Christian Zionism finding new sources of growth in global South?

Increasingly, one can notice the development of evangelical activities related to Israel in the Southern hemisphere—a rise that can be attributed to internal factors, but also to external influences involving U.S. Christian Zionists and the Israeli state, according to Paul Freston (Wilfrid Laurier University) at the conference of the International Society for the Sociology of Religion in Barcelona, which RW attended. RW has already reported on shifts in Christian Zionism occurring in the global South, especially the shedding of its end-times focus and its association with the prosperity gospel [see Vol. 32, No. 8, June 2017]. Freston confirmed those trends, while further highlighting how evangelicals have not only been supporting the State of Israel but also its alleged right to expand.

After the U.S. announced the move of its embassy to Jerusalem, the only other state that made the same move was Guatemala, the Latin American country with the largest percentage of evangelicals. Israel is aware of the significance of religiously motivated support in the global South. Since 2016, strengthening ties with African countries has been high on the agenda of the Israeli government. The head of the Christian Allies Caucus at the Knesset has remarked that faith-based diplomacy opened endless possibilities for cooperation with African countries. Attention should also be paid to Zionist attempts to relate to indigenous people and to present Israelis as the prototypical first nation. Christian Zionism is linked to a range of philosemitic attitudes and can look like “a nationalism through promoting another nation,” Freston observed. It can also function as a kind of national prosperity theology, something shown by a Zambian pastor who reads the economic history of his own country through its support or lack of support for the State of Israel.