Approximately a tenth of the American population is today a devoted member of the cult of Christian Zionist messianism, writes the noted scholar-activist Dan Cohn-Sherbook, himself a Jew and Profesor of Judaism at the University of Wales in a recently published book, The Politics of Apocalypse-The History and Influence of Christian Zionism. 'It is the fastest growing religious movement in Christianity today', he writes. Many followers of the cult are from the middle and upper-middle classes, followers of televangelists who wield enormous political and economic clout.
Christian Zionist messianists are impelled by an imperialistic vision, of Jesus' impending arrival on earth as the Messiah, when he shall, so they believe, wipe out all his enemies (all non-Christians, presumably) and establish his global dominion, with his capital at Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Christian Zionists believe that they, as allegedly God's chosen people, will be spared the horrors of the global war that shall precede Jesus' advent, and will be miraculously wafted up to heaven, where they shall watch the final destruction of the world.
Christian Zionists believe that Jesus can only return the world once the Jews colonise Palestine. This belief is based on the contentious claim that God had granted this land to the progeny of Abraham, through Isaac, that is the Jews, for eternity. This land is not restricted to the present borders of the state of Israel.
Instead, Zionists, both Jewish and Christian, believe that a vast swathe of land, stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates, today inhabited by millions of Arab Muslims and Christians, belongs rightfully to the Jews, and so must be ethnically 'cleansed' of non-Jewish presence. Hence the justification they offer for their genocidal project aimed at the Arabs.
Hence, too, their consistent backing to Israel, their generous funding of Jewish settlements in Palestine, and their enormous pressure on successive American governments to adopt rigorously pro-Israel and anti Palestinian policies.
Cohn-Sherbook traces the origins of Christian Zionism to the changing attitude of Christian groups towards the Jews following the Protestant Revolution. The early Catholic Church justified the witch-hunt of the Jews, labeling them as alleged Christ-killers. However, numerous Protestant sects, while equally vehemently anti-Jewish, believed that the Jews needed to colonise Palestine before Jesus would re-appear in the world to save it. This was, and still is, by no means a generous acceptance of the Jews.
Rather, they believed, as Christian Zionists today do, that only those Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah would be saved. The rest would ally themselves with the Anti-Christ and would be defeated by Jesus and his forces and, consequently, would be sent off to eternal damnation in the fires of hell.
From the seventeenth century onwards, Cohn-Sherbook shows, numerous European, and, later American, Protestant churches began evolving schemes to settle the Jews in Palestine. This was also seen as a convenient way of getting rid of the Jewish presence in Europe. They petitioned various European powers to back this scheme. By the early nineteenth century, numerous British administrators had been won round to this idea, impelled, no doubt, also by a motive to undermine the Ottoman Empire, which at that time controlled Palestine, and by a deep-rooted aversion to Islam.
Increasingly, Christian Zionists began to join hands with secular Jewish Zionists, whose plans to settling Jews in Israel had nothing to do with any messianic hopes, but, rather, arose as a response to the centuries'-old persecution of Jews by European Christians. (In contrast, Cohn-Sherbook rightly notes, 'In Arab lands, Jews had flourished for centuries […] [while] in European countries Jewry had been subject to oppression and persecution.'
Ties between secular Jewish Zionists and Christian Zionists to pursue the common project of Jewish colonization of Palestine were strengthened by the support given to Theodore Herzl (b.1860), the Hungarian Jew who is regarded as the father of modern-day Zionism.
Cohn-Sherbook traces in considerable detail the course of this close collaboration down to the present-day, describing the strong political and financial links between Christian and Israeli/Jewish Zionists and also the enormous clout of the Zionist lobby in American political circles.
Christian Zionism, based on a virulently anti-Islamic agenda, is a major hurdle to peace not just in West Asia but globally, too. Indeed, some Christian Zionists even ardently wish (and work for) a final global war or Armageddon, in the belief that this would accelerate their hoped-for wafting up to heaven and the subsequent arrival of Jesus. Christian Zionist messianism 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 fulfill 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.
In his remarkable book, The Cross and the Crescent: The Rise of American Evangelism and the Future of Muslims, Muhammad Arif Zakaullah brings out in considerable detail how Christian Zionist messianists have specifically framed and targeted Muslims as allegedly being in league with the Anti-Christ and against whom Jesus and the Christians must fight in a bloody war of unprecedented dimensions in the last days.
This explains, Zakaullah writes, their unstinting support to Israel and its brutal suppression of the Palestinians, and their fervent backing of America's invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and its so-called 'war on terror'. Zakaullah quotes several leading American Christian messianic evangelists as describing Islam and Muslims in lurid colours and branding it as irredeemably 'anti-Christian'.
Not surprisingly, he writes, they have been among the most fierce backers of America's imperialist misadventures that many Muslims see as directed against them. American imperialism is thus sought to be given a suitable 'Christian' sanction, and is presented as working to usher in Jesus' triumphant return to the world. War and bloodshed on an unimaginable scale, mainly against Muslims, and not peace and reconciliation, American Christian fundamentalists seem to believe, will herald the eventual establishment of the Kingdom of God, the rule of supposedly pious Christians all over the globe.