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On Summoning a Vengeful God
There's a group rejoicing at the growing body count in Gaza. It’s time to meet the Christian Zionists.
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This is one of the weirdest Webworm’s I’ve sent out.
And that’s saying a lot, considering I’ve sent out newsletters about the Don’t F**ck With Cats guy writing to me from prison, a Hare Krishna who called me “c**t face”, and a French cannibal that let me interview him.
My stomach turned a little, as I was semi-familiar with this world — about a subculture currently rubbing their hands in glee about what’s going on in Gaza right now (you know, the kids and adults getting blown up by the thousands).
“It’s a good idea, but pulling it off tonally will be hard…” was my first reply to Josh.
And we went back and forth, and we figured things out, and of course he nailed the tone because he always does.
As I said earlier, this is one of the weirdest Webworm’s I’ve sent out. It’s also a reality check to how an estimated 30 million Americans are thinking right now — and perhaps a hint at why so many don’t give a single flying fuck about Palestinian lives.
It’s funny, it’s weird, and it’s also incredibly fucking bleak. Please read with care.
On summoning a vengeful God so he can kill billions of unbelievers and rule the world forever: It’s time to meet the Christian Zionists.
by Josh Drummond.
If someone came to you and said, with a serious face and no more than a mildly mad glint in their eye, that they were taking part in a great global ritual, involving the unwilling sacrifices of thousands, millions — or even billions — of human lives to summon a vengeful God-Emperor, what would you do?
You might be forgiven for laughing, or backing away slowly, or thinking that your new friend was referring to Dune, or Warhammer, or Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, or any one of many other science-fiction texts that reference powerful, bloodthirsty, all-knowing emperors.
But they’re not kidding. They’re deadly serious, and they’re making a very real effort to summon a vengeful God so he can kill billions of unbelievers and rule the world forever.
It’s time to meet the Christian Zionists.
The Coming King
Pastor Peter Mortlock loves to talk. Webworm’s old mate struts the stage at City Impact’s Mount Wellington church in Auckland, preaching to the thousands present and many more in the other City Impact campuses, face shining with the sheer joy of utterance.
The topic of today’s sermon is “Israel - The Current War, The Importance of Israel, and The Coming King.”
A sermon much like this one will be being preached on any given Sunday in hundreds of thousands of Evangelical churches worldwide.
Mortlock doesn’t start with the big-ticket items. He barely mentions Israel for the opening minutes. First, he runs us through a bit of stock-standard Satanic Panic.
“I don’t want to be ooky spooky about it, but we’ve got Halloween coming up and no Christian should ever be involved in such activity. I don't know why people would want their kids dressed up as goblins and ghosts and every other demonic thing. Then they wonder why their kids have got mental problems or drug problems,” Mortlock alleges, baselessly.
God, it’s boring. This stuff hasn’t changed since the Eighties. While he waffles, I say a silent prayer of thanks for transcription software and the ability to watch YouTube videos at 1.75x speed. But, as a Christian Zionist preaching to a choir of Christian Zionists, Mortlock’s every word is hung upon by his audience. Whoops of “Yes!” and “Amen” drift from the crowd. The longed-for segue comes:
“If we don’t live in a spiritual world, you explain to me the hatred that people have against Israel,” Mortlock says.
He speaks of the vicious Hamas attack that killed over 1400 Israelis on October 7 2023, rightfully condemning it. Then he references dates, alleging insider knowledge. Something big is coming.
“I’ve shared the timetable, the very important dates of 1917, 1948, 1967, 2017… I think the significance of 2030 but you can check that out,” he says, mysteriously. “God does things to the day. He’s neither early nor is He late.”
You’d think, for someone who rages against the occult, that Mortlock would refrain from quoting the wizard Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings. But perhaps it’s apt — Mortlock, whether he realises it or not, is encouraging his flock to participate in a ritual that he hopes will bring about the end of times.
