When Jews are bigoted against Conservative Christians
Over the last 20 years, I have probably spent as much time with Evangelical Christians as with fellow Jews — in private settings, speaking at churches, on listener cruises, in my home and in their homes.
I have come to admire and in many cases love these people.
Unfortunately, this is likely to strike many American Jews as foolish, naïve, politically driven or all three. After all, these people are overwhelmingly conservative both politically and religiously, precisely the group — the “religious right” — that many American Jews fear and even disdain.
In 1994, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a famous report, “The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism in America,” whose title summed up the Jewish organization’s — and much of the Jewish community’s — view of Christian conservatives. Commentary Magazine wrote at the time that the ADL “has become guilty of the one bigotry that seems to be acceptable these days — bigotry against conservative Christians.”
In 2005, Rabbi James Rudin of the American Jewish Committee published a book titled “The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans for the Rest of Us,” an attack on the Christian right, which he described as an “immediate and profound threat to our republic.”
“The campaign to permanently transform America into a faith-based nation where one particular form of Christianity is legally dominant over all other religious communities constitutes a clear and present danger,” Rudin wrote.
That same year, at the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) biennial conference in Houston, its then-head, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, in the words of the URJ press release of Nov. 19, 2005, “criticized the Religious Right for its exclusionary beliefs and statements that say ‘unless you attend my church, accept my God, and study my sacred text, you cannot be a moral person.’ ”
I could cite similar prominent American Jews’ irresponsible attacks on conservative Christians for pages. The most accurate word that describes these and other American Jews’ views is “bigoted.”
Take Yoffie’s statement. It is a textbook example of bigotry in that it imputes to a group dark actions or beliefs that are not true — just what Jews have too often been subjected to when accused of saying or doing things they do not and have not said or done. I have never met nor read nor heard one Christian conservative who has said, “Unless you attend my church, accept my God and study my sacred text, you cannot be a moral person.”
Assuming the rabbi’s organization quoted him correctly, Yoffie simply made it all up.
Likewise, Rudin’s charge that conservative Christians seek “to permanently transform America into a faith-based nation where one particular form of Christianity is legally dominant over all other religious communities constitutes a clear and present danger.”
What is he talking about?
For one thing, as regards transforming America into a faith-based nation, count this Jew as among those who wish to see this occur. It is not, however, a “transformation.” America was founded as a faith-based nation by faith-based people (including those often and erroneously called “deists”). Not one founder foresaw America as anything but a faith-based nation. What they opposed was establishing a state religion.
If anyone is engaged in a “transformation” of America, it is those who wish to make America a non-faith-based nation, a secular or even an atheist nation. They project their attempt to transform America onto their opponents.
And what is this about conservative Christians seeking to make “one particular form of Christianity legally dominant over all other religious communities”?
Name one example. Making most abortions illegal? Are there no Orthodox Jews who seek this? Or religious Muslims? Or even some secular individuals who deem abortions on viable fetuses immoral? Keeping marriage defined as between one man and one woman? Likewise, millions of non-Christians believe in that.
Too many American Jews — primarily because they politically oppose the conservative positions held by Evangelicals — fear 50 million of their fellow Americans. Fifty million people, most of whom are particularly decent, particularly charitable, disproportionately involved in charitable volunteer work, and who form the bulk of America’s support for Israel.
It is a shame. And it is a shame on the Jewish community. American Evangelical support, and often even love, of the Jewish people and Israel is the most unrequited love I have ever seen on a large scale.
I know that Evangelicals believe that those who do not accept Jesus as their savior will not be saved. Obviously I don’t share this view, or I would be a Christian. But so what? Why would Jews lie about these people and fear them just because we reject their theology? Aren’t we Jews supposed to judge others by their behavior, not their religious beliefs?
Muslims are beheading innocent human beings in the name of Allah, exterminating Christian communities, rendering tens of thousands of kidnapped women forced wives and/or sex slaves, murdering tens of thousands of people, seeking to mass-murder Americans and destroy Israel. Yet the very Jews who fear the American religious right, the greatest American supporters of Israel and Jewry, label anyone who says a critical word about the contemporary Islamic world “Islamophobic” bigots.
It is perfectly acceptable to oppose the positions of the religious right. It is bigotry to lie about and demonize it.
At least one Jewish organization seems to have come to this conclusion. Although it did not apologize for its 1994 report, eight years later the ADL issued this statement:
“American Jews [should be] highly appreciative of the incredible support that the State of Israel gets from a significant group of Americans — the Evangelical Christian Right. In many ways, the Christian Right stands out as the most consistently supportive group of Israel in America. … In sum, American Jews should not be apologetic or defensive about cultivating Evangelical support for Israel. The need for support of an Israel under siege is great. Fortunately, Evangelical support is overwhelming, consistent and unconditional.”
It’s time for all Jews to rethink their attitude toward America’s conservative Christians. So here’s an invitation to Jews who still fear the religious right. Attend just one of the many “Salute to Israel” events that churches and organizations, such as Christians United for Israel, put on each year. Listen to these Evangelicals speak, and talk to them privately. You may still oppose them politically, but as a Jew and as a human being with a heart, you will no longer demonize them.