On Israel, Great Awakenings, and absurdly bad court evangelical “history”

Is Bob Mathias’s 1948 Gold Medal linked in some way to Israeli statehood?

Mike Evans is one of the lesser known court evangelicals. One of America’s leading Christian Zionists, Evans recently founded the Friends of Zion Heritage Center and the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem to celebrate the “everlasting bond between the Jewish and Christian peoples.” When Donald Trump announced that he was moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, Evans enthusiastically told the Christian Broadcasting Network that when he next saw Trump in the Oval Office he would say to him: “Cyrus, you’re Cyrus. Because you’ve done something historic and prophetic.”

Evans believes that Trump was a modern-day Cyrus who has made possible the restoration of Jerusalem and the further confirmation of Israel’s future role in biblical prophecy. Because of Trump’s actions, Evans affirms, the blessing of God will come upon America. This decision made America great in the eyes of God. It also made Trump great in the eyes of the court evangelicals.

Evans also believes that American support for Israel will result in a spiritual revival in evangelical churches. He knows such a revival is coming because, as he says in a recent article at the Christian Broadcasting Network website, it has apparently happened before. Evans says:

  1. When America supported Israeli independence and statehood in 1948, Billy Graham came on the scene.
  2. When the United States supported Israel in the Six-Day War (1967), the “Jesus People” “revival” broke-out in Southern California, thousands of college students gathered in Dallas in 1972 for an event described as the “Christian Woodstock,” and the Catholic Charismatic Movement began.
  3. Now, with the so-called “Abraham Accord” between Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed, Evans says we can expect another revival.

I don’t know if we will see another spiritual revival, but Evans’s theory seems to suggest that the emergence of Billy Graham, the rise of the Jesus People, the Catholic Charismatic Movement, and Explo ’72 all had something to do with U.S. Middle East policy. But Evans doesn’t go far enough. Doesn’t he know that Bob Mathias’s victory in the decathlon at the 1948 Summer Olympics and the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike were also connected to U.S. support of Israel? 🙂

Moreover, one could argue that none of these aforementioned movements or events (Graham, Jesus People, Charismatics, Explo ’72) were “great awakenings.”

I am continually intrigued by evangelicals’ recent fascination with “great awakenings.”

Read Evans’s piece at CBN here.

Trump says he moved the US embassy to Jerusalem to please evangelicals

Jeffress at embassy

Robert Jeffress prays at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem

Here is The Times of Israel:

US President Donald Trump said Monday that his 2017 decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the city as the capital of Israel was done for evangelical Christians.

“And we moved the capital of Israel to Jerusalem,” Trump said at a rally held at an airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, apparently referring to his decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv. “That’s for the evangelicals.”

And this:

At the time, Trump said that the decision was made to advance US interests and peace in the region, and out of respect for Israel’s sovereignty.

“I’ve judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is a long-overdue step to advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement,” he said in a video message played at the 2018 inauguration of the embassy.

“Israel is a sovereign nation with the right like every other sovereign nation to determine its own capital. Acknowledging this as a fact is a necessary condition for achieving peace,” he added.

However, it was clear from the start that the move was also aimed at the evangelical community, who have been some of Trump’s staunchest supporters.

Large number of evangelical Christians in the US believe that God has chosen  Trump to advance the kingdom of God on Earth. Several high-profile religious leaders have made similar claims, often comparing Trump to King Cyrus, who was asked by God to rescue the nation of Israel from exile in Babylon.

Read the entire piece here.

Indeed, one of the reasons conservative evangelicals were ecstatic about this move is that many of them believe that biblical prophecy teaches that the return of the Jews to Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Christ will one day return to earth with his raptured saints and descend on a rebuilt temple located inside Jerusalem.

Robert Jeffress, a court evangelical who needs no introduction for readers of this blog, was one of the most outspoken defenders of Trump’s decision to move the capital to the holy city. He has written several books on biblical prophecy and is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, the center of Dispensational theology in America.

Dispensationalism–and the approach to interpreting the prophetic passages of the Bible that undergird it–teaches that history is best explained as a spiritual battle between the forces of God and the forces of evil. At its core, Dispensationalism divides human history into periods or “dispensations” that correspond with what the Bible reveals about God’s design for the ages. Dispensationalists believe God has a plan for both Old Testament Israel and the Christian church (established in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit descended on the followers of Jesus). Though God is not yet done with Israel, his plan favors Christians–those believers born a gain through a conversation experience–over Jews. At the end of human history, God’s agenda for these two groups would come together in the glorious return of Jesus Christ to Jerusalem, the place where he would initiate his millennial kingdom. Jeffress once told Fox News that by moving the embassy to Jerusalem, Trump is now “on the right side of history” and on the “right side of God.”

Trump’s decision to move the embassy, which we now know came after much lobbying from the court evangelicals, is not only a triumph for the Dispensationalists like Jeffress; it also fits well with the views of Lance Wallnau, the Independent Network Charismatic (INC) prophet who believes Donald Trump is a new King Cyrus. (Yes, this is the same guy who just referred to Kamala Harris as a “Jezebel spirit“).

