Thursday, July 16th, 2009
Christians United For Israel (CUFI) will be in town next week for its annual Washington Summit, and one thing I’ve noticed: the media hoopla that surrounded the group’s first few big Washington gatherings seems to have died down.
We’re not seeing the usual news stories and op eds about why the fervently Zionist Christian group is good for the Jewish state – or why the involvement of apocalypse-minded Christians is bad for a state some believers hope will soon be caught up in the hellfire of the Second Coming.
Why? I’m not sure, but some possibilities come to mind.
Pastor John Hagee, the fiery preacher, apocalyptic author and Israel supporter, seems to have convinced many, including some mainstream Jewish leaders, that the millennial theology that prevades his books isn’t connected to his support for Israel.
Hagee has also backed away from previous positions suggesting he was ready to fight Israeli policies he didn’t like – such as giving up more land to the Palestinians. He now is pretty much where most major Jewish groups are: it’s up to Israel.
While some remain ambivalent, perhaps a growing number of Jewish leaders welcome his support at a time when support continues to nosedive among mainline Protestant groups.
And attention has waned because CUFI isn’t new and novel any more.
The novelty of “praise the Lord” Christians singing Hatikvah has worn off. Hagee, eager to mainstream himself, is less colorful than back in the days when he was seen on video diagramming complex Bible prophecies.
There may be an even more important reason: opponents aren’t as worried about CUFI’s influence now that there’s a Democratic president in the White House who’s unlikely to turn to Hagee for advice and now that the Christian right has been weakened in Congress.
CUFI was founded in 2006, during the administration of a president who seemed very open to the views of Christian conservatives seen as hostile to the Muslim world, hostile to the Palestinians and hostile to new land-for-peace agreements.
The political context for this year’s CUFI gathering is very different, which may account for the fact the group’s detractors haven’t been as visible.
Note to reporters covering the event: the red liquid in wine glasses at the gala banquet is grape juice, not merlot. Sorry.