn't just a foundational text, it's a prophetic road map that predicts the future and shapes the way they view the present.
    And thanks to their influence with a president who depends on their votes no matter the cost, they are dictating an American foreign policy that they see as affirming those prophecies, however catastrophic.

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