Christian Zionism in global South sheds its end-times focus

Christian Zionism is shifting from its American base with its apocalyptic background to charismatic Christian churches in the global South that stress prosperity teachings, writes Daniel Hummel in First Things magazine (June/July). Christian Zionism started under the auspices of evangelicals in the U.S., who taught that Israel would be the stage of end times events prophesied in the Bible. In the last decade, “Israel has found potential allies in the global South who vastly outnumber American Christian Zionists”—a trend that could have major geopolitical implications. Many of these new Christians are from countries that have had negative relations with Israel, such as Nigeria, Brazil, and China, but the massive growth of charismatic and Pentecostal churches and their related lobbying activities through such organizations as the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) in these nations may be leading to new attitudes regarding Zionism.

The role of prosperity theology may seem less clear than American end-times teachings in relation to support for Israel, but the prosperity gospel stresses not only personal wealth and health but also national healing and blessing. These churches hold that a nation’s attitudes toward Israel will lead to either blessings and prosperity or to a curse, citing such Old Testament verses as Genesis 12:3 that state God’s promise to prosper such countries. Prosperity evangelists, such as South African Kenneth Meshoe, point to the example of Zambia, which went from poverty to greater development, allegedly because of its changed policies and attitudes toward Israel. This teaching is prominent in mainstream Pentecostal churches as well as among preachers on such networks as God TV and Christian Broadcasting Network and theologians such as David Pawson and Malcolm Hedding, who are connected with ICEJ (which has 70 branches around the world). Hummel concludes, “This is no end-times escapism or even right-wing political ideology.  Rather, in the twenty-first century, Israel represents hope for the largest generation of new Christians around the world.”

(First Things,