Save Israel, for Jesus?

Sunday morning at Robinson Drive Methodist Church in Waco, Texas, the Rev. Margaret Stratton tells her 200 attendees that no one should be surprised by the lead story in the morning news, as the crisis was developing in the Middle East.

"What is happening in Israel today with their neighbors is prophesied in the Bible. The whole world should understand the reason for the conflict in the Middle East," she said, adding this has all been foretold.

It is a sermon that takes root among Christians.

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"It is part of biblical prophecy," said congregant Teresa Randt. "I think that, we know that we pray for peace, but we also know that peace probably won't happen until Jesus comes again."

Added another attendee, "We are actually in the end of times. From what I've read in the bible and other prophetical books, I believe we're there."

The end of times, as foretold in the scriptures, is a theological reason to support Israel unconditionally so as to help bring about the return of Jesus Christ.

This is not one lone evangelical church that supports this idea. According to polls among religious groups in the United States, evangelical Christians -- which constitute about a quarter of the American people -- are second only to Jews in their support for Israel.

"Evangelicals take the Bible very seriously, and in their view certain prophesies in the Old and the New Testament point to the state of Israel as having a very special role of the return of Jesus to earth," said Dr. John C. Green, a senior fellow in religion and American politics for the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Taking the Cause to Washington

Earlier this month, as the conflict in northern Israel and Lebanon heated up, roughly 3,500 evangelical Christians descended upon Washington, DC from all 50 states as part of a new group called "Christians United for Israel".

Members like Gwen and Dean Resser from St Louis, Mo., urged lawmakers to let Israel do what is necessary to defend itself in its current conflict.

"America needs to stand with Israel according to the word of God, and for victory," Gwen Resser said. "I mean, it's for victory. It's not a time for concessions."

"If you support Israel, you will be blessed, and if you don't support Israel, you will be cursed," Dean Resser added.

The group also came together for a "Christians for Israel" dinner that featured Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., a member of the Republican Senate leadership, and other powerful political officials including Ken Mehlman, director of the Republican National Committee, who said, "Today, if you love freedom, whether you are Christian, Jewish or Muslim, whether you are American, Japanese, or Indian, today we are all Israelis."

The group's organizer is Pastor John Hagee, the influential Texas minister from the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, who explains his interest in this region of the Middle East by saying Israel is not like other countries.

"The thing that's different about Israel is that Israel is the only nation in the world created by the hand of God," Hagee said.

"Many evangelical ministers and theologians actually look at the events that are occurring in the Middle East today and in Israel and Iran and Lebanon and so forth and find it to be quite relevant to certain passages in the New and the Old Testament," Green added.

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