Mosaic Magazine

Monthly Essay October 2013

Evangelicals and Israel

What American Jews Don't Want to Know (but Need to)

Evangelicals and Israel
  

At a time when the state of Israel lies under existential threat from jihadist Islam, and under ideological and diplomatic assault in foreign ministries, international organizations, churches, universities, editorial offices, and other circles of advanced Western opinion—and when even some Jews in the Diaspora seem to be growing disenchanted with the Zionist cause—millions of evangelical Christians unabashedly continue their outspoken, wholehearted, stalwart defense of both the Jewish state and the Jewish people.

By all rights, this rather stunning fact—the fact of a vibrant Christian Zionism—should encourage a welcoming response from beleaguered Jewish supporters of Israel. Instead, it has caused palpable discomfort, especially among Jewish liberals. Wary of ulterior religious motives, and viewing evangelicals as overly conservative in their general outlook on the world, such Jews either accept the proffered support with a notable lack of enthusiasm or actively caution their fellow Jews against accepting it at all. To many, the prospect of an alignment with evangelicals, even one based on purely tactical considerations, seems positively distasteful. Very few have attempted to penetrate the evangelical world or to understand it in any substantive way.

This is a pity, for many reasons. It is also a serious strategic error. For the reality is that today’s Christian Zionism cannot be taken for granted. For one thing, not all evangelicals do support Israel. For another, more alarming thing, a growing minority inside the evangelical world views the Jewish state as at best tolerable and at worst positively immoral, a country that, instead of being supported on biblical grounds, should be opposed on those same grounds.

Jewish supporters of Israel who view evangelicals monolithically may judge this latter development to be a matter of little significance. I would argue otherwise. A debate is beginning to take hold within the evangelical world, and the Jewish future will be greatly affected by how it unfolds.

 

1. Getting Personal

As a Christian who often finds himself working among Jews, I am accustomed to people being fascinated by my background and interrogating me at length on this or that point of doctrine. But even among my Jewish friends I am constantly struck by the profound lack of understanding of evangelical Christianity and of the factors behind Christian Zionism.

My own odyssey into the Jewish world started nine years ago when, impelled by a convergence of religious and political concerns, I approached the cantor of a local synagogue and asked for help in the finer points of modern Hebrew. Caught completely off guard by this request from a devout Baptist, he said he would have to sleep on it. Whatever he struggled with that night I don’t know, but the next day he readily agreed to take me on; for the next two years, we met twice a week in the synagogue library to pore over Hebrew texts and discuss Jewish language, Jewish faith, and the history of the Jewish people.

Although he never said so explicitly, the cantor’s first instinct was to be suspicious of my motives. He had heard about evangelical Christians who “loved” Israel, but like most Jews he found the subculture puzzling and bizarre. Still, during the many hours we spent together I believe he came to understand me, to appreciate my interest, and to comprehend the sincerity of my faith and my intentions. When our two years ended and I went on for a degree in Jewish studies, he expressed confidence that I would one day prove a “blessing” to the Jewish people.

As was borne in on me in the ensuing years, the cantor’s initial wariness was typical. And it could hardly have been otherwise. The fact that people bearing the name of Christ had spent centuries demonizing the Jewish people and shedding Jewish blood placed the burden squarely on me to justify myself and explain my intentions.

“Can there be a greater stumbling block than Christianity?” Maimonides asks in his Mishneh Torah:

All the [biblical] prophets spoke of the messiah as the redeemer of Israel and their savior who would gather their dispersed and strengthen their observance of the commandments. In contrast, Christianity caused the Jews to be slain by the sword, their remnants to be scattered and humbled, the Torah to be altered, and the majority of the world to err and serve a god other than the Lord.

For centuries, Maimonides’ attitude was shared by Jews wherever they lived in Christendom. Even when not sequestered in ghettos or compelled to wear identifying marks on their clothing, their marginal status in Christian society precluded significant interaction between the two communities. The suggestion of Jewish-Christian cooperation on anything but the most trivial matters of daily existence would have seemed not only absurd but almost unthinkable.

Even today, when so much has happened to alter the terms of this status quo—most dramatically, the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948—memories of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and innumerable pogroms and persecutions have not dimmed; nor should they. Today’s religiously observant Jews tend to share Maimonides’ concern that excessive contact with Christianity is a “stumbling block” to traditional Jewish life. For their part, secular Jews are worried about what they see as the encroachments of evangelical Christians, with their irrational and provincial prejudices, into the American public sphere. How can one fraternize or collaborate with such people? Even in furtherance of a noble cause, as a Jewish woman of my acquaintance memorably phrased it, the idea feels “icky.”

My purpose here is not to polemicize in favor of a Jewish-evangelical partnership on every social issue. The two sides disagree on a fair number of things, and neither side should be ashamed of its position. My purpose instead is to inform. What do evangelicals really think about the Jewish people, what are the roots of Christian Zionism—and what is now driving growing numbers of evangelicals to change their minds about the Jewish state?

 

2. Defining a Movement

Set aside media stereotypes of evangelicals as ignorant backwoodsmen, loud-mouthed bigots, maniacal Jesus-zombies bent on taking over the world, one-dimensional drones who, when they are not worshiping the criminal state of Israel, live to demonstrate outside abortion clinics and block the rights of gay people. The reality, needless to say, is far more complex—so complex, that it defies easy explanation.

Scholars who study the evangelical community quickly discover just how atomized and amorphous it is, dispersed around the globe under the authority of no single denomination, without a single statement of faith shared by all or a pope or patriarch to whom all look for guidance. Many labeled as evangelicals don’t even refer to themselves by that term, at least not in defining their primary religious identity.

Historically, evangelicalism grew out of the Protestant Reformation, which shook the Christian world in the 16th and 17th centuries as groups of European Christians separated themselves from the Roman Catholic Church. Basing themselves on their reading of the biblical text, then newly available in vernacular languages, these Christians denounced Catholicism as a bastardized and corrupt version of the apostolic church portrayed in the New Testament.

Originally, the term “evangelical” (from the Greek word signifying the bringer of good news) served as a label for these non- or anti-Catholic Christians, who set about to create new and “purified” churches. Later, it came to be applied to the movement of religious awakening that swept across Britain and America in the 18th century, a movement that owed its energy to a combination of Puritanism, pietism, and revivalism.

Today, the global evangelical population numbers somewhere around 300 million people scattered across every continent. While most live in developing countries, the United States remains the movement’s traditional center. Yet even here, defining it proves difficult. The Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College in Illinois offers three distinct contemporary uses of the term. The first denotes the large swath of Christians who subscribe to four key doctrinal points; the second refers to an organic network of movements and religious traditions; the third signifies a coalition of churches and institutions. For its part, the Barna Group, an evangelical polling firm, has identified no fewer than nine criteria to capture the profile of Christians who adhere to the evangelical way of life more than just nominally. Others have their own criteria.

Given the elasticity of the term, it’s no wonder that estimates of the number of evangelicals in the United States vary greatly. In its latest survey, the Gallup organization concludes that those identifying themselves as “born again” or evangelical comprise fully 41 percent of the national population, or roughly 128 million Americans. The Wheaton College estimate is lower—90 to 100 million—while the Barna Group, which excludes mere “cultural evangelicals,” claims that only 20 million or fewer Americans meet the strict nine-point test.

Moving away from this muddle, I would propose a simpler and more normative description that starts from the word “evangelical” itself, with its announcement of “good news”: a concept translated into Old English as godspel and into the English of the King James Version of the Bible as gospel. This one word contains the central thrust of all evangelical belief: namely, the good news of Jesus Christ’s salvific death and resurrection by means of which believers can obtain forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and citizenship in the kingdom of God. Evangelicals are those Christians who believe in the truth of this message as the only hope for the human soul, and who deny that heaven can be reached in any other way.

By this criterion, no one can be born a Christian in evangelical belief: everyone must come to Jesus individually of his own volition, making a profession of faith based on a genuine conviction of the truth of Jesus’ messiahship. This also explains why, more so than the members of almost any other branch of Christianity, evangelicals share a profound attachment to the textual world of the Bible. For the evangelical, the Bible is more than just a “good book”; it is the literal and inspired word of God, written by prophets who were moved by the holy spirit and preserved through the ages by the hand of divine providence. To evangelicals, the Bible is the blueprint of the cosmos, the framework of history, and the answer to all of life’s mysteries. Only the Bible—not a priesthood or a church hierarchy—can assert authority over the Christian.

Evangelicals likewise share a commitment to spreading the good news that they have been blessed to hear. Not content to practice their faith for an hour on Sunday mornings, they not only strive to infuse every aspect of their lives with the aura of the good news but take literally Jesus’ words to “go into all the world and preach the gospel.” This does not emanate from some prideful impulse to impose their religion on others but from a sincere concern for human souls and a deep love for the “lost”: those who, for whatever reason, have never heard the word. But—to repeat—evangelicals emphatically do not believe that faith can be coerced, or that baptism can somehow confer the power of salvation; Jesus must be chosen voluntarily and out of genuine faith.

A subtler but no less central tenet of evangelical belief is that history itself is pre-written and God-directed. A story neither of endlessly recurring cycles nor of linear and infinite progress, history is instead the acting-out of a cosmic epic in which God reveals Himself to man and works to reconcile the gap between heaven and earth. This, for evangelicals, is the essence of Christianity: the story of a God who loves His creatures so much that He sent a redeemer to atone for their sins and restore them to the divine communion that was lost at Eden.

This story has discrete players. It has a plot. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Most importantly, from the Jewish perspective, it has a nation, a chosen nation, upon whom the rest of the story turns. And here we come to how it is that, by and large, evangelicals support the state of Israel.

 

3. Christian Zionism

The Zionist bent in Protestantism has been evident for centuries, and goes back (as we shall see) to the very earliest days of the Reformation. Today’s evangelicals are the direct heirs of that tradition. Thanks to their literal reading of Scripture, they see Israel as a nation chosen by God to play a unique role in history.

But is this really all there is to it? Many find that hard to credit; utterly baffled by the phenomenon of Christian Zionism, they search instead for other, darker explanations. Of these, the most common is that, desperately craving the end of the world as a prelude to their own final salvation, evangelicals need the state of Israel in place for the predicted bloodbath in the battle of Armageddon. For this reason, the story goes, evangelicals will do everything in their power to ensure that Israel retains its foothold in the Middle East, no matter what. Yet once the appointed end does come, believing Christians (in this scenario) will be miraculously evacuated to heaven while Jews will be slaughtered in a horrific holocaust. The few survivors will then be converted to Christianity en masse.

Not surprisingly, this rendition of evangelical eschatology raises Jewish hackles. “What would Theodor Herzl have said,” thunders one critic, “about Jews supporting Christian homophobes who think Jews must ultimately either convert or burn in hellfire and Armageddon?”

There is no denying an eschatological element in the approach of many evangelicals to Israel—and a minority, emphasizing apocalyptic themes, does try to calculate the exact date and time of the second coming of Jesus. But the reality bears no resemblance to the portrait of cardboard-cutout Jesus freaks itching for the annihilation of the Jews and using them as pawns in their apocalyptic game.

The first and perhaps the most important thing to note here is the significance of Israel within evangelical thought as a whole and not just in, as it were, the final chapter. Evangelicals believe that God chose the biblical people of Israel as His vehicle for world redemption, an earthly agent through whom He would accomplish his grand plan for history. Why did God choose Israel? Not because of any innate virtue or genius they may have possessed, but because He had made a covenant with their patriarch, Abraham, based on the latter’s demonstrated faith and devotion.

Although, in the evangelical account, there were and are many aspects to Israel’s divine mission, preeminent among them was the task of birthing the messiah: the same person, Jesus, whose messiahship was then repudiated by most Jews. Those who did accept him became known as Christians, and their good news eventually spread to the non-Jewish nations as well. Meanwhile, those who did not accept him were subsequently conquered by the Romans and scattered to all corners of the earth in accordance with the prediction of Moses long before. With the destruction of the Temple and the end of the sacrificial system, ancient Jewish religion morphed into rabbinic Judaism and survives until the present day.

Over the centuries, Christians in general have debated whether Jews still have a role in history after their rejection of Jesus. Some have denied it, affirming instead that the Christian church constitutes the “true Israel,” superseding and replacing the Jews in God’s favor. These “supersessionist” Christians are not Zionists; far from it. By contrast, many of the early Reformers and most modern evangelicals believe that the nation of Israel and the Jewish people still retain their position as the apple of God’s eye. Despite Jewish unbelief in Jesus, the Jewish people are covenanted to God and will never be completely cast away. Christians who believe this tend to be Zionists.

Part of God’s covenant with the Jewish people involved bringing them back from exile and setting them once again in their own land. Since the 16th century, and despite the sheer improbability of the idea, Protestant writers spoke of a Jewish ingathering and sometimes actively promoted it. When the Zionist movement proper began in the late 19th century, and especially after the Jewish state was founded in 1948, this unlikely prophecy seemed to many to be coming true before their very eyes. Although not all Christians embraced the new state, the vast majority of evangelicals became immediate supporters; one of them was President Harry Truman, a Baptist.

Most evangelicals also believe that the ingathering of the Jews is the first stage in the second coming: the moment when Jesus will return to earth not as a humble servant but as a conquering king to establish his righteous rule in Jerusalem and restore the nation of Israel to its favored place for a millennium. Evangelicals differ over the sequence of events that will precede this occurrence. Many believe that true Christians will be “raptured,” or taken out of the earth, before the onset of a seven-year period of chaos that culminates in the second coming and its thousand-year aftermath. This approach, known by the cumbersome term of “premillennial dispensationalism,” holds broad appeal but is hardly unchallenged.

What of the much-hyped mass conversion of the Jews? Many evangelicals do believe that, just prior to the second coming, thousands of Jews will accept Jesus as the messiah they have been waiting for. But these Jews will be making a voluntary choice—they will not be “converted” by anyone, let alone against their will—and will not be “converting” at all in the classic sense. That is, they will not become Christians; they will be Jews who believe in Jesus as their messiah. At this point in history, the old forms of organized religion—churches, baptisms, Sunday schools, even synagogues—will, along with pretty much everything else, be completely transformed, as befits the commencement of a supernatural kingdom on earth.

