Daniel Hummel does not view Christian Zionism entirely favorably. His new book, Covenant Brothers: Evangelicals, Jews, and U.S.-Israeli Relations, is an analysis of the ascent of evangelical Christian Zionism and the role it plays in both American and Israeli politics.
The book is divided into three main sections which trace the Christian Zionist movement through the end of World War II until today. He named these divisions Roots (1948-1967), Shoots (1967-1976) and Branches (1976-2018).
Hummel defines Christian Zionism as, “the organized political and religious effort by conservative Protestants to support the state of Israel” and is critical of, among other things, what he calls the movement’s “apocalyptic fascination with the Jewish people.”
That opinion notwithstanding, Hummel analyzes the particular way Christians and Jews have cooperated over the past 70 years to marshal the evangelical Christian world to support the modern State of Israel. In this comprehensive study, he delves into dozens of topics related to evangelical Christian interest in Israel and the Jewish community.
Covenant Brothers reflects on topics such as Christian tourism to Israel, which he calls Holy Land tourism, the influence of Christian pastors on US presidents regarding Israel (e.g. Billy Graham and Richard Nixon and John Hagee and Donald Trump) as well as the unique relationship between Jerry Falwell and former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
He also covers the presence of churches in Israel that missionize among the Jewish people, Biblical archeology, the pro-Israel lobby, the fascination many evangelicals have with Jewish symbols and religious practices, Israeli politics and many other facets of the evangelical Christian Zionist movement.
Covenant Brothers is based on Hummel’s doctoral dissertation and reads like an academic, historical work. He told Breaking Israel News that he wrote this book for multiple audiences.
His primary interest was to speak to fellow scholars who are working in the areas of “evangelicalism, American politics, and US-Israel relations.” These scholars, Hummel asserts, “deal with Christian Zionism only peripherally.” The comprehensive treatment in Covenant Brothers aims to enlarge their understanding of the movement.
But Hummel also expects to find readers among “evangelicals and American Jews who know about Christian Zionism and the important role evangelicals play in U.S.-Israeli relations, but who don’t have personal familiarity or investment in the issue.” His intention is to tie together a number of related threads, so his readers can see how they all connect.
Although critical of aspects of the evangelical Christian Zionist movement, including “the over-identification of evangelicals with the interests of the Israeli government”, he expresses a clear appreciation of the role Christian Zionists have had in reversing a “long history of anti-Judaism.
“Anti-Judaism includes the idea that the Jews were cursed because they killed Jesus, destined to be wanderers and left alive solely to be reminders to Christians about what happens when people disobey God. Combating anti-Judaism was and is important for Christians today,” he emphasized.
Hummel grew up as an evangelical Christian, living in Germany for a portion of his childhood where his parents served as missionaries. He told Breaking Israel News that reading the Left Behind novels sparked his earliest interest in Israel. His graduate school education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison included an opportunity to study modern Hebrew and to conduct research in Israel through an exchange program with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Asked to reflect on the future of Christian Zionism, Hummel predicts significant numerical growth, particularly among Pentecostal Christians. He also anticipates that Christian Zionism will find itself “increasingly politically and theologically polarizing.”
He notes an important trend in “younger evangelicals (and younger American Jews) identifying more frequently with the cause of Palestinian statehood than their parents. This is especially true among younger white evangelicals, who see Palestinian Christians as brothers and sisters in need,” a situation he refers to as “the plight of Palestinian Christians” at the hands of Islamic oppressors.
While Hummel is an evangelical Christian, he doesn’t personally identify as a Christian Zionist. Nevertheless, his work in Covenant Brothers puts the historically unprecedented cooperation between Jewish and Christian religious and political leaders in its widest international and historical context. The book is a worthy read for anyone interested in the issue of Christian support for Israel.