The End of Days: How Christian Zionism is Transforming US Policy in the Middle East
The bible says that when he and bible prophecy on any Sunday morning channel surf across TV programs and between the new shows. You'll stumble upon televangelists they'll tell you about the wages of sin and the possibilities of redemption shell confess, but increasingly you'll also hear an urgent and prophetic visions. World is going to end. They wrapped chew epic battle set in Israel. That will usher in the second coming of Jesus Christ as God super naturally once again defend the nation of Israel. Now, are you rats? The king is coming. The king is coming. The key is there is a growing movement among American evangelical Christians a movement that N -ticipant, it's a prophetic end time or end of days one that these pastors welcome. But the end times they believe will only come when Israel expands its current board. Others. In other words, these pastors say Israel must include all the land originally granted by God as described in the bible that biblical geography would completely redraw the modern Middle East. The new Jerusalem is going to be fifteen hundred miles square move or Iran. Move over Saudi Arabia move over Egypt, the Keene share. We're going to use this. I love this story security analysts agree this story. This interpretation would also be a recipe for the next World War. But for even Jellicoe pastors like Jon hagey, it's prophecy the fulfilment of Armageddon as told in the book of revelation as Hagi and other see it Jesus Christ will return for global judgement of humanity. Those who accepted him as their savior. And who support the nation of Israel will be saved those who reject him or fail to support the Jewish state will perish. This is a belief known as Christian Zionism. Christians i-in is is not merely the belief of televangelists from the bible belt. It's influence has now reached the White House beginning with the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem to many Christians ionised. The Trump administration is putting their interpretation of prophecy into action in the process. The movement is redefining America's foreign policy in the Middle East. Despite all of its political support for Israel. Christians iron is deeply controversial in Israel in this series. We go inside the movement. It's potent political alliances the hundreds of millions of dollars. It's poured into Israel and theology that some consider inherently antisemitic. This is the end of days, how Christians ein ISM is transforming US policy in the Middle East special three-part investigation by the ground truth, podcast, and W G B H news. I'm Charles Senate. I I started reporting on Christian Zionism when I wrote a book on the Christians of the holy land twenty years ago back then the movement was way out on the fringe. And now it's decidedly mainstream. So I flew to Jerusalem to find out how that happened and what it means for the region. When I landed in Jerusalem, I stepped onto the L Al jet bridge. There was a billboard rabbi Yekhiel ex-team was smiling joyously and welcoming the passengers under the banner of his organization, the international fellowship of Christians and Jews twenty years ago. When I first started coming to the Middle East that billboard would never have been there. His fellow orthodox rabbis rejected Eksteen's overt solidarity with these evangelical Christians, whose theology they viewed as anti semitic today. Eksteen's organization is front and center in the past twenty years. He's raised over one point five billion dollars through this fellowship. We'll hear from rabbi x-deion later on. I arrived at my hotel and walk through Easter slim to the old city. I entered through the Damascus Gate and onto a street called Awad with valley in Arabic. The street is paved with stones worn smooth by time. And it was good to be back. Among the familiar sounds and smells of this market street lined with spice shops, bakeries and butchers. It's a Friday and a unique moment on the calendar. When all three Abraham faiths are converging on the overlapping sacred space that is Jerusalem. NCAA? The Friday noon prayer coming from the mosques echoes against the stones with prayer rugs. Tucked under their arms Muslims, head towards the dome of the rock the third holiest site in his Lomb. It's also Chabad for observant Jews preparing for Passover orthodox Jews in traditional dress head for prayers at the western wall. The remains of the ancient temple of Judaism. Unknown. And it is Good Friday on the Christian calendar. Christians clutching prayer books and rosary beads were making their way to the Via Dolorosa or the way of sorrow following in what tradition holds are the footsteps of Jesus as he carried the cross. That path leads to the church of the holy sepulcher. Where many professions of the faith, particularly the Catholic and eastern orthodox rites believe Jesus was crucified and buried in attune before the resurrection. Christians INS are here. Among the throng of believers to on first glance. It's hard to tell someone's faith background. But I struck up a conversation right away with a man named Kevin burner. I consider myself fish. And a Christian is is a Jew. You know, you're adopted into the family of Christ burner had a long white beard, and he was wearing a north face jacket, abandon and sunglasses. There's a movement here, particularly around sort of Christians. I n is into real belief that Christians need to support Israel. It's a movement gaining strength. I'm wondering if you feel part of that, or what your views on that are well when I was here last fall, God quicken, my heart and said that I had to be supportive of Israel. And so I took that as his word and change my mind, and I put it all in him burner hails from Massachusetts. And is a retired. Pastor he believes that we are now in the end of days burner and other Christians ionised believed that Christians must support the nation of Israel and the Jews must accept Jesus Christ as their savior as he sees it. This prophecy, the people of Israel God's chosen people, and