Presidential candidate links Israel policy to religious faith

September 21, 2011

NEW YORK (ABP) – An already contentious debate about the role of
faith in presidential politics took a new twist Sept. 20 when Texas Gov.
Rick Perry told a New York City press conference he believes America’s
continued support for Israel is a theological priority.

"As a
Christian, I have a clear directive to support Israel,” said Perry,
considered a front-runner for the Republican nomination. “So from my
perspective, it's pretty easy. Both as an American, and as a Christian, I
am going to stand with Israel."
Perry’s view is similar to
those of John Hagee, a leading advocate of a theology called Christian
Zionism, which views the Promised Land described in the Old Testament
favors modern Israel in discussions of Palestinian statehood.

Hagee, head of Christians United for Israel, was a participant in
Perry’s recent prayer rally called “The Response,” which sparked
questions about Perry’s association with people holding extreme
religious views. Some viewed that sort of criticism out of bounds in a
political campaign, along with whether Michele Bachman’s church is
anti-Catholic or whether it should matter to voters that front-runner
Mitt Romney is a Mormon.
Perry made his comment about Israel
surrounded by a group of Jewish leaders in response to a question
following prepared remarks that criticized President Obama’s Middle
Eastern policies as “naïve, arrogant, misguided and dangerous.”

Intended to lure Jewish voters away from Democrats and win favor with
evangelical Christians, Perry’s faith statement drew sharp reaction from
the left. Think Progress labeled it “theocratic foreign policy” and
Slate called it “a gift to Islamic extremists.”

On the same day
Perry made his remarks, two Baptist ethicists issued a sharp rebuke of
Christian Zionism and its role of the oppression of Palestinians. David
Gushee and Glen Stassen of the New Evangelical Partnership for the
Common Good appealed to biblical authority in asking fellow evangelicals
to “reconsider your interpretation for the sake of God, humanity, the
United States and, yes, Israel itself.”