Republicans, Christian Zionism and The Apocalypse


(Credit:  Unknown artist.)


Completely off-topic for this blog, I just finished a (short) academic paper for my “Vital Issues in American Foreign Policy” class with Stanford Continuing Studies.  I love learning, and I love writing, so I thought I’d post the paper, which garnered an “A,” here.  Flame away!

  • Introduction


In a recent poll, 82 percent of white American evangelicals believed that God gave Israel to the Jewish people.[1]  This statistic more than doubled the percentage of American Jews who believed the same thing.[2]  In contrast, only 19 percent of Christians actually born, raised, and living in Israel (Middle East Christians) believe that God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people.[3]  This striking incongruity points out a telling fact: to these American evangelicals, their support for Israel is fundamentally borne out of their personal religious convictions rather than a product of ”realpolitik,” that is, “politics based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations.”[4] Christian Zionism, as it has been called, then, appears to be an invention of the “peculiar circumstances of the United States,” in which the largest community of Jews in the world lives alongside the largest community of evangelical Protestant Christians.[5]  While these religious differences could be potentially antagonistic, it actually has made for strange bedfellows as both communities share a certain adoration, respect and faith in the same Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament).

But how does Christian Zionism inform the foreign policy toward Israel for the last three remaining Republican presidential candidates, namely, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, and the presumed nominee Donald Trump?[6] Part II will give a brief introduction to American Christian Zionism, its fascinating but unnerving foundations in biblical prophecy, and examines how the Christian Zionist quest for Israeli hegemony in the Middle East affects foreign policy toward Israel. By so doing, we hope to get a better understanding if this development is a net positive for the country at this time in history. Part III will look at just how the conservative presidential candidates stand (or seem to stand, given Trump) on this controversial issue. Finally, Part IV will endeavor to predict the candidates’ respective positions should any of them be elected president in 2016.

  • A Brief History of Christian Zionism in the U.S.


Christian Zionism, as a term, creeped into usage around the middle of the twentieth century.[7] However its concept – that Christians advocate for the return of the Jews to their ancestral Holy Land — dates at least as far back to the Protestant Reformation, [8] and perhaps even back to antiquity,[9] and the Bible’s books on prophecy. Indeed, ever since this student attended a Christian high school in the 1980s, Christians of this stripe have sincerely felt that the establishment of Israel fulfilled biblical prophecy and was perhaps a prerequisite to the Rapture, Tribulation and the eventual Second Coming of Jesus Christ. To them, each major modern occurrence of a historical significance, such as an uptick in famines, earthquakes, floods, wars — and “rumors of wars,” etc., are seen as fulfilling several prophecies and set the stage for the Second Coming, evidently within our lifetime. From the rise of the European Union, which some see as a Second Roman Empire, to the “Mark of the Beast,” which some have interpreted to be Social Security or even credit card numbers, there is little doubt to some followers that the Bible’s End Times are near. A few popular writers on prophecy have even put actual dates on Armageddon and the Apocalypse.[10]

This cottage industry of biblical prophecy “scholarship” is particularly ripe with such confidence, however arrogant it may seem, especially as such milestone dates have passed with a nary a whimper. Christian author Hal Lindsey, for instance, proposed that the following New Testament verses:

Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:

So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.[11]

apparently indicate that Jesus’ return might be within one generation of the rebirth of the state of Israel (i.e. 1948), which itself was seen as the metaphorical fulfillment of another biblical prophecy, that is, the rebuilding of the once-destroyed Jewish temple in the Temple Mount area of the Old City of Jerusalem.[12]  Further, because Lindsey declared that one generation is forty years in the Bible,[13] it follows that some readers could not help but take away an indication that the Tribulation or the Rapture would occur no later than 1988.[14]

But prophecy doesn’t end with Israel’s 1948 Founding. Some Christian Zionists also point to Israel’s victory in 1967’s Six Day War as another sign of the coming Apocalypse. Remarkably, one writer postulated that when “the entire city of Jerusalem fell at last under Jewish control..[and] far-right political conservatives joined the Christian [] and Jewish Zionists to form a political [triumvirate] of increasing power [][,] events seemed to bear out the important role Israel would play in mankind’s future….”[15]

But it wasn’t until the Ronald Reagan presidency, and the concomitant ascendency of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the 1980s, that Christian Zionism directly influenced U.S. foreign policy in a major way. Undeniably, Reagan “brought Christian Zionists, such as Falwell, [Pat] Robertson, and Lindsey into White House activities that included Congressional and national leaders…[and] sponsored discussion groups that gave the Christian Zionists an opportunity to advertise their beliefs and their power”[16] to both their followers and the nation. (This attempt to influence policy, however, did not fare as well during the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations.)

