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Inside CUFI's 2011 Washington "Summit"

Our eyewitness report on Christians United For Israel's annual Washington conference

Special to, July 29, 2011

Over this past July 17th – 20th, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) held its 6th annual Washington Summit in the nation's capital to rally its staunch, militant support for Israel. Despite the tough economic times for many Americans, and despite what appeared to be a dwindling number of participants at last year's event, according to official numbers, CUFI managed to draw a crowd of over 5,000 Christians – including over 500 CUFI on Campus student activists – from every state in the Union, as well as some international guests who made the pilgrimage to DC from overseas.

This year’s Summit included many "repeat offenders" to use Frank Gaffney’s phrase, including Gaffney himself whose conspiracy theories and anti-Muslim rhetoric has even seen him shunned by many conservatives; CUFI's Christian Executive Board; Senator Joseph Lieberman; AIPAC officials Jeff Mendelsohn and Jonathan Kessler; Robert Satloff; the CEO/Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoelein; Ambassador Michael Oren; and a live satellite visit from Benjamin Netanyahu.

There were also some newcomers to this year's Summit from the conservative end of the pro-Israel spectrum. These included Elliot Chodoff, a major in the IDF reserves; Colonel Ben Tzion Gruber, also from the IDF reserves; Commentary Magazine editor, John Podhoretz; conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager; the ultra-hawkish blogger Jennifer Rubin; and, of course, conspiracy theorist and former Fox News personality, Glenn Beck.

Whether or not it was the enticement of Glenn Beck as the keynote speaker (more Beck's speech below) at the Night to Honor Israel Banquet, conservative Christians' antipathy to the Obama Administration's Middle East policies and the Administration in general, or CUFI's extensive and aggressive campaign to portray itself as a legitimate, morals based organization, officials made the reason for the unprecedented attendance clear: God wants His will done, and he wants it done through CUFI.

"For such a time as this"
As attendees walked into the convention center, through the metal detectors and bag-inspection area, two large banners adorning two juxtaposed scriptural references from the Hebrew Bible greeted them. The first, from Isaiah 62:6: "I have placed watchmen on your walls," followed by Esther 4:14: "for such a time as this." As understood by many Christian Zionists, it is they who are the watchmen on the walls, placed there by God at this time in history to help His plans for Israel come to pass. At last year's Summit, through the questionable use of Biblical concordance and Hebrew translation, it was determined that the word "watchmen" in Hebrew actually meant Christian, and therefore, the text from Isaiah was a prophetic text, pointing to the Christians of today who would be raised up, again, "for such a time as this."

For such a time as what?

Since its inception, CUFI has struggled to dissociate itself, its existence and its purpose from the apocalyptic imagery that dominates the theological writings and teachings of its Christian leadership. That is, CUFI has had to reconcile the fact that the writings of it's founder and National Chairman Rev. John Hagee are overwhelmingly preoccupied with Israel as a catalyst for the battle of Armageddon and the return of Jesus.

In order for Jesus to return, though, there are a number of things that must happen first. Most, if not all Jews must return to Israel, Israel must control all of the land given to it by God, in particular Jerusalem, because this is where Jesus is set to return and rule the world through a Christian theocracy for 1,000 years before a new heaven and a new earth are created. Once all of these prerequisites are in place, many believe that the Christian church will have fulfilled its earthly duty, at which point it will be "raptured" into the heavens for a period of seven years while the nations of the world, guided by Satan, will attempt to destroy Israel one last time before Jesus returns with the raptured church to defeat the enemies of God. This theology can be found in any number of Hagee's books, including: From Daniel to Doomsday: The Countdown has Begun; Jerusalem Countdown; The Beginning of the End: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the coming of the Antichrist; Final Dawn over Jerusalem; and his most recent (2010), Can America Survive? 10 Prophetic Signs That We Are in the Terminal Generation. Needless to say, this creates a problem because it places the support of Israel, and a very particular path that Israel must follow (read: no two-state solution), along with the future destruction of a large portion of the Jewish population, into the realm of God-ordained necessities for Christian salvation.

Brog: Speeding the Rapture with brothels
One of the ways they get around this is candidly admit, as CUFI's executive director David Brog does in his book Standing with Israel, that, yes, there are many Christians who do believe that Israel is significant for the Second Coming, but that Christians are powerless to do anything about it. Or, to erroneously argue, as Brog does in the same book that "If evangelicals really wanted to speed Jesus' return they would open up abortion clinics, brothels, and casinos to advance social and moral decay that are preconditions for the Second Coming, in addition to trying to weaken Israel's defenses in order to facilitate the prophesied invasion of the Jewish state by its enemies."

This argument may be sufficient for some, yet it woefully misunderstands (willfully or not) this strand of Christian theology, how these Christians read and interpret their scriptures, and how they understand themselves in sacred history.

The reference to the verse from Esther is instructive. The Book of Esther and particularly the scriptural reference of "for such a time as this" is standard evangelical pedagogy about how God uses people – ordinary, unknowing people – to fulfill His purposes in history. Esther was called upon by God, who spoke through her uncle Mordecai in order to save Diaspora Jews in ancient Persia from a plot aimed at their destruction. Ultimately, it is a story of instrumentality – of God using humans to push history toward its terminal end. Christians are the "watchmen on the wall" because they are the ones who "know the end of the story" (unlike many liberal Jews who are interested in alternative pathways to peace) and despite not actively trying to hasten Armageddon, the specter of its imminent arrival acts as a marker for God's next move – through Christian Zionists – in the unfolding of the story.

Morrison: Division of Jerusalem would prevent Jesus' return
At the unofficial opening of the Summit, the Sunday night Prayer and Worship session, this understanding of sacred time, and God's use of humans to fulfill His will was on full display. CUFI, we were told, wasn't born six years ago because of some good idea. Rather, it has existed since the beginning of time, it has merely taken prayer cells over the past few decades among all the disparate groups now involved in CUFI to bring about its realization as a political tool for God's spiritual will. "God wants to use you," we were told "he wants to do his will through you, through each of us, and if we don't each do our part then we are slowing the fulfillment of his plans." And perhaps the most candid display of CUFI's yearning for the Second Coming came when CUFI's Cheryl Morrison of Faith Bible Chapel in Colorado stated that if we allow Jerusalem to be divided, we would be preventing the return of Jesus. Morrison is the wife and colleague of CUFI executive board member and regional director Rev. George Morrison.

It was at this point that the notion of CUFI supporting a two-state solution was seriously flawed. "We all know that there won't be peace in Jerusalem until Messiah returns." And therefore worldly attempts to establish peace are doomed to failure, because they don't have the spiritual fruits of God's plans behind them. Sure, one might cast off this assertion as irrelevant because we aren't expecting Jesus to return, and therefore such an unprecedented display of support ought to be welcomed in the meantime. The problem, however, is that it dictates an acceptance of the status quo of continuous violence and provides no urgency for establishing worldly peace in the meantime. And, in fact, to support worldly peace that is based on anything remotely close to the Obama Administration's plans, or to relinquish any settlements, for many evangelicals, would be to fall prey to plans of Satan.

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