Clearly, the problem with explaining all of Christian Zionism on the basis of eschatology is that not all evangelicals agree on the details or even believe it to be true. Furthermore, while eschatology itself generates much study and sermonizing, it is hardly the overriding or even the preponderant focus of evangelical belief. In 2011, a groundbreaking Pew survey of over 2,000 world evangelical leaders found 48 percent agreeing that the state of Israel was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy relating to the second coming of Jesus and 42 percent disagreeing. Among U.S. evangelical leaders, the split was roughly the same. As for rank-and-file American evangelicals, an earlier Pew survey found three-fifths believing that Israel was prophetically significant—but to this day, no clear consensus has been reached on what is entailed in that belief.

The upshot? In citing eschatology as a motivation for Christian Zionism, one can prudently say only that most evangelicals believe that the ingathering of the Jewish people to their historic homeland is connected in some way to biblical prophecy.

 

But if eschatology isn’t the real basis for most Christian Zionism, what is? Put simply, it’s the belief in the truth of God’s eternal covenant with the nation of Israel. When asked in the 2011 Pew survey if God’s covenant with the Jewish people continues today, 73 percent of world evangelical leaders, including 67 percent of the Americans, answered positively. Most rank-and-file evangelicals agree. After all, the main theme throughout the Bible is God’s abiding love for and faithfulness to His people no matter how often they disappoint Him. Again and again in Scripture, evangelicals see Israel falter only to be raised up by the loving hand of God who still intends to keep His promises with them and to guide them toward an expected end.

In brief, evangelicals love Israel because God loves Israel. But there is also another way of putting it. For evangelicals, Israel’s mistakes are representative of their own mistakes as imperfect individuals in need of God’s grace. They are comforted by the fact that God remains faithful to Israel; it means that God remains faithful to them.

And this relates to another point. Though it may surprise most Jews, evangelicals feel not only a strong sense of protectiveness toward the state of Israel but a deep cultural affinity with the Jewish people. It is not just that they are well versed in the Hebrew Scripture and its values. More importantly, as convinced Protestants, evangelicals tend to bypass the period of church history between the apostles and the Reformation—more than a thousand years of Christian corruption and paganism, as they see it—and look for inspiration not to Origen or Aquinas but to the heady days when all Christians were, in fact, Jews. In returning to the roots of their faith, they often feel closer to Jewish culture than to other branches of Christianity. Some go the extra mile to don a kippah, observe Passover, or celebrate a bar mitzvah.

Nor is that all. Evangelicals are eager to show Jews that they are not like other Christians by whom the Jewish people were mercilessly persecuted in history. To the contrary, they feel a religious obligation to protect Jews and minister to their material needs. American evangelicals in particular hope to use their influence to ensure that violence against Jews doesn’t happen on their watch.

Lest this make evangelical impulses sound wholly altruistic, I should also note the element of self-interest at work. Believing that God will “bless those who bless” the children of Abraham and “curse those who curse” them, many evangelicals refrain from criticizing Jews or the state of Israel for fear of getting on the wrong side of God. Looking back at the Jewish people’s historic enemies, they note that all, to a one, have met their doom. Indeed, many evangelicals see American prosperity as bound up directly with America’s benign treatment of Jews and strong support of Israel. A common refrain in evangelical churches goes something like: “America will be fine so long as we don’t go against the Jews.”

Of course there are other, not necessarily “Christian,” reasons why evangelicals (like other Americans) support Israel. Shared ethical and moral foundations; the feeling of kinship between two settler democracies with a sense of their own exceptionalism; the impulse to partner against enemies of the democratic West and especially, these days, against radical Islam; the urge to protect against a second Holocaust—one doesn’t need to be evangelical to have these feelings. But evangelicals have them intensely.

Despite what some may think, then, Christian Zionism is far more than an outgrowth of prophetic eschatology. It is an amalgamation of several strongly-held beliefs and principles that, taken together, cause millions of evangelicals wholeheartedly to endorse the continued sovereignty of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

And yet, unfortunately, that is not the whole story.

 

4. Evangelical Anti-Zionism

While many if not most evangelicals embrace the main tenets of Christian Zionism, a growing movement advocates, at a minimum, neutrality on Israel and, at a maximum, overturning the hegemony of Christian Zionism once and for all.

Evidence is apparent in the 2011 Pew survey. Asked whether they side more with Israelis or with Palestinians, about 34 percent of evangelical leaders sided with Israel and 13 percent with the Palestinians; but a full 39 percent claimed equal sympathy for both sides. Among U.S. evangelical leaders, almost half, 49 percent, expressed equal sympathy for both sides, leaving 30 percent siding with Israel and (again) 13 percent with the Palestinians. In sum, a large number of evangelical leaders are, if not antagonistic, less than stalwart in their feelings for the Jewish state.

One factor at work here is the growing influence of Middle Eastern voices within evangelical Christianity. When the Middle Eastern subset of leaders was surveyed in 2011, only 14 percent sympathized with Israel, with 26 percent, almost twice as many, favoring the Palestinians and 43 percent claiming to favor both sides equally.

Visibly epitomizing this new Middle Eastern force is, of all places, the little town of Bethlehem. Here, in the historic birthplace of Jesus, a group of Palestinian Christians associated with the Bethlehem Bible College has been hosting high-profile “Christ at the Checkpoint” conferences that bring evangelical leaders from around the world to “reclaim the prophetic role in bringing peace, justice, and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel.” Underneath the lofty language, what this means in practice is unceasing criticism of perceived Israeli injustice, racism, and occupation, peppered with special disdain for evangelical Zionists who allegedly exacerbate the conflict by cheerleading Jewish oppression of Palestinians.

“Christ at the Checkpoint” conferences in 2010 and 2012 were hailed as resounding successes. The next conference, scheduled for March 2014, will feature Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary-general of the World Evangelical Alliance; Billy Wilson, president of Oral Roberts University; and Peter Kuzmic, a professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a well-known evangelical leader in Eastern Europe. Past speakers have included a variety of figures located on the evangelical Left, none of them a friend of Israel. Despite the abundance of trouble spots on God’s green earth, and the truly heinous activities of innumerable governments, this group of evangelicals has taken as its special mission the task of harshly chastising the democratic state of Israel.

The sheer strength of this new anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian movement came as something of a shock to me. Although I had heard of it in 2010, I didn’t sense its full scope until Hank Hanegraaff, a popular evangelical radio host, began heavily promoting a film entitled With God on Our Side: a scathing condemnation both of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians and of Christian Zionism. In addition to slickly edited close-ups of Israeli army checkpoints and interviews with Jewish Israel-bashers like Norman Finkelstein and Ilan Pappé, the movie features the voices of a number of respected evangelicals who speak against Christian Zionism in the name of Jesus. It has received positive endorsements from various luminaries, including the celebrity evangelical pastor Tony Campolo and the author Frank Schaeffer, the latter of whom hoped the movie would help signal “the beginning of the end of the largely unchallenged influence of Christian Zionism.”  

I came away from the film stunned by its systematic attack on the legitimacy of the state of Israel and, even more directly, its vicious hostility to Christian Zionists. In a trip to Israel earlier this year, I was able both to savor the good work done by Christian Zionism and to confront the arguments of its antagonists first hand.  

 

5. In Jerusalem and Bethlehem

Any Christian Zionist worth his salt has heard of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). This institution had its origins in 1980 when Israel’s legislature formally acknowledged the results of the June 1967 war by declaring the now “complete and united” city of Jerusalem as the nation’s capital. Immediately, the UN Security Council passed a resolution terming the law “null and void,” and those countries that had not already done so moved their embassies to Tel Aviv. But one group of evangelical Christians took precisely the opposite action. In establishing a new kind of embassy right in the heart of Jerusalem, they intended to show both their solidarity with Israel at a time of great diplomatic need and, more importantly, a face of Christianity that Israelis had never before seen.

Today ICEJ is the unchallenged spokesman of Christian Zionists in the land of Israel. Invoking the prophet Isaiah—“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God”—the staff understands its mission as ministering to the Jewish people and state by performing concrete acts of assistance and educating Christians on the biblical and political realities of the Holy Land. Over the years, ICEJ’s annual Sukkot festival has attracted many thousands of Christian tourists, Israeli citizens, and Israeli government leaders at a joyful celebration infused by the spirit of good will.

In some ways, ICEJ is more notable for what it is not. For one thing, it forswears any attempts at converting Jews. For another, unlike some other Christian entities in the city, it takes no direct interest in protecting sectarian holy sites or institutions. Instead, behaving like true diplomats, its officers and staff seek to identify common interests and forge avenues of partnership between Christian Zionists and the Jewish state.

ICEJ’s executive director, Jürgen Bühler, is a story in himself. His father, drafted as a young man into the Nazi Wehrmacht, was captured by Soviet forces and imprisoned in a work camp where for more than four years he labored on a farm, brought low by illness and crippling hunger. It was only by the grace of God and two Jewish benefactors—the one a doctor in the camp who saved him from near-fatal pneumonia, the other a nearby farmer who let him take potatoes—that he emerged alive. “When we were kids,” the younger Bühler related in a 2010 interview, “my father always told that story and said we should always remember this and be thankful to Jewish people.”

A research scientist by trade, Bühler first came to Israel in 1994 to work on a project at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. At the end of the project, enamored of his new home, he joined the staff of ICEJ full-time and has lived in Israel ever since.

Meeting with Bühler for over an hour, I interrogated him on the mission of ICEJ, the value of Christian Zionism, and the anti-Israel sentiments coming out of Bethlehem. At the end, I came away satisfied with and grateful for his expression of genuine and unconditional love for the Jewish people and their state; his emphatic denial that eschatology, or “end-times” thinking, was the driving force of evangelical support; his thoughtful warnings against some of the more militant brands of Christian Zionism; and his sympathy for the plight of ordinary Palestinians. When we touched on the views expressed by “Christ at the Checkpoint” and With God on Our Side, he maintained a diplomatic demeanor, saying little more than that this was an approach to Scripture “unfortunately colored by a strong sense of Palestinian nationalism.”

 

By this time, I had already been given a first-hand sampling of these anti-Zionist views in a visit with Alex Awad, the affable pastor of the East Jerusalem Baptist Church, a professor at the Bethlehem Bible College, and a prime organizer of “Christ at the Checkpoint.” A Palestinian and an American citizen (he married a woman from Kentucky), Awad believes strongly in expelling Christian Zionism from evangelical culture. Here are a few highlights of our interview, which took place in the college’s empty cafeteria in Bethlehem:

What is the problem with American evangelicals?

They are more interested in endorsing the state of Israel as God’s prophetic instrument than in calling out the injustices that are being done to the Palestinian people. The message of Christianity is a universal one that is not interested in ethnicity or territory. The new covenant ushered in by the coming of messiah made the old covenant obsolete.

Do you believe with most American evangelicals that the founding of the state of Israel was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy?

No one has a monopoly on the mind of God, so I can’t say that this interpretation of Scripture is wrong. However, all eschatology must match up with the moral and spiritual message of Christ. God would not say one thing here and do something else there. What happened in 1948 and 1967 was not moral, and I personally don’t believe it had any divine significance. Anyway, there doesn’t necessarily need to be a “state” of Israel for the re-gathering of the Jews to be fulfilled.

Do you believe, then, that Israel is an illegitimate state?

I believe that the way it was founded was illegitimate, yes. And immoral. I believe the same thing about the United States: just look at what happened to the Indians. But don’t misinterpret me. I don’t call for the destruction of Israel. Everyone should be able to live here in peace.

So what is your preferred solution?

One state would be ideal. It is the best choice for harmonious, ethical coexistence and one that accords with my own Christian values. However, if this dream is impossible, then I think two states is fine. In that case, I believe that Israel should be allowed to keep 78 percent of the land. The Israelis don’t think that’s enough and refuse to accept it.

I’ve recently read about Muslim persecution of Arab Christians in the Palestinian Authority, causing some Arab Christians to apply to Israel because it’s safer.

Israel doesn’t want them! Israel won’t let them in. But anyone here who feels that way is driven only by economic reasons. There is no persecution here. I live in peace with all my neighbors.

How are your own relations with the Palestinian Authority?

When Yasir Arafat was alive, I met with him four times. I haven’t yet met with [PA president] Mahmoud Abbas, but I did meet with [former prime minister] Salam Fayyad. I am impressed by both of them and their refusal to advocate violence.

Are you afraid that Hamas will take over the West Bank?

I am afraid of all radicals, whether Christians, Jews, or Muslims. Of course I don’t want Hamas here. But I am far more afraid of Christian fundamentalists than I am of Hamas.

Why is that?

Christian fundamentalists, by blindly supporting Israel, are destroying the church by tolerating and endorsing injustice. They are inhibiting the Christian mission in the Middle East. They are ensuring the continuance of Israeli oppression. The enemy within is usually much worse than the enemy without.

If I left Jürgen Bühler feeling satisfied and grateful, I left Alex Awad with a sense of foreboding—and precisely because his deep-grained bias against both Israel and Christian Zionism is so well cloaked in the beguilingly simple language of a longing for justice and peace. Articulated by a sincere Christian, amplified by guided tours of Israel’s separation barrier and army checkpoints, Awad’s calm, logical presentation would resonate, I felt, not only with the influential attendees of his conferences but far beyond. Its appeal would be especially strong among those American evangelicals who, knowing little about the actual history of the conflict, would be incapable of discerning either his distortions of evangelical teachings or his systematic falsifications of Israeli policy and conduct.

And so it has proved to be.  

 

6. The Ideological Landscape

To understand the rise of pro-Palestinian sentiment among some segments of American evangelicalism, it is necessary to take on board the success of the aggressive advocacy campaign launched by the Palestinian evangelical community itself—a success all the more remarkable given the recent arrival of that community on the evangelical scene.

Historically, the Arab Christian community in the Levant was made up of old liturgical sects like Latin and Greek Catholics and various Orthodox denominations along with a few Lutherans and Anglicans. The sudden appearance of evangelical Christianity in the second half of the 20th century, with Bethlehem Bible College as its intellectual and spiritual capital, took many by surprise and marked a decisive change.

