Til Kingdom Come, an Israeli documentary about American Evangelicals, opens with a pastor in the backwoods of Kentucky lauding U.S. President Donald Trump — while loading a hunting rifle.
This sets the scene — and the tone — of a documentary, which premiered on Israel's Kan 11 on Wednesday, about the American Evangelical relationship with Israel. Though the narrator offers no outright opinion, the footage portrays Evangelicals as dogmatic right-wingers, pro-gun, sometimes unhinged, typically southern Americans, obsessed with Israel and preoccupied with end-times prophecy. It also credits them with electing Trump, filmmaker Maya Zinshtein says.
But one Orthodox Jew who works with Christians told All Israel News that the portrayal of Christians — both American and Palestinian — in this documentary is far from his own experience.
“The Christians I know are pro-Israel, not like the Palestinian Christian in Bethlehem, and are less flamboyant in church, unlike the pastor from Kentucky,” said Gidon Ariel, co-founder of Root Source an organization of Orthodox Jews who teach Christians.
The documentary explores the Evangelical theology as it relates to Israel and the complicated relationship that Christians have with Orthodox Jews and the State of Israel — and vice versa. Some Israelis refuse to take donations from Evangelicals fearing that Christians are using the money to convert Jews to Christianity.
However, much of the focus was given to Orthodox Jews who have fostered ties to Evangelicals, specifically the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews founded by the late Yechiel Eckstein. His daughter Yael, who took over leadership of the organization after her father passed away in 2019, admits that much of what she hears preached in churches doesn’t sit well with her. But she keeps it at a distance.
“When you get five steps ahead it gets complicated, that’s why I don’t go those five steps,” she told the interviewer.
Eckstein, visiting the Binghamton Baptist Church in Kentucky, left with a $25,000 donation, however, and encouraged the congregants that because of their generosity, the destinies of the Jewish people and their church are intertwined.
“You have declared, ‘We’re standing with life, we’re standing with light, we’re standing with God,” she said as congregants roared their approval.
Throughout the documentary, prominent Evangelicals such as Pat Robertson, John Hagee and Johnnie Moore are interviewed while footage of the annual Christians United For Israel conference, the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem and Trump’s announcement in D.C. of the “Deal of the Century” for Middle East peace is highlighted. Images of these events focus on the high number of Evangelicals in attendance.
“We had our seat at the table,” Moore said at the White House event. “The plan reflects that.”
Moore notes in another segment that America's 60 million or more Evangelicals are a major voting bloc and should be represented in government.
“We are taught to translate geopolitical realities through the lens of prophecy,” he said, and this is seen especially when it comes to Israel. “We absolutely believe this land was given by God to the people of Israel.”
The documentary shows how Evangelicals and Israeli “settlers” are pushing the same ideological agenda and marginalizing progressive Jews in American politics.
The Christian focus on prophecy, in particular how it relates to Israel, is given much attention throughout the show. In one clip, Hagee says God allowed the Holocaust in order to push Jews to the land of Israel so that prophecy could be fulfilled. And another preacher talks about an end-time battle in which Israel will be divinely protected.
“All the wealthy Jews are gonna know there’s a God in Israel and their hearts are going to turn to Israel… money will come in and then the third temple will be built,” the preacher says.
The Palestinian narrative also gets the spotlight. A priest from Bethlehem says the Evangelical approach to the land of Israel ignores millions of people who live there.
“It is as if you speak of an empty land,” the priest said. “We have been on the receiving end of a theology that says we don’t belong here, that we are second class citizens.”
At the Binghamton Baptist Church, the main church featured in the show, the congregants are “indoctrinated” — the word specifically used by the pastor — about Israel and the Jews. Young children donate their coins to the IFCJ.
“Their people, the Jews, are better than us, they’re better than all of us. You need to accept that,” Associate Pastor W. Boyd Brigham IV tells them.
Toward the end of the documentary, Brigham IV is again loading a hunting rifle and says, “We are God’s instruments for his end-time plans.”
The documentary ends with his father, Senior Pastor William Boyd Bingham III, addressing the Israeli interviewer and cameraman directly from the pulpit.
“I’ve been telling them about this Ezekiel battle, it’s coming … So, I’m gonna get them saved right now,” he continues.
The interviewer asks Bingham III what will happens to Jews like herself and Yael if they don’t accept Jesus and she asks him to address whether Christian-Jewish cooperation is hypocritical.
“You don’t want to hear me ... saying, ‘You blind, stupid, Jewish people … how can you be so blind because you’re just a little bit arrogant? Now you’re gonna go through the tribulation and get your tail busted … and that wacky preacher in Kentucky… he’s right! Why didn’t we see this before? Now we’ve been humbled.’”
Ariel told All Israel News that 99 percent of the Christians he interacts with do not speak like this and have even confided in him their uneasiness about the “fire and brimstone” talk. Ariel doesn’t shy away from tough conversations with Christians on points of disagreement. Despite differences in beliefs, Ariel said there is plenty on which to agree.
“While there are people and dynamics that are working against that relationship, there is much that is going for it, including, in my opinion, God,” he said.