A firsthand look at the 2011 Christians United for Israel summit.
On the return trip from Washington, D.C., aboard the chartered bus carrying mostly Jews from Cherry Hill, NJ who had attended the Night to Honor Israel Banquet organized by Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the conversations were charged with excitement, pride, and renewed determination. For Arlene, a first time attendee, it was an “unbelievable experience.” She was in awe of the fact that there are genuine “Jew-loving Christians,” who are also fierce supporters of Israel.
It is easy to understand Arlene’s relief at her discovery of “other kinds of Christians.” Many among the group are sons and daughters or grandchildren of Eastern European Jews who remember hearing stories of the hatred and hostility their family members had faced from gentile neighbors. To Arlene’s surprise, she learned the origins of such Christian enthusiasm from one of the speakers, Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren. Oren spoke of Christian Restorationism, which holds that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not break his covenant with his People, and that restoring the Jewish people in their Promised Land is a moral obligation for Christians.
The Restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land was a nineteenth-century Christian movement with both political and religious motivations. The movement flourished primarily in English-speaking lands, and especially in the U.S. John Adams (second president of the U.S.), in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, wrote: “I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize man than any other nation.” And in an 1819 letter to Mordecai Manuel Noah, Adams wrote: “I could find it in my heart to wish that you had been at the head of a hundred thousand Israelites…and marching with them into Judea and making a conquest of that country and restoring your nation to the dominion of it. For I really wish the Jews again in Judea as an independent nation.”
Pastor John Hagee, founder of CUFI, could be considered a philosophical and theological descendant of this corps of restorationists, among whom were many of the American Founding Fathers. Hagee is a classical restorationist, who does not seek to convert the Jews to Christianity, but to restore their glory.
Thirty years ago during a trip to Israel, Pastor John Hagee was in Jerusalem visiting the Western Wall and, while watching those at prayer, realized how little he knew or understood about Judaism. Upon Hagee’s return to the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, the mega-church where he pastors to 19,000 active members, he reached out to area rabbis to work with them regarding Israel advocacy. Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg of Congregation Rodfei Sholom in San Antonio, Texas, was the only rabbi to answer the call. As Pastor Hagee puts it, Rabbi Scheinberg had the “courage” to work with CUFI and that helped to usher in the 1st Night to Honor Israel.
As one of the principle keynoters at CUFI’s Sixth Annual Washington Summit, which hosted more than 5000 attendees (including hundreds of Jews, over 500 students, and CUFI members from overseas and all 50 states), Hagee’s rumbling voice welcomed the vast audience. He set the tone with the theme of truth. Truth, Hagee said, “is what the Bible says it is,” and added, that “truth comes before friendship, and that truth comes before success.” Hagee continued, “There must be truth before all else.” He noted “that there are two ways to live your life - the Torah way and the wrong way.” Hagee exhorted the audience to carry the torch of truth.
And, he added, “The truth is that President Obama is not a friend of Israel.” He pointed out that only God’s boundaries are valid and not Obama’s demand that Israel return to its 1967 boundaries. “The boundaries of Israel,” Hagee said, “are recorded 17 times in the Bible – even the liberal media can’t get that wrong!”
“The Jewish people are home,” Hagee thundered, they are not "trespassers on somebody else’s land." “Christians and Jews are spiritual brothers," Hagee said, and he proudly added that “this is the first time in 2000 years that Israel is uniting Jews and Christians.” Hagee also noted with pride that CUFI is the largest pro-Israel organization in America.
Addressing the Obama administration, Hagee remarked that “America’s problem is not finding the truth – America’s problem is facing the truth." He charged that President Obama is trying to separate America from Israel. “America,” Hagee said, “should not pressure Israel to give up land for peace – not to anyone – not ever. Land for peace doesn’t work.” The truth, he added, is that “Barack Obama has no authority to tell the Jewish people what they and cannot do in their capital. King David claimed Jerusalem as its capital long before Barack Obama was a community organizer.” In a reference to Obama’s mistreatment of Israel, Hagee declared, “Israel is not a vassal state of the U.S., let’s start treating Israel as the friend that it is.”
Hagee asserted that President Obama is waiting for Iran to extend its hand of friendship to America while imposing “toothless sanctions” against the Islamic Republic. Israel, he said, has two choices: “Either to live with the daily threat of a nuclear armed enemy that vows to wipe it off the map, or deliver a first strike.” He emphasized the admonition by Pastor Martin Neimoller, “First they [the Nazis] came for the Communists and I was not a Communist…” adding that if Iran succeeds against Israel, Europe and America will be its next and more lucrative targets.
Turning to the scourge of terrorism, Hagee said, “Terrorists are not coming to America, they are already here.”
In conclusion, Hagee quoted Winston Churchill: “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities...because it is the quality which guarantees all others.” He then challenged the people in the audience to have the courage to act upon their convictions.
Seated in section E of the giant banquet hall and watching thousands of people waving the flags of the United States and Israel, Arlene was engulfed in the enthusiasm of the audience and her Cherry Hill, NJ Jewish friends. On the ride back home, she reflected on how comforting it was to know that that Jews were not alone in defending the justness of Israel’s cause. Fifty million Bible-believing Christians are actively lending their voices of support at home and in DC meetings with their elected officials, to protect the Jewish State, and CUFI is the instrument of support that is mobilizing them.