This young community is to be admired in some ways. For one thing, Palestinian evangelicals are genuine in their faith. For another, being committed to non-violence, they have yet to produce any terrorists—thereby differentiating themselves from some other Arab Christian sects. Yet the soft-spoken manner of Alex Awad, the community’s “human face,” should not be allowed to disguise the fact that, as a whole, Palestinian evangelicals remain strident opponents of the Israeli presence and feel no compunction about shouting their discontent from the housetops. With some exceptions—Pastors Naim Khoury and his son Steven are the best known—the movement is hardly distinguishable from any other run-of-the-mill anti-Israel outfit, faithfully singing the refrains of racism, imperialism, and apartheid.

Among the themes embraced by Palestinian evangelicals, perhaps the most inventive has involved the recasting of Jesus as a Palestinian dissident unjustly crucified by the Jews under Roman “occupation.” This trope, often credited to Yasir Arafat, deliberately strips Jesus of his Jewishness (and, presumably, Israeli-ness) in order to turn him into a martyr/hero of the Palestinian cause. In the words of a Fatah adviser who writes a column under the name Adel Abd al-Rahman, “Jesus, may he rest in peace, is a Canaanite Palestinian. His resurrection, three days after being crucified and killed by the Jews . . . reflects the Palestinian narrative, which struggles against the descendants of modern Zionist Judaism, in its new colonialist form, that conspires with the Western capitalists who claim to belong to Christianity” (translation by Palestinian Media Watch). This fraudulent and grotesque construal, widely accepted among Palestinian evangelicals, has begun to penetrate Western evangelical circles as well.

The Bethlehem movement is also marked by a strong undercurrent of liberation theology: the doctrine originating among Latin American Catholics that reinterprets the words of Jesus as a rallying cry for contemporary revolutionary action. Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Anglican minister and head of the infamous Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, has rendered the entire conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as a reenactment of Roman Judea under the Emperor Tiberius, here in the person of the state of Israel. “During this Christmas season,” Ateek declared in December 2007,

as we reflect on the message of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, ” we can only understand it against the “peace” that Caesar gives . . . . Caesar’s peace enslaves and humiliates; God’s peace liberates and restores dignity to the oppressed. Caesar builds walls to separate people; God tears down the walls of separation to join, unify, and reconcile them one with the other. Caesar’s peace is exclusive for a chosen few; God’s peace is inclusive for all regardless of their race or ethnicity.

Similarly inflammatory is a screed by Sami Awad, executive director of the Holy Land Trust and son of former BBC president Bishara Awad. Writing in the mid-2000s at the height of the second intifada, and conspicuously declining to mention the devastating string of Palestinian suicide bombings then racking the streets of Israel and claiming the lives of countless citizens, Awad compared Israeli counterterrorism forces “invading” the West Bank with the soldiers sent by Herod to kill every boy under the age of two:

Herod had lied to the Wise Men . . .; [Ariel] Sharon lies to the world when he says that he wants to enter Bethlehem [and other Palestinian cities] in order to bring peace to the Palestinians and Israelis by rooting out “terrorist” cells and destroying them. The aim for both was to destroy hope, destroy peace, and destroy the future by creating more anger, more frustration, more hatred, and more violence.

Finally, in addition to liberation theology, the Palestinian evangelical movement draws deeply from the well of replacement theology or supersessionism. While common among Catholics and many mainline Protestants, this doctrine was largely a stranger to evangelicalism—until recently. Now, Palestinian evangelicals like Alex Awad, with his casually dismissive reference to the supposedly obsolete “old covenant” with the Jewish people, are doing their best to persuade the rest of the evangelical world of its verity, and they have been succeeding. Growing numbers now view Israeli sovereignty in the Middle East as illegitimate because unsupported by, and even contrary to, Scripture.

In our interview, Awad answered revealingly when I pointed to the historical consequences of supersessionist belief: namely, the millennia-old Christian contempt and hatred, mixed with scorn, for the allegedly banished Jewish people. He quickly rejoined: “I am not anti-Semitic whatsoever. God saved me from that long ago. The Jews are still special to God.” Then he added: “But so are all people. Sometimes I think replacement theology has a bad name and is misunderstood.”

 

If “Christ at the Checkpoint” and the other Palestinian initiatives form one major factor in the rise of anti-Israel sentiments among Western and especially American evangelicals, a second factor, no less influential, must also be brought into the picture. That factor is the growing liberalization of the American evangelical community itself—and especially of many of its young.

Whether and to what extent evangelical religion has been taking a left turn in recent years has been much debated in Christian media. Many of the movement’s leaders, alarmed by developments in their local communities, have warned against doctrinal drift among the young. Others have denied it, citing survey data to maintain that young evangelicals are actually more conservative than ever. Without entering into this by-now hoary debate, I submit that sizable parts of the evangelical community have indeed departed from a traditional understanding of their faith.

This exodus is no secret. Participants in the trend are hardly shy about their beliefs and ultimate goals, and sympathetic outsiders have been quick to notice and applaud them. Indeed, the “New Evangelicalism” has been heralded by progressive figures within the larger Christian community not as a turning away but as a restoration of the true essence of Christianity. Driving this move, one hears, is the desire to exemplify Jesus’ love for the world by breaking free of old stereotypes and knocking down the barriers between evangelicals and “mainstream” American culture.

Illustrative of the new trend has been the so-called emerging-church movement, whose followers are attracted by promises of a decentralized and de-institutionalized Christianity and the transformation of Christian life into an intensely individual, unstructured, and unsupervised experience. Among the first bedrock principles to be set aside is the inerrancy of Scripture. “The Bible,” writes Martyn Percy portentously in The Salt of the Earth: Religious Resilience in a Secular Age, “is no longer a principal source of morality, functioning as a rulebook. The gradualism of postmodernity has transformed the text into a guide, a source of spirituality, in which the power of the story as a moral reference point has superseded the didactic.”

On this account, the New Evangelicals, tired of the message of heaven, hell, and salvation preached by their parents, want nothing so much as to bring religion down to earth. But, predictably, the agenda turns out to be much more defined than that. As in all such tendencies, cultural and political attitudes intermix freely with religious and spiritual ones.

Thus, in a wildly popular book, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons sift a mountain of polling data to conclude that young evangelicals, just like their peers, find conservative Christianity to be “too anti-homosexual,” “too judgmental,” and “too political” for their taste. Waxing even more specific, the well-known evangelical figure Jim Wallis declares:

While most evangelicals are still “pro-life,” abortion is not their only concern. Not all are convinced that Republicans have the best answers to all the life issues. While most evangelicals are strongly committed to strengthening family life, not all think equal rights for gay and lesbian people are a threat to the family. Poverty reduction, immigration reform, a consistent life ethic, the care of environmental protection, a less militaristic foreign policy, and a deep commitment to racial and economic justice are all issues of concern.

Of course, many New Evangelicals would deny that they advocate an identifiably liberal or leftist approach to Scripture and traditional doctrine; in A New Evangelical Manifesto: A Kingdom Vision for the Common Good, Brian McLaren piously avers that it is “impossible to determine” what form “the current emergence of Christian faith will take.” But the evidence is plain. One telling example lies in the recent trend known as “Red-Letter Christianity,” promulgated largely by the evangelical superstar Tony Campolo. Seeking ostensibly to move beyond partisan politics by focusing on Jesus’ quoted words (commonly printed in red in Christian Bibles), this cherry-picking method inevitably ends up elevating verses like “turn the other cheek” over the more hard-nosed sections of Christian Scripture.

Love, tolerance, inclusiveness: these values are indeed anchored deep in the Christian tradition. But they tell only half the story. The Christian God is a God of love, but also a God of justice. In the New Evangelicals’ approach to social questions, the scale is permanently tilted to one side, elevating peace, non-violence, and a thinly-disguised utopianism as the core tenets of Christianity to the exclusion of everything else. By abandoning the belief in inerrant Scripture and embracing certain passages over others, the New Evangelicals become less attached to the biblical view of history, more abstract in their religious sensibilities, and more concerned with bettering the material world in accordance with principles of selection rooted transparently in contemporary secular politics.

 

To mainstream evangelicals, needless to say, the new progressivism is a looming disaster—and one with historical precedent. They point to the inroads made into Protestantism at the turn of the 20th century by the liberal-leaning theology that arose concomitantly with the so-called higher biblical criticism. The latter, denying the literal and inspired character of Scripture, transformed the Bible from a volume of revealed, objective truth into an anthology of subjective myth and allegory. In short order, old ideas about creation, salvation, and revelation went out the window, along with much else besides.

Armed with the new wisdom of the higher criticism, and inspired equally by the ideals of secular American progressivism, early-20th-century proponents of the “social gospel” movement discarded the timeworn Christian anticipation of a divine kingdom of righteousness and set out to construct that kingdom in the here and now. The aftershocks of this movement would enjoy a long life in American politics and religion, even as, in the fullness of time, the fatal infection of religion by secular politics would end by emptying the pews of congregants in many an established Protestant church—a lesson hardly lost on today’s evangelical leaders.

Crucially for our purposes, the teachings of the higher criticism also required a change in Protestant thinking about the Jews. In the eyes of the higher critics, it was not God but the ancient Israelites themselves who had written their own “deed” to the land of Canaan, “prophesied” their own chosenness, and set out to actualize their self-serving prophecies to the detriment of everyone else. It was with this in mind that the great Jewish scholar Solomon Schechter (1847-1915) was led to characterize the higher criticism as “the higher anti-Semitism.” Yet, hand in hand with the social-gospel or “social-justice” perspective, the anti-Jewish perspective of the higher criticism would go on to enjoy a long life in the established Protestant churches, enabling many liberal Christians to view the emergence of the state of Israel in 1948 as an act of selfishness committed by a demonstrably selfish people. Today, Protestants who read the Bible through the lens of the higher criticism frequently number among Israel’s most vocal opponents.

From the viewpoint of mainstream evangelicals, it is no coincidence that today’s New Evangelicals work enthusiastically to build partnerships with the less biblically-minded branches of Christianity; the two parties share an essential like-mindedness on this front as on others. Nor is it a coincidence that Christians who disbelieve in biblical inerrancy, hedge its meaning, or ignore its relevance in practice also tend to reject the starting premise of Christian Zionism: namely, the eternity of God’s promise to the Jews.

True, most evangelicals in the U.S. still adhere to the mainstream worldview, basing their support for Israel firmly on the Bible as the embodiment of God’s everlasting covenant with the people Israel. For them, the Bible predicts the destined journey of that people from catastrophic exile to miraculous return. These are not abstract concepts open to interpretation; they are living facts that entail spiritual, social, and political obligations in real time. But the majority enjoyed by this view is not nearly as strong as it once was. In fact, it may have peaked.

If that turns out to be the case, an animating factor will have been a conjunction no less fateful than the conjunction of early-20th-century political progressivism with the fruits of higher biblical criticism. Today’s version of that earlier amalgam is the merging of the Palestinian evangelical activists with the New Evangelicals in the United States. Given the currents of our age, it was probably inevitable that these two movements would find each other. Both, after all, want to raise the standard of “social justice,” upend old “hegemonies,” and recast evangelicalism in a new mold. And both factions have a common adversary in the form of Christian Zionism.

Indeed, in the United States, the same people leading the New Evangelical movement also promote the pro-Palestinian narrative; a representative example is the pastor Tony Campolo, a champion (as we have seen) both of “Red-Letter Christianity” and of the anti-Israel film With God on Our Side. Each year yields more books and op-eds by evangelicals blaming Christian Zionism for wreaking unspeakable havoc, and increasingly their voices are amplified by well-known academic institutions and media outlets. Meanwhile, the annual conferences of “Christ at the Checkpoint” continue to draw high-profile pastors, professors, and evangelical leaders from around the world to endorse and spread the anti-Israel message.

The bottom line is simply this: more and more American evangelicals are being educated to accept the pro-Palestinian narrative—on the basis of their Christian faith. Although Christian Zionists have mounted a heroic counteroffensive, it is not altogether clear that they have, or have yet developed, the proper tools to persuade young evangelicals of their position.

 

7. A Jewish Question

How does an obscure theological debate within Christianity relate to American Jews who are concerned for Israel and are at least open to evangelical support? And even if a sea change is actually taking place within evangelicalism, surely I can’t be suggesting that Jews should intervene?

To the latter question, my answer is no—and yes.

It goes without saying that Jews cannot weigh in theologically on the validity of one or another interpretation of Christianity. I have no expectation that a Jewish author will publish a book entitled Why Christian Zionism is a Correct Interpretation of the New Testament. I believe, however, that Jews should view this intra-Christian debate as relevant to them and react appropriately—that is, if they believe that the Jewish state is a precious thing that must be preserved at all costs. For such Jews, the strengthening of evangelical support should be a high priority. Retaining the support of this 300-million-strong global community is an imperative. If there is a way to help evangelicals help Israel, it should be found and followed.

 

The first step is, so to speak, mental. As I noted early on, for most Jews—conservative or liberal, religious or secular—the idea of partnering with evangelicals on any endeavor is by definition off-putting. Even where Israel is concerned, Jews have been more or less content to let evangelicals voice their support on their own, without significant interaction. But whatever the source of this mental block—religious, cultural, social, or more likely a combination of all three—Jews who are serious about strengthening Christian support for Israel must first open themselves to the idea that evangelicals may not be all that bad. Getting to know one is the best place to start.

Even more important than getting to know evangelicals is learning to respect their beliefs. Contrary to the popular image of mindless zealots or modern-day Crusaders, evangelicals are for the most part rather mild-mannered members of society. They have beliefs on which they will not bend, but those beliefs are drawn from a book that is arguably the source of all that is good in Western civilization. They enjoy speaking about their faith, but do not deem it possible or right to convert someone against his will. They prefer that their society embody traditional moral values, but have no desire to establish a theocracy. They possess a rich literary and cultural heritage, and have produced some of our nation’s greatest thinkers and leaders. In brief, evangelicals have a great deal to offer society and should be valued for their principled devotion to their convictions.

