Why Christian Nationalists Love Israel—But Hate Jews

Why Christian Nationalists Love Israel—But Hate Jews

I spend my waking days fighting against the Christian Nationalist movement that plagues the United States. Christian Nationalists weaponize the idea of religious freedom to justify stripping away the rights of Black, queer, disabled, and poor people, as well as women and anyone who is capable of pregnancy. Their attempt to overturn the 2020 election is the clearest indicator that they intend to put an end to our world-famous democracy.

But what does democracy mean when your options are a 77-year-old billionaire who broadcasts his vitriol for everyone but himself, or an 81-year-old imperialist who funds genocide while claiming to be a progressive savior?

The oily motive of Genocide Joe

Joe Biden is currently funding the genocide of tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians. He is adamant that it is because the United States is one of Israel’s greatest allies, but like everything our presidents do, he operates solely out of capitalist greed.

Joe Biden making his argument on the Senate floor on June 5th, 1986.

The last comment I’ll make, Madam President, is if we look at the Middle East, I think it’s about time we stop, those of us who support, as most of us do, Israel, in this body, for apologizing for our support for Israel. There’s no apology to be made. None! It is the best three-billion dollar investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interest in the region. The United States would have to go out and invent an Israel.

Joe Biden on the Senate Floor, June 5th, 1986

U.S. politicians are not allies to Israel in a show of honorable solidarity. Democrats like Biden are loyal not to Israel but to Israel’s oil—and in the above clip, Biden told us his stance explicitly for once in his life.

And evangelical Republicans? They are on another level entirely. Their love of Israel is not only financial, it is theological—but they truly do not care about Jews at all.

Most evangelicals do believe that Jews who do not convert to Christianity will go to hell, and they believe the apocalyptic Battle of Armageddon will center around Israel. They support destabilizing policies like the move of the U.S. Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on the basis of the theological script they are following.

One cannot achieve a healthy religious pluralism by pretending that robust mutual respect for religious diversity exists where it does not exist. Fostering healthy pluralism, which democracy demands, means confronting intolerance.

Chrissy Stroop, Stop Gaslighting The Left About Evangelicals. They Believe Awful Things About Jews, September 2019

Christian Zionism

Christian Zionists believe that the occupation of Palestine by colonizers who began to call themselves Israel in 1948 is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy and is a necessary step in triggering the end times. They believe that the occupation is a legitimate reincarnation of the ancient land of Israel referred to throughout the Bible, rather than an artificial superimposition of an ancient land of the same name on top of a country which is already there.

The settler colony called Israel began occupying Palestine in 1948 as part of a false promise of preventing another Holocaust, although its leaders barely bothered to save Jews from the Holocaust when it was actively happening. Instead, Israel has turned Gaza into a concentration camp, not entirely unlike the ones that the Nazis locked their parents and grandparents in.

There’s this image of a kind of Israel of the Bible that’s just sort of transported into the 21st century now and applied to this state, right, a geopolitical state as if there’s a one to one correspondence. For me, that’s one of the things that makes it that kind of imaginary abstract notion, is it ignores all of those complexities that there are plenty of Jewish people in Israel and Jewish people outside of Israel, right, who oppose those. And yet that evangelical discourse sort of smooths right over that.

Daniel Miller to Chrissy Stroop, Straight White American Jesus Podcast in 2019

These biblical prophecies describe the mutually beneficial relationship between American evangelicals and Israel. Conservative evangelical support for Israel also works to fend off allegations of anti-Semitism from the categorically anti-Semitic far right. And we have none other to thank for this than the usual suspect: Reverend Jerry Falwell.

Jerry Falwell baptized Zionism

 Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Eliyahu Ben Elissar, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Jerry Falwell in 1998
Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Eliyahu Ben Elissar, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Jerry Falwell in 1998

Falwell’s commitment to Israel and his many meetings with Jewish leaders helped eviscerate the ugly stain of anti-Semitism on the American right. It was part of the baptism. Falwell’s reasons for supporting Israel were exclusively religious in nature, but he gave them political expression and succeeded in making a commitment to Israel a central tenet of Republican Party orthodoxy. There is a reason why Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and other GOP leaders have made highly public treks to Israel in recent years: going there gives them a chance to establish their pro-Israel bona fides. Before Falwell, there was no such need for candidates trying to garner conservative support.

