Conservative Christians stressing the importance of Israel in biblical prophesy and Christian right political leaders who are pressing the U.S. to maintain a strong pro-Israel stance are joining forces and becoming a powerful presence in the Middle Eastern political struggle, reports the Christian Science Monitor (April 16).
The Christian right has long counted among its own ranks conservative Protestants viewing Israel as the stage for the unfolding of biblical prophecy. But this “biblical prophesy” wing of the Christian right has stepped into the limelight during the Israel conflict, with such organizations and leaders as the Religious Roundtable and Gary Bauer becoming “a new pro-Israeli voice” in the “traditional Jewish-Arab political dynamic in Washington.”
Bauer and others are applying pressure on the White House to show greater support for Israel by increased lobbying efforts. The Christian Coalition is e-mailing “action requests” to its 2 million members. This may be one reason why growing numbers of Republicans who have few Jewish constituents but many strong conservatives are tilting toward Israel, according to Bauer. Activists also send open letters to Bush and then “blast-fax” them to the media.
Christian right leaders such as Bauer are also taking to the airwaves (particularly cable TV, which is beamed into the White House and Congress) and debating pro-Arab spokesmen. Bauer also notes that “a lot of people who worked on my [presidential] campaign now work at the White House.”
Meanwhile, an article in the April 23 issue of the Christian Science Monitor suggests that the divide between conservative Christians and Middle Eastern Christians is growing increasingly wide. The situation at the besieged Church of the Nativity, with priests, nuns and monks trapped between Israeli soldiers firing on the ancient holy site and Palestinian gunmen hiding inside, has “become a defining moment in terms of their Palestinian identity,” writes Danna Harman.
Prior to the event, relations between Palestinian Muslims and Christians were strained, with the latter charging that they were discriminated against. These voices are quiet now as Christians claim that Israelis are attacking common Arab land and identity. From the Muslim side, the spiritual leader of the militant group Hamas publicly joined Christians and Muslims in demonstrations against the Bethlehem standoff. Peter Qumri, a Palestinian Christian leader charges that the “support of the Christian right in the U.S. for Israel has embarrassed us and forced us to prove our identity and become even more nationalistic.”