The second step is to extend a hand to those evangelical institutions and individuals who over the years have demonstrated a firm commitment to the state of Israel and the Jewish people. While evangelical support for Israel is hardly contingent on reciprocation, reciprocation would enable it to flourish still more vigorously. In its 2011 study, Pew found that although 82 percent of American evangelical leaders viewed Jews favorably, a whopping 42 percent felt that Jews were unfriendly to evangelicals, while most of the rest thought them indifferent at best.

Statistics, to be sure, go only so far, and the history of Jewish-Christian relations, among other things, has played a definite role in creating and sustaining the wary Jewish mindset. But the persistent disparity in the feelings of the two sides inhibits cooperation in areas of overlapping concern.

Extending a hand can mean any number of things, from strategic funding of pro-Israel evangelical organizations to simply contacting one’s local evangelical pastor and thanking him for the work he is doing. One would be surprised to see how far such seemingly small efforts can go. On the institutional level, one admirable initiative is the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation founded by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin in Efrat, Israel, which brings together rabbis and Jewish educators with Christian leaders, especially evangelicals, for the study of the Hebrew Bible.

A more programmatic approach would involve targeted educational programs on the fundamentals of Israeli history and society. Notwithstanding their devout attachment to the Zionist cause, most evangelicals are ignorant of even the most basic aspects of modern Israel. An instance close to home: just before their recent trip to Jerusalem, members of my church asked me where Israel was located on the map, what language Israelis spoke (a common guess was Arabic), and what religion they practiced (Islam?). Ask ten evangelicals about the significance of Theodor Herzl in the founding of modern Israel, and my guess is that no more than two could answer intelligently.

Not all evangelicals are so uninformed, but one should err on the side of the lowest common denominator. Even the most ardent Christian Zionist, raised to support Israel on the basis of biblical passages, is generally unequipped to respond to critics invoking the Balfour Declaration, UN Resolution 242, or Sabra and Shatila. Many young evangelicals have been induced to depart from Christian Zionism by a film like With God on Our Side or a college course on the Middle East where, in the face of a professor’s blatant certainties, their utter lack of knowledge frustrates any ability to defend their convictions or brings them to adopt the Palestinian narrative as the “truth” their parents never told them.

This is a Christian problem, one that must first and foremost be addressed by evangelical leaders themselves. But that doesn’t mean interested Jewish partners cannot propose ways of accomplishing the task more effectively. The best education on Israel comes from visiting the land, meeting its people, and witnessing its day-to-day life, in all its complexity, firsthand. While over a million evangelicals visit Israel every year, many tend to be older and already convinced. Other Christian pilgrims do little more than follow in Jesus’ footsteps in Galilee, tour the Old City of Jerusalem, and pay a visit to (where else?) Bethlehem.

To my knowledge, no serious, large-scale effort exists to bring evangelicals—particularly young evangelicals—to Israel to learn about the realities of life on the ground. In September, Israel’s Minister of Tourism Uzi Landau announced tentative plans to establish a Birthright-type program that would help shore up evangelical support for Israel in the rising generation. As with most endeavors of this kind, securing the necessary long-term funding promises to be difficult. But whether initiated by Christians or by Jews, programs like this one are a must. A successful effort, though it may never rise to Birthright’s impressive scope in terms of numbers, would exercise a powerful impact on attitudes in the Christian world, one that would reverberate for decades to come.

 

8. Concluding Thoughts

For any Jewish supporter of Israel who still finds the idea of outreach to evangelicals too abstract or too uncomfortable to command his attention, let me say a few words about the current moment.

We live in historic times. What Jew (or Christian, for that matter) would have ever predicted that Christians, many of whom have never met a Jew in their lives, would be standing up strongly, in their millions, in defense of a Jewish state? On a variety of levels, this moment was simply unimaginable.

As a Christian who takes his faith seriously, I believe that the current link between evangelicals and the Jews is not just a serendipitous coincidence. Rather than just another religious or national grouping, I see the Jews as a community appointed to play a special role in the cosmic order. Yet even those who cannot themselves assent to such a statement of faith must surely recognize its power as a motivating factor in the hearts and minds of others. So long as evangelicals and Jews share an interest in protecting Israel, they should, despite their perfectly appropriate differences, do everything they can to build a strategic alliance based on the mutual imperative of defending the world’s only Jewish state against those who would seek to destroy it and those all too ready to lend a helping or acquiescent hand.

But I would insist on the element of time. In an insightful essay on the growing rifts within the evangelical world, Lee Smith predicts that “if the ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ camp wins out, the pro-Israel Jewish community that once looked warily upon evangelical support may come to regard that movement with nostalgia.”

Nostalgia, and bitter regret. If Jews and evangelicals are to cooperate, they must do so sooner and not later. I’m proud to stand surety for my own community’s readiness to act. 

Responses

  1. Two Words by Elliott Abrams
    It’s time for American Jews to say thank-you to evangelicals—and to act accordingly.
  2. My Dinner with Irving by Wilfred M. McClay
    On evangelicals, the evangelical Left, and the Jews.
  3. Before Pastor Hagee, There Was Lord Shaftesbury by Gertrude Himmelfarb
    The Victorian roots of evangelical Zionism.
  4. A Nation with the Soul of a Church by James Nuechterlein
    Why Americans love Israel.
  5. Fervent Friends, or Fickle Ones? by Robert W. Nicholson
    Despite what some of my respondents say, something fundamental is changing inside the evangelical movement, and it bodes ill for Israel.

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Comments

  • Yair Biran

    Very interesting. I’m Israeli and I’ve written a short book relating to Hebrew, Judaism and Zionism. If you can read Hebrew I will be happy to supply you a free copy.

    Yair

    • Jordi Tsedef

      Az tishlah kvar Yair—[email protected]

      Todah

  • Aryeh Tepper

    Many thanks for Robert Nicholson’s informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking essay. Writing from Israel, I can testify that Israelis would benefit from reading this piece, as well. Perhaps it can be translated into Hebrew. In any case, Nicholson’s voice is an important one – a blessing. One hopes that he will play a leading role in fashioning the Jewish-Evangelical dialogue in the decades to come.

  • Yisrael Medad

    Thanks for this.

    I am also going to alert my (sharp) critics at JewishIsrael who seek to undermine, in essence, all contacts with Christian Evangelicals due to their suspicions that there are links, mostly imagined and others via ‘guilt-by-association’. See my recent post: http://myrightword.blogspot.co.il/2013/09/am-i-involved-in-shmad.html attempting to offset their attacks.

  • Michael Galak, Melbourne, Australia

    Mr.Nicholson presents a powerful and thoughtful case for a Jewish-Christian Evangelical alliance. I share his belief in the necessity and utility of such an alliance. Jews should not sniff at 300 million non-Jewish supporters of Israel, let alone passively watch as they are won over to the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel narrative.
    I thank you for the cogent, sincere, and timely appeal to Jewish people with this warning.

  • Pinchas Baram

    A marvelous, highly intelligent and comprehensive essay– kol hakavod to its author. The Jews need more representatives like Shlomo Riskin in Effrat who do wise outreach to Christian friends. In the Boston area Christians and Jews United for Israel (CJUI) does notable work, including Jerusalem Day parades. And hopefully Uzi Landau’s initiative will be successful.
    As for the Palestinian twists to history, that Jesus was a Palestinian Canaanite persecuted by the Jews, like the Palestinians today oppressed by Israel, the modern Rome—such sloppy analogies and falsehoods must be constantly refuted before the lies become habitual and take hold in ignorant brains: Jesus was born, lived, and died a Jew. To say otherwise is to make him into a blond blue-eyed Aryan, as the Nazis in fact portrayed him.

  • Ira Rifkin

    I believe another factor contributing toward the growing “progressive” evangelical opposition to Israel is the political culture war between liberal and conservative Christians, most clearly defined in the United States.
    In short, in this regard opposition to Israel is an extension of liberal opposition to a conservative position, but vice versa as well. If conservatives favor Israel, than I as a liberal must oppose Israel because those darn conservatives are just so wrong and overbearing on gay rights, the Affordable Care Act, gun control and more.
    Which is to say, it’s, in part, a proxy war, a condition all too prevalent in the contemporary Middle East.

  • Joseph A. Singer,M.D.

    Thank you for your most interesting analysis. This shabbat the weekly synagogue reading from the Torah is
    is “lekh l’kha” where God tells Abraham:chapter 12 verse 2 “..and you shall be a blessing, I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse..” and also (chapter 12 verse 7):”To your offspring I will give this land”.

  • QLineOrientalist

    This article is one big mystification of a process which has little to do with the evolution of evangelical Protestantism. Americans, particularly Americans who have done the killing and dying, in the Protestant heartland, flyover country, are fast becoming fed up with American military intervention in the Middle East in general. Fairly or not, AIPAC and Israel are being blamed (some would say scapegoated) for this. The Ron Paul phenomenon and some truly ugly but increasingly vocal anti-Semitic paleo-Conservative voices are being raised and finding an audience, particularly on the Internet. This, and not some arcane polemic over whether or not the Jewish people have been forsaken by G-d, is what is driving Protestant disenchantment with State of Israel.

    • Cbalducc

      Although the things that concern you are prolific on the Internet, in the daily lives of Americans they are marginal.

  • Pastor Victor Styrsky

    Excellent, excellent article.

    I have been an active Zionist for over 30 years and have written a book that is now in its 3rd printing:

    “Honest to God – The 10 Questions Jews Ask Christian Zionists”

    A NEW and UPDATED edition has recently been released and is available on Amazon, etc.

    1st Edition – http://www.amazon.com/22Christian-Zionists-Confront-Questions-Answered-22/dp/1934440493

    Updated Edition – http://www.amazon.com/Honest-God-Questions-Christian-Zionists/dp/0988854600

    Pastor Victor Styrsky
    Eastern Regional Coordinator
    Christians United For Israel
    [email protected]

    “With over 1,400,000 members, CUFI is the largest pro-Israel organization in the
    United States and one of the leading Christian grassroots movements in the world.”

  • Zev Garber

    Very impressive essay. You suggest that Jews engage with Evangelicals on issues of Zionism, Jewish land and peoplehood and more. I wholeheartedly agree and am available to participate. My name is well recognized in academia — professor, writer, editor, scholar. A glance at the review of my Jewish Jesus on Jewish Ideas Daily (June 2011) suggests the importance of Jews and Christian in dialogue of conversation not conversion.

  • Abarafi

    A very interesting piece. I admit that I often viewed evangelicals exactly as Nicholson described the stereotypes. I, too, found their support for Israel very suspect and attributed it to the end-of-days passion. Thank you for giving me a different perspective.

  • Gary Frankford

    I am afraid that Robert Nicholson bolsters the case for our people’s resistance to embracing evangelical Christians as our “true friends.” No one can or should tolerate this degree of religious obsession with the Jewish people. It makes us uncomfortable, it is sometimes bizarre, and it was never going to end well!

    And of course Nicholson is an exception among his group. How many evangelicals have spent so much time “with Jews?” Not many, to be sure, for we are an insular people by nature. If evangelicals, as I suspect, find that not to our liking, that is to be expected. We are not what they think we are—and that applies to Nicholson as well.

    But the worst of it is the sense one gets of being watched like an animal at a zoo, or like a dog or cat. But we Jews, and certainly not Israelis, are not objects to be watched, or even understood. We are people who, if truth be told, would just like to be left alone to live as we please, without either being petted or murdered by Christians.

    If evangelicals were really who Nicholson says they are, there would be no need for his article, nor would there be a growing faction within the evangelical movement determined to switch-off their support, or even take a hostile stance re: Israel. In any case, no Jew I know cares what evangelicals believe, think or do—-provided they at least manage to avoid falling into their former anti-Semitic hatreds. But that is the real crux of our caution and skepticism regarding them. We have long memories. The one thing we ask of you is that you leave us in peace, and that—as every Jew in the world knows—is the one thing you cannot do for us! Why?

    • Ian G

      Because the Jew Jesus is your Messiah and our Saviour. It’s as simple as that. Nicholson more or less said so. What are we supposed to do ? We have a Jewish Saviour.

      • Linda McQuade

        Very well said. More than half of our Holy Writ, the inspired Word of God, is their own as well. My husband preached on the beginning verses of Romans 9 of the agony the Apostle Paul felt for his brothers. Every time I read 2 Corinthians 3, especially vv. 12-16, my heart aches for those who have a veil over their heart, and am thankful that mine was removed by God’s grace.

    • Bruce Bodner

      Well, I think that the State of Israel wants a little bit more from the United States of America than to be left alone.

  • Rob

    I’m an American conservative evangelical Christian who has a generally positive impression of Israel as an outpost of civilization and democratic principles in a neighborhood very much lacking in both these things. But I’ve come to this conclusion due to a study of geopolitics, not religion.

    I understand the motivation behind Jewish Zionism. But I don’t understand Christian Zionism; it is clearly in violation of the teachings of Jesus and Paul, who spoke against racial preference.

    If the choice is truly as the author describes, between the Bible-twisting views of CUFI or the views of Pastor Awad, I have to go with the good pastor. The CZ material I’ve read is downright dismissive of the plight of their Arab Christian brothers.

    • Nimrod

      The Jews are not a race or a relegion. We are a nation. Think in terms of the Navajo Nation.

      We have a homeland, language, legal system dealing with business law, religious law, contract law, immigration law (conversion).

      Our nation has people of many races who identify with the Nation’s relegion, Judaism.

  • Julie Gilmour

    To my knowledge, no serious, large-scale effort exists to bring evangelicals—particularly young evangelicals—to Israel to learn about the realities of life on the ground.

    There is one: Robert Stearns’ organization, Eagles’ Wings, which is committed to bringing young evangelicals to Israel on scholarship every year, introducing them to members of the Knesset and involving them in the polity of Israeli society on the ground, with the express purpose of sending them back to American universities with a contrasting, sympathetic perspective on Israel to offer. See http://www.eagleswings.to/home

  • Harold Berman

    An excellent article, and should be required reading for the Jewish community. Having said that, one minor (or not so minor) point: The author, in Part 1 of the article, makes the same mistake I have heard many Christians make regarding Jewish wariness of Evangelical overtures. He says, “As was borne in on me in the ensuing years, the cantor’s initial wariness was typical. And it could hardly have been otherwise. The fact that people bearing the name of Christ had spent centuries demonizing the Jewish people and shedding Jewish blood placed the burden squarely on me to justify myself and explain my intentions.”

