My First Christians United for Israel Event

Observations from an hour among Christian Zionists

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By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country

I attended my first Christians United for Israel event last night.

For those of you who don't know, Christians United for Israel was launched by well-known evangelist John Hagee in 2006 and has quickly become the face of Christian Zionism in the United States.

The organization recently sponsored its 100th Night to Honor Israel event. These affairs are high-spirited, pro-Israel rallies that draw mostly evangelical Christians. I attended a more sober happening, a kind of informational session called a Stand for Israel Event at the historic First Baptist Church in Hightstown, N.J.

Andrew Summey, the organization's regional coordinator, addressed a crowd of about 30 for a little more than an hour. My back-of-envelope observations:

  1. There was a fair amount of guilt expressed over the Christian response to the Holocaust. "Where was the Christian movement during the Holocaust?" Summey asked his audience. "Can we really speak of one here in America? We have a lot to learn, and we have to learn quickly."
  2. About a third of the audience was Jewish. One spectator was a rabbi from a local Reform synagogue who brought his father, a Holocaust survivor. Another was a member of a nearby Conservative Jewish congregation. "Sometimes we feel outnumbered—we're a very small people," he told the crowd when the floor was opened up for questions. "Having friends like you really makes a huge difference."
  3. Some of the case for Christians supporting Israel is one of self-interest. "World War II started as a hatred of Jews but ended in the total destruction of Europe," Summey said in his presentation. "That's a warning to all of us: What makes us think we will escape? The Jews are the canaries in the coal mine."
  4. From an informal survey, the crowd appeared to be highly educated and professionally successful. The church deacon who arranged the event is an attorney recruiter in New York. Another person I spoke with is an engineer at nearby Princeton University.
  5. Though Summey decried the current electoral crisis in Iran, he refrained from criticizing President Obama's response—and only once knocked the president's Israel policy, in response to question from the audience.
  6. Summey told me that Christians United for Israel is about to send a group of 35 American college students on a trip to Poland and Israel to learn about the Holocaust and the Jewish state. The plan is to make this an annual fellowship. This is an organization with a growth plan.
  7. Have you attended a Christians United for Israel event? Share your experience in comments. 

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