The Religious Politics of Israel - Word&Way

The Religious Politics of Israel

Mike Evans, a prominent Christian author and evangelist, is having a bad year. He was a member of former President Trump’s evangelical advisory board and watched his preferred U.S. leader leave office in a swirl of chaos and controversy. Now, another politician he has devotedly supported is also facing ouster from office.

Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history, looks likely to lose his position if a new coalition government is formed next week, as expected. (Netanyahu is not going quietly and appears to be borrowing Trump’s “election fraud” playbook.)

This is not sitting well with Mike Evans. He wrote rambling, lewd, egomaniacal, and vitriolic rants in response. He went after the leaders of the new coalition: “They’re willing to carve up the bird, the soul of the nation, simply to vent their spleens on one man they despise and God who chose him to be prime minister. God knew from the beginning to the end. He knew Bibi then and Bibi now. I haven’t heard God choose any of these fools.”

Evans also appeared to blame Jews for the Holocaust as he suggested those who opposed Netanyahu were doing the same thing: “I understand how the Holocaust happened. German Jews were busy insulting each other, drunk on the wine of pride. They did not see the smoke of Auschwitz rising because they were more German than they were Jews.”

Then he addressed an expletive-filled letter to the man in line to be Israel’s next prime minister: “Don’t ever call yourself a defender of Zion. You’re not. You betrayed the very principles that a generation gave their blood for and died for. You want to be in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood and leftists. God have mercy on your soul. You’re a pathetic, bitter little man so obsessed on murdering Netanyahu that you’re willing to damage the State of Israel for your worthless cause.”

You should not dismiss Evan as a gadfly or inconsequential. He runs multiple ministries devoted to building support for Israel, including Churches United With Israel, the Jerusalem Prayer Team, and the Friends of Zion Museum. The latter purports to tell the stories of “Christian Zionists who have stood with courage” alongside the modern nation of Israel, which the museum refers to as fulfillment of “biblical prophecies.”

Nor is he a stranger to politics. He met with Trump and then-U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as he advocated for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and for the administration more closely supporting Netanyahu’s policies. Evans has been close to a number of Israeli leaders beyond Bibi, including former prime minister Menachem Begin.

In this issue of A Public Witness, we try to understand the fury of Mike Evans by examining the ways and reasons American evangelicals have embraced the current Israeli government. Perhaps the looming transition in Israeli politics from the charismatic leadership of Netanyahu to an unprecedented coalition government featuring right, center, left, and even Islamist parties is the chance to interrogate what the attitude of U.S. Christians towards Israel should be.

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