    I’ve heard and read so many times that Jewish wariness stems from historical Christian anti-Semitism. Although that may be a factor, genuine theological incompatibilities also play a role. As the author rightly attests, many Christians, although happy to speak about or share their faith, are not trying to convert Jews. However, the reality on the ground is that many other Christians do try to do just that. The entire “messianic” movement is largely funded by various Evangelical Christian organizations, and there is a long history of messianics not simply “sharing” their faith, but doing it in ways that are deceitful and underhanded. Many, if not most Jews, have been on the receiving end of these kinds of efforts at one time or another.

    When an Evangelical Christian approaches me, any wariness I have certainly has nothing to do with what happened in Spain 500 years ago or Eastern European pogroms or the like. It has everything to do with my needing to know if this is someone who is approaching me as a Jew with genuine respect or someone who really does have an ulterior motive. I’ve experienced the latter case any number of times. I’ve also experienced the former, which has resulted in many friendships with Evangelicals. However, it is reasonable to say that, while many Christians love Israel and Jews for the reasons the author describes, at least some approach Jews with ulterior motives – and it’s reasonable for Jews to probe enough to know which kind they are dealing with.

  • Beatix17

    This is a courageous and honest article, which I hope is appreciated and responded to by the Jewish community. Can you imagine what would happen if an Israeli or Palestinian could reach out to the other like this?

    The chasm between Evangelical Christians and Jews isn’t one of hostility or competition, it’s lack of understanding, which is a big part of the Israeli-Palestinian divide. The propaganda against Israel is astounding, and even more astounding is that people would rather believe the propaganda than the truth. That the Evangelicals are reaching out to the Jews and Israel at a time when many Jews are abandoning the cause is even more amazing. G-d has spoken and these Christians are clearly listening.

  • Richard Skeen

    Excellent piece that pulled together a lot of pieces. I’d love to hear the author’s perspective on a related question: the Mormons, while rarely aligned with the Evangelical Christians on theological issues, seem to be big (and long-time) supporters of Israel, who don’t seem to be splintering as much as the Evangelical body; how do they fit into the future of Christian Zionism in America?

  • John Brodsky

    Nice and Interesting article.

    Thanks
    Christian Supporter of Israel
    LoveIsrael.com

  • Jonathan Gerard

    For its analysis of evangelical Christianity alone I found this essay compelling and enlightening. An alliance between evangelicals and Jews would be a strong voice for a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians—and beyond that for other matters of social justice in the U.S.

  • Matt Friedman

    Excellent article! I also want to provide accolades to my friend Victor Styrsky. I met Victor a little over 10 years ago. Through him I met a wonderful group of pro-Israel Evangelical Christians. Initially I was amused and some skeptical of Pastor Styrsky, the late Pastor Troy Hinke, Pastor Randy Neal and other local Christian Zionists. Within a short time I learned not only of their long term love of Israel, but also of their strong and deep desire to understand the Jewiah experience vis-à-vis Christianity. Shortly after our first meeting I was invited to speak the church where Pastor Styrsky was then a staff member. I was the first rabbi to speak from an Evangelical pulpit in Sacramento. It was not only an honor, but it was a wonderful day. I have read Pastor Stysrky’s book and I recommend it. I also recommend becoming familiar with CUFI. Please note that CUFI is a non-missionizing organization that focuses strictly on support of Israel. There are those who object to forming alliances based on differences regarding other issues..to that I respond that we form alliances with many other religious groups based on common interests even when we differ on some issues. We partner with mainline Protestants on many domestic issues yet the Methodists and Presbyterians are often harshly opposed to Israel. I believe that the welfare of Israel is paramount. If we can partner with mainline Protestants on some issues, we can certainly partner with the Christian Zionists. Finally, I urge my fellow Jews to look beyond their preconceived notions regarding Evangelicals. They are a varied group, just like us. They are worthy of our friendship.

  • Sam Morris

    In all the support for Israel, is there no narrative for the Palestinians? Can we love Israelis without loving the sometimes ultra-nationalistic tendencies which may not always respect the rights of others for a normal life?

    A reporter asked a Syrian Christian: “When did your people convert to Christianity?” He answered, “2000 years ago.” There were followers of Jesus in Damascus when Paul, the Apostle was converted on the “road to Damascus.” To think that Palestinians have, as many modern narratives declare, only been in the Holy Land “one or two generations” is reflective of the reporter’s lack of understanding.

    Why is there no dialogue among Evangelicals that will bring into focus the larger story? There has been pain on both sides. The establishment of the state of Israel was hope for Jewish people and nakaba for many many Palestinians just as America was hope for Europeans fleeing persecution and a trail of tears for so many native Americans.

    In many Seder meals, Halakah for the meal calls for spilling a drop from the cup of joy as the plagues visited upon the Egyptians are named. Why? Because no cup of joy can be full when it is purchased at the suffering of others, even the suffering of our enemies.

    That Jesus was Jewish is certainly true. Yet, in the gospel of John, when the Greeks who ask to see Jesus are brought to him, it is not the request that should get our attention. Rather it is Jesus’ response. Jesus gives the same response to the Greeks that he has been telling his Jewish disciples. This response is echoed in Paul’s words from Galatians 4:28: “There is no longer Jew nor Greek….”

    In no way do I mean to dismiss Jewish people and their desire for a homeland. As a pastor/teacher, it is in the Jewishness of Jesus and in the traditions of the Hebrew scriptures that I have become more acquainted with my own faith. I am and will always be, grateful to those who keep Jewish traditions. Even so, I cannot dismiss my own faith and the teaching of Jesus who taught me to love all people — indeed to love the world for whom Christ died. For me, this means loving Palestinian people, Christians and Muslims alike. It means loving Israelis, religious and secular alike.

    If love for Israel means that the other people of the land must become invisible and dust to be blown away, then that love is, for me, incompatible with my understanding of Judaism and Christianity: “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien. You must not be partial in judging: hear out the small and the great alike; you shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. Deut. 1:16b.

    • DrJLD

      This is an interesting comment. While I can agree with much of what you say, I cannot understand why apologists for Muslims (who own all of the Middle East, but for tiny Israel) should get a pass on their own views that condemn Jews (theologically and in everyday life) and seek to kill them relentlessly.

      Loving all people and life, as Jews do also, is not just a Christian idea. However, your view that Muslims, who practice an exceptionalism greater than any Jewish sense of that concept, are the ones seeking justice and peace with love for all people is an abomination and a twisting of the ideas of peace and justice.

      Peace and justice are for all people, not just one group. The Israelis have long sought peace, only to be rebuffed by Palestinians who only wish to destroy all vestiges of Jewish life in the Middle East.

      “To think that Palestinians have, as many modern narratives declare, only been in the Holy Land “one or two generations” is reflective of the reporter’s lack of understanding.” Those in Syria who came to Christianity 2 millenia ago were ‘Syrians’ and NOT ‘Palestinians’. You could, at the very least, get history correct if you wish to use it as part of your argument. You seem to be the one who misunderstands and not the author.

  • IDoBeWhatIBe

    I agree with the premises of this article, but there are several other things that need to take place as well:

    1) The creation of a Palestinian state so that people like Alex Awad can fully experience what being a Christian, and especially an evangelical, will be like under Islamic dominion. If Awad can’t learn from the newsreels of the experiences of Christians in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, let him and other Palestinian evangelicals learn the hard way, by living it.

    2) Since most of the Palestinians are of Jewish descent anyway, that means that both Christianity and Islam are actually alien religions to their culture. Every effort should be made to encourage as many of them to convert to Judaism as possible, which will in reality, be not a conversion but a reversion. And while we’re at it, why shouldn’t Christianity and Islam have some competition worldwide? Particularly when the bans on Jewish proslytizing comes from the Emperor Constantine and was taken up by the Christian world and later spread to the Muslims? There’s no source in Judaism that forbids Jews from seeking converts openly and actively, so let’s get off our backsides and do it!

  • Andria Spindel

    I’d like to commend and thank the author. I’ve struggled with the recognition I’ve felt for just such a partnership because I felt Evangelicals might be too “right-wing” but the truth I’ve come to understand is that its neither left-wing nor right-wing to love and support Israel, that neither ideology has all answers or truths, that Jews must make alliances for Zionism to succeed and Israel to be sustained. I’d welcome Christian support and will urge my community to reach out to Evangelicals, and get over our ignorant biases.

  • Merrill Bolender

    Well written as an excellent overview of the church world’s stances on Israel.
    I have been an active Zionist for over 40 years.
    I have written a book that is in it 4th printing and in 13 languages: “When the Cross Became a Sword — A Primer on The Origin and Consquences of Replacement Theology”
    E-book editions are available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

    Merrill Bolender
    Author
    President of Covenant of Hope Media, a partnered ministery with Hatikvah Film Trust, UK
    http://www.hatikvah.co.uk
    Member of the Great Lakes Council of Ebenezer Operation USA
    http://www.ebenezerusa.org

  • Jeff Krasney

    The biggest thing American Jews can do to maintain comity with Evangelical Christians is to stop insulting them. I am constantly amazed at American Jews who think nothing of publicly denigrating Evangelical Christians. American Jews are more friendly toward Islamic radicals than we are toward Christians. These people are the only reliable allies the Jewish people have in the world, and Jews treat them terribly.

    • Bertram cohen

      I deeply regret that there are many ignorant Jews who are blindly hostile to Evangelical friends of Jews and of Israel. These people can also be called JINOs, i.e. Jews In Name Only who are political leftists and very ignorant of their own religious heritage. They also cause a lot of trouble within the Jewish community in both the U.S. and Israel.
      I wish that more Jews would take the wise advice of the author and act upon it.

  • Jim Curtis

    I describe myself as an evangelical Christians—and a conservative one at that—so maybe I have a small sense of what it’s like to branded, lied about, and accused of doing things and having motives that are really projections of my accusers. More than two thirds of the Bible from which I get my respect and love of God is the same as the one the Jews use. I read the same Moses, Psalms, and Isaiah that Jews do. I know that Jesus and his disciples were Jews, who were embedded in, and taught based on, their Jewishness. I am glad that, in times past, my country has served as refuge for, fought a horrible war to rescue, and up until recently has tried to be a partner with the Jews and with Israel in their self-defense. I am not Jewish, but have worked with Jews in the U.S. and Israel. I love and respect them. I suspect that we, Christians and Jews, may never see eye-to-eye on everything, but I don’t see why we can’t be as David and Jonathan instead of Jacob and Esau.

  • Richard Lewis

    I applaud the article. I deplore the fact of eroding evangelical support for Israel in the face of lethal hatred for Israel across much of the Islamic/Arab world. Simplistic “liberation theology” constructs in supposed support of Palestinian aspirations must not be allowed to hide the anti-Semitic eliminationist agenda striding boldly across the world once again. “Never again.”

  • David Satterfield

    Thank-you for a well-written, concise statement of a worldview based on the unaltered Word of God.

    I have experienced the pain of ending friendships because of hosility toward the Jews and Israel. The selective outrage these people exhibit are very telling indeed.

    The world is what it is. Peace will never be achieved until Jesus Christ reigns. Until then Israel has a right to exist and a right to self defense. Those measures are heavy-handed by design and necessary to defend against merciless people.

  • Hal Stein

    This is a brilliant article. Nicholson’s statements resonate with me. I am frustrated by the inability of so many of my fellow Jews to appreciate and welcome the support of Israel by Christian Zionists as represented by Christians United For Israel. Since the founding of CUFI seven years ago I have been one of two Jewish members of the local CUFI steering committee that plans events such as Nights To Honor Israel. I tell my Jewish friends that if they could eavesdrop at our meetings, they would assume they were listening to a meeting of a local chapter of AIPAC. My Christian Zionist friends in CUFI do take the Jewish bible–the Torah–seriously as a basis for support of Israel and the Jewish people. Also, as Nicholson points out, they support Israel for the same secular reasons as do Jews. The objections to CUFI I hear among Jews are completely irrelevant to the mission of CUFI which, like that of AIPAC, is solely promoting support for Israel. I heartily endorse the above comments by Matt Friedman. Also, I think every Jew and Christian should read Victor Styrsky’s book that he describes in his comments above. It addresses every major question that Jews have about Christian Zionism. I have given copies to Jewish friends. By the way, almost every Jew who I have persuaded to come to one of our annual Nights To Honor Israel has come to me afterward with tears in their eyes, telling me they had no idea that there were Christians who had such an understanding of the Jewish experience and who felt so positive about Israel. I urge all Jews–and Christians–to attend the next Night To Honor Israel held in their area. It will be an eye-opening experience! Information about these upcoming events can be found at cufi.org

  • Pragmatic conservative

    Mr. Rifkin is correct in noting that the political differences between liberals and conservatives in the U.S. is the reason some groups are more pro-Israel than others, and why many Jews of liberal political bent just are skeptical of Evangelicals and Christian Zionists, who are quite conservative on abortion, same-sex marriage and other issues. But I would hope Israeli Jews are welcoming of any group (Christian or otherwise) that will go to the mat for Israeli security and survival as a Jewish state. Alliances are important.

    • Shem Tov

      “Israeli security and survival” are in the hands of the Master of the Universe, just as they always have been. It depends on no one else.

      • Ronald M. Furgerson

        I certainly agree with you. But, could not the Master of the Universe use Christian Zionists to advance His purposes?

  • tim brown

    I appreciate this article very much, and the balanced comments as well. Though it might be hard to accept because of the heinous course that history has taken, evangelical faith, at its best and at its core, owes everything to Jews. Most evangelicals know this innately which is why those supporting Israel are in the hundreds of millions. The Tanakh we share, and we do sincerely read and study it. Our own writings were written almost entirely by and about Torah observant Jews. Evangelicals are not trying to sidle up to Jewish people because we like the fun holidays, the humor, or that we wish to crush you in the end, but because true faith compels us to it. I would never ask someone to drop their suspicion. But we can be more than useful idiots to the Jewish people; we could be allies, as Rabbi Friedman (above) points out. Encouragingly enough, there are many more collaborative efforts than one might expect.

