Most people are aware to some extent of Christian Zionism. Back in the late 90s I read Left Behind, the first in a sixteen book series, charting the fictional story of those left behind in a realisation of a literal fulfilment of the Bible’s supposed ‘end time’ prophecies. As a page-turner it’s actually alright, but it gave me an insight into the inner workings of biblical literalists and Christian Zionists. According to their worldview the State of Israel is a sign that every word of the Bible is factually true, and can be read as a history of what will happen in the near future.

At the time of reading and until this morning I was labouring under the false assumption that these Christian fundamentalists were the fringe of right-wing American Evangelicalism. Anything I saw of them on documentaries showed groups of American ‘bible thumpers’ preaching a hermeneutically poor understanding of ancient texts and being cynically used as free labour in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. In short, I pitied them as the ignorant victims of televangelist multimillionaire exploiters who had not themselves the slightest understanding of theology. I still see them as ignorant, but – as for the rest – I could not have been further from the truth.

LaHaye and Jenkins’ Left Behind series sold in excess of 65 million copies, mainly within the United States, making it more influential in the States than Isaac Asimov, Terry Pratchett, and Stephen King. By any measure this is a serious amount of clout, and this is only a single title of an extensive and growing genre peddling biblical apocalyptic literature as a reliable guide to real-world global politics. Some light was shed on the extent of this belief in divine agency on the side of the State of Israel by a poll conducted by the Pew Research Centre in 2013. It found that more American white Evangelical Christians than American Jews believed that God had given Israel to the Jews in 1948 – 82% in fact. In real numbers this equates to 76 million people (24% of the US population), who consistently make up 26% of the electorate.

Billionaire right-wing Evangelicals have always landed in the top ten largest political donors to the Republican SuperPACs, and no small number of recent US presidents has been open about their adherence to this uncritically pro-Israel apocalyptic Christian view of history. Each year the thought leaders of this Christian Zionist movement issue updated religious rulings on who the ‘coming antichrist’ might be, and these constantly changing lists have an uncanny relationship with Israel’s enemies and US foreign policy. In essence what we are looking at when we look at Christian Zionism is a religiopolitical movement in the world’s largest superpower, with considerable influence at every level of society, which sees every action of Israel as the fulfilment of prophecy and the will of God.

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