we will be blessed because we support Israel. I believe those that have chosen Jesus are going to be favored a lot of people are gonna come to know him. And those who don't the orthodox Jews in the secular Jews. Just like everybody else are. Not going to be here anymore. You mean they'll be killed? They'll be they'll be left on her. They will go to hell. The next day. I cut across town to visit a museum dedicated to Christians ionization. The friends that I did when he was also going to be your guidance since opening in two thousand fifteen the friends of Zion. Resume boasts over forty five million supporters which include donors visitors and followers on social media. I don't believe the Jewish state's and modern Zionism would have been possible without Christians visitors are greeted by hologram of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the mini Christian supporters of the rebirth of the Jewish state, and then gathering of the Jewish people in the nineteenth century made possible the rise of Jewish Zionism. The museum was crowded that day with Christians and Jews Taurus in Israeli. Although it's gone mainstream. Christian Zionism is not new it traces its roots back to at least the nineteenth century, but the friends of Zion museum takes an even broader view a stepped into the elevator. With the museum calls a time machine. A ride to the top floor transports museum goers back four thousand years. A seven minute film paints the sweeping history of the Israeli people with the production values of a Hollywood trailer. He says the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth. By the end of the film. Christians ionised have been woven into the epic journey of Israel, and the Jewish people. Bubi ancient prophecies for they're out to see a fulfilled in their own way. Like, the patriarchs old when their time came they to say, he your mind to the promise and the people of the land of Israel, the be called Christian Zionists, although the film celebrates the role of Christian Zionists, some within the movement find that term pejorative among themselves, they prefer to use the term believer. I grew up in a believing home always been a believer. My dad is a Jewish believers Jewish man who was also a believer or a believer in your Shula believers as evangelical new covenant believers grafted into the vine of the Jewish people, and among them is a small strain of Jews who converted they prefer the term messianic Jews because they identify. First and foremost as Jewish yet. Also believe in Jesus or Yeshua in Hebrew. Will we accept you shouldn't say we say Jewish. He was Jewish. How does the site curious New Testaments written by Jews blocks I s and then the rest of the world these men and women are all part of king of kings? It's a Christian Zionist network in Israel part of their mission is to spread the gospel to his Rayleigh Jews to bring them into the fold of believers. Outside the old city of Jerusalem. There's a high rise building with a shopping mall on the first few floors as with so many places in Israel. You have to pass through a metal detector to get in inside the mall among hair salons, and electronics stores are several places of worship and offices for even Djelic church organizations all part of the king of kings community. Like that billboard in the airport. These churches were not out in the open twenty years ago. Christian Zionists were outliers back then but now they are openly and loudly celebrating their faith. It's like an indie rock concert in this. Don, Fintoto takes the stage man Hallelujah. Fin toe is a pastor from Nashville where he led Belmont church for twenty five years. He describes himself as a radical follower of Jesus. Yes. Eighty eight but there's more yet and I'm hungry for more. And I'm not out of here yet. And so anyway, I mean here we are in Jerusalem, and we're not just a bunch of Christians. We're Jewish believers and and gentiles together. Lord. It's an amazing amazing time in our generation, and there's so much this big fulfilled. I mean finta's confident as he speaks he's enjoying himself. And that connects with the young crowd physio delivers a mix of biblical prophecy modern history and observations about today. All to prove his case. The messiah is coming Jews need. To convert and his job is to evangelize is time for Jewish people to come to the Lord today in our day. I do I do this crazy stuff from time to I remember one time I was in a rent car driving down the ride down in the heart of Jerusalem. And I was watching these ultra-orthodox families and prophesied to them with my window rolled up in. I said, you don't know it yet. But many of you're going to come no your shoe as messiah comes. It's time for your eyes to be open. Let's consider this for a second. Here. You have an American evangelical in the middle of an Israeli shopping mall. He's calling for all Jews to accept Jesus as their messiah in a warm, and welcoming message importantly, though, he's not saying anyone is going to hell if they don't convert but for many Israelis, and for many Jews around the world this relatively gentle invitation represents a disturbing theology one that is perhaps even anti semitic this faith, terrain is complicated. That's why I went to see Harvey Cox, the dean emeritus of the Harvard divinity school and a professor of theology in some ways a form of Christian sign is also not known by that title has been part of the American outlook, including foreign policy outlook for a very very long time. I mean going way back before the term was invented for the last twenty years. I've been looking to professor Cox who is also a Baptist minister to help provide the historical and theological context to understand Christian fundamentalism, and specifically the Christians ionised movement as professor Kaku sees it. They've tempered their message the brand of Christian sign ISM that you will hear most a lot about was America's the friend of Israel Israel deserves piece. And I think part of that is that the emergence of this kind of Jewish Christian alliance. The Christian had to really