  • Jack de Lowe

    A very interesting look at the relationship between Jews (especially here in Israel) and Evangelists.
    I have been corresponding for many years with a number of Evangelists and when one of them brought up the subject of the ‘second coming’ etc., I wrote back to him: When the Messiah comes, you and I are going to go together to greet him. And the only question we are going to ask is: “Is the first time you are here or the second?” Until that happens, this is a subject that we will not indulge in. He replied: “Agreed!”

  • John Walker

    Mr. Nicholson did not address the role of the more liturgical Christian denominations with regard to Jewish Christian understanding. The Catholic and Jewish liturgy are quite similar in form and style.
    The problem with sola scriptura perhaps accounts for the fractional schism within the evangelical community with regard to Zionism. The source of division lies in the dual nature of hermeneutics: inerrancy and infallibity. Protestants and Catholics (and Jews) share the belief in Scriptural inerrancy. Infallibility becomes the issue. The Reformation removed from half of Christianity the authority of the Magisterium and never formulated a robust and reliable replacement.
    Liturgical recognitions between Catholicism and Traditonal Jewish worship and shared modern liberal values may be a more effective way
    to achieve understanding between the Jewish and Christian peoples. Most Christians believe that the Abrahamic covenant was unconditional. In consequence Pentecost could not have succeeded that covenant.

  • Michael Tupek

    A very excellent, informative, and helpful article! A rather clear and unmistakable description of evangelical Christianity and the true reasons for our loving regard for the Jewish people and their land. Thank you, Robert Nicholson, for this good work!

    You would find my book, “Torah of Sin and Grace,” to affirm many things said here, clarifying the facts that the nature of God’s covenant with the Hebrews and their land is rooted in the Abrahamic covenant, which is unaltered by the displacement of the Sinai covenant with the more glorious New Covenant inaugurated by the Messiah Jesus.

  • Victor

    Could it be that one of the problems Jews (myself included) have with Evangelical support is its apparent over-readiness to substitute faith for reason? Faith on its own can lead you in one direction today and in a totally opposite direction tomorrow.

    Having said which, this is a fine article from an intelligent and sincere man.

  • Mitch Glaser

    I applaud the well reasoned and researched article by Mr. Nicholson. I am a Messianic Jew and appreciate the support of Evangelicals who have a love for Israel based upon their reading of the Bible. This is a more unshakable love that leads to a belief in the ultimate legitimacy of the Jewish state as part of God’s design for humanity. As part of a historic, 120 year old “mission” to the Jewish people, we do hope to see many Jewish people favorably consider Jesus—or Yeshua as we call Him—and even believe He is the Messiah. I also hope that those Jewish people who do become followers of Jesus become more committed Jews, believe in the modern state and future of Israel and encourage support of their fellow Gentile evangelicals for Israel. Our organization does tell Jewish people about Jesus as this is part of our theological conviction and that of all evangelicals. We also work very hard to help evangelicals learn more about the Jewish people and Israel and speak in many churches, hold conferences, and produce literature that hopefully deepens the support of evangelicals for the Jewish people and Israel. I have found that most of my evangelicals also accept a fundamental value of Messianic Jews, like myself, and one which our organization has stood by for 120 years—that Jewish people who believe in Jesus should remain Jews, be loyal to the Jewish people and Jewish causes, and seek the general welfare and good of the worldwide Jewish community. One of the ways we do this is to encourage a thoughtful, biblical pro-Israel position that continues to extend compassion and grace to others, including Palestinian evangelicals, those raised Muslim or in historic Christian homes and works towards genuine reconciliation and peace—which means that we do not readily accept the new anti-Israel narrative agenda promoted by the groups so well described in this excellent article.

  • Eugene Korn

    This is an excellent article.
    I need to get in touch with the author, Robert Nicholson, as I work in Jewish-Christian relations. Robert if you read this, can you please send me your email address?
    R. Eugene Korn

  • Natan Shlomo

    B”H
    Israel is a Jewish State.
    Judaism views Christianity as idol worship.
    A Jew is not even allowed to go in a church.
    Muslims are viewed as worshipping The God of Abraham.
    A Jew may pray in a Mosque. (Rambam)
    We don’t need or want your support.
    We know enough about anti-Christ theology to know that this is all for the purpose of making Israel and The Holy Jewish people into Christians.
    It is the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    • JoeInFL

      Look, before this article I probably would have responded like you. But the author is saying evangelical Christian support for Jews/Israel isn’t really about their desires to convert us. As the author seems sincere and knowledgeable, I am prepared to take him at his word. I can’t say I am not a bit leery, but I think it just isn’t wise (and probably a bit un-Jewish) to reject another’s apparently sincere offer of friendship, coming without strings attached or ulterior motives.

    • LEBELE

      That seems to be an European and older view of Christians. It dates from the period of statues of saints and gory crucifixes in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. Those of us who grew up in most of the U.S. have attended life cycle events with Christian friends in their Protestant churches that lack the statues. We have felt quite comfortable there.

      In the 1980s, we attended a reunion of former Jewish citizens of a Protestant German village near Hanau. All those who had found refuge in the U.S., England, and South Africa were comfortable attending a church service of reconciliation. Those who had settled in 1930s Palestine (now Israel) refused to enter. All were children in the same village synagogue before about 1938.

  • Shem Tov

    It’s a fairly common misconception among Christians that they have something that Jews need; however, that is far from the truth. In fact, the Creator endowed His People Israel with a very self-sufficient system. It is not the Jews who have need of the world. It is the world who has need of the Jews. And it is this subconscious knowledge that inspires jealousy and Jew-hatred among the nations.

    The day will come – and not very far off, I think – when Christianity and Islam and all other false and man-made belief systems will cease to exist and there will remain – the Jews and those righteous among the nations who rejected the falsehoods which were the heritage of their fathers (Jeremiah 16:19).

  • BUTSeriously

    When push comes to shove, both Christianity & Islam have the same identical doctrines and purpose, while both do so on mutually exclusive premises. It has nothing to do with Israel, only it concerns these two groups – they refuse to confront each other, thinking it safer to bash Israel. Comparing Israel to America invading that land is false: unlike the Christians, the Jews did not invade another land but returned to their own, legally via the UN.
    A true Messiah will confront these two groups: the corruption of the Balfour and the White Paper caused the Holocaust, the demand for two states in the same land, transferring the name Palestinian from Jews to Muslims, changing the 3,000 year name of Samaria to West Bank in 1949 and inventing an East Jerusalem will be the only preamble on the default setting. Shouting IN JC or Allah Akbar will not deflect such crimes. Either they learn to walk in parallel instead of dominion, or go the way of Mighty Rome.

  • Job

    This article gives me pause for a number of reasons. For brevity’s sake, I will limit it to two. First, the New Testament in multiple places clearly and consistently makes proselytization a core duty of Christians, and explicitly states that Christians who refuse to perform this duty are not Christians at all, and as such will spend eternity not in heaven with Jesus Christ but hell (the lake of fire) with unbelievers. As a matter of fact, with the exception of Revelation, the New Testament deals primarily (indeed almost exclusively) not with those who reject Christianity out of hand, but those who claim to be Christians but fail to heed Christian imperatives. And I repeat: evangelism is a Christian imperative. And no group is exempt from proselytization: no race, religion, nationality, tribe, ethnicity etc. Quite the contrary, the New Testament makes it clear that the godspel/gospel/evangelion is for the Jew first and then the Gentile. So people who refuse to share the gospel with Jews for fear that doing so will threaten the ability of Christians and Jews to work together to lend political support for the nation of Israel because of the offense that Jews take against the gospel and those who share it with them (and again the New Testament predicted that many would be offended by the gospel and was clear that this offense was not an excuse for failing to share it) are revealing themselves to not be Christians at all but those who prefer earthly kingdoms to the kingdom of heaven.

    Second, even if the establishment of the modern state of Israel is the fulfillment of Bible prophecy and the working out of God’s plans, the simple fact is that nowhere in the New Testament are Christians instructed to lend organized political support to Israel or the Jews. As touching the Palestinians, the Bible calls their agitation against the Israeli government and demands for their own land to be sedition, a grievous sin, and of course there is the terrorism issue and the fact that the vast majority of the Palestinian population supports this murderous barbarism. The Palestinian Bible College people and other Palestinian Christians need to cease all manner of sedition against a legitimate government and remember Romans 13:1-4, Ephesians 6:5, 1 Peter 2:18, Colossians 3:22 and similar texts so that they will be obedient to Christ in all things and therefore show themselves worthy of the next world by loving it more than they do material comforts and fleshly nationalistic pride (the same sort that Paul rebuked Peter for possessing) of this one. But after taking those things into account, there is no New Testament basis for favoring an Israeli over a Palestinian, a Muslim over a Jew. And that goes back to my main point in this section: the New Testament does not tell Christians to advocate for Israel and the Jews. If Christians decide to do so for their own reasons (i.e. sense of morality, justice, self-interest) then there is nothing in the New Testament that prevents it, so long as this advocacy does not transgress the Bible. But there is no imperative to do so based on the New Testament, and claiming otherwise is false teaching. That being said, anti-Zionism cannot be supported by scripture either. So, the Christian Zionists and the Christian anti-Zionists are equally wrong. Even if the premillennial dispensational doctrines are correct, the fate of Israel and the Jews are in God’s Hands, and the New Testament does not instruct the church to aid or abet God in His managing of human history and world events as it pertains to Israel, the Jews or any other nation or people. While Romans 11 makes it clear that the Jews are indeed a matter of great theological and spiritual importance to the church, Romans 11:7, 11:10-11 and 11:25 are certainly parts of that text, and for the Christian to pretend otherwise is simply disobedience. So while the theological and spiritual importance is true, in terms of practical daily matters the Christian’s approach to, dealings with and feelings towards Israel and the Jews should be no different from any other nation, people and religion.

    So when it comes down to it, the fate of Israel is not an issue in Christianity because the fate of that nation and people is in God’s hands (and the same is true with all nations and people). Christians who reject this truth and try to take matters into their own hands simply lack faith, and in that respect are no different from the “social gospel” theological liberals that this author decries (with respect to this issue alone and not matters of theology and faith in total of course … I am not challenging the writer’s orthodoxy in general, just stating my belief that the writer is in error on Christian Zionism).

    • Jean Krainik

      You may enjoy a book “Missionaries-God Against the Indians” and see how the church rewrote the NT into an Indian version. “The revised bible said: ‘God will destroy the Panare. God will burn you all; burn all the animals, your children and burn also the earth. God will exterminate the Panare by throwing them on the fire.’ The missionaries told the natives that they had to pay for what their ancestors had done and their only salvation was in serving them and the church. But God is good. ‘Do you want to be roasted in the fire?’ asks God. ‘Do you have something to pay me with so that I won’t roast you in the fire?’ Demands God. One native lady yelled out, ‘I don’t want to burn in the big fire. I love Jesus.’ Hundreds of Panare Indians abandoned their ancestors and took up Christianity. That was in 1976 but these type of terror tactics were frequently employed to convert often hard to convince Natives. For years, it had been a common practice among Christian missionaries to accuse Indians (Natives) of killing Jesus Christ.” http://destee.com/index.php?threads/the-panare-indians-killed-jesus-christ.73073/ Basically, nothing much has changed in 1688 years since Constantine decided that Jesus was god.

    • Jean Crockett

      Yes, Christians are instructed by Jesus himself to take the story of salvation to “all nations.” And it is true that some Christian Zionists may take an aggressive stand that distances people of other faiths. However, don’t forget to go back to the Torah and read Genesis 12:3 that says that God will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who do not. This is the foundation on which many of us built our desire to show love and support to the Jews. No, I don’t want to tell you how to live your lives; only God can tell you that, if you will listen. No, I don’t think we as Americans or any other “Christians” have a monopoly on evangelical zeal. I want you to know that I fully believe that GOD has a plan for you, the Jew, just as much as He has for me, a Christian, Part of that plan, to me, is to always hold His People up in prayer and support. The closest example of this, to me, in the US is CUFI- Christians United For Israel. http://www.cufi.org. May you be blessed.

  • H Peacock

    My only admonition for Evangelicals is to find a way, perhaps a better organizational structure such as Pastor Hagee/CUFI has done, to translate respect for Israel, the country, to Israel, the people — each and every one of them, wherever and however they may be (translate: liberal, agnostic, jaded, whatever persuasions a life of constant animosity may have led them to…).

    As a convert to Judaism I am only now beginning to understand the mistrust that can be engendered within the Jewish community. Some Evangelicals are near idolatrous with their ‘love’ for Israel, the country, while disrespecting the Jewish people who have persisted and established the nation.

    For example, at Yom Kippur services at a Reform congregation this year, I learned of a fundraiser hosted by a neighboring Evangelical church who raised +/- $10,000 in support of “Israel,” but then refused to turn over the money for what were actually the political differences — irreconcilable political differences — of the rabbi and the pastor. Goodwill with purse strings attached? What a bad “Christian” witness with which to ‘win friends and influence people’ within the Jewish community!

  • Austin

    It should be obvious to even a theologically committed Christian evangelist that the “mental block” as you call it, is nothing more than a fear of the centuries-long genocidal persecution, combined with forced and enticed missionizing and conversion, accompanied by the feeling that the fact that Christian Zionists believe in the very anti-Semitic Gospels devoutly, shows a lamentable lack of intellect and a mythological belief capability.

    I am a Jew, and grew up in an Ireland where we had to find the hidden ways to go to and come home from school, where the commonest interaction between Christian and Jew was the call “….ya dirty Jewman go back te Jerusalem…” accompanied by stones and on occasion a half-brick. I’ve seen our revered Rabbi, 80 years old,trudging along the street, with his head in the clouds of Talmud, being spat on and cat-called, along with thrown stones, all of which he endured and ignored.

    I was actually told more than once, that Jews were born with little stubs of horns under their hair, and small tails. And not a few times “….the Jews killed Christ…they killed our god…”.

    When I lived there, the Jewish population was around 4,000, today it is around 1,000+ and, supposedly, increasing.

    • AndyBerlin

      Austin – The experiences you recount are truly dreadful, but this article is about Evangelicals. I presume the people who treated you and your Jewish compatriots so badly back then were Catholics. The author actually claims that Evangelicals, as opponents of Catholicism, never approved of such discrimination and are friendlier towards Jews. He may not be right, but we need to be clear about what he is saying.