Perhaps he should have quoted Sauron.
“And the Blood Continued to Rise”
Christian Zionism is an old belief, with roots as far back as Puritan England. It has evolved, over many years, to become a primarily premillennial dispensationalist eschatology.
Translated from Theology into English, this means that many adherents of Christian Zionism don’t see the Bible’s Book of Revelation as speaking of events that have already occurred: the destruction of the Jewish Temple, the Diaspora, and the persecution of Christians by Nero. Instead, they believe it is simultaneously metaphorical, literally true, and yet to occur.
In their interpretation, Revelation prophesies that Jesus will return to earth and reign from a New Jerusalem for 1000 years. But before this happens, there will be a seven-year Tribulation, meaning “great trouble.” And before that, Jesus will snap up all the Christians — or, more probably, all of the right kind of Christians — into Heaven. This is what’s known as the Rapture.
To understand how Zionism figures into this version of Christianity, we have to look closely at the Tribulation, and boy, is it a trip. No-one has ever suggested this period of history will be fun, (except perhaps for the raptured Christians, who can look down from heaven like it’s all a spectator sport) but modern developments in science and technology have brought the pareidolia of prophecy-understanding to a fever pitch. The Mark of the Beast is now a microchip (or a Covid shot), and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse now ride nukes.
The Late Great Planet Earth was one of the first takes on the end times to incorporate both contemporary geopolitics and innovations like thermonuclear weapons. The book is by former tugboat captain Hal Lindsey, who spent the following decades releasing rehashes of his original tome when his modern end-times prophecies failed to pan out quite as he’d predicted, or at all. The fact that he kept getting things wrong didn’t seem to matter: his books sold millions of copies, and the version of Zionism they portrayed became gospel for tens of millions of Christians. And this perpetually about-to-happen history is astonishingly, hideously bloodthirsty.
Of course, the original text has plenty of gross moments. Here’s St John’s original description of just one event that precedes Christ’s final return to Earth, Revelation 14:19-20:
“So the angel swung his sickle on the earth, cut the grapes from the vine, and threw them into the wine press of God's furious anger. The grapes were squeezed out in the wine press outside the city, and blood came out of the wine press in a flood two hundred miles long and about five feet deep.”
That’s clearly poetic, if a little oddly specific. But then there’s the Christian Zionist version.
The following quote is from Glorious Appearing, book 12 of the Left Behind series by evangelist Tim LaHaye and author Larry B. Jenkins. For those that haven’t yet read, spoiler warning: Jesus comes back and quotes scripture at the millions-strong Unity Army of the Antichrist, at which point the soldiers spontaneously explode in fountains of blood.
“The great army was in pandemonium, tens of thousands at a time screaming in terror and pain and dying in the open air. Their blood poured from them in great waves, combining to make a river that quickly became a swamp… It seemed to Rayford that the entire Unity Army within his field of vision was dead or dying, and the blood continued to rise. Millions of birds flocked into the area and feasted on the remains.”
That might sound impossibly lurid, but it’s not — for Christian Zionists. As far as they’re are concerned, the only fictional parts of the Left Behind novels are the point-of-view characters. The events that take place — or some version of them — will be literally true. And the Tribulation they’re so enthusiastic about?
It’s not for Christians. They’ll be safely raptured away to heaven.
It’s for Jews.
Many fundamentalist Christians believe that by not accepting Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah, the Jews have rejected God, and been “broken off” God’s holy tree. Christians have been “grafted in” as the new Chosen People instead.
The horrors that Jews have already experienced, like the Holocaust, and the forthcoming troubles of the Tribulation, during which Christian Zionists believe that one third of all Jews will die, are simply their God working his divine will to herd the Jews towards him. At some point in the Tribulation, all remaining Jews will realise the error of their ways and convert en masse to Christianity.
So yeah, Christian Zionism is insanely anti-semitic.
