Jews and the Evangelicals

Posted: Nov 23, 2007 12:01 AM
Jews and the Evangelicals

It is a peculiar thing about Jews that we seem to trust our enemies more than we do our friends. Maybe that's because, historically, we at least had the comfort of knowing where we stood with those who openly despised us, but very often suffered betrayal from our alleged allies.

It would help explain why many of my older relatives, those who had been born in Czarist Russia and had experienced pogroms, believed in Stalin, and eagerly lapped up his propaganda. Because he was an enemy of their enemies, they foolishly mistook him for a friend. It's simplistic, but why else would so many seemingly well-informed American Jews have enlisted in the Communist Party, swelling the ranks of Stalin's "useful idiots"?

These days, the most consistently pro-Israel group of Americans, oddly enough, are evangelical Christians. A sane and rational person might assume that fact would be appreciated and applauded by us. By and large, however, that isn't the case. Many of my fellow Jews don't like or trust devout Christians. When I ask them why, they suddenly become history professors. To listen to them, you'd think the Inquisition had ended earlier this year. Frankly, when I hear them dredging up ancient animosities, I'm surprised they haven't taken a page out of the Al Sharpton playbook and demanded reparations from Spain!

When I point out that Jews have enjoyed unprecedented freedom and prosperity in a Christian nation -- namely, the United States -- my friends insist that it's not Christian. At which point, I have to laugh.

The fact that we're not a theocracy does not make their case, no matter how loudly they may insist on it. When we say that Turkey, for instance, is an Islamic nation and that India is Hindu and that Italy is Catholic, although none of them is a theocratic state, how can we deny that America, whose population is overwhelmingly Christian -- and is only 2% Jewish -- is Christian?! The fact of the matter is that America has a higher proportion of Christians than Israel has of Jews.

The problem between pro-Israel Jews and pro-Israel evangelicals is that the Christians believe that, come Judgment Day, Jews will have to convert to the true faith or be doomed for all eternity. Big deal. There are millions of people who believe that Elvis is alive, that James Dean will stage a comeback as soon as the scars heal, and even that the Cubs will go all the way this year!

I have no way of knowing if Christians are correct in believing that the Messiah is coming back a second time, or if Jews are right in thinking that Jesus was a first-rate prophet, but not quite up to raising the dead. Where faith is concerned, I don't take sides.

In case you haven't guessed, I'm not religiously oriented. However, I'm for anything that helps people behave decently and helps them cope with all the inevitable tragedies of life, up to and including death. In my experience, anyway, most religions in America perform those functions more often than not.

Understand, I do not support Israel because it's a Jewish state. I am on its side because it is, one, a democracy in a part of the world where democracy is as alien as barbecued pork; two, it is a staunch ally of America; and, three, for over fifty years, although it has been besieged by terrorist states and fanatical killers, it has displayed remarkable restraint. It is a restraint that, I humbly confess, I could not duplicate in my wildest dreams.

So when I hear American Jews who, as often as not, are no more religious than I, dismiss Christian sympathizers, I say to them: "So you believe one thing about Jesus and they believe another. So what? Who cares? If it makes you happy, make a bet with an evangelical, and in a million years or whenever the great Hallelujah Day rolls around, one of you will owe the other one five bucks. In the meanwhile, in a world in which Israel's opponents out-number her supporters by at least five hundred-to-one, it's high time you learned to distinguish between friend and foe."