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An Israeli flag flies near buildings under construction in the West Bank settlement of Maaleh Adumim, just outside of Jerusalem in this April 7, 2005 file photo.
On Feb. 6, 2006, I invited 400 evangelical leaders to Cornerstone Church in San Antonio. I invited presidents of Christian universities, owners of radio/television networks, presidents and owners of publishing companies, major pastors and the prominent television personalities.
Our historic meeting had a one-item agenda: create a national grassroots Christian Zionist organization that would unite millions of evangelicals to stand up and speak up for Israel. For years, I had spoken at churches all over the country about the Biblical basis for Christian support of Israel. I knew that through their own Biblical studies, millions of Christians had come to understand that we have a religious and ethical obligation to stand with the Jewish people. My hope was that in creating this organization we could unite these individuals and speak with one thunderous voice in support of Israel.
Before the meeting, I confided in Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg – my friend of 30 years – that I was unsure if any of the pastors would agree to join this new organization. The first rule of the organization would be that we would go to Washington, D.C. annually to educate our people and to engage the members of Congress with our absolute solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people. We were a one-issue organization: Israel!
To my surprise, all 400 pastors agreed to join the effort, and Christians United For Israel was born. Though I viewed this moment as miraculous (if you disagree, try getting 400 pastors to agree on anything), I could not even dream of what CUFI would become.
Today, we have more than 1.1 million members; we hold an average of 40 pro-Israel events in cities and towns across America every month; we meet in Washington every year to remind our elected officials that there are Christians who stand with Israel. We have been welcomed with open arms by the American Jewish community and successive Israeli governments (regardless of party).
In spite of how dramatically the organization has grown and the extent to which we have been welcomed in mainstream American and Israeli political circles, there are many who do not understand the phenomenon. Why would Christians support the Jewish state?
To quote one of our CUFI On Campus student leaders, “I support Israel because I am a Christian.” Christian Zionists do not believe that God’s covenant with the Jewish people has been replaced by Christianity. Quite the contrary. We recognize that our faith would not exist were it not for Judaism. The first family of Christianity, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and all the disciples, were Jewish. Christianity owes a debt of gratitude to the Jewish faith, and we have been commanded to stand with our Jewish brethren. Yet for centuries some of the greatest atrocities against the Jewish people were committed by Christians, in the name of Christianity.
Genesis 12:3 explains that God will bless those who bless Israel, and curse those who curse her. Has this not come to pass? Israel is a prosperous nation – in spite of being surrounded by tyrannical enemies who wish her destruction. And the U.S., Israel’s primary ally? Have we not thrived as a nation since recognizing Israel’s independence minutes after it was declared? We have our ups and our downs, but on our worst day, we are still the envy of all the earth.
Christian support for Israel is the product of Christians reading their Bible and rightly concluding that it is a Zionist document. Upon this foundation has been built a modern understanding of Israel’s history, and recognition that Israelis and Americans share the same democratic values.
CUFI is the largest pro-Israel organization in the country and among the largest Christian grassroots movements in the U.S. Support for Israel is not just an issue for Christians; it is our primary foreign policy focus. When we set out to form CUFI we had a simple mantra: we will awaken the sleeping giant of Christian Zionism. Ask any member of Congress – it is wide awake.