    • Sean Ferguson

      “The fact that Christian Zionists believe in the very anti-Semitic Gospels devoutly, shows a lamentable lack of intellect and a mythological belief capability.” – Austin

      If you were to replace “Christian Zionists” with the word “Muslims” you would be considered a bigot whose puerile views reflect the chief impediment to peace in the Middle East. Leaving that aside, you then double down on this bigotry by judging all Christians in a roundabout way by detailing the actions of some.

  • Charles Edward Frith (@charlesfrith)

    The existential threat is from Israel on its neighbours. Do I really have to list the last 15 years?

  • Alan Schleider

    This is an urgent read

  • Dumisani Washington

    Thank you for a very thorough article. It is timely as anti-Israel sentiment is indeed rising in the Church.

  • Joelico

    “There is no persecution here.” – Alex Awad

    Having had relationships with West Bank Christians for over 30 years and having made many trips to the region during that time, I have to say that is inaccurate. Very inaccurate.

    And many similar inaccuracies are perpetuated by Bethlehem Bible College.

    The Christians I know in the West Bank have suffered sometimes severe persecution from their Muslim neighbours and live in constant fear of them. They are often warned by their Muslim compatriots that “First it’s Saturday, then it’s Sunday” (meaning after we kill the Jews you Christians are next).

    Awad should ask the residents of Tibeh what they’ve experienced at the hands of their Muslim neighbours, or talk to the Palestinian Bible Society about the murder of their employee Rami Ayyad in Gaza. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Bethlehem Bible College and other Palestinian Christian leaders must be terrified of the terrorists. Why else would they misrepresent the facts? They aren’t ignorant of these realities.

  • Maria

    I’m of one Baptist Church in Brazil and this is my opinion: there are so many things against a good understanding between Christian and Jews, that sometimes we just say to each other: I don’t wanna hear you. Ignorance and bias are the stumbling blocks in our way toward convergence. But we both worship the same God: Elohim, the Lord of the Hosts. If the Jews think Elohim is singular (although “Elohim” is a masculine plural word in Hebrew) and evangelicals think Elohim is plural, it doesn’t make any difference: yet, we have the same God. And we read the same book. And we belong to the same people, the people that belongs to God (I am of my beloved and my beloved is mine—ani l’dodi v’dodi li). And one day, besides our bad experiences with each other, we will be together, because it is written. You may say—and think—whatever you want. What one says and thinks will not change this: we will be together as one people one day. It will happen, because it is written! That’s it! Simple as that!

    • IslandTyger

      Maria, I do believe you think you are being thoughtful, but this: “If the Jews think Elohim is singular (although “Elohim” is a masculine plural word in Hebrew) and evangelicals think Elohim is plural…” That’s awfully patronizing to attempt to school Jews on our own language.

  • Henry

    I think one finer point is not addressed. Israelis do not need interference in resolving her issues with the non-accepting Palestinians. Much of Christian Zionism is actively supporting development of settlements in the West Bank, and providing significant financial and political assistance to religious extremists, which arguably is complicating any peace discussions. A minority of these groups even advocate for a biblical Israel that stretches from the Sea to the Tigris River. These groups are creating problems by advocacy for religious intolerance and expansion.

  • Michael Raysson

    Are you kidding? Knowing what many right wing Christian groups actually stand for, do you possibly think I would side with them just because they side with Israel? It is one thing to have an ally with whom you may disagree and another to get in bed with someone whose views are totally abhorrent to you. Please study your ethics.

    • Shafe

      Did you read the essay? Entering a discussion about evangelical Christians and immediately diverting to “right-wing Christian groups” exemplifies one reason there is a lack of understanding. You can’t see past stereotypes.
      You remind me of someone who would hear the word “Jew” and think we were talking about greedy investment bankers.

  • Ira Mehlman

    It is always baffling that Jews concern themselves with the religious beliefs that lead some Christians to support Israel. In our liberal tradition, all people are entitled to believe what they want to believe.

    We should not be the least bit troubled that some Christians support Israel because they believe that Jews possessing the Land of Israel is a necessary precondition to the Second Coming, or even hold some apocalyptic vision that it will result in Jews accepting Jesus as their savior. If that’s what they want to believe, fine. Personally, I don’t think He is coming back, but if other people believe that, it is none of my business — so long as they are not taking steps to facilitate the apocalypse.

    There is also an element of hypocrisy among those who are not willing to accept support from Evangelicals because of positions some of them hold on social issues, like abortion or same sex marriage, yet will work with people who want to see Israel destroyed to promote certain social agendas. There is no reason why one cannot work with Evangelicals to defend Israel, while still opposing them on other issues.

  • bernard ross

    Although I consider the author sincere I was left with the conclusion that the past 2000 years of libel, swindling, and slaughter of the Jewish people has not actually changed. We see today that although many are currently abstaining from the more extreme behaviors, many continue to libel the Jewish people and Israel while giving support and financial aid to the murderers of Jewish civilians and children. In that respect what appears to be a 70-year hiatus after the last major pogrom/holocaust is in fact not an hiatus but rather part of the regular cycle. Libels and swindles always preceded the prior pogroms and today is not different. In fact the global extent of the current libels is so great I am expecting the return of the usual cycle of direct Jew killing, or an attempt at it. This article actually demonstrated how easy it is for Christians to completely change their views about Jews overnight. The author actually demonstrated that Jews should beware that a major and growing portion of evangelicals can believe the opposite negative about Jews based on the same bible. This is not encouraging. Germany was the most liberal country in Europe before the last holocaust and the U.S. is the most liberal now. However, this can change overnight according to interpretations of the bible and the popularity and funding of the anti-Semitic branch of evangelicalism.

  • Aryeh Baruch

    I saw this just before Shabbat and can not give a full response which I will after Shabbat. However, the naivety or myopia that we have in Christian (including Messianic Jews) and Jewish dialogue is based on the very text Christians hold to as their “Inspired Text.” Even a superfluous reading of the last book of the NT, “Revelations,” which will inform you of a prophetic future where Israel/Jews will succumb to the “ultimate” truth of Christianity and become part of the new “heavenly” Jerusalem (the church) which has no real connection with flesh-and-blood Jews or the land of Israel. It predicts a cessation of the world order as we see it with Israel as a distinctly Jewish nation and country to be replaced by a homogenized humanity.

  • Shari M

    Amazing—someone has finally said it and made it make sense! Thank you so much, I’m only 3/4 of the way through and have tweeted 11 quotes from your piece – with links of course — already. Way to go!

  • Roy Amadeus

    J4J poster Mitch Glaser dissimulates—which, unfortunately, an occupational hazard among Messianics. Case in point:
    Ron Cantor, the beloved cousin of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va). Born in America, Ron Cantor, according to his website, “has been privileged to passionately share on the Jewish Roots of Christianity and God’s broken heart for His ancient people Israel in the U.S., Brazil, Ukraine, Switzerland, France, Russia, Hungary, Israel, Germany, Argentina and most recently to Uganda and Nigeria.”

    Cantor now lives in Tel Aviv, where he operates Messiah’s Mandate (www.messiahsmandate.org). That’s right: this apostate currently is actively working to turn the Jewish state into a Christian one! With “friends” like these…

    • CombatTrooper

      Again, the Messianic Jews are not representative of the evangelicals either. It is a big mistake to take a small group and assume that the larger group holds the same values.

  • Hezakiah Sammi Levinson

    If you want the truth, I don’t trust you. It’s as simple as that. You can smile and proclaim your support for Israel and the Jewish people all you like, along with the televangelists wrapping themselves in a tallit, but the shadow thrown behind you tells the true story. You have the Southern Baptists that run and finance the Jews for Jesus, a missionary organization determined to get Jews away from Judaism and Torah and converted to Christianity. With a budget of over six million a year devoted to that purpose, bus loads of converted Jews and non-Jews travel the U.S. targeting Jews, even dressing as Orthodox Jews handing out missionary materials on the subway in NYC.

    The Assemblies of God Church had a big helping hand in the creation of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America and the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues. These churches strip awqay all the standard symbols of Christianity and deck themselves out to look like synagogues. Using names like Y’shua for Jesus, Brit Hadashah instead of New Testament, they prey on the uneducated Jew to give the impression that it’s just another Judaism when it is not.

    When your church stops preying on Jews to lead them into your faith and destroying ours, when you stop financing these missionary factories to wipe out our faith and our culture, then and only then might I start to believe you actually don’t have the age-old ulterior motive.

    • IslandTyger

      Well put.

    • Jean Krainik

      True. Unless he rejects the very tenets of his ‘religion,’ he’s not to be believed.

  • Mosh Munken

    Dear Mr. Nicholson,

    I want to thank you for your candor and patient explanation. I learned very much from reading your article.

    There are political consequences to your warning for us Jews in Israel as well, though these are very unlikely to be realized during the reign of such weak-minded individuals as Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu.

    In the mid-1990s, I taught English at a Palestinian high-school in the Bethlehem region. About 70% of my students were Christian Arabs, the rest Muslim—-reflecting the population division at the time.

    Where are my students now? Gone, most of them to Santiago, Chile, along with the majority of the Christian population. Israel is still being blamed for this exodus, along with the “economy,” but if you look more closely it is the extortion rackets on Bethlehem businesses, harassment of girls on the way to school, outright plunder of Christian residences and real estate, building of mosques next to churches, that are the cause of this exodus. More simply: the same methods of squeezing out the ancient population as one sees today in Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, etc. It is a shame that stains the entire Middle East.

    Can this truth be told? It won’t be by the present Christian Arab population of Bethlehem, including its Church leaders. The more they are squeezed, the more they will shout the mantra of Israeli oppression, injustice etc. to prove their loyalty to their actual overlords. No one who did speak the truth would be allowed to walk the streets there for a single day.

    The lesson to be learned is, that is was a huge mistake on Israel’s part to transfer this region in 1996 to the Muslim-dominated Palestinian Authority. There was a flourishing Christian majority then: it has suffered a huge beating; Israel should have known this, should not have been naive about who it was dealing with in its dreamy hopes for “peace”. And now, if it wants to control the message on the ground, and save what’s left of the ancient Christian population, the only way is to control also the territory. Nothing less will do.

    When the Oslo Accords are officially recognized by both sides as having failed, Israel should go back in, retake the Bethlehem region and make it livable once again for a Christian populace—just as it had been for much of the last two thousand years. Christian Arabs who owned property there before 1996 should be encouraged to reclaim it. Some of the Christian refugees recently driven out of Iraq, could also be given a place—a symbolic gesture, but a powerful one, from the Jewish State. And non-Arab Christians who find the historical sanctity of Bethlehem specially meaningful, could also be encouraged to take up residence there. The Bethlehem region needs to become an Israeli protectorate.

    All this requires action which goes against, as said, the instincts of our current leaders. But it is the right and necessary step, and the only one that will allow a truthful message to be told—and the continued existence of living Christianity near its holiest sites.

    • ProfJMRood

      I appreciate Mr. Munken’s comment: he is right. Most Palestinian Christians have realized that secular Arabism has completely failed them. They can not realistically expect the Muslim Brotherhood to defend their religious autonomy. They are now between a rock and a hard place. Whether Israel is ready to carve out space for a growing Christian community—by accepting refugees both in Israel and the West Bank—will determine the future of the entire region. This is the hardest aspect of the entire conflict. Messianic Jews and Palestinian evangelicals must work together to pressure the PA to come to terms with Israel and end the state of war.

      • Rocky Racoon

        The Christian population was well protected under secular Arab States and in Iran 30,000 Jews prefer to remain in that country rather then join the Zionist State of Israel.

        • Isaac Rubinson

          There used to be 130,000 Jews in Iran until the ayatollahs took over. They all fled, many to Israel. As for secular Arab states, what few there were are are now being challenged by the Islamists with often catestrophic results for the Christians. Meanwhile, there once were nearly 1 million Jews living in 10 Arab countries until 1948. After that these Arab governments to varying degrees created conditions that led to most of these Jews fleeing (often for their lives). Today there are fewer than 10,000 Jews remaining in the Arab states, most having emigrated to Israel. This chapter of ethnic cleansing by Arab governments is fully part of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, even if Palestinians and their allies prefer to try to cover it up.

  • Yitzchak Ben-Shmuel

    Well resourced and written, this essay attempts to cover the entire issue of Evangelicals’ relationship with Israel and the Jewish People. It succeeds to a large extent in providing information, history, opinions which educate many. The concluding paragraphs defending the physical existance of the State of Israel as a
    Jewish State and the lives of its citizens are to be praised. No ideological or religious debate could ever excuse the omission
    of that conclusion.

  • Yochanan Hardisty

    Christian Preachers here in the U.S. openly ask for “seed money” in order to spread the “good News” of Jesus to the Jewish People on Christian TV stations. As a Jew/Israeli, I like the political support for Israel. But I do find the undercurrent drive to convert us, in that political support, disgusting. Martin Luther at first liked us. But when we didn’t convert, he called on his followers to burn us. Wasn’t Luther a German? So therefore, may I ask…. Will they love us when we don’t convert?

    • CombatTrooper

      TV preachers are not representative of the evangelical community. In fact many of them are totally out of step with real Christianity. Americans have a problem with assuming that national figures speak for the masses. No one elected Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton to speak for all blacks. Thus most of these TV preachers have no real congregation. At best they might have a few thousand followers, a very small portion of the larger community.

  • NCTroy

    I think the author is sincere as well as threatening. The underlying tone is one of threat— “if Jews and evangelicals are to cooperate, they must do so sooner and not later. I’m proud to stand surety for my own community’s readiness to
    act”—and the article is basically trying to convince Jews why they need evangelicals. Politically at least. I dislike the idea I must agree with evangelicals, whose main purpose is to convert me, because they support Israel. And not because they have any humane feelings for Israel or the Jewish people, but because it plays into their particular worldview. Even the author talks about his idea that we Jews have a special role to play in the cosmic order. Well and good, however he is referring to the evangelical’s idea of the cosmic order, and that one includes converting us. Sorry but why would I support or form a strategic alliance with someone who supports me only so far as it fits his purposes and, more than likely, would throw me under a bus if I didn’t? Because that seems to be the underlying tone here. If you’re wondering why 42% of Jews view evangelicals unfavorably, ask yourself why that is? Being Jewish isn’t only about supporting the state of Israel, you know.