Michael Sean Winters, God’s Right Hand: How Jerry Falwell Made God a Republican and Baptized the American Right, p. 392

Like much of his work in “baptizing the American right,” the marriage that Falwell officiated between American Christian Nationalists and Israel is as strong as ever. Christian Nationalists continue to use Israel and pro-Israel groups as shields behind which to hide from legitimate allegations of anti-Semitism.

Christian Nationalists and the ADL

The first time that I heard of the Anti-Defamation League was when I read Gab CEO Andrew Torba’s and Andrew Isker’s book Christian Nationalism: A Biblical Guide for Taking Dominion and Discipling Nations for a blog post. Almost immediately after saying, “We earnestly pray that the entirety of the Jewish people would be reconciled to Jesus Christ,” the authors write, “We dedicate this chapter to Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL and Ben Shapiro, Co-Founder of The Daily Wire.”

Even though Torba and Isker specify first that “Our opposition to Judaism is purely theological and spiritual and is not in any way born out of ethnic or racial animus” (emphasis theirs), it is still incredibly anti-Semitic to say things like:

The only thing that remained [after the Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD] was the traditions of the scribes and the elders, the very traditions that were crafted to allow Israel to violate God’s Law, the very traditions Christ demanded Israel repent over, and the very traditions that provoked them to reject Him and put Him to death. That is what modern Judaism was formed out of. This was not a correct understanding of the Scriptures, because if they truly had the eyes to see, they would have comprehended the majesty and divinity in Christ Jesus!

Andrew Torba and Andrew Isker, Christian Nationalism, p. 60

Anti-Semitism in Christian Nationalism

Torba and Isker end the chapter This is Not a “Judeo-Christian” Movement,

True antisemitism is overlooking Jews or failing to evangelize them because you believe they are “chosen” by God and therefore get a free pass for rejecting Jesus Christ. No one gets a free pass for rejecting Jesus Christ. If you have the compassion that a Christian must-have for the lost, you need to understand that the modern Jewish religion is not “just like ours but without the New Testament.” If they reject Jesus, they reject the Old Testament because all of it is about Him and points to Him. All mankind need to believe in Jesus or they will perish in their sins, Jews included.

Andrew Torba and Andrew Isker, Christian Nationalism, p. 62

Curiously, Torba and Isker seem to reject Christian Zionism by promoting supersessionism, or the idea that Jesus is “God’s true Israel,” and he fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies—which removes any need for a literal state of Israel to fulfill prophecy. How interesting, then, that these Christian Nationalist extremists went out of their way to dedicate this anti-Semitic chapter to the CEO of the violently pro-Israel ADL. Perhaps it is because their far right views are aligned in almost every way, yet somehow the ADL gets away with the lie that it is progressive simply because it is Jewish.

Antipathy toward Jews may seem surprising given the strong pro-Israel sentiment of prominent promoters of Christian nationalism. Thought leaders who advocate Christian nationalism frequently promote Israel’s interests, as they believe America’s success depends on its support of “God’s people.” […]

Yet, these same men and women clearly separate Israel as a nation from Judaism as a religion. For example, [pastor Robert] Jeffress, who prayed at the opening ceremony for the U.S. Embassy in Israel, also claimed that, “Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism—not only do they lead people away from God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.”

Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry, Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States, pp. 109-110

Mike Johnson: The Christian Nationalist controlling the House

Mike Johnson’s decades-long career of infusing religion with government has been coming to light in the months since his election as Speaker of the House. One of the many things that has alarmed Americans is the Christian Nationalist flag hanging outside of his office in the House, which Bradley Onishi and Matthew D. Taylor reported on in Rolling Stone in November.

But in Taylor’s tweet announcing the article, I noticed the “I Stand with Israel” sign in the image of Johnson’s office door more than anything. It is front and center, after all. While Onishi and Taylor were right to criticize and bring to light Johnson’s nod to the Christian Nationalist extremist New Apostolic Reformation, the Israel sign is just as dangerous—and similarly Christian Nationalist.

