“A smile attack is much better than a lie attack. Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues have been saying since 1991 – and you can refer to your records – that Iran is six months away from a nuclear weapon. And we are how many years, 22 years after that? And they are still saying we are six months away from nuclear weapons. We are not seeking nuclear weapons, so we’re not six months, six years, or 60 years away from nuclear weapons.”
-Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of Iran, late September 2013
The installation of Iran’s newest president, Hassan Rouhani, has been met with some rather fascinating (and, to me, disgusting) reactions from the Christian Zionist movement. As President Rouhani and other Iranian leaders speak of Iran’s desire for peace and a world free of nuclear weapons, numerous Christian Zionist leaders have locked arms tightly with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in loudly and repeatedly denouncing President Rouhani as a wolf in sheep’s clothing who can’t be trusted.
It’s clear that a moderate Iranian president simply won’t serve the interests of either Zionism or Christian Zionism. These movements, which are nearly joined at the hip, need a rabid, fire-breathing, foaming-at-the-mouth, anti-semitic, holocaust-denying maniac at Iran’s helm in order to effectively push their cause. (For that matter, they also need barbaric Palestinian leaders in order to advance other elements of their cause.) Iran’s failure to elect such an individual this year has apparently been a major cause for panic.
It’s one thing if this behavior characterizes Zionism. It’s another thing when it characterizes “Christian Zionism.” By the name of this movement, one could be forgiven for believing that it aims to follow the teachings of Christ, the One who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
When’s the last time a Christian Zionist leader highlighted the peacemaking efforts of a Palestinian individual toward the Jewish community? (Such efforts do exist.) How about the peacemaking efforts of Jewish individuals toward the Palestinian community? (These also exist.) When’s the last time a Christian Zionist leader pronounced blessings upon the Iranian people and their leaders, wishing for their peace and well-being?
Hassan Rouhani was elected president of Iran on June 15th of this year, and took office on August 3rd. Rouhani has been described as a moderate and diplomatic leader, and one of his campaign pledges was to repair relations with the West. It wasn’t long at all before Christian Zionist organizations published a flurry of statements seeking to discredit him, to call for increasingly tough actions against Iran, and to highlight Iran’s alleged “relentless development” of nuclear weapons (which, of course, they must be just itching to use against Israel).
A Chorus of Christian Zionist Voices United Against Iran
Israel Today is an organization whose mission “is to be the definitive source for a truthful and balanced perspective on Israel.” They have subscribers in more than 80 countries and believe that “the existence of the State of Israel is a fulfillment of prophecy and a plumb line for the purposes of God for these times.”
The month of September saw Israel Today publish articles featuring  Israeli PM Netanyahu responding to Rouhani’s Rosh Hashanah greetings with calls for tighter sanctions against Iran  Israeli warnings that Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing  Netanyahu’s warnings against Rouhani’s “charm offensive”  another mocking and desperate article seeking to discredit Rouhani and Iran  panic and frustration over President Obama’s and John Kerry’s failure to fall in line with Netanyahu’s hardline rhetoric toward Iran. The comment sections under these articles feature plenty of un-Christlike and warmongering pronunciations against Iran which are far worse than anything former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ever publicly said regarding Israel.
The month of October saw Israel Today publish articles featuring  an admission that Israel has possessed nuclear weapons since at least the early 1970’s, and has almost used them  claims that Netanyahu was prophetically correct when he quoted Scripture during his UN address in “a brilliant admonition of Iran’s anti-Israel madness,” that Iran is an “ancient enemy of Israel,” and that Rouhani is a murderous wolf  claims that CNN is inept and biased toward Iran by showing Rouhani in a favorable light  strong doubts that Iran’s new offer to downgrade “the nuclear crisis” means anything at all  Israel’s stress and fears over the possibility that sanctions against Iran could be lifted or lessened  how serious Netanyahu is about striking Iran  how Israel is wary of American promises and diplomacy toward Iran.
Breaking Christian News, an Albany, Oregon-based news outlet associated with Steve Shultz and The Elijah List, also routinely publishes articles in support of harsh action against Iran. Recent examples include an article (originally from Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network) featuring Netanyahu’s urgent cries to the world that crippling sanctions must continue to be levied against Iran. Another example is an article (originally at Israel Today) rejoicing that various Arab nations are secretly aligning with Israel behind the scenes, bonded by “a strong desire to eliminate the influence of Iran.”
One Christian Zionist ministry, which I’ll refrain from naming, is based in Israel. I’ve been receiving their email updates for several years ever since a relative signed me up for them. Back in September, when it looked like President Obama was going to lead the US into war strikes on Syria, this ministry sent almost daily updates passionately setting out a case for why America absolutely needed to strike Syria hard for the sake of Israel. This ministry has also used the same reasoning for why America needs to take tough action against Iran, including military strikes: “for the sake of Israel.”
Since when has the mission of the Christian Zionist movement been to rival AIPAC as the biggest war lobby entity on the planet? Why do both entities behave as if they’re agents of the Israeli government?