play down some of the were offensive elements of the in time drama, which at the beginning of Christian scientists included the eventual conversion of very large numbers of Jews. Once the land was reestablished Andrea claimed and the Jewish people started back. So it interesting how a theologically motivated movement. Like that can find its way into policy, and then the theological basis can be a little bit muted, or at least not in the forefront. But the policies continue. So I think all of that has contributed to making it more palatable to wider ranges of people, and it certainly has those wider ranges of people. However, do not include their fellow Christians in the region Palestinian Christians are part of a two thousand year living presence of the faith. That's what makes it. So puzzling that they are largely invisible to the Christian Zionists. On my way out of the old city. I pass by the Greek Orthodox patriarchate, the Latin or Roman Catholic patriarchate, and then the Lutheran church of the redeemer and the Syrian Orthodox church. It's difficult to ignore the presence in legacy of the many Christian denominations planted in the holy land. Since the faith began. I headed back to my hotel where I was meeting Mitri, rob a Palestinian and a Lutheran. Pastor rod wears a clerical collar, and has the warm demeanor of a preacher a lot of the Christian tourists in the holy land. Don't realize that he and other Palestinians are indeed Christian most of them. They have no clue and they asked me, you know, when did you convert the casino, assuming that maybe I used to be heathen or Muslim who converted to Christianity by some machinists from the midwest. And I like to tell them, you know, remember Jesus was born in Bethlehem Palestine at Bethlehem Pennsylvania and the bible did not originate in the bible belt. The by Bill is a proactive Palestine. And so it's always started here, and we are descended of those first Christian communities and remained faithful to that old faith that. Received from our forefathers. We didn't convert Islam, you know, we didn't leave the country. We wanted to stay here and to make sure that that message that Jesus Christ brute here which continued to resonate in the land where it's all started Palestine, do you think Americans understand? The influence of the Christian Zionists and Christian evangelical movement in the way, it's working inside Israel here, and how it sort of viewed by Palestinian people the majority. I don't think they realize what kind of crazy Christians these Christians Saad and actual how dangerous they are. They want to bring all the Jews here. So that one third will be killed by the sword. And other by the fire and the third will convert to Christianity. So they are actually cooling for the any Haitian of today's. And so this is this is anti semitism. We will hear more from other Palestinian Christians who say that it's the Christian Zionists extreme interpretation of the bible that renders them ignorant of their fellow Christians. According to Harvey Cox, Christian Zionists, also ignore the context of the bible and mistakenly attributed contemporary events to biblical prophecy. There's a kind of a vacuum in the whole historical process. Attached to that is the fundamental mistake of a lot of mainly pros and Christians, but not entirely to read the prophets in the Old Testament and other places a referring to now what's happening now, and what will happen. I just think that fundamental misreading, and you sometimes get munition like the founding of the state of Israel. Look we've been predicting this for centuries now, it's happening. So there you go that's bible prophecy is fulfilled, and it's a desperately mistaken reading, and it has to do with not seeing the context in which these writers were working to whom they were writing what they were writing about what they were promising. It's just a destoryed. Sizing of the whole story, which weakens it and takes away. It's real power. It's very hard to talk to let's say. Christian scientists and try to persuade them with historical or theological arguments that they're reading of the bible is fundamentally flawed because seeing it as America in twenty nineteen I think as believers we can all agree to a few basic things that the end of the age will look like Chad Holland is the senior pastor to the king of kings community. There are signs that God has put on the roadmap. For instance. The fall of Jerusalem back in the first century was a road marker the return of the exiles has been a road marker the modern Jewish state being established to me as a major road marker as well as Jerusalem coming back under the control of the the Jewish people. That's a road marker. But I also think that the rise of Islam is also an indicator of where we are on the prophetic timeline when the nation's rise against Israel. And she runs out a friends. This might be the thing that propels. Her to look for the messiah both Christian, sinus and Israel's political right see themselves as having common enemy. There's a stridently Islam phobic tone that is woven into their relationship and binds them together in the geopolitics of the region. As Holland sees it nations, specifically Muslim nations rising against Israel is part of an inevitable global war. I think it's one of those things that history is going to push us toward as believers. I think we can vote I think we can put believers into politics when a strong bible believing person is in charge. There's a great blessing and peace that falls over that nation. So for me, I wanna see believers at the highest level possible of influence, according to Holland when believers take power the prophetic timeline moves forward as evidence he points to another son on his roadmap. And then even more research. The move of the embassy the US embassy, at least and other embassies that will follow to the capital city of Jerusalem. Shalom Israel Republicans. I'm governor Mike Pence. It's a great honor for Donald Trump and Ida stand together with you to knock Tober twenty-six 2016 two weeks before the presidential