And yet, Christian Zionists are die-hard supporters of the modern Israeli state.
We’ll look at why that is later. For now, let’s return to Pastor Mortlock.
Rule with an Iron Rod
Pastor Mortlock talks and talks and talks, teasing his audience with expert verbal foreplay. He drifts close to the point, then tacks away. He nods and winks, rhetorically and literally. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many preachers talk exactly like Mister Organ.
“Because of their unbelief, they were broken off,” Mortlock says, of Jews. “They didn't recognise the Messiah.” He suggests any efforts to bring peace to the conflict — like the desperate calls from numerous nations and organisations for a ceasefire — are doomed.
“There’s only one solution to the Middle East. Man doesn’t have that solution. There's only one who can bring peace to the Middle East. I’m talking about the Prince of Peace. I’m talking about Jesus,” Mortlock says, skipping over the bits where his version of Jesus nukes six billion people as part of the peace process. Mortlock dances in rhetorical circles, careful not to make explicit any beliefs that might see him decried as a genocide enthusiast. He plants his seeds, and watches them grow in the minds of his audience.
Other New Zealand preachers Webworm readers might recognize have been much more blunt. “Bishop” Brian Tamaki, the leader of Destiny church, put out a press release.
“Israel’s current show of military strength should not be condemned by any of us. It’s completely proportionate and understandable,” simps Tamaki. “After 9/11 we all accepted that the US needed to respond with military force and eradicate the ISIS (sic) terrorists. Why is there not the same understanding of Israel’s military response, which in all honesty has been measured and humane?”
Mortlock draws from the same well, but he’s more careful. He says that his flock should pray for Palestinians. There’s always the hope they will accept Christ in the moments before an Israeli bomb pulps them.
“Do you know that many Muslims and Jews right now are having a revelation, dreams, visions of Jesus?” Mortlock asks, rhetorically. “I’ve read many testimonies about it.”
For these believers, only the return of Jesus can bring a lasting end to conflict. After the Tribulation, Christ will “rule with an iron rod,” for 1000 years. Hooray!
The only problem is that, according to their creative interpretation of ancient Bible prophecy, there are a few worldly prerequisites for Jesus’s return.
Like in so many other mythologies, one of them is is a magic cow.
The Water of Cleansing
There are plenty of Christian Zionists in the world. By some estimates, there are 30 million in the US alone. And many of them share the belief that they can help nudge Jesus’s return closer.
According to many Christian Zionist interpretations of prophecy (they can vary quite a lot, to the point that different CZ groups sometimes publicly denounce each other) Christ’s return requires the following ingredients:
Israel must exist as a nation
The Jewish Temple must be rebuilt
The original Jewish priesthood must be restored and begin sacrifices at the Temple
That’s where the cow comes in.
Priests must be ritually pure before Temple sacrifice can resume. The only way to become ritually pure, as described in Numbers 19, is to procure “a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke.” The heifer must be slaughtered, and its “hide, flesh, blood and intestines” must be burned. The ashes are taken and mixed with water, and the resulting slurry is called The Water Of Cleansing.
The problem? Red heifers are rare. Red heifers “without blemish” essentially don’t exist.
This, realised a Texan cattle breeder and preacher named Clyde Lott, was his moment.
“God always sent to Israel, at the time she needed it, the man with the red heifer,” Lott told the New Yorker. He made contact with the Temple Institute, a “private organisation of religious Jews in Jerusalem” who are dedicated to rebuilding the Temple, and are also producing Temple furniture to its exact Biblical specifications.
None of the red heifers have worked out. They have, it seems, an inconvenient habit of growing black hairs, or white tails. Still, Lott’s gesture seems to have sparked a red heifer race. Since Lott reached out in the 90s, there have been Indiegogo funding campaigns, and other cattle breeders have begun work.
In 2022, the Boneh Israel organisation — an alliance between Christian and fundamentalist Jewish Zionists — sent five “perfectly red heifers” to Israel.
