Support for Israel becomes a top issue for Iowa evangelicals key to the first Republican caucuses

by | Oct 25, 2023 | Religion

NEWTON, Iowa (AP) — Steve Rowland peered beneath the brim of his baseball cap and admonished the roughly 500 people at Rising Sun Church of Christ in the Des Moines suburb of Altoona.It had been three days since Hamas attacked Israel and killed hundreds of civilians. In Iowa, where evangelical Christians dominate the first-in-the-nation Republican presidential caucuses, Rowland and other pastors are delivering a message meant to resonate both biblically and politically.
“What we’re seeing in that region is pure evil,” Rowland said. “Israel has mobilized their army and they are intent on stamping out evil, and we should be behind them. That’s where we should be, and I want you to know that, as a pastor.”
Support for Israel has leapt to a top priority for evangelicals in the leadoff Republican presidential caucuses now less than three months away, according to interviews with more than a dozen Iowa conservative activists. While curbing abortion has for decades energized Christian conservatives like no other issue, the attack by Hamas and Israel’s response have put new pressure on Republican candidates to hew not just to traditional Republican support for Israel but to beliefs rooted in the Bible.
Some Christians support Israel due to Old Testament writings that Jews are God’s chosen people and that Israel is their rightful homeland. Some evangelicals believe Israel is key to an end-times prophecy that will bring about the return of the Christian messiah.
Since the Oct. 7 attack, Iowa’s evangelical pastors, faith leaders and rank-and-file caucus participants have been looking more closely at candidates’ statements, while ministers urge their congregations to keep those positions top-of-mind when weighing their options. Several GOP contenders have discussed the conflict in …

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