election in the US via satellite. Vice presidential candidate. Mike Pence addressed a rally of Israeli American Republican supporters in Jerusalem. Let the word go forth from Jerusalem, the eternal undivided capital of the Jewish people and the Jewish state the Donald Trump, and I are proud to stand with Israel. Vice president Pence has described himself as a born again evangelical Catholic, but he's claimed as a believer by Christians ionised just words speak to those who are part of the movement fellow believers in France. It is humbling for me to be before you today to join you at the twelfth annual summit of the largest pro Israel organization in the United States of America. Crystal night for Israel. Since taking office Pence in the Trump administration have turned Christian Zionist beliefs into policy, and I promise you that the day will come when President Donald Trump moves the American embassy. Is a question. Is only. That's four would win year. Trump and Pence made good on that promise to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The new American embassy opened may fourteenth Twenty-eight teen on the seventieth anniversary of the declaration of the establishment of the state of Israel in nineteen forty eight in the aftermath of World War Two and the holocaust the United Nations voted in favor of granting a homeland the Jewish people. Arab nations. However rejected the UN resolution and the first Erebus rarely war erupted the next day may fifteenth. The war ended with an estimated seven hundred thousand displaced Palestinians, and modern Israel and control of seventy eight percent of historic Palestine for Palestinians. May fifteenth marks the knuckle or the catastrophe in Arabic in nineteen sixty seven war broke out again between Israel and its neighbors. By the end of what is known as the six day war. Israel, emerged victorious once more this time, capturing east Jerusalem and the old city which Israel would unex- in nineteen eighty since then Jerusalem is Ben disputed capital and would ultimately become a centerpiece of the peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. That's why the US in nearly every other country in the world have kept their embassies in Tel Aviv. The official sovereignty over Jerusalem was to be determined in the final status agreements of the Israeli Palestinian peace process that was the status quo until the. Trump administration changed Washington's position and moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Dear friends what a glorious day. Remember this moment. News reports captured the simultaneous dueling narratives the tightly controlled embassy ceremony set against the desperate chaos and deadly protests in Gaza, another deadly day on the Gaza border in this testing near pinning the United States New embassy in Trump and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner, applauded as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the international delegations, the Jerusalem has been and will always be the capital of the Jewish people. The capital of the Jewish stake. Netanyahu's words were matched by protesters in Gaza. Stein. Another capital. Visit I know Israel, but but he Stein. Outside the embassy Israeli police violently dispersed protests. American evangelical preachers, Robert Jefferson, Jon hagey were invited to bless the new embassy Jerusalem, and all habitants let the we pray this in the name and the spirit of the prince of peace Jesus, man. Any man. Meanwhile, deadly clashes erupted alone are Blair fence that separates Israel from the Palestinian, control Gaza. Strip twenty five holliston, Ian have dies rails military has killed at least forty three people and wounded sixteen hundred fifty two Palestinian killed by Israeli fire. Raced to pick up the wounded neighbor to resolve being carried off the pitch to be on Ivanka Trump dressed in white gracefully. Presented the plaque in front of the new embassy of the forty fifth president of the United States on America. We welcome you officially and for the first time to the embassy of the United States here in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. Thank you. For palestinians. The relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem was the point at which the long faltering Israeli Palestinian peace process, effectively collapsed for Christians ionised, the decision to move the embassy in the violence did provoked was a welcoming sign of prophecy set in motion toward what they hoped and believed was the prophetic biblical time known as the end of days. In the next episode of ground truth, we meet our reporter, Mike, Danny who set out on a journey inside the Christians ionised movement it began with a healing practice known as the laying on of hands. A well. The first thing I noticed is people's hands kind of warm, and that felt strange one guy had both his hands on both of my feet is a lot of skin to skin contact with sources. I mean, these are people that I'm trying to get to know in a professional context on our website the ground truth project dot org. We're featuring profiles of some of the people in this series. There's also a gallery of photos by ground troops. Heidi Levin from Jerusalem during holy weekends coat are ground truth. Reporting fellow for this project is Mike nanny. This piece was produced by Mitch Hanley with help from rob Rosenthal. Let us know what you think of this episode and give us a rating tell your friends they can subscribe on apple podcasts NPR one or wherever they listen. If this is your first engagement with the ground truth project. Join our Facebook group there you'll find all of our reporting including ground truth films and report for America. Thanks to Nina pores, fill Rato, Gary Motte, Bob Kemp, John Ryan and Doug sugar to WD VH funding for this episode comes from W G B H news the loose foundation. And the MacArthur foundation. I'm Charles Senate executive producer of the podcast and founder of the ground truth project, which supports a new generation of journalists to do on the ground reporting in undercover corners of the world.