There is an endless wealth of examples of Mike Johnson affirming his unwavering support for Israel, but none are as precisely Christian Nationalist as this one:

As a Christian, I know and we believe that the Bible teaches very clearly that we’re to stand with Israel, that God will bless the nation that blesses Israel, that we’re to take peace to Jerusalem. But what I’m afraid a lot of young people don’t understand is that America was actually founded on our Judeo-Christian heritage. And the principles that derived therefrom. That’s right. On the House floor on Wednesday in my speech I alluded to this all-important truth that there are self-evident truths that are summarized succinctly in our nation’s birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence. And we can’t say this too often because people have lost sight of the truth, they’ve lost sight of the foundations that America was built upon. And it’s something that is deeply related to Israel and the joint heritage that we share.

House Speaker Johnson Speaks at Republican Jewish Coalition Conference, 10/28/23
Jim Jordan, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Mike Johnson in 2020
Jim Jordan, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Mike Johnson in Jerusalem in 2020

Of course, Mike Johnson is not the only famous Christian Nationalist to praise Israel.

Israel’s favorite Christian Nationalists

The Israel Allies Foundation’s 2020 list of Israel’s Top 50 Allies included Trump’s pastor Paula White at #1, failed Christian Nationalist presidential candidate Pat Robertson at #7, and Christian Nationalist group Family Research Council president Tony Perkins at #37. (Many other American politicians are present on the list, including Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachmann.) When Trump moved the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Perkins said, “America’s foreign policy, as it pertains to Israel, is coming into alignment with this biblical truth.”

The 2021 list features unabashed Christian Nationalist Mike Pence at #1, Christian Nationalist group Christian Coalition of America president Roberta Combs at #31, and Christian Nationalist group Faith and Freedom Coalition chairman Ralph Reed at #43.

In addition to several repeat offenders from the 2020 and 2021 lists, the aforementioned Christian Nationalist pastor Robert Jeffress is #23 on the 2022 list. Jeffress advertised “Freedom Sunday” at his church in 2018 with billboards proclaiming “AMERICA IS A CHRISTIAN NATION.” Focus on the Family founder and modern-day eugenicist James Dobson joins their ranks as #11 on the 2023 list.

A billboard with the words "America is a Christian Nation" prominently in all caps, in front of an American flag and next to a portrait of Robert Jeffress. The left side of the billboard says: "Freedom Sunday at First Baptist Dallas June 24." The bottom says the times of the services, the church's website and lists Dr. Robert Jeffress as the senior pastor.

Today’s most powerful Christian Nationalists and Israel

Dennis Prager, famous spreader of the lie that America was founded as a Christian nation, said five days into Israel’s genocide on Gaza that “[Muslims have made] the only call to genocide and to the extermination of a state [Israel] in the world. Can you think of any other nation that is targeted for extinction? There isn’t any other. There are fights in this world, there are enemies, but the notion that you should cease to exist, and we will kill as many of your people as possible, is unique to those Muslims who want to destroy Israel.”

A screenshot from the PragerU video called "Israel: Shira Prays for Peace." The image is of a generic white male American politician in a suit, and an older man with a beard wearing a yarmulke and a suit. They are shaking hands in front of fused-together American and Israeli flags. There is a caption on the screen that reads "Israel has developed a unique partnership with the United States."

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who “advances God’s kingdom” by forcing taxpayers to fund private religious schools with voucher programs, said in 2019, “Israel is a light to the region, but we all know it’s surrounded by jihadists who embrace evil and who deny Israel’s existence, and violently work to wipe it off the map.”

Josh Hawley, who invents quotes from founders to justify his false claim that America is a Christian nation, called on the U.S. Attorney General on October 16th to “investigate” student groups who protested genocidal apartheid Israel and who rightly “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” (Jonathan Greenblatt’s ADL has also encouraged “investigation” of Students for Justice in Palestine for support for terrorism.)

Self-avowed Christian Nationalist Marjorie Taylor Green filed a censure resolution against Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American member of Congress on October 26th. The resolution cited “antisemitic activity, sympathizing with terrorist organizations and leading an insurrection at the United States Capitol Complex.” This came after Tlaib’s vocal support for Palestinians and criticism of Israel. The “insurrection” Greene refers to was a protest calling for a ceasefire in which demonstrators entered the Capitol after properly filing through security. Greene, of course, is famous for spreading harmful conspiracy theories about Jewish people.

Kristen Waggoner, CEO of the famous Christian Nationalist group Alliance Defending Freedom, signed the Evangelical Statement in Support of Israel on October 11th. The statement used the New Testament to justify the genocide: “In keeping with Christian Just War tradition, we also affirm the legitimacy of Israel’s right to respond against those who have initiated these attacks as Romans 13 grants governments the power to bear the sword against those who commit such evil acts against innocent life.”