Christian and Jewish Zionist groups formed a coalition based on the security of Israel. This political/religious alliance reached new heights in 1995’s creation of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. It was through this pact that Jewish leaders realized they could not achieve its Israeli goals without the support of the American Christian evangelicals.[17] 

Such unyielding alliances could not help but lead to a skewed view of the American Zionist movement. On the one hand, this trust in, and satisfaction of, biblical prophecy is to them confirmation of the literal veracity of the Bible, a commendable trait for heartfelt religious folk.  Yet, on the other hand, this newfound love for Israel[18] could be seen as crazy to casual observers given that it may symbolize a surprising excitement for the actual Apocalypse.[19]  In short, Israel should be protected because God promised to bless those who bless the Jews.[20]

However one interprets the Bible, some critics are disturbed by Christian Zionism and its impact on American foreign policy. According to one author, this “largest, most controversial and most destructive lobby within Christianity…bears primary responsibility for perpetuating tensions in the Middle East, justifying Israel’s apartheid colonialist agenda and for undermining the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.”[21] Another commentator laments, “Israel’s self-proclaimed [Christian Zionist] friends in America….play a very large role in lobbying for [it] to fight wars in the Middle East.”[22]

More recently, evangelicals still support Israel despite official U.S. (and international) criticism of Israeli’s increasing militarism in the region. For instance, Pat Robertson, who bemoaned Jewish influence in the 1990s, has since declared opposition to the creation of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, an unquestioning support of Israel that smacks of religious opportunism. [23] Also, in 2003, the White House received some 100,000 angry e-mail messages after George W. Bush condemned the Israeli invasion of, and growing settlement in, the West Bank. In addition, Christian Zionists protested Bush II’s Road Map to Peace in the Middle East, which included the creation of a Palestinian state.[24] Accordingly, opposition to any practical, realistic American foreign policy positions was most probably a product of religious fervor and Christian Zionists themselves. Arguably, this cannot be good for a democratic republic forged on an (extra-constitutional) precept that separates Church and State.

  • The Positions of the Last Standing Republican Presidential Candidates


It is axiomatic that the 2016 presidential election is like nothing the U.S. has ever seen. There is no apparent historical precedent and little faith among some that the election process will lead to the best candidates. While the Democrats fielded a manageable quintet of candidates, the Republicans had a staggering seventeen at the primary season’s start. By late April, that cadre was narrowed to a final three candidates: John Kasich, Ted Cruz and the presumptive party nominee, Donald Trump (at least based on the delegate count). Because two of the candidates (Kasich and Cruz) are to the right on even a conservative spectrum, Trump is a wildcard. He claims to be a practicing Christian, citing the Bible as his favorite book (second only to his own ‘The Art of the Deal,” of course), yet he mispronounces books of the Bible (“Two Corinthians” instead of Second Corinthians), and can’t cite favorite Bible verses.[25]

Because Christian Zionism has become affiliated with socially conservative American politics, what are these candidates’ policy positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict? After all, “The Democratic Party has [] drifted further from Israel…”[and] “[p]olls regularly show that Republicans are much more supportive of Israel than Democrats, and Republican candidates tend to hold positions — on issues from Iran to the Palestinians – that parallel those of a majority of Israeli voters.[26]  Are the candidates in line with hardcore Christian Zionism, or are they more of a moderate variety? Or, like Trump, is there a third option for conservative voters?

  •      John Kasich on Israel


In a more typical election cycle, John Kasich would hardly be considered a moderate. His actual record is “a big step to the right of what many Americans would consider in the middle.”[27]  He has a firm stance against abortion, is in favor of capital punishment, supported the invasion of Iraq, and, although he’s the only remaining candidate that believes that global warming is real, he claims not to know what is causing it, despite the scientific consensus.

