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« Bear the light | Main | Real talk »
Tuesday
Oct082013

Uncovering white evangelical obsession with Israel

By John Pierce

It is not unusual to hear certain politicians, commentators and preachers — and followers who parrot their words in Facebook posts and political arguments — express strong support for the nation of Israel. In recent years, however, these calls for unwavering loyalty to the Israeli government, regardless of their policies or actions, have grown in frequency and intensity.

Where does such an obsession come from? The two-fold answer is: political ideology and religious eschatology — that often get mixed together.

Some who espouse unfailing support of Israel are simply delivering yet another line picked up from a voice they believe offers truth — and finding it to be another handy way of expressing displeasure with a political leader or party they view with distain.

Few of these supporters have traveled to Israel or had serious conversations with Israeli Jews or Arab Christians who live daily in such tender-box tensions. Some don’t even know there are Christians in Palestine — who suffer and are declining in number.

The complexities of the Middle East are not of interest to those who like to simplify everything — and often argue that Israel is “the apple of God’s eye” and, therefore, should be free to act in any way current leaders choose. They have the divine seal of approval, and anyone who opposes any of Israel’s policies or actions is opposing God and risking godly retribution.

To say that many evangelical Christians are politically obsessed with Israel might seem like an overstatement to some. But consider the latest results of a recent Pew Research study of American Jews.

Twice as many white American evangelical Christians (82 percent) believe that God gave the land of Israel to the Jews than do American Jews (40 percent). Even after subtracting from the survey those who do not claim a belief in God, evangelicals still top Jews (82 percent to 55) in holding to that position.

The study also found that white evangelicals favor stronger American support of Israel than do American Jews — although American Jews still identify very heavily with Israel.

Politically, however, American Jews tend to be less conservative than evangelicals. And unwavering political support of Israel has become another mark of conservative political identity in America.

I’ve spoken with Jewish persons who live in Israel and in the U.S. who admit the oddity of finding strong uncritical support of the Israeli government from this segment of the American population that tends to not value interreligious activities and often seeks governmental preference for their own faith tradition over others.

Scratch deeper and one finds that the political ideology that drives this obsession has roots in a version of eschatology — end-times beliefs — that calls for the preservation of Israel as an essential step leading to the Second Coming of Christ.

Perhaps that explains a little bit more why so many white conservative Christians are so adamant about giving a foreign government their unquestioning loyalty while heavily criticizing their own.  But then, advancing a political ideology mixed with bad theology is likely the answer to many questions that arise today.

But I’m still quite surprised by the results of this extensive study of American Jews — and the how overwhelmingly and passionately evangelical Christians have bought into this theologically shaped, political ideology.

References (3)

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    Uncovering white evangelical obsession with Israel - John D. Pierce Blog - Baptists Today, The Source for Daily Baptist News for You and Your Church
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    Uncovering white evangelical obsession with Israel - John D. Pierce Blog - Baptists Today, The Source for Daily Baptist News for You and Your Church
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    Response: my review here
    Uncovering white evangelical obsession with Israel - John D. Pierce Blog - Baptists Today, The Source for Daily Baptist News for You and Your Church

Reader Comments (3)

So, what else is new? Evangelical Christians have identified with modern Zionism since the beginning of the movement after WWII. The thing about Evangelicals is that they have chosen the Bible over the Qur'an. Moreover, they actually read it and believe its promises. So, when they read Deuteronomy 34:4, for example, they say, well yes, modern Jews as a remnant of ancient Israel might have prior claim to the land. And, it's a claim going back maybe 3500 years. Modern Muslims are Johnnies-come-lately having only arisen as a group in the 7ht century AD by which time even Christianity was old (which, by the way, is a Jewish sect hijacked by Gentiles). You have to pick a basis for your beliefs and Evangelicals have chosen the Bible. One responsibility for Evangelicals is to serve as peace-makers, which isn't an easy task considering that both sides in Israel consider their claims to be absolute. Getting people with this mentality to compromise would tax even the wisdom of Solomon. As for our government, that's an entirely separate matter. We have a situation in which politics and economics are intertwined in the minds of some and people in that group see their claims as absolute. It shouldn't be surprising that Evangelicals are politically conservative.

Oct 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVirgil H. Soule

Another thing: are there Jewish atheists who don't believe in God? The idea is oxymoronic. How is that possible?

Oct 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVirgil H. Soule

It shouldn't be surprising that Evangelicals are politically conservative. The thing about Evangelicals is that they have chosen the Bible over the Qur'an. Moreover, they actually read it and believe its promises.

You got that right. So, where does that leave the non-evangelicals? Have they chosen the Qur’an over the Bible? Islam is a cancer on the world – billions of Moslems subjected to it and the other billions threatened by the teachings of the Qur’an. With no religious connotation at all, it makes sense to support Israel simply because that’s a way of stemming the Islamic tide, with its credo of death to the infidel. The Middle East nations are governed by this so-called religion, meaning that the ayatollahs, imams and their religion-sanctioned genocidal warfare against the innocent is reason enough to stand against them. Supporting the only non-Islamic nation in that part of the world, especially one as militarily potent and positioned as Israel, just makes sense, though the enlightened liberal Christian (an oxymoron?) certainly will not agree.

Oct 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim Clark

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