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Support for Israel, Concern Over Iran, Galvanize Evangelical Vote

Support for Israel and reports that Iran is pushing for nuclear weapons have galvanized conservative Christians into a political force that will be hard to ignore.

That’s according to a Tuesday New York Times story about white evangelicals, making up about a fourth of voters, who view support for Israel as “God’s foreign policy.”<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
John Hagee, a <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />San Antonio preacher who formed Christians United for Israel earlier this year to influence politicians toward belief that supporting Israel’s policies is mandated by the Bible, told a crowd Monday night in Jacksonville, Fla., the United States must take action against Iran’s nuclear program in order to save Israel from annihilation.
 
“We must act out against Iran before it becomes a nuclear Holocaust,” Hagee said at a Night to Honor Israel fund-raising rally, according to the Florida Times-Union, “and I hope and pray there’s enough courage in Washington to do the job.”
 
The event at New Life Christian Fellowship was the most recent stop on a nationwide tour that began Oct. 22 in San Antonio, Texas. One of the group’s long-term goals is to conduct similar events in as many cities in the U.S., Canada and around the world as possible.
 
Hagee’s organization plans an annual summit every fall at his CornerstoneChurch during the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It sponsored a two-day event this summer in Washington.
 
Hagee isn’t the only Christian leader trying to rally support for Israel and against Iran, the main sponsor of Hezbollah, which earlier this year clashed with Israeli forces in Lebanon.
 
Speaking at a voter summit in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 16, Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson said America is facing greater peril than at any time in history.
 
“Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, said recently, ‘Imagine a world with no United States. It could happen in our lifetime,'” Dobson said. “He’s already said he wants to wipe Israel off of the face of the earth. I mean he’s already told you what he’s going to do, what his plan is. And he’s working hard on nuclear weapons.”
 
“Listen folks, this has a familiar ring to it,” Dobson said. “In 1935 Adolf Hitler told us exactly what he was going to do. I mean he didn’t pull any punches. He said what he was going to do to the Jews and he said that world dominion was his objective. People looked at each other and said, ‘What did he mean?’
 
“What did he mean indeed? The liberals are saying that now. They’re hearing Ahmadinejad, they’re hearing all these people, and they’re saying, ‘What do they mean?’ I think they mean what they say. I think they’re going to try to destroy this country.
 
“And is there any doubt in your mind if Adolf Hitler had had nuclear weapons that he would have used them? And if they get them they will use them.”
 
Dobson said one thing that makes Islamic extremists so dangerous is, “They win if they die.”
 
“They get 73 virgins if they can kill somebody,” he told an estimated 3,000 people at TwoRiversBaptistChurch in Nashville.
 
“I’ve never fully understood that, because they’ll only be 73 virgins once, and then what does he have?” he added to laughter. “I don’t know.”
 
In a last-ditch effort to convince religious voters to go to the polls Nov. 7, Dobson offered what “is as close as I’ll get to a political statement, because he’s not running for anything.”
 
“George W. Bush is not a perfect man, and I have disagreed with him a number of times in the last six years,” Dobson said. “He’s made a lot of mistakes, but I’ll tell you on this issue of our national sovereignty, George W. Bush gets it.”
 
Fueled by concern that Hagee’s brand of end-time teaching. known as dispensationalism, might be winning a hearing among U.S. policy makers, the National Council of Churches recently held a forum on “Armageddon theology” and its impact on peace in the Middle East.
 
The emphasis grew out of an Aug. 29 declaration by local heads of churches in Jerusalem rejecting “Christian Zionist” doctrines as “false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.”
 
“We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine,” the statement said. “This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.”
 
A moderate Baptist ethicist also refuted Hagee’s claim that the Bible can be used as a blueprint for U.S. foreign policy.
 
“Fundamentalists read selective passages literally,” said Robert Parham, executive director of the BaptistCenter for Ethics. “And yet, the Bible literally does not map out the geography of the land of Canaan.”
 
Parham accused Hagee and Dobson of “biblical literalism and fear-mongering,” adding they and others “are always wrong in their Bible reading and political prophesies.”
 
“The Bible gives us guidelines for discerning social relations,” Parham said. He challenged congregational leaders to “counterbalance fundamentalism’s distortions with clear biblical teachings and advocacy for peace and security for all who live in the Middle East.”
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
 
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