BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
This summer, there is every possibility that town hall meetings organized to discuss the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran will turn into replays of the crazy Tea Party-dominated 2009 town hall meetings over Obamacare. Christian Zionists are gearing up for a battle where money is no object, facts pose no impediment, and where anti-deal activists will be flooding as many meetings with members of Congress as possible.
Now that Pastor John Hagee has roundly condemned the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran, he's ready to put boots on the ground, and his organization's money where his mouth is. The battle over whether the US Congress will support the deal may be, among other things, the first real test of the lobbying power of America's Christian Zionists, as Hagee's newly formed entity, a 501(c)(4) political lobbying group called the CUFI Action Fund is certain to be fully engaged. Headed by veteran Christian Right activist Gary Bauer, the CUFI Action Fund was launched last month at the annual Washington, DC meeting of Hagee's Christians United for Israel (CUFI), an organization with a $7-+ million dollar budget and one that bills itself as the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States, with over two million members.
"Over the next 60 days, our focus will be the ill-conceived and stunningly bad proposed nuclear agreement with Iran," Bauer told the Christian Post. "We are going to be on Capitol Hill every day, both with lobbyists and we are also going to be in their email box and on their telephones and in their mail delivery and at their town hall meetings with people that are going to press members of Congress in both parties on this."
The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald recently pointed out that Bret Stephens, The Wall Street Journal's longtime foreign affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor, urged attendees at CUFI's confab to lobby members of Congress to vote against the deal:
"Someone should say, 'this is going to be like your vote for the Iraq War. This is going to come back to haunt you. Mark my words, it will come back to haunt you. Because as Iran cheats, as Iran becomes more powerful, and Iran will be both of those things, you will be held to account. This vote will be a stain. You will have to walk away from it at some point or another. You will have to explain it. And some of you may in fact lose your seats because of your vote for this deal. You'll certainly lose a lot of financial support from some of your previous supporters.'"
As the Washington Examiner recently reported, "Even before the House left for its August recess, groups on both sides of the Iran deal had begun their coordinated air and ground campaign focused on ratcheting up the pressure on Democrats to vote either for or against the deal when they return to Washington in September."
And, once back home, CUFI members will surely be shadowing them, as it has already been . working "to inundate members' offices with phone and email messages opposing the deal," the Washington Examiner noted. "After issuing an action alert urging calls to their congressmen to voice concern, the group's members sent more than 150,000 emails to congressional offices in a 24-hour period, according to Ari Morgenstern, the group's communications director.
"The group plans to build on that effort over the recess and has identified more than 50 House Democrats and 20 senators to target by showing up to town hall meetings, and in some cases holding rallies in specific districts."
Some pundits are predicting that town hall meetings discussing the Iran nuclear deal will bring back memories of the 2009 town hall battles over Obamacare.
As was evidenced during the Obamacare battles, it doesn't take many people to turn a thoughtful discussion into a rant-filled debacle.
Poll finds evangelical Christians remain strong supporters of Israel
Paralleling the CUFI meeting and its subsequent actions, comes the results of a new study by LifeWay Research, which found that American evangelical Christians "remain among the strongest supporters of the nation of Israel," according to Bob Smietana of the Nashville, Tennessee-based organization, who recently reported on some of the findings of the study which measured American attitudes toward Israel and the Bible.
"About 7 in 10 (69 percent) say the modern nation of Israel was formed as result of biblical prophecy," Smietana explained. "A similar number (70 percent) say God has a special relationship with the modern nation of Israel. And nearly three-fourths of evangelicals (73 percent) say events in Israel are part of the prophecies in the Book of Revelation." (For the study, researchers conducted two separate surveys of 1,000 Americans, along with a survey of 1,000 senior pastors of Protestant churches.)
"While evangelicals remain convinced about a tie between Israel and God's plans, Americans generally are less certain," LifeWay Research found. "Less than half (46 percent) believe the formation of modern Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. More than a third (36 percent) disagree, while 17 percent aren't sure."
"Nearly three in four U.S. evangelicals say current events in Israel fulfill the prophecies in the New Testament Book of Revelation," Bob Allen recently reported at baptistnews.com. "Such views," Allen writes, "popularized in books such as Hal Lindsey's 1970 bestseller The Late Great Planet Earth and the fictional Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, are based on a literal interpretation of the Bible viewing Israel as playing a crucial role in the Second Coming of Christ.
"No piece of literature has had more impact on American culture than the Bible," said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research. "No country is more intertwined with the ancient biblical narrative than Israel, and evangelical Americans see a contemporary connection with the nation."
The views that Bob Allen and Scott McConnell put forth is certainly reflected in the work of Pastor John Hagee's Christians United for Israel.
According to its website, LifeWay Research, which is the research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, "assists and equips church leaders with insight and advice that will lead to greater levels of church health and effectiveness."
Interestingly, LifeWay's poll found "that the perception of Israel as God's favorite nation is loosening its grip among younger Christians of all denominations," the forward.com's Nathan Guttman recently reported. "[Y]ounger Christians are less likely to believe that God has a special relationship with Israel or that the formation of modern Israel is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Younger Christians are also less likely, the poll found, to attribute their support for Israel to a biblical command."
Congress has now adjourned for its August recess. "There is nothing like a local outcry to make clear to members of Congress that they support this deal at their political peril," said David Brog, CUFI's executive director.
"If the Iranians cheat, and we believe they will, and if this [deal] does not go as planned, then the member of Congress will be held to account," he said. "They are essentially putting the future of their seat in the hands of the Iranians."
CUFI Action Fund's Gary Bauer echoed Brog's warning: "One of the arguments that we are going to make is that anybody in either party who votes for this deal is putting their career in public life, is turning that career over to the not-so-tender mercy of the mullahs of Iran. When Iran inevitably cheats on this deal and people die, no member of Congress is going to be able to say 'I had no idea that was going to happen when I voted on this.'"