His “moderation” could also be found in his lukewarm religiosity. He claims he was an altar boy, names Christian author Dallas Willard as a personal hero, uses his faith to argue for expansion (oddly, for a conservative) of government programs, and is even the author of “Every Other Monday: Twenty Years of Life, Lunch, Faith, and Friendship,: a book about his prayer and Bible study groups.[28] Yet, he also claims to be a “Deadhead, or devoted fan of the Grateful Dead, suggested that God must like the rock band Pearl Jam,[29] and while campaigning in Brooklyn in front of an Orthodox Jewish audience, no less, linked Jesus’ blood to Passover, showing a fundamental lack of knowledge of the differences between Jews and Christians.[30]

That said, Kasich, a supporter of Israel, is no Christian Zionist. In fact, his record on Israel is mixed.  While he claims to have a longer track record with Israel than any other candidate, he also favors a balanced relationship with both Israel and the Muslim Middle East countries.[31]  He also attended the 2015 speech before Congress by Benjamin Netanyahu, chastised President Obama for not meeting with the Israeli prime minister, visited the pro-Israeli American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and stated, “You can’t separate this U.S.-Israel relationship.”[32] While these positions would put him in the middle of the Republican field, his proposed freezing of U.S. military aid to Israel as a congressman “would make him a decisive outlier” on Israel.[33]

  • Ted Cruz on Israel


By any measure Ted Cruz is a True Believer. He has been an unabashed lifelong evangelical, and “considered a rising darling of the American Christian right.”[34]  The politician proudly trumpets his (and his father’s) virulent brand of Christianity, has vowed to protect the Judeo-Christian values from “liberal fascism,” favors keeping God in the public sphere, and to keep the Ten Commandments in public forums and “God” in the Pledge of Allegiance ”[35]

His views on Israel are obviously informed by his strict Christian beliefs.[36]  He speaks to church groups, delivers sermons and panders to the Christian-based Family Research Council.  Furthermore, his Christian bona fides are featured prominently in almost all his speeches.  Some have stated that his campaign is “best described as a reclamation project. He wants to ‘restore,’ ‘return to,’ or ‘reclaim’ the ‘Judeo-Christian values’ that he believes are ‘the foundation of this nation.’”[37] He also has claimed that staying neutral on Israel is “moral relativism,” and advocates moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to old city of Jerusalem.[38]

His Israel position is so based on his powerful theology that he’s now been criticized as being beyond the pale to even fellow Christian conservatives. In a 2014 speech before a gala for “In Defense of Christians,” (IDC), an advocacy group that supports Christians in the ancient Middle East lands, Cruz was booed off the stage with increasing fervor with each succeeding rhetorical riff on the sacred nature of the American-Israeli friendship.  The boos climaxed with Cruz’s comments, “…[T]hose who hate Israel hate America. And those who hate Jews hate Christians,” and his heart “weeps that the men and women here will not stand in solidarity with Jews and Christians alike who are persecuted by radicals who seek to murder them.”[39]   Whether the reaction was related to the context or his fiery words to the biased crowd, it helped foment the realization that Cruz was indeed a Christian Zionist.

In the wake of the IDC protest, Christian commentators increasingly sought to distance themselves from the view of Israel shared by the Cruz type.[40]  There was already an attempt by American Presbyterians and Methodists to lead a divestment of companies making money from the Israeli occupation.  There are also Lutheran hospitals in Jerusalem devoted to treating Palestinian refugees.  But one op-ed piece went further in its criticism:

One takeaway from the controversy, which continues to reverberate around the conservative blogosphere, is how many socially conservative/Christian/Republican-leaning thinkers have sensed, perhaps for the first time in their relatively young careers, how morally flawed is the entire Christian Zionist/McCainist/Commentary/Washington Free Beacon/Likudnik group, whose views have long driven “mainstream” conservative foreign-policy opinion in Congress and the GOP presidential primaries.[41]

  • Donald Trump and Israel


Donald Trump, despite his posturing, is unpredictable – about the worst thing that a U.S. president should be. And as a businessman-cum-presidential candidate, he has shifted his political positions on most of the issues of the day, including, abortion, the economy, legalizing drugs, the environment, guns, and health care.[42]

His purported Christian faith has also shifted over the years – and especially during the 2016 presidential election cycle.  “While no candidate is more identified with the word evangelical as is Trump,”[43] meaning his rabid followers, his ties to the Church are tenuous.  One minister suggested, “The slender thread connecting Trump to the Church is his occasional holiday appearances at Marble Collegiate Church, made famous by its pastor for 52 years, Norman Vincent Peale” and that he is more associated with the “feel good Gospel,” which is “vague on doctrine, infiltrated by consumerism, and a sentimental moralism intent on helping us all ‘become a better you,’ and sort of interested in ‘family values’ so long as they don’t interfere with our own family breakdowns.”[44]

