News & Politics

Christian Broadcasters Awaiting Jesus Christ's Return Prep for Live Coverage of Messiah

Here’s an extreme case of Biblical literalism.

Photo illustration of an icon of Jesus Christ dating back to the early 11th century, in Sofia, Bulgaria. Some early Christians believed Jesus himself wed, a Harvard professor told the 10th International Congress of Coptic Studies, the Harvard Gazette repo

Here’s an extreme case of Biblical literalism: two major evangelical Christian broadcasters have bought places in Jerusalem to give them the perfect perch to witness the coming of the Messiah down from the Mount of Olives.

The Los Angeles Times’ Edmund Sanders reports that Daystar Television Network and Trinity Broadcasting Network have set up shop in Jerusalem studios on a hill that overlooks the Old City. 

“The dueling studios are part of an aggressive push by U.S. evangelical broadcasters seeking to gain a stronger foothold in the holy city,” writes Sanders. “Their presence not only offers boasting rights with American viewers and contributors, but also — and more controversially — a platform for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to Jews in Israel.”

One target audience for the Christian broadcasters is so-called “Messianic Jews,” or Jews who believe that Jesus is the messiah, which runs counter to traditional Jewish teachings. Orthodox Jewish groups have advocated against Christian broadcasters’ presence in Jerusalem.

Sanders reports that this is not the first foray into proselytizing in Israel for Christian evangelical broadcasters. “When Daystar debuted in Israel in 2006, it created such a public uproar that the channel was temporarily suspended from the HOT network. It was restored after a court challenge. Since then, Christian evangelical groups have quietly and steadily expanded their footprint in Jerusalem,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

But while there has been some friction between Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians, there are certainly Israelis who welcome these biblical literalists. Christian Zionism in the U.S. is a powerful force among evangelical Christians, and thousands of evangelicals advocate for Israel in Washington, D.C. Christian Zionists believe the establishment of the state of Israel was the first step towards the coming return of the Messiah. 

Sanders also notes that American Christians have made forays into internal Israeli politics. “Christian groups have forged close ties with Russian-born lawmakers in the parliament, or Knesset, and recently helped push through a law that extended property tax exemptions once available only to Jewish religious institutions to those owned by Christian congregations,” writes Sanders.

And Christian broadcasters say they are seeing benefits from their work. Evangelical Christians have found that Russian immigrants to Israel are potential recruits to their cause. 

"They see Russians as a way to get a foothold in Israel and create a Christian revival here,” Ellen Horowitz, part of a group that counteracts Christian missionaries, told the Los Angeles Times.

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.