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Christian Zionism and American “Civil Religion”

Updated: 3 days ago

Invading America


It could be that our government continues to ship bombs to Israel because we, like Israel, are a settler nation.  In different ways Israel and the United States use the same Biblical stories to provide cover for the displacement and massacre of Indigenous people.


Unlike Jewish Zionism, Christian Zionism portrays the Jewish settlements as a necessary part of the process in preparing for the second coming of Christ.  Once Jews return to Israel, Christ will come again, slaughter or convert the Jews to Christianity, and establish God’s Kingdom on Earth. Its other beliefs include the following:


  • Biblical stories written 3000 years ago give directions for contemporary foreign policy.

  • Indigenous Palestinians exist outside of God’s care.

  • The land of Palestine belongs to the Jews.


The best-known source of the notion of “civil religion,” is Robert Bellah’s essay, Civil Religion in America(1967). He doesn’t include the second coming, but he refers to the Bible, ignores indigenous Americans, and assumes that the land belongs to European settlers. He writes:


Until the civil war, the American Civil religion focused above all on the event of the revolution, which was seen as the final act of the Exodus from the old lands across the rivers. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were the sacred scriptures and Washington the divinely appointed Moses who led his people out of the hands of tyranny.


Christian evangelicals have transformed this “civil religion” into political propaganda as demonstrated by Vice President Pence’s speech in the Knesset in 2018:


In the story of the Jews, we've always seen the story of America. It is a story of an exodus, a journey from persecution to freedom, the story that shows the power of faith and the promise of hope. My country’s very first settlers also saw themselves as pilgrims, sent by Providence, to build a new Promised Land. (quoted in Mitri Raheb Decolonializing Palestine, 2023)


As The Christian Palestinian theologian, Mitri Raheb, explains:


The bond between the State of Israel and the United States is of a strategic political and military nature, and is grounded in the common belief of being a chosen people as a settler community called to rule (p. 114).


Our “civil religion” and Christian Zionism have one more thing in common.  The settlement of Israel and settlement of the United States created a “climate of injustice” that they both deny. If we desire a climate of Justice, the first step is to recognize the origins in the climate of injustice in which we live today.

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