Trump’s peculiar brand of Christianity feels more opportunistic than sincere. Consequently, that makes for a nearly random policy on Israel.  While he urged for more support of Israel in June 2015, he appears to be (currently) in support of a two-state plan.  Indeed, drawing on his much self-heralded (but factually shallow) business acumen[45] and negotiation skills, Trump speechified in February 2016 that the U.S. should not take sides with Israel so he could negotiate a deal with Israel and Palestinians.[46]

  • Conclusion


Given the candidates’ respective positions on Israel, how would they govern if any one of them were to be elected President? Although it’s difficult to separate campaign promises from personal religious convictions, and actual policy positions, it seems probable that John Kasich would stake out a middle-of-the-road, practical view on Israel, following in the footsteps of the Bush presidents.[47]

As far as Ted Cruz is concerned, there is little doubt that his increasingly strident Christian Zionist views would greatly affect and influence his foreign policy toward Israel. Unless forced by public opinion or Congress to act otherwise, he would not favor a Palestinian state and would urge full backing of Israel, despite it possibly being against overall U.S. foreign policy objectives.

Donald Trump, however, blows with the wind to suit his audience and electoral needs. As such, it’s hard to predict how Trump would come out on Israel.  As a commentator opined, “From a President Trump … anything is possible.”[48]  Still, with casino magnate and pro-Israel Sheldon Adelson vowing to give up to $100 million to the Trump campaign’s newly-formed super PACs,[49] it would seem likely his  policy would become more of a Christian Zionist – albeit a more secular version – than it has before.  In Adelson’s words, he “will be good for Israel.”[50]



[1] Paul D. Miller, “Evangelicals, Israel and US Foreign Policy,” Survival: Global Politics and Strategy (February–March 2014) available thru the International Institute of Strategic Studies, available at:–global-politics-and-strategy-february-march-2014-e67d/56-1-02-miller-0ca4.

[2] Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Israeli, “Christians Think and Do Almost the Opposite of American Evangelicals” (March 8, 2016), available at:

[3] Ibid..


[5] “Christian Zionism,” WIKIPEDIA, available at:

[6] For the purposes of this paper, we will assume that Trump will not officially lock-up the party’s nomination before the Republican convention in that he has not yet won the support of the necessary 1,237 delegates, and that both Kasich and Cruz may attempt a brokered convention. See, generally, Matthews Katz, “Everything You Need to Know About a Contested Convention,” TIME MAGAZINE (May 2, 2016) available at:

[7] See, generally, Wesley Haddon Brown, Peter F. Penner, “Christian Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” (2008). The term apparently replaced “Christian Restorationism.”

[8] Donald, M. Lewis, “The Origins of Christian Zionism: Lord Shaftesbury And Evangelical Support For A Jewish Homeland,” Cambridge University Press. (2014).

[9] William N. Dale, “The Impact of Christian Zionism on American Policy,” AMERICAN DIPLOMACY: FOREIGN SERVICE DESPATCHES [sic] AND PERIODIC REPORTS ON U.S. FOREIGN POLICY (April 2004) available at:

[10] See, e.g., Hal Lindsey, “The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon” (1983). Lindsey wrote, “The decade of the 1980s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it.”

[11] Matthew 33:32-34.

[12] Hal Lindsey, “The Late Great Planet Earth” (1970). It seems notable that this prophecy has to be seen as a metaphorical rebuilding as opposed to a literal rebuilding, which would require the actual removal somehow of one of Islam’s most holy of sites, namely, the Dome of The Rock, which purportedly is, according to Muslim beliefs, the place where Prophet Mohammad descended into heaven, which doesn’t seem particularly likely in this day and age, given the propensity that such a removal would trigger an all-out (apocalyptic?) regional (and beyond) war.

[13] Ibid.

[14] In fact, some believers, like this writer’s born again Christian grandmother, felt that up to the time of her death in 1993 that we were already living in the Tribulation.  (But this writer is not quite sure why she was not whisked away in the Rapture if she was a true believer.)

[15] Dale, supra note 9.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Id.

