Supporting Christian Zionists and Evangelicals for Israel
Many Jews, especially liberal Jews, have a hard time accepting the friendship of evangelical Christians. The two communities disagree on so much – abortion, public education, gender issues, appropriate books for libraries and school, the role of public prayer; and perhaps also guns. But in general, we do agree on one issue that is important to the majority of Jews, and that issue is Zionism, the importance of the existence of the State of Israel. That issue alone makes friendly relations with our neighborhood evangelical church and associated organizations worthwhile.
When asked about their support of Israel, evangelicals often quote Genesis 12:3, God’s blessing of Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you,” believing that if they support Israel, God will bless them. But there is a common belief in the Jewish community that evangelical support of Israel is really based on an idea that Jesus won’t return until Jews reestablish a State of Israel according to Biblical prophecies. Or that some evangelicals support Israel because they believe that in the end times, all of the Jews will die in the apocalypse. But many evangelicals support Israel because God’s promise to Israel is eternal and therefore Israel will be saved. And whether that future salvation means that they believe someday all Jews will become Christian or that Jews will persist as Jews is a question for some future messianic era. And the world needs Israel today. So I won’t sacrifice support for Israel today just because I disagree with a theology that I don’t believe in anyway.
In a world in which real antisemitism is increasing and anti-Zionism has a strong presence in liberal and academic circles, Israel needs supporters. Jews needs friends who do not think that we are trying to control the world through Hollywood or a shadow cabal of political domination. Christian evangelicals love the idea of Jews, and for the most part, even when real Jews fail to live up to their fantasy picture of what a Jew is, they love Jews as well.
Granted, their idea of Jews only vaguely resembles the reality of Jews. They tend to imagine Jews as a monolithic people, beloved by God, who have memorized the Bible and walk closely in the footsteps of Abraham and Moses. Their picture of a Jew is influenced by the dress of Orthodox Jews, especially women in skirts and headscarfs. I’m not sure I look entirely authentic to them, except that I do wear a black (leather) kippah.
So I’ll take evangelical support of Israel, even though Christian Zionists tend to hold hard right political positions on Israel. Some object to this, saying that such positions push our American government to be more right wing than the right wing Israelis, and ultimately that is damaging to Israel’s future survival. I reject this argument for two reasons: First, despite evangelical pressure, because of our government’s strict separation of religion from state, they have mostly resisted the pressure to become a mouthpiece for the religious right wing of the Israeli government. And second, Israel is pretty good about ignoring the United States (and anyone else) who is trying to push them into making decisions that they don’t want to make, so they aren’t going to fall in line with an evangelical political position unless a majority of the Israeli public believes in it as well.
That is why I have spoken at Cornerstone University and Seminary, Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids Puritan Seminary, Western Theological Seminary, among others, and taught at Kuyper College. It is why I have participated in the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry’s Honor Israel night and Israel programming at Resurrection Life Church. We can nurture relationships and build alliances based on issues on which we agree, even when we might profoundly disagree on other issues.
Hebrew Phrase of the Month:
- • Yeshua – salvation (not only a Christian concept!)
- • ge’ulah – redemption