By Chrissy Stroop
As many readers of Religion Dispatches are likely aware, The Forward recently published a couple of pieces portraying Christian Zionism in general, and evangelical Christian Zionism in particular, as essentially benign. Most recently, a partner at a Christian law firm writing under the pseudonym Jarvis Best accused some of his Jewish friends and others who harbor suspicion about the dark side of Christian Zionism, and its usually concomitant apocalypticism, of “paranoia.” Best even dismissed prominent evangelical author and pastor John Hagee’s view that God ostensibly used Hitler to forward his divine plan of gathering the Jews in Israel as mere “dabbling in anti-Semitism.”
As I argued in a rebuttal likewise published by The Forward, Best’s breezy, dismissive whitewashing of the more unseemly aspects of evangelicals’ support for (the most aggressively right-wing version of) Israel amounts to outright gaslighting. America’s conservative, mostly white evangelicals are President Donald Trump’s most consistently and enthusiastically supportive demographic. As authoritarians, they are far more in the grip of paranoia than Best’s Jewish friends, whose suspicions about their motives and the impact of their politics are justified. And theirs is a paranoia that’s moving the United States backwards on civil rights, as well as having a deleterious impact on U.S. foreign policy.
Here, I would like to expand further on the evangelical authoritarianism that Best seeks to sweep under the rug. As an ex-evangelical, it is immensely frustrating to me to see major commentators and media outlets time and again downplay the significance of the kind of intolerant, illiberal, authoritarian Christianity I grew up with. Authoritarian Christians are naturally fond of strongmen, so long as they’re strongmen for Jesus. And America’s Christian nationalists, including the vast majority of white evangelicals, understand Trump in precisely that manner.
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