[18] An odd concept given that, Jews “feel colder toward evangelical Christians than they do about any other religious group.” See, e.g., Michael Schulson, “Why Evangelical’s Love for Jews is an Unrequited Love,” RELIGION NEWS SERVICE (July 24, 2014) available at:

[19] This writer remembers a teacher at his Christian high school regaling a classroom of impressionable young students (like him) that he “was excited for” the End Times and how he “can’t wait” to get to Heaven after the conflagration to come.

[20] See, e.g., Genesis 12:3: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on Earth.will be blessed through you.”

[21] See, e.g., Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer, Christian Zionism: “The Heresy that Undermines Middle East Peace,” INFORMATION CLEARING HOUSE (Undated) available at:

[22] Scott McConnell, “Why Christians Are Criticizing Cruz—and Israel,” THE AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE (September 17, 2014) available at:

[23] Ibid.

[24] Id.

[25]See Katherine Webber, “Trump ‘Isn’t Familiar With the Bible,’ Tony Perkins Says After Trump Blames Him for Two Corinthians Gaffe,” CHRISTIAN POST (January 22, 2016) available at:

[26] Shmuel Rosner, “Can Israel Handle a President Trump?,” NEW YORK TIMES (March 14, 2016) available at:

[27] Joanna Walters, “John Kasich Has Been Billed as Moderate Candidate, But His Record is Anything But,” THE GUARDIAN (February 11, 2016) available at:

[28] Ray Nothstine, “5 Interesting Facts About the Christian Faith of John Kasich,” THE CHRISTIAN POST (July 2015) available at:

[29] Ibid.

[30]Sam Reisman, “Kasich in Brooklyn ‘Goysplains’ His Way Into Several Passover Gaffes,” MEDIATE (April 14, 2016) available at:

[31] John Kasich ON THE ISSUES, available at:

[32] John Kasich, at the Netanyahu speech, quoted by Jennifer Rubin, “John Kasich Could Be A Formidable Candidate,” WASHINGTON POST (March 3, 2013) available at:

[33] “In the Kasich Closet: Proposed Freeze on Israel Military Aid,” JEWISH RUSSIAN TELEGRAPH (September 9, 2015) citing Alana Goodman, WASHINGTON FREE BEACON, available at:

[34] Elizabeth Dias, Why Ted Cruz Was Booed Off Stage at a Christian Event,” TIME (September 11, 2014) available at:

[35] Cruz:  ON THE ISSUES, available at:

[36] See, e.g., McConnell, supra note 22.

[37] Rubin, supra note 32.

[38] Cruz, supra note 35.

[39] Ibid.

[40] McConnell, supra note 22.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Donald Trump, ON THE ISSUES, available at:

[43] Michael Horton, “The Theology of Donald Trump,” CHRISTIANITY TODAY (March 16, 2016) available at:

[44] Ibid.

[45] He inherited his father’s already highly successful business empire, has many failed business ventures, possesses questionable business ethics, is in constant business litigation, clearly has a record of masquerading as third parties in the media, and lying and sexually harassing female subordinates (and other women). See, e.g., Doug Mataconis, “Donald Trump is Not a Great Businessman As He Claims to Be,” OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY (April 12, 2011). available at:; Marc Fisher and Will Hobson, “Donald Trump Masqueraded As Publicist to Brag About Himself,” WASHINGTON POST (May 13, 2016) available at:; Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey, “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private,” NEW YORK TIMES (May 14, 2016) available at:

[46] Trump, supra note 42

[47] For comparison, President Obama, a self-identified Christian, has a mixed record on Israel, as well. In 2009, he gave a speech in Cairo “meant to reset U.S. relations with the world’s Muslims.”  “What drew the most attention, though, was his promise to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…His sympathy for the Palestinians moved the audience, but complicated his relations with Benjamin Netanyahu…especially because Obama had also decided to bypass Jerusalem on his first presidential visit to the Middle East.”  Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine,” THE ATLANTIC (April 2016)  available at:; see also, “President Obama and Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, have disagreed over Iran, Israeli settlements and just about every other issue.,” see also, Rosner, supra, note 26.

[48] Rosner, supra note 26.

[49] Jonathan Martin, “Sheldon Adelson Poised to Give Donald Trump a Donation Boost,” NEW YORK TIMES (May 13, 2016) available at:

[50] Reena Flores, “Trump ‘Will Be Good For Israel’,” CBS NEWS (May 6, 2016) available at:

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