Posted on February 20, 2019 by Diana Roberts
When Trump moved the U.S. embassy of Israel to Jerusalem, many of us could not quite understand what was behind the move. However, those political analysts who know and understand Trump’s base did. It is worth a review. The benefit is in learning just how serious the Trump administration and Trump’s base are to undermining the First Amendment and why.
According to the Brookings Institution, 53 percent of American evangelicals supported Trump’s decision, while only 40 percent opposed it. Sixty-three percent of all Americans opposed the move. To understand why evangelicals were so enthusiastic about this move and why the Orthodox Jewish community is so stridently pro-Israel actually gives the rest of us insight into their religious policy goals here at home.
Evangelicals are people who believe in the absolute authority of the Bible, in salvation through Jesus, and in the need to spread the gospel. The importance of Israel and, indeed, here at home for the evangelical community is that the status of Israel is critical in the way they understand the end of time. These are folks who believe that there will be a millennium in the future, a golden age, where Christ reigns on Earth; they believe that before Christ will return, there will be a tribulation where Christ defeats evil. There will be natural disasters and wars, and perhaps an Antichrist, as the book of Revelations notes. Then at the end of that period, the people of the Mosaic covenant, including Jews, will convert. Those who do not convert are considered unsaved, which means they will be wiped out and sent to hell. After the conversion and banishment process, the great millennium starts.
First, one must understand that in a practical sense Israel was founded on politics. It was established and its territory surveyed and granted by the world powers through the United Nations (Resolution 181, the “Partition Resolution”). In Israel, it is natural to see politics as a religious goal. At the time of its establishment, the founding was seen as a major end of time sign. This was electrifying to American evangelicals and end of time believers because the gathering of all Jews in exile to the Holy Land is a prerequisite for all of the end of time events unfolding. Support for Israel not only became an obsessively political position for evangelicals and religious conservatives but that religious-political mindset permeated the conservative Christian following for what was needed for America in government in preparation for the end of time.
The basis for Christian Zionism is that God’s promise of the Holy Land to the Jews is eternal. That land is on both sides of the Jordan River. The sense of a greater Israel and expansionism is really important to the Jewish state and community. Jerusalem is viewed as the historical and biblical capital and is the center plex of its desired expansion.
Originally, the founding generation in Israel was fairly secular. Their support for a Jewish state wasn’t about biblical prophecy. It was about security. David Ben-Gurion (the first prime minister of Israel) came up with an accommodation for the religious community so they would support the formation of Israel, but his motivations weren’t actually religious but rather pragmatic in the gathering of all Jews to build the new Jewish state. As conservative religious Jews grew and became organized and politically powerful Israel became more theocratic, not secular. Religious based politics became the controlling path of domination.
While Orthodox Jews share some religious tenants with American fundamentalists, they have their own theology of end times. There is the understanding that the Messiah will come, but it won’t be a second coming of the sort Christians believe in. The state of Israel overlooks this in favor of the support of evangelical Christians and particularly their political support and American government influence.
Trump’s base is primarily made up of evangelicals, the American farming community, and the petroleum and coal industry. Traditionally, such a base from a religious perspective runs the gambit from evangelical/Pentecostal to religious conservatism. Understanding this clears the smoke from moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, but more importantly, by interpreting the modus operandi of end times belief and what is demanded by God, we can clearly see the philosophical battle lines we face in our federal and state governments over government passing religious laws and religiously motivated laws being sought by representatives.
Clearly, the First Amendment is under attack, both head-on and through nuance.