Newly released 2020 documentary “‘Til Kingdom Come” offers a rare look into the little-known religious ideology that has quietly steered the Republican Party for several decades, then catapulted Donald Trump into the White House five years ago, and once there guided his foreign policy: Christian Zionism.
“President Trump isn’t supporting Israel because of the Jewish communities,” Yael Eckstein, a supporter of the former President and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, tells her audience in a clip shown in the documentary. With these words, Eckstein essentially confesses Christian Zionists care little for the Jewish people, only Israel, a place they believe will host the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
“He’s supporting it [Israel] because of his evangelical followers. This isn’t about money. This is bigger than this. This is a strategic partnership with God.”
Directed by Emmy-award winning Israeli filmmaker Maya Zinshtein, the documentary shines a torchlight where one has rarely been shone, revealing the fanatical beliefs that drive a large segment of the Republican Party’s most reliable and agitated voting bloc – white Christian evangelicals, who represent a quarter of the American population.
“Wouldn’t we expect to be better represented in government?” asks Reverend Johnnie Moore, who served as Trump’s evangelical advisor, in a clip shown in the documentary.
Whereas former Republican presidents kept Christian Zionists at arms distance — including George W. Bush, a self-described evangelical — because of their strategic alliance with the most militant extremist elements among Israel’s hard right, Trump openly embraced them, and they embraced him back. Never once leaving his side, no matter his moral or ethical transgressions.
Christian Zionism draws its ideological roots less from the Bible and more from a 1878 book titled “Jesus Is Coming” by William E. Blackstone.
Christian Zionism draws its ideological roots less from the Bible, however, and more from a 1878 book titled “Jesus Is Coming” by William E. Blackstone, a Chicago businessman cum evangelical preacher, who writes:
“Pre-millennial Christians hold much in common with the Jews, but also that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Messiah; that He is to return to the earth and overthrow Satan, all ungodly government and lawlessness, and establish a kingdom of righteousness, having the Church and Himself as sovereign, Jerusalem as the capital, regathered and converted Israel as the center, and all nations included in a universal, world-wide kingdom of pure and blessed government.”
A more contemporary reading of this End Times prophecy reads as follows: Satan takes control of Israel after making peace with the Jews but then later turns against them. This heralds the arrival of Christ, who converts one-third of Jews to Christianity and brings them to Heaven, leaving the other two-thirds to be killed during the Armageddon.
Put another way, Christian Zionists support Israel in hope of ushering in End Times and the massacre of two-thirds of the Jewish population. Their fanatical support for the self-proclaimed Jewish state starts and ends there, and at great human and political cost to the territory’s indigenous population – the Palestinian people.
Christian Zionists support Israel in hope of ushering in End Times and the massacre of two-thirds of the Jewish population.
In fact, Blackstone didn’t hide his contempt for the two-thirds of Jewish people who will realize a torturous death, according to his prophecy, warning they will have an “awful time of trouble awaiting.”
“This is insane. This scares me as an Israeli,” says Zinshtein, when speaking to the belief espoused by Christian Zionists and the fact that the Israeli Prime Minister has described them as Israel’s “best friends.”
In another clip, a Christian evangelical pastor tells Zinshtein “there is no such thing as a Palestinian,” leaving viewers in no doubt of the sinister and duplicitous motive driving the Christian Zionist movement.
In fact, it was the tens of millions of dollars white evangelical Christians in the US funneled into Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise in the Palestinian Territories that made Israel’s occupation permanent, thus killing any prospects of an independent Palestinian state.
“Christian money is filling needs created by the settlements. Maybe instead of, I don’t know, building roads in the settlements, we need to take care of our poor. It exposes a much bigger question of priorities,” said Zinshtein to the New York Times in a recent interview about her documentary.
Ultimately, this deranged and manipulative alliance between evangelicals and Israel would not be where it is today were it not for Blackstone’s book, which “signaled the beginning of a radical new religious movement that eventually transformed the faith of millions in the United States,” writes historian Matthew Avery Sutton in “American Apocalypse: a History of Modern Evangelicalism.”
“While they still claim at times to be a persecuted minority, in reorienting their movement and linking their faith with the major social and political issues of the era, they have accomplished more than most ever dreamed possible. Evangelicals have helped to make and break presidential candidates, influenced US foreign policy, and shaped the debates on the most important social and cultural issues,” writes Sutton.
The success Christian Zionists had in shaping US foreign policy during the Trump administration is undeniable and unsurprising, given former Vice President Mike Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are closely aligned with the powerful evangelical group Christians United for Israel (CUFI).
CUFI was launched in 2006 to counter what it saw as a fledgling romance between the US and Iran under the Obama administration, and thus explaining why Trump’s very first major foreign policy initiative was to rescind US commitments to the six-party Iran denuclearization deal. In sermons, Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of CUFI, repeatedly called for a first strike on Iran.
“In CUFI’s philosophy, war and violence are celebrated as harbingers of the end times,” said Rabbi Alissa Wise, a critic of Hagee’s meddling in US Middle East policy. “That’s extremely frightening to me. It should be extremely frightening to all of us. This kind of religious extremism empowered by those with the ability to make U.S. foreign policy is alarming.”
The Christian Zionist movement has been credited with the relocation of the US Embassy from Israel’s internationally recognized capital Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Three years later, when the US brokered the Israel-UAE normalization deal in 2020, Trump said Christianity had played “a very big part of the overall negotiation.” This assertion from a man who had never once professed devotion to the Christian faith prior to turning his hand to politics was indeed very telling. The Christian Zionist movement has also been credited with the relocation of the US Embassy from Israel’s internationally recognized capital Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move that sanctifies Israel’s illegal annexation of the Palestinian Territories.
“The State Department has always been very afraid to move the Embassy to Jerusalem but to us it was a very important signal in prophecy. We’ve been waiting for that to happen for decades,” evangelical leader Pat Robertson tells Zinshtein. “We don’t believe Palestine is a place on God’s map.”
Christian Zionist groups successfully lobbied the Trump administration to cut humanitarian aid to Palestinians refugees, a move that denied some of the world’s most vulnerable people of life saving and sustaining medical, food, and education assistance. Though President Biden has since revoked this move, restoring the US$300 million annual aid package.
There’s also no doubting the fact that evangelicals have protracted the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by falsely framing it as a religious struggle between Judeo-Christianity and Islam, rather than one that pits a settler population against an indigenous population.
While the Palestinian people are nowhere to be seen in Zinshtein’s documentary, she does a remarkable job in revealing to American audiences the identities, attitudes, and beliefs that hold a toxic influence over the US government’s foreign policy towards Israel and the Middle East.