This merger of Dispensational theology and INC prophecy appears in court evangelical Mike Evans‘s response to Trump’s move. One of America’s leading Christian Zionists, Evans recently founded the Friends of Zion Heritage Center and the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem to celebrate the “everlasting bond between the Jewish and Christian peoples.” When Trump announced that he was moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, Evans enthusiastically told the Christian Broadcasting Network that when he next saw Trump in the Oval Office he would say to him: “Cyrus, you’re Cyrus. Because you’ve done something historic and prophetic.”

There is a slight difference between Wallnau and Evans. Wallnau envisioned Trump as a Cyrus who would save American Christians; Evans believed that Trump was a modern-day Cyrus who would make possible the restoration of Jerusalem and the further confirmation of Israel’s future role in biblical prophecy. Because of Trump’s actions, Evans declared, the blessing of God would come upon America. Indeed, this decision would make America great in the eyes of God. Of course it also made Trump great in the eyes of the court evangelicals.

We now know that Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem was more of a political move than a diplomatic or religious one.

Why Some Evangelicals Love Israel

hagee jeffress

I turned my weekend tweetstorm into a piece for Religion News Service.

Here is a taste:

Because of Trump’s actions, dispensationalists believe the blessing of God will come upon America. The Jerusalem decision reinforces the idea that America is a Christian nation. This decision makes America great in the eyes of God. It also makes Trump great in the eyes of those American evangelicals who visit the White House regularly to consult with the president, the flatterers and sycophants whom I have called the “court evangelicals.”

Jeffress, Evans and other court evangelicals claim that they were influential in Trump’s decision to move the Israel embassy. If this is true, we can say with certainty that United States policy in the Middle East is now heavily influenced by dispensational theology.

Read the entire piece here.

The Author’s Corner with Thomas Carter

Tom Carter is Professor of Architectural History at the University of Utah. This interview is based on his new book, Building Zion: The Material World of Mormon Settlement (University of Minnesota Press, March 2015).

JF: What led you to write Building Zion: The Material World of Mormon Settlement?

TC: It began back in the 1970s. I was finishing up at Indiana University’s Folklore Institute and needed a dissertation topic. Mormon folk housing seemed a likely target—no serious study existed and it seemed like a wide open field even for a Presbyterian. At first, especially since I was living in Indiana, I thought to work on Nauvoo. The more I looked into it, however, it became apparent that nothing had been done in Utah either. I chose the Sanpete Valley to study because of its abundant number of old houses, and luckily was to get a survey job with the Utah State Historical Society as a way of funding much of the early fieldwork. After the dissertation, I realized that what I needed to do was to include the whole of the Sanpete built environment in the study, since leaving the temple out of any kind of Mormon architecture study was preposterous. It took a long time to figure it all out, but the book is both handsome and provocation; it should make folks rethink the way they have view early Mormon history and culture. At least, that is my intention, and hope.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Building Zion?

TC: The book’s central thesis is that during the years before 1890 the Saints slowly and probably unselfconsciously retooled their material world from a radical apocalyptic to a more normative republican one. Two dates are pivotal in this transformation, 1841, when the Law of Consecration and Stewardship was abandoned in favor of the “lesser” law of tithing, and 1871, when the site for the St.George Temple was shifted from the central square to a location outside town, a move followed in all subsequent temples and one which effectively created both sacred (temple) and secular (town) zones.

JF: Why do we need to read Building Zion​​​​?

TC: Because it’s funny? Well no, not really, though I do think it’s very readable. Everyone should read it because it’s the first systematic study of the Mormon City of Zion, and it argues for a fundamental rethinking of the whole history of the church in the years before 1890.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

TC: I probably became a historian back in 1960. I was 11 and asthmatic and it was the centennial of the Civil War. There were all these histories coming out, many very accessible to youngsters like me, and my mother got me into reading them. I was hooked on history, and also became a devoted pacifist. Who could read these stuff and not be horrified. Such stupidity.

JF: What is your next project?

TC: I am finishing a detail history of the architecture of early cattle ranching in northeastern Elko County, Nevada. This area is home to the region’s oldest ranches, and also where my family is from. It’s called Sagebrush Cities: The Cultural Landscape of …. I hope to have it done by this time next year. Now that I’m retired, it’s easier to find time to write.

JF: Sounds exciting, thanks Tom!

And thanks to Megan Piette for facilitating this installment of The Author’s Corner

Johnny Cash and Israel

I met Shalom Goldman last month at the Bible in the Public Square conference at Duke.  In fact, we participated on a panel together.  I am fascinated by Goldman’s work on Christian Zionism, so I was immediately drawn to this lecture on Johnny Cash and Israel.  Not only do we get a very interesting lecture, but we get to hear some Johnny Cash music performed by members of the Duke Divinity School faculty and others.