Not to be outdone, John Hagee’s organization, CUFI (Christians United for Israel), has an article, among others, highlighting a movement of Republican Senators who want to increase sanctions against Iran, targeting “all Iranian government revenue and reserves.” The effects of the present sanctions on the Iranian people include a 20% unemployment rate, a 30% – 50% inflation rate, expensive basic goods, the plunging value of its currency, increasingly unsafe commercial aircraft, an increasing inability to export oil, and other economic ramifications. They are also said to be resulting in half the population struggling to provide food and shelter for themselves, and struggling to maintain emotional health. The sanctions and their effects on millions of Iranian citizens apparently aren’t crippling enough for CUFI’s liking, however. In an email alert sent out on October 30th, John Hagee and David Brog urged their supporters to sign a letter to be sent to all US Senators, including these words:
“I’ve read that the White House is urging you to delay action on legislation to tighten the economic sanctions on Iran. I think the White House is making a serious mistake. So long as Iran continues to add to its uranium enrichment capabilities, we must – at the very least – continue to add to our sanctions.”
A People Movement to Christ in Iran
These sanctions aren’t so much hurting the government of Iran as much as they are hurting the common people. Among them are a growing number of believers – our brothers and sisters in Christ. Elam Ministries, founded by Iranian believers in 1988, reports on the present phenomenal growth of the church in Iran:
“Tell me about Jesus! Do you have Bibles?” This is the continuous cry of Muslim-Iranians, especially the youth, who literally flock around you in the street, like moths to the only light in the night… A quiet revival is sweeping through the country… Christians have sent in hundreds of thousands of New Testaments into Iran, but the demand dwarfs the supply. According to the church of Iran, if more than 10 million Persian New Testaments were available, it would still not be enough.
Reza Safa, a former Shiite Muslim whose television program broadcasts into Iran, shares a similar testimony. J. Lee Grady, a Charisma editor, also highlighted the spiritual breakthroughs in Iran in a 2010 report titled “God’s Strategic Plan for Iran,” calling for believers to look upon Iran with compassion instead of wishing for Iran to be bombed.
Hypocritical Powers Crying Wolf
As mentioned earlier, Israeli officials have been crying wolf now for more than two decades, always urging immediate action because Iran is allegedly just a few months away from having a nuclear bomb (but it’s OK for Israel and trigger-happy America to have hundreds of them). The warmongers imply that Iran’s scientists are so utterly incompetent that they still haven’t developed even one nuke after “being on the brink of having them” for more than two decades. What if, just perhaps, they’re not even trying to develop any?
A year ago, Nima Shirazi of the Mondoweiss news site crafted a list of public statements by Iranian leaders from 1991 – 2012 that they are not pursuing nuclear weapons and that they don’t believe in the principle of doing so. It’s a profound list, and worth checking out.
The Ahmadinejad Objection
“But, but, but Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said he intended to wipe Israel off the map!”
Did he really? Even though this was spread widely around the internet as truth, multiple sources, including native speakers of Persian, insist that Ahmadinejad’s 2006 statement was severely mistranslated. Wikipedia is not necessarily the most authoritative source, but the “wiped off the map” controversy is discussed somewhat at length there, and one can follow the footnotes to various articles (some scholarly) which discuss the matter further. A better translation of his words is said to reflect the following statement:
“This Zionist regime that is occupying Jerusalem must be eliminated from the pages of history.”
A BBC report less than two years later allowed Ahmadinejad to clarify his earlier statement:
“Asked if he objected to the government of Israel or Jewish people, he said that ‘creating an objection against the Zionists doesn’t mean that there are objections against the Jewish.’ He added that Jews lived in Iran and were represented in the country’s parliament.”
Indeed, the Jewish community in Iran is the largest in the Middle East outside of Israel.
In other interviews Ahmadinejad has advocated for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their homes, and for a democratic government to be elected by them and everyone else presently in the land. For example, in a September 2006 interview with Time Magazine, he said:
“Our position toward the Palestinian question is clear: we say that a nation has been displaced from its own land… Our suggestion is that the 5 million Palestinian refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government.”
In that same interview, Ahmadinejad said that Iran does not oppose the Jews having their own state, but that Iran is, in fact, opposed to nuclear weapons.
I won’t deny that Ahmadinejad made some inflammatory statements during his political career. Some of his own government colleagues and others in Iran also rebuked him for it. From the Zionist camps especially, however, he was also demonized, and some of his statements were either misrepresented or blown far out of proportion. This has been done, obviously at times, by those who seek a pretext for war. Now that a more mild-mannered leader has taken his place, those who are still seeking that pretext are scrambling for reasons to demonize him too. Rouhani’s publicly stated desire for peace and reconciliation simply doesn’t serve the interests of those who are seeking Iran’s downfall and demise.
Most unfortunately, the world of Christian Zionism is as vocal as any camp in playing this spite-filled game. Only it’s not a game. It affects the lives of people. It sows seeds of destruction. It’s irrational warmongering. It literally affects the foreign policy of the United States. It also affects the reputation of those who say they belong to Christ. It makes it seem to the world that we don’t believe Jesus or take Him seriously when He said things like “Blessed are the peacemakers” and “love your enemies.”
But Jesus was serious. He really does call His followers to make peace and to love all people, and there is no exception when it comes to the Iranians and the Palestinians.
All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.