Endorsement of Israel Emerges as a Crucial Subject Among Iowa’s Evangelical Voters in the Upcoming Republican Caucuses

by Michael Nguyen
Iowa evangelical support for Israel

Gazing from under his baseball cap, Steve Rowland addressed an audience of approximately 500 at the Rising Sun Church of Christ in the suburban area of Altoona, Des Moines.

A mere three days had passed since a Hamas-led attack resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Israeli civilians. In Iowa, a state where evangelical Christians significantly influence the inaugural Republican presidential caucuses, Rowland, along with other religious leaders, is conveying a message designed to resonate both from a theological and a political standpoint.

“The malevolence we witness in that area is undisputed,” Rowland declared. “Israel has deployed its military with the aim of eradicating this evil, and our moral responsibility lies in supporting them. That is my stance as a spiritual guide.”

Based on interviews with an array of conservative activists in Iowa, backing Israel has escalated to a paramount concern for evangelical voters as the kickoff Republican presidential caucuses draw near, now just under three months away. While opposition to abortion has long been a mobilizing force for Christian conservatives, the recent hostilities involving Hamas and Israel’s subsequent actions have increased the urgency for Republican candidates to align not just with typical party stances on Israel, but also with doctrinal beliefs based on biblical texts.

Certain Christians endorse Israel because the Old Testament claims that the Jews are the chosen people of God and that Israel is their rightful homeland. Among evangelicals, some hold the view that Israel’s significance is tied to a prophetic scenario that will usher in the return of the Christian savior.

Following the October 7 attack, there has been heightened scrutiny of candidates’ pronouncements on Israel among Iowa’s evangelical ministers and caucus-goers. High-profile GOP candidates have framed the issue in unequivocal terms and criticized President Joe Biden for perceived leniency toward both Hamas and Iran, a nation known for financially and logistically supporting the group.

In a recent interview during her Iowa tour, Nikki Haley, the former Governor of South Carolina and UN ambassador, commented, “We are in an existential battle between good and evil. We require a leader possessing the ethical clarity to differentiate between the two.”

Former President Donald Trump continues to dominate the polls in Iowa, drawing large, enthusiastic crowds comprising mainly ardent Christian conservatives. However, his recent criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the Hamas attack, as well as his comments regarding Hezbollah, an Iran-sponsored militant organization, have caused some discomfort among conservative activists.

While Trump’s record on Israel has received praise—most notably for relocating the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognizing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights—his stance on other conservative priorities like abortion and immigration continues to be scrutinized.

Daniel Hummel, author of “Covenant Brothers: Evangelicals, Jews, and U.S.-Israeli Relations,” posits that GOP support for Israel now serves as a surrogate for other conservative concerns, particularly immigration. The topic of whether the U.S should admit refugees from Gaza remains a point of contention among evangelical voters.

Religious leaders, as well as some politicians like South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have explicitly connected U.S. relations with Israel to Christian doctrinal beliefs. For a segment of this voter base, support for Israel is also influenced by eschatological considerations, often stemming from fear of prophesized end-times events.

Thus, as the Republican caucuses in Iowa approach, the Israel issue emerges not just as a foreign policy concern but as an integral part of a complex nexus involving religious beliefs, party loyalties, and national security considerations.

Contributions to this report were made by Big Big News writer Tiffany Stanley in Washington.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Iowa evangelical support for Israel

What is the main focus of the evangelical voters in the upcoming Republican caucuses in Iowa?

The main focus for evangelical voters in Iowa has recently shifted to support for Israel, particularly following the latest hostilities involving Hamas and Israel. This support is influenced by both political considerations and theological beliefs.

Why has support for Israel become a priority among Iowa’s evangelicals?

Support for Israel has become a priority due to the recent attack by Hamas on Israel, which resulted in significant civilian casualties. The situation has heightened scrutiny of political candidates’ stances on Israel, and has also resonated with theological beliefs held by evangelicals.

What are the theological reasons for this support?

Some evangelicals are influenced by Old Testament writings that designate Jews as God’s chosen people and Israel as their rightful homeland. Others see Israel as key to fulfilling end-times prophecy that will lead to the return of the Christian messiah.

How have GOP candidates responded to this shift in focus?

GOP candidates like Nikki Haley and former President Donald Trump have been clear in framing the Israel-Hamas conflict as a battle between good and evil. They have also criticized the current administration for not taking a tough enough stance on Hamas and Iran.

Are evangelical voters in Iowa unanimous in their support for Israel?

No, evangelical voters in Iowa are not monolithic in their views. While many strongly support Israel for theological and political reasons, there are differing opinions on related issues, such as whether the U.S. should admit refugees from Gaza.

What other issues have been affected or linked to the Israel-Hamas conflict among conservatives?

Republican support for Israel has become a proxy for other conservative priorities, particularly immigration. The debate also extends to issues of national security, with some GOP leaders alleging that Hamas sympathizers could potentially cross the U.S. border.

What are the implications for GOP candidates in the upcoming Iowa caucuses?

Candidates will likely need to articulate clear and strong positions on Israel to appeal to evangelical voters, who hold significant sway in the Republican caucuses. Their stances will not only be evaluated based on political alignment but also on how well they resonate with evangelical theological beliefs.

More about Iowa evangelical support for Israel

  • Evangelical Voting Trends in Iowa
  • The Role of Religion in U.S. Politics
  • Recent Hamas-Israel Conflict
  • GOP Candidates on Israel
  • Theological Beliefs Influencing Politics
  • U.S. Immigration Policy and National Security Concerns
  • The Influence of Evangelicals in the Republican Party

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Mike O'Connell October 25, 2023 - 6:03 pm

so what happens if candidates don’t support Israel as much? They lose the evangelical vote entirely or what? Still a lot of issues to consider, right?

Jake Thompson October 26, 2023 - 2:56 am

Candidates gotta be careful here. Mess up on this issue and they might lose a huge voting block. It’s like walking on a tightrope now.

John Smith October 26, 2023 - 6:56 am

Really insightful article. Never realized how much the recent events in Israel have shaken up the priorities for evangelicals in Iowa. It’s like the political and the spiritual are all meshing together.

Sara Williams October 26, 2023 - 8:41 am

Wow, just wow. Can’t believe the sway this issue has on voting. People are complex, politics are complex, and this just layers it on. What will candidates do to win these votes?

Emily Davis October 26, 2023 - 10:15 am

This is eye-opening. I knew that Israel was important to some folks but didn’t know it could become a make-or-break issue in the Iowa caucuses. The times are changing, that’s for sure.


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