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Yet Another “Jews Should Support Evangelicals” Book Out

Haaretz has an interview with Zev Chafets, right-wing journalist and author of A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists and one Man’s Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Christian Alliance, the latest in a long line of pro-Christian Zionist books written for a Jewish general readership (Merrill Simon’s Jerry Falwell and the Jews was probably the first, back in 1984; more recently we’ve had David Brog’s Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State, which I blogged on here). As ever, there’s a call for Jews to get along with evangelicals:

First of all, the Jewish community needs to change the way it disparages Evangelicals. You can disagree politically or culturally without ridiculing your opponents as bumpkins, bigots, anti-Semites or dunces. Jews don’t want to be defamed, and they need to be a little more careful about defaming others. Especially people who want to be their friends.

But this is not just because of Israel:

…For one thing, a lot of Orthodox Jews and Evangelicals share conservative social and political positions. Orthodox Jews, for example, are rarely troubled by church-state separation issues. They send their own kids to parochial schools; they’re glad to get government money via faith based programs; many are opposed to abortion, and they tend not to be too concerned about the good opinion of the “international community” – ie, Europeans.

This ties in with the anti-ADL rhetoric of arch-conservatives like Don Feder, who argues that Jewish criticism of Evangelicals should be avoided for just these reasons.

Chafets goes on to soft-pedal it:

Probably a majority of conservative evangelicals support the Israeli right-wing and its settlement policies. A fringe actually contributes to the settlements and has a special relationship with the settlement movement.

A “fringe”, eh? That’s not what I would call New Life Church, the massive Colorado mega-church formerly pastored Ted Haggard, the (now-disgraced) ex-head of the National Association of Evangelicals. One of New Life’s projects is an “Israel prayer group” with particular links with the West Bank settlement of Beit Haggai. “Fringe” is also not the word that comes to mind when considering William Murray’s “Religious Freedom Coalition”, which maintains a presence in the settlement of Ariel.

Further:

Then there’s the red herring of Armageddon. American Jews who claim Evangelicals support Israel to speed up End Times – in which will lead to the death or mass conversion of Jews – are missing two points.

1.       The End Times come when God is ready. This has nothing to do with human agency; there is no way, in Evangelical thinking, that people can or should try to bring about the Second Coming.

2.       Why should Jews care about the Second Coming anyway…

There’s something in this – it’s true that not even most of the “millenarian” Christians Zionists are looking to “speed up” the End Times, and that there are lots of evangelicals of the New Life variety who are Christian Zionists without necessarily being “apocalyptic” (especially, perhaps, since actually winning the “culture wars” has become a real possibility). But that doesn’t mean an “End Times” timescale plays no role in Evangelical thinking. Most obviously, for apocalyptic Christian Zionists there is no problem with pushing Israel into a situation that is unsustainable in the long term, since there is no “long term”. There is also a sense of needing to follow certain trends that tend towards the “Last Days” scenario, such as support for Jewish groups that want to build a “Third Temple” on the site of the Dome of the Rock (the alliance of Rabbi Chaim Richman and Rev Clyde Lott in effort to breed a Red Heifer needed for ritual purposes is perhaps the oddest example of this).

Chafets concludes:

The present generation of conservative Evangelical leadership – Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, John Hagee and others–are unconditional Zionists. And Falwell and Robertson, through their universities, have raised a younger generation of like minded ministers and lay leaders.

…Zionist Christians want an alliance with the Jews, but alliances work in two directions. If the American Jewish leadership wants to make enemies out of 70 million fellow citizens, attacking them publicly on every issue is a good way to start.

Those wondering whether Chafets is a man whose advice should be considered seriously might like to recall that in 2004 he argued that Donald Rumsfeld should not be fired over the scandal of ill-equipped troops because “firing Rumsfeld over this flap would only encourage the jihadis”. James Wolcott at Vanity Fair offered one response to that.

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