Boyarsky’s teachable moment

Bill Boyarsky’s recent column discussing the Republican Presidential candidates’ support for Israel provides a stark example of the dangers of proffering an opinion founded on stereotypes.

In an effort to delegitimize Christian Zionism, Boyarksy employs two methods to demonize religious groups that the Jewish community will recognize all too well. First Boyarsky mischaracterizes the Evangelical Christian faith. Second, he holds Christian Zionists to an unfair double standard.

The mischaracterization of faith: Boyarsky asserts that Evangelical Christians oppose Israeli land-concessions to Palestinians because Christian Zionists seek to ensure what they believe will be the second coming of the Messiah. This is simply not true. 

The vast majority of Christian Zionists do not believe there is anything anyone can do to change the timing of the Messiah’s arrival. They primarily derive this belief from an interpretation of Matthew 24:36 which states that no human being can or should seek to impact the ‘end of days.’ Therefore their motivation for supporting Israel must be rooted elsewhere. Don’t take my word for it; just read then JTA writer Eric Fingerhut’s 2009 explanation of Christian Zionist motivations:

As for the allegation that Christian support for Israel is all part of an eschatology having to do with the Second Coming, I’ve talked to enough Christian Zionists over the past few years to believe that for the vast majority of them, their support for the Jewish state is genuinely motivated by Genesis’s admonition that God will bless those who bless the Jewish people, as well as their respect for Judaism as a foundation for Christianity or even their general beliefs about U.S. foreign policy.

Further, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest pro-Israel organization in the U.S., decided at its founding to stand with the decisions of the democratically elected government of Israel. Pastor John Hagee, the organization’s founder, has addressed this matter without equivocation: “We have never, and will never, oppose Israeli efforts to advance peace.”

Boyarsky then applies an unfair double-standard to the largest block of Israel’s Christian supporters. He asserts that Evangelical Christians “feel Jews are doomed unless they accept Christ,” and that this belief is the “theological downside” to working with Christian Zionists.

While I find the choice of words here distasteful, I’m not disputing that Christians believe their faith is the one true faith. The real question is whether or not such a belief should prohibit interfaith activity.

Every faith, including Judaism, holds that its book is the true book, and that when we die, or when the world ends, we will all come to know the true nature of God. By the standard Boyarsky applies to Evangelicals, the Jewish community would never work with the true believers of any other faith.

Boyarsky once eloquently wrote of an “emotional high” he experienced while witnessing individuals from different backgrounds and faiths coming together to discuss improving local schools in “an afternoon of both spiritual and secular concerns.”

Why the double standard? Better yet, why demonize Christian Zionists and treat their support for Israel with disdain? The answer is simple: politics.

Throughout his piece, Boyarsky advances the assertion that Christian Zionists are in lock-step with Israel’s center-right Likud party – which presently holds the Israeli Premiership. Boyarsky seems to attribute this to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies. But the truth is that the vast majority of Israel’s Christian supporters will stand with the Jewish State regardless of which way the Israeli political pendulum is swinging. Christian Zionists tend to respect the Jewish State’s democracy and the Israeli people’s right to make decisions for themselves.

Unfortunately Boyarsky seems unmoved by these facts. He considers Republican condemnation of the Obama Administration’s attitude toward Israel to be “wrong-headed,” and therefore in an effort to defend the President, seems to believe that a faith-based attack on Israel’s conservative Christian allies is justified. It is not. The demonization of faith groups has no place in an honorable political discourse.

Ari Morgenstern is the spokesman for Christians United for Israel.