David Brog, the leader of the world’s largest Christian Zionist organization, began a recent presentation in Nashville by assuring fellow Jews in the audience that he understood their suspicion of Christians who profess to love Jews and the state of Israel.
“For 2,000 years you try to kill us or convert us and now you expect us to believe you love us,” he recalled thinking when, as an aide to then-U.S. Senator Arlen Spector two decades ago, he first encountered vociferous support for Israel coming from conservative Christians in rural Pennsylvania. But after years spent researching the Christian Zionist movement and getting to know and understand its adherents, Brog says he now is “ashamed that I judged these people without knowing anything about them.”
Brog, the national director of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), was the featured speaker at a Feb. 25 forum at the Gordon Jewish Community Center called “Christian Zionism: Why Evangelicals Support Israel.” The event was hosted by the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee as part of its ongoing Israel advocacy and education series, “Increasing Your Israel IQ.”
Speaking to a mixed audience of 120 Jews and Christians that included Ambassador Opher Aviran, the consul general of Israel to the southeastern United States; pastor Moses Rodriguez of Iglesia de Dios Pentecostal Church in Nashville; local CUFI leaders Mike McNally and Pastor Lyndon Allen, and Federation President Carol Hyatt as well as four of her predecessors, Brog said the Christian Zionist movement is an outgrowth of “a theological breakthrough of millennial proportions.”
Rejecting the traditional and inherently anti-Semitic theology that God abandoned the Jewish people in favor of the Christian church, Christian Zionists instead embrace a theology called dispensationalism, which holds that the Jewish people remain dear to God and will play a pivotal role in the divine plan for humankind. Brog said this theological view engenders genuine attitudes of love and appreciation toward Jews and the state of Israel.
“The verse most often quoted by Christian Zionists is Genesis 12:3 – “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you,”’ he said.
Dispensationalism has been around for centuries, Brog said, and may help explain the actions of diverse historical figures ranging from Oliver Cromwell, the 17th Century English political leader under whom Jews were readmitted to England, to the ten Booms, a Dutch family who hid hundreds of Jews during World War II and helped them escape the Holocaust. Over the past century or so, the theology has become particularly prevalent – even if it is not yet the majority view – among evangelicals and other conservative Christians who read the Bible literally, Brog said.
CUFI itself was established in 2006 by Rev. John Hagee, the founder of a non-denominational Charismatic mega-Church based in San Antonio, whose own view, Brog said, is that “without Judaism, there would be no Christianity.”
Brog’s appearance was billed as a discussion, and he spent more than 20 minutes answering questions and then continued his conversation with members of the audience during a dessert reception that followed his remarks.
In response to one question, he acknowledged the Christian obligation to evangelize and win converts. But he said CUFI has a strict “non-conversionary” policy toward Jews and that Christian Zionists in general, because they are more familiar with Jews and their attitudes about conversion, are actually more likely to be sensitive to that concern and refrain from efforts aimed at converting Jews.
In response to another question, Brog addressed the concerns held by many Jews that, aside from their support for Israel, Christian Zionists hold views quite different from their own on many important social and political issues.
“A coalition on one issue doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything,” Brog said. “We can continue to have robust debates on other issues where we disagree.”