    • Sean Ferguson

      It’s because Jews like to think of themselves as profoundly liberal and “tolerant” but we’re full of it. Being a Jew isn’t just about Israel—but for Jews in America it’s mostly about DNC morality. That said, “rednecks, tea party, NRA, Republicans, Mormons” are unworthy of tolerance and cross-cultural dialogue. For most it’s easy enough to package evangelicals in there. So most Jews probably view evangelicals unfavorably because of #waronwomen #equality #yolo etc. The percentage of Jews who even know enough to perseverate on the eschatology issue are a pathetically small portion of the Jewish community at-large.

      Incidentally, I think you are missing something fundamental about strategic alliances. For more on this, look at the 1956 war and specifically how France did ultimately throw Israel under the bus when the straits of Tiran were blockaded in 1967. Pop Quiz: The IAF aircraft which won us the Six-Day War were built in which country?

      • soljerblue

        Mystere — France

      • NCTroy

        The majority of Jews are liberal and tolerant. On the other hand we suffer with the Sheldon Adelsons as well. And the fact of the matter is that Jews are concerned about womens’s rights and gay rights, etc. You should be too—it isn’t that “rednecks, tea party, NRA, Republicans, Mormons” aren’t worthy of tolerance and cross-cultural dialogue. It’s that they’ve shown themselves reluctant to engage in it. And I have enough of a history with evangelicals not to trust that they have the Jews’ best interests at heart. From your post I see you don’t have that experience.
        I believe in strategic alliances. The kind that don’t make he hold my nose and worry that they will turn on me. Try selling that line of “the evangelicals are our friends” to someone who hasn’t had the experience of their “friendship.”

        • Natan

          Liberal (in today’s context) and tolerant are mutually exclusive. The liberal mind will tolerate only those agreeing with him.

          • NCTroy

            Spoken like a true conservative. And so ironic, you calling me intolerant. Do you also write for The Onion?

  • Joel Davidi

    “The suggestion of Jewish-Christian cooperation on anything but the most trivial matters of daily existence would have seemed not only absurd but almost unthinkable.”

    Eh. Not exactly. Read my post here:

    http://ha-historion.blogspot.co.il/2011/10/doomed-proposal-of-joint-jewish.html

  • MysticScholar

    The author is intelligent, knowledgeable, and thoughtful–but also generally wrong. Christian Zionists have an agenda that is ultimately unfriendly both to Jews and Israel. Jewish alliances with Christian Zionists, particularly among American Jews, are fraught with peril. See fuller discussion in: http://mysticscholar.org/review-robert-nicholson-evangelicals-israel/

  • One State Solution

    The Israeli Law of Return redefined regards a Jew for Jesus as an ex-Jew. Not eligible for return no matter how “pure” the bloodline. So here we have a “Christian” minister wishing for Jews to remain Jews by Israel’s definition, rather than accepting his Savior. And he says it’s in the Bible. No wonder the tiny sects who taught these kind of absurdities centuries ago were regarded as heretics.

  • Jean Krainik

    You say, “He sent a redeemer to atone for their sins and restore them to the divine communion that was lost at Eden.” Lost? What was lost? The original and unchanged plan of individual salvation is given after Eden in Genesis 4:7 . “Is it not so that if you improve, it will be forgiven you? If you do not improve, however, at the entrance, sin is lying, and to you is its longing, but you can rule over it.” Sin is an event, not a person. A satan is an obstacle, a test. There is a good inclination and a bad inclination – without which there would be no free will. Free will is a blessing because we are able to choose, and by choosing good, and not worshiping ‘gods your fathers did not know,’ we are able to demonstrate to the Creator that we accept the rules of living that He expects from us. Compare D’varim 30 about whether we are able to choose good over evil, with Romans 10 where Paul distorts D’varim and leaves off the most relevant part “that you may do it.” The excuse ‘the devil made me do it’ is a cop-out and a distortion of the holy Jewish scriptures. A good Hebrew-English Tanakh is a must for every student of Hebrew where the original language is translated properly, using the proper tense rather than mistranslations from past or present tense into future tense to make the translation ‘seem’ christological.

  • godsfriend777

    Where can i buy that rainbow Israel flag from? Please its so important. Shalom!

  • Matt McLaughlin

    The Origins of Christian Zionism: Lord Shaftesbury and Evangelical
    Support for a Jewish Homeland

    Donald M. Lewis:

    The Balfour Declaration operated enshrouded in secrecy, gave no reasons for the Declaration, outlined
    no conditions – other than those in the Declaration itself – and expected no
    accountability. The Declaration was not debated in either of the Houses of
    Parliament and like most foreign policy issues, was never approved by the
    British legislature.

    Many Zionists were Jewish converts to evangelical
    Christianity who did much to shape the development of popular evangelical thinking in these matters. It was this Protestant religious discourse that
    marked the family backgrounds of many of the key members of the British
    political elite responsible for formulating the Balfour Declaration.

    http://assets.cambridge.org/97805215/15184/excerpt/9780521515184_excerpt.pdf

  • Natan

    As a proud Jew and Israeli I am grateful for anybody’s love and support of Israel. That is one aspect of Derekh Eretz that we all should embrace.

  • Rocky Racoon

    I just post this here and let the reader make up their mind about Zionist Israel and their Mission here on Earth. Although I am glad to here some Christians are starting to smell the coffee….

    The relatively new concept of Zionism began only about one hundred years ago and since that time Torah-true Jewry has steadfastly opposed the Zionist ideology. This struggle is rooted in two convictions:

    1. Zionism, by advocating a political and military end to the Jewish exile, denies the very essence of our Diaspora existence. We are in exile by Divine Decree and may emerge from exile solely via Divine Redemption. All human efforts to alter a metaphysical reality are doomed to end in failure and bloodshed. History has clearly borne out this teaching.

    2. Zionism has not only denied our fundamental belief in Heavenly Redemption it has also created a pseudo-Judaism which views the essence of our identity to be a secular nationalism. Accordingly, Zionism and the Israeli state have consistently endeavored, via persuasion and coercion, to replace a Divine and Torah-centered understanding of our peoplehood with an armed materialism.

    True Torah Jews is dedicated to informing the world and in particular the American public and politicians that not all Jews support the ideology of the Zionist state called “Israel”. In fact, a great number of Orthodox Jews view the ideology of that state as diametrically opposed to the teachings of traditional Judaism.

    We are concerned that the widespread misconception that all Jews support the Zionist state and its actions endangers Jews worldwide.

    We are NOT politically motivated. We are motivated by our concern for the peace and safety of all people throughout the world including those living in the Zionist state. We support and pray for peace for the people of the Zionist state but have no interest in and do not support the Zionist government.

    We seek to disassociate Jews and traditional Judaism from the Zionist ideology by:

    1. Providing historical and supporting documentation that Zionism is totally contrary to the teachings of traditional Judaism through the words of our Rabbis, Sages, and Holy Scriptures which oppose the creation of a state called Israel.

    2. Providing historical documentation on the ideology and creation of Zionism, the supporters of Zionism and the negative impact of their actions on the Jewish people in the past hundred years, including their involvement in the Holocaust and their activities up to the present day.

    3. Publicizing the efforts of traditional Jews to demonstrate their opposition to Zionism, efforts which are often ignored by the mainstream media.

    4. Convincing the news media, politicians and the public to cease referring to the State of Israel as the “Jewish State” but to call it what it is: the “Zionist State”.

    We also aim to reach out to our Jewish brethren who have never studied the subject of Zionism from a Torah perspective, and have only been taught the Zionist side of the story. It is our hope that all of our fellow Jews will soon open their eyes, return to Torah and reject this ideology that replaces the Jew’s age-old hope for G-d’s redemption with a false redemption and a human-initiated state

    • Eddi Haskell

      Give me a break. You are about as much a brother to other Jews as your anti-zionist cohorts who sat with David Duke and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran at the Holocaust Denial conference and plotted for our destruction. No one is buying your story here — go sell it to some Iranians for more financial contributions to whatever sick and twisted faith you have that is not true Judaism. You are about as Jewish as a ham sandwich.

  • RedRoverJim

    Its a shame to see Alex Awad, as a representative of the Christ at the Checkpoint conference so biblically illiterate. Does he not even recognize the difference between the Abrahamic and the Mosaic Covenants? The New Covenant has not done away with promises made to Abraham, rather it affirms them. If Awad was truly courageous, he would fight the true source of oppression, which is the brain-washing of his people by the endemic hatred of Islamic anti-Zionism. Awad is more of a Muslim in this sense than he is a Christian. Its truly very sad.

  • jaunita

    I have to differ with the author. As a 67 year old American Christian (not one of the young Evangelicals he mentions) what I have been observing is plainly the fact of many of my fellow Christians becoming (most, for the first time) aware of Palestinians and their personal plight and circumstances. This has and is causing many within the Church here, in the West, to question the dispensationalist teachings most of us were raised in the Church hearing. Many have come to realize many doctrines which are incorporated in this form of theology, are error. What is loosing ground, are the teachings of Scofield. Many, as I stated, are beginning to understand that Jesus died and rose again, for all people and loves the Palestinians with the same degree he loves all people: That God shows no favoritism and we should not either. The fact of there being many brothers and sisters who are Palestinians, (fellow believers) came as quite a shock to many Evangelicals. Many, that had lost homes, livelihoods, freedoms, loved ones, and even their own lives, due to the ongoing conflict. The Church cannot turn its back on these truths and now that many are aware, they won’t.

  • Hanoch

    Beneath the very friendly and polite tone, the author is complaining about the basic lack of human gratitude on the part of the Jews in response to Christian support for Israel. And he happens to be quite right. But before we debate the theology, we should be looking at the human dimension. I write as a religious Jew. As I write, the news is filled with the Muslim barbarism in Iraq. Nothing new about that. In our day, world evil resides in the unholy alliance between Islam and the political left. As human beings, we should be openly and firmly united in God’s cause against that. Everything else is of secondary importance.

  • http://endtimechaverim.wordpress.com Princess

    Good article. While American Jews seem touchy about appreciation of evangelical support of Israel, Israel has no such compunction and enthusiastically welcomes support from wherever it comes. Israel sent their Consulate General to Christian Zionist Chuck Smith’s funeral.

    The author is correct in that the Christian Palestinian narrative is making subtle inroads, especially among the youth. Emergents are waiting in the wings for the old guard to die out. Then they will take over and ever-so-gradually introduce the, “Love Israel, Love Palestinians, Love Peace,” Sami Awad deception, and they won’t know what hit them. I agree that it is essential to introduce a program that would provide an educational trip to Israel to religious leaders, especially youth leaders, as well as up and coming influential persons. The major Evangelical institutions are already infiltrated and falling. Better friends you don’t understand than enemies you do.

  • Y. Mattos Rosenmann

    Canaan was given to Bnei Israel by Hashem to inherit the Land and the Region in all Canaan.

Responses

  1. Two Words by Elliott Abrams
    It's time for American Jews to say thank-you to evangelicals—and to act accordingly.
  2. My Dinner with Irving by Wilfred M. McClay
    On evangelicals, the evangelical Left, and the Jews.
  3. Before Pastor Hagee, There Was Lord Shaftesbury by Gertrude Himmelfarb
    The Victorian roots of evangelical Zionism.
  4. A Nation with the Soul of a Church by James Nuechterlein
    Why Americans love Israel.
  5. Fervent Friends, or Fickle Ones? by Robert W. Nicholson
    Despite what some of my respondents say, something fundamental is changing inside the evangelical movement, and it bodes ill for Israel.

About the Author

Robert W. Nicholson, a researcher in the areas of law, religion, and Jewish-Christian relations, holds degrees in Hebrew studies and history as well as a JD from Syracuse University. A former U.S. Marine and a 2012-2013 Tikvah Fellow, he has published in, among other places, Jewish Ideas Daily, the Jerusalem Post, and the Times of Israel

  

A debate is taking hold within the evangelical world, and the Jewish future will be greatly affected by how it unfolds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among my Jewish friends I am constantly struck by the profound lack of understanding of evangelical Christianity and of the factors behind Christian Zionism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thousands of evangelicals from around the world celebrate at the annual Sukkot parade  in Jerusalem, September 24, 2013. © Eddie Gerald/Demotix/Corbis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

More so than the members of almost any other branch of Christianity, evangelicals share a profound attachment to the textual world of the Bible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

President Harry Truman holds a Torah scroll received from Chaim Weizmann, president of the new Jewish state of Israel, May 25, 1948. © Bettmann/CORBIS.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evangelicals love Israel because God loves Israel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor John C. Hagee's Cornerstone Singers perform Havah Nagilah, with interpolations. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While many if not most evangelicals embrace Christian Zionism, some evangelical leaders are less than stalwart in their feelings for the Jewish state, and others are scathingly critical.

 

 

 

 

  

 

Publicity poster for the anti-Israel film, With God on Our Side, dir. Porter Speakman Jr., 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

Headquarters of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

The bias of Palestinian evangelicals against both Israel and Christian Zionism is cloaked in the language of justice and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alex Awad, pastor of the East Jerusalem Baptist Church. Courtesy Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

The most inventive theme embraced by Palestinian evangelicals involves the recasting of Jesus as a Palestinian dissident unjustly crucified by the Jews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A cartoon recasts the crucifixion as a Palestinian symbol. “Intifada,” supplement to Al Hayat Al Jadida, December 11, 2000. Courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tony Campolo, promoter of "Red-Letter Christianity," April 5, 2013. Courtesy of Bradley Siefert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More and more American evangelicals are being educated to accept the pro-Palestinian narrative—on the basis of their Christian faith.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If there is a way to help evangelicals help Israel, it should be found and followed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor John C. Hagee, founder and national chairman, Christians United for Israel, leads a march in support of Israel in Jerusalem, April 7, 2008. AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pro-Israel Jewish community that once looked warily upon evangelical support may come to regard that movement with nostalgia.