Even if the heifers are found to be suitably blemish-free, rebuilding the temple is going to be tricky. One of Islam’s holiest sites, the Dome of the Rock mosque, currently occupies the site.
And for Christian Zionists, there’s another problem. Many believe that for prophecy to be truly fulfilled, it’s not enough for Israel to merely exist. It has to be Greater Israel, a state either comprising Israel’s “historical” borders, or the land promised to Abraham by God to his descendants.
Inconveniently, there are quite a few people in the way.
They are the Palestinians, and they’ve been living there for a long time.
But for Christian Zionists, that’s nothing in the face of God’s divine plan.
The Time Lord
“And all the pre-trib people, we better hurry up. I don’t know, this could be something significant. This is what the Bible prophesied about the war of the end times when nations would surround Israel. We’re seeing it unfold,” says a visibly excited Pastor Mortlock. He paces and exhorts. The signs and the seasons are clear. The rapture, he says, is coming soon.
“Jesus said ‘that generation will not pass away.’” Mortlock enthuses. “If you listen to my podcast I’ve just put up, I’ve shared what a biblical generation could be.”
“Christian Zionists read the future as history,” says academic Tristan Sturm, in his paper God’s Just Gaza War.
American Christian Zionists [justify] the war through colonial imaginings of terra nullius in three ways:
1) by denying that Palestinians exist as a legitimate national identity;
2) by denying the Palestinians’ ability to reason; and
3) prophetic inevitability.
Gaza is therefore interpreted as God’s land, and the demise of Gazans – present and future – is not only anticipated and preempted, but will have (already) happened.
For Jewish Zionists, despite the knowledge that Christian Zionists see them as pieces to be saved or sacrificed on a divine chessboard, this attitude is helpful. Christian Zionists send money and aid to Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and they agitate for Greater Israel.
They are an enormous, hugely influential political and financial force. “[T]he many millions in the United States and elsewhere, Christian friends of Israel, you are always there for us,” says Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. “We have no better friends on earth than you.”
Israel’s Likud party, led by Netanyahu, has Greater Israel at its core. “Between the Sea and the Jordan there will only be Israeli sovereignty,” the party’s founding charter states.
Pastor Peter Mortlock is, at last, concluding his sermon. He talks about watching The Notebook with his wife Bev. If he were to die, that’s how he’d like to go, holding hands with her. But he’d prefer it — as the prophecies he preaches predict — that Jesus raptured him first. “If Jesus saves us a hassle and takes us up, we’ll be more than happy about that.”
There’s nothing that fundamentalist Christians want more. They believe the globe-spanning summoning spell is almost complete, that their God-Emperor is coming soon, with catastrophic violence and death in his wake. “We are quite possibly going to see the outbreak of World War III as more and more countries pick a side,” says Brian Tamaki. He won’t be around to see it, of course. He, and millions of other Christian Zionists, are sure God will have taken them up.
It’s like they’re in a giant video game, watching the death count rack up until they can become invincible and summon the big boss.
“Nobody here should be in a march for Palestine. You don’t know what you’re marching for,” says Pastor Morlock, making his point at last. “And it’s not a matter of taking sides. I don’t want to take sides and things, but I will take the side of God and I will be against the devil.”
And with that, his sermon is done.
At the time of writing, most reputable sources estimate that at least 10,000 Gazan Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli bombardment.
The United Nations reports that over 4,000 of them are children.
By the time you read this, there will be more.
I wanted to add a personal note before closing. While Christian Zionism is a widespread belief amongst Christians, it’s far from universal. There are many Christian organisations that decry both the cruel Hamas attacks and the vicious Israeli retaliation and collective punishment of civilians. (There are, in fact, plenty of Christians in the Palestinian population.)
And belief in weird prophecies is entirely optional for Christians.
“Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called the Sons of God”
— Matthew 5:7—9.
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