Adam Schnelting, the Missouri legislator who proposed an abortion ban in 2019 that referred explicitly to “Almighty God,” proposed a bill in January 2023 that served no material purpose except to “commend Israel for its cordial and mutually beneficial relationship with the United States of America.” Schnelting put his own personal religion in this bill as well, writing, “Israel has been granted her lands under and through the oldest deed, as recorded in the Torah or Old Testament, a tome of scripture held sacred and revered by Jews and Christians alike.”

Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters issued a statement on October 9th in which he hoped that “all Oklahomans will join me in prayer for the people of Israel that peace and security will soon return to their land” and assuring readers that “Oklahoma schools do not teach terrorism as a legitimate means to political ends.”

Pro-Israel Christian Nationalists lightning round

Anti-science extremist Ken Ham prayed for Israel as they were beginning their genocide on October 10th.

Inventor of America’s fictional Christian founding David Barton is taking members of his Christian Nationalist group WallBuilders on a tour of Israel in 2024, where they will see “where the Nazarene tried to push Jesus off the cliff” and “sail along the very waters that Jesus walked on 2,000 years ago.”

Capitol Ministries founder Ralph Drollinger included “The Biblical Case for Defending Israel” in his Political Leaders Weekly Bible Study in 2021.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who fought in 2005 to display the Ten Commandments outside the Texas Capitol, visited Israel on November 2nd to “reaffirm” his “unwavering support” as the death toll in Gaza neared 10,000.

Friend of the Christian Nationalist group the Heritage Foundation, Ron DeSantis claimed that he himself had helped to send Israel genocide supplies (even though he doesn’t have that power).

Insurrectionist hate-preacher Greg Locke said, “Israel should make the Gaza Strip a parking lot by this time next week,” on October 8th. “Destroy the whole thing.”

Hate preacher Greg Locke giving a sermon, surrounded by what appear to be teenagers, one of which is holding the flag of Israel

Where Israel’s tentacles reach

Project 2025, the Heritage Foundation’s apocalyptic guide for transitioning the presidency into a Christian Nationalist dictatorship, recommends “ensuring Israel has both the military means and the political support and flexibility to take what it deems to be appropriate measures to defend itself against the Iranian regime and its regional proxies Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.” This is its way of preventing the region from “tumbl[ing] further into chaos or fall[ing] prey to American adversaries.”

Federalist Society leader and shadowy billionaire Leonard Leo, who handpicked Trump’s three Supreme Court nominees, is notoriously hard to track. So the fact that Leo’s Marble Freedom Trust received $1.6 billion dollars in 2021 from secretive pro-Israel donor Barre Seid assures me that there is more than meets the eye between Christian Nationalists and Israel—and far-right billionaires.

Conclusion

The only thing that solidifies the United States’ willing embrace of evil more than the rise of Christian Nationalism is its willingness to embrace the apartheid settler colony of Israel. Democrats claim that our two “nations” share democracy and freedom in common. Republicans espouse that God has “chosen” them both.

But what the United States and Israel truly hold in common is their bloody origins. Both “nations” exist only because white colonizers decided that occupied Indigenous land was theirs—that God himself wanted them to ethnically cleanse it and declare their religions and cultures supreme. Anyone who claims to fight Christian Nationalism but who refuses to acknowledge the evils of Zionism and the ties between Christian Nationalism and Israel is doing a disservice to the fight for true religious freedom and liberation.

3 thoughts on “Why Christian Nationalists Love Israel—But Hate Jews

  • January 19, 2024 at 2:27 pm
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    An excellent article, Ms. Kohlhepp. It gives much to think about.

    Reply
  • January 24, 2024 at 7:48 am
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    As a Canadian, there’s so much I don’t know about my neighbours to the south. Articles like this one help me to understand what the heck is going on down there. Much appreciated.
    I do wonder, though, why you describe the two people likely to be leaders in your next presidential election by their ages. It reads, to me, like ageism, as if you’re using age as a shorthand for other negative attributes. As you know, defining someone by ANY characteristic beyond their control is prejudice at least, and full-blown bigotry at worst. There are many competent elders in all cultures, these two just do not appear to be in that group.

    Reply

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