JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: AMERICAN EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS AND ISRAEL – WHAT ALWAYS WAS SOMETHING OF AN UNNATURAL RELATIONSHIP SHOWS SOME SIGNS OF DETERIORATING – WHY THIS IS ONLY TO BE EXPECTED AND HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH PREJUDICE – A NOTE ON THE EVANGELICALS AND TRUMP   Leave a comment

John Chuckman

COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN THE INDEPENDENT

 

“Antisemitic beliefs spreading among evangelical Christians in America

“Why do we have pro-abortion, pro-LGBTQ values, and we do not have more freedom to protect our faith?”

 

Evangelicals, despite Old Testament story connections, were not traditionally overly friendly towards Jews and Jewish interests.

Jews were not “saved,” and for a true Evangelical, that is the make-or-break criterion in judging all relationships.

Over and above that, there is the plain fact that American Jews in general were never particularly fond of Evangelicals, some Jews even being rather contemptuous.

I am aware of these things because I grew up in a neighborhood that had a substantial Jewish population. It had also a significant Evangelical population, especially people of Swedish origin, plus a very large Catholic population, people of Irish and Eastern European origins.

Recent connections between Evangelicals and Jews concerning Israel I think are not built with lasting bonds. However, that does not mean that changes in attitude may be accurately characterized as “anti-Semitic,” as your headline does.

We’ve lost all capacity for subtlety and nuance in contemporary society, and just not caring for someone or some interests in fact does not automatically connote hate or anti-anything, it only means a preference for those resembling yourself and sharing common interests.

That ipso-facto way of looking at things such as personal likes and preferences and describing them as hate is now regularly pushed at us in popular media and politics, but that fact alone certainly doesn’t make the claims accurate.

Recent past connections between Evangelicals and Jews at least in part reflect certain American Evangelical leaders and their personal relationships with Israel’s leadership and America’s Israel lobby. An Israeli leader like Netanyahu has actually sought out some these guys in the past to cultivate, and that clearly represents a pragmatic political connection having little to do with fundamental views or values.

Those Evangelical leaders, more ambitious political leaders and empire builders than truly religious leaders, I’m pretty sure never reflected what’s really in the average Evangelical’s heart on the matter.

And those leaders are getting old and some of them have died off, so over time you might expect a change in attitudes. I’m referring to men like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

Also, such leadership is subject to abrupt change, as we saw in the case of Jim Bakker or Jimmy Swaggart. The preaching business is a fairly volatile one.

You can find, for example, Evangelical businessmen who do not like to do business with the “unsaved” of any description. And it’s the same for bonds of friendship. Parts of the American Jewish community, especially the orthodox, display the same kind of preferences.

In Israel, it is actually illegal to proselytize Jews for conversion, a law indicating a very deep separation in values between Evangelicals and Israelis. And it is well known that many parts of the American Jewish community, again especially conservatives, frown on marriage with non-Jews, a view that has often been expressed publicly.

Another factor at work here is that long enough exposure to the harsh realities of modern Israel might be enough to convince even some fervent believers that any relationship between it and the Israel of the Bible is pretty much wishful thinking. Certainly, we know there are American Jews who feel that very way.

I think the existing alliance with Israel’s interest has some parallels with the current alliance of some Evangelical leaders and Donald Trump. It is political in nature and largely synthetic. In some respects, almost unnatural.

Trump represents absolutely no fundamental Evangelical value. He is often foul-mouthed, dishonest, unfaithful, and he is, most certainly, “unsaved.” I am sure many ordinary Evangelicals are uncomfortable with a political relationship some of their politically ambitious leaders promote.

Any strength in the bond comes only from the sloshing overflow of American Patriotism into American Evangelism plus some attitudes like racism and xenophobia, both not impossible to find anywhere in America, including in American fundamentalism. But when so many other factors are wrong, I think the bond cannot not strong or enduring.

There is also the simple fact of a gradual decline in the number of traditional American fundamentalists. Evangelism is fading.

 

Posted August 24, 2019 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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