Christians for Israel

Jews and evangelicals will never agree on many
issues, but the one on which they do agree is of
overwhelming importance.


      THE JERUSALEM POST  Mar. 14, 2007

'The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has
awakened. There are 50 million Christians
standing up and applauding the State of Israel."
So began a speech by Pastor John Hagee, founder
of Christians United For Israel, before an AIPAC
Policy Conference plenary earlier this week.

His address may not have received as much media
attention as those by Richard Cheney, Nancy
Pelosi, Ehud Olmert and Binyamin Netanyahu. It
should have, however, because it could herald a
critical new stage in the American-Israeli
relationship.

The speech certainly did not lack clarity. "It
is 1938," Hagee said, "Iran is Germany, and
Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler. We must stop
Iran's nuclear threat and stand boldly with
Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East."

Neither, however, did he mince words regarding
what any Jewish audience cannot help thinking
when hearing such unabashed support from a
Christian leader.

Hagee noted that those who committed the
Holocaust were "baptized Christians ... in good
standing with their Church." He continued:
"Today I humbly ask forgiveness of the Jewish
people for every act of anti-Semitism, and the
deafening silence of Christians in your greatest
hour of need, during the Holocaust. We were not
there. We cannot change the past, but together
we can shape the future. Think of our potential
future together: 50 million evangelicals joining
in common cause with 5 million Jewish people in
America on behalf of Israel is a match made in
heaven."

The AIPAC audience granted Hagee multiple
standing ovations. The Jewish people, some
surely thought, has been waiting two millennia
to hear such unalloyed words of contrition and
support, and they could not have come at a more
propitious time.

Understandably, offers of Christian assistance
will continue to be met with a considerable
degree of wariness. History aside, Jews and
evangelical Christians are perhaps the ultimate
"Odd Couple" -- culturally, religiously,
politically and even geographically.

If all these obstacles are not enough, there is
also Jewish concern regarding Christian motives,
concern that necessitates careful consideration
in building relationships. First, there is the
suspicion that evangelicals, as their name
implies, are out to convert Jews. Second, that
their support is colored by doctrines of
"rapture" and the apocalypse, in which a
catastrophic global war plays an important part.

In a Jerusalem Post interview last year, Hagee
responded that a growing majority of
evangelicals no longer preach replacement
theology - the doctrine that Christianity has
replaced the Jewish people in the plans of God.
As for himself, Hagee said further, "I do not
target Jews for conversion." Nonetheless, he
stressed, "If you come into my church, you are
asking to hear my witness of Jesus Christ and
you're going to get it, wide open."

"What is going to happen when Jesus comes back?"
Hagee said, touching on the second sensitive
point. "I say to my rabbi friends: 'You don't
believe it; I do believe it. When we're standing
in Jerusalem, and the Messiah is coming down the
street, one of us is going to have a major
theological adjustment to make. But until that
time, let's walk together in support of Israel
and in defense of the Jewish people."

Hagee reports that CUFI now has 13 regional
directors, 40 state directors, 80 city
directors, and is aiming to organize in every
Congressional district. After only four months
in operation, CUFI brought 3,500 members to
Washington, DC to lobby Congress last July. That
is already over half the size of the AIPAC
conference, and the numbers are growing quickly.

The objective, Hagee told AIPAC, is to signal to
Congress that American support for Israel "is no
longer just a Jewish issue, but a
Christian-Jewish issue from this day forward."
The political importance and value of such a
transformation, if successful, is difficult to
overstate.

Jews and evangelicals will never agree on many
issues, but the one on which they do agree is of
overwhelming importance. It is natural, given
history, that Jews are wary even of a hand
outstretched in friendship, and caution is
justified. The Jewish people, however, cannot
afford, and arguably does not have the right, to
simply dismiss a significant potential ally.

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