The following appeared in Jewish in Seattle magazine, the August/September 2018, edition. The question posed to Rabbi Daniel Lapin was, “Is Evangelical support good for the Jews?”
Forgive me for conforming to the rabbinic stereotype of answering a question with a question but when you ask “…good for the Jews?” which Jews do you mean? I often tell my audiences that if you gathered together, into a colossal stadium, every self-identifying American Jew, the only thing you could get us all to agree on is that Hitler was a very bad man.
Evangelical support is good for those Jews who see modern day Israel as a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. The nexus of American support for Israel is not Foggy Bottom. The State Department has long leaned Arab. The United States was not the first country to recognize Israel in May 1948; the Soviet Union was. But since 1948, Christian Evangelical strength in America has skyrocketed and paralleling it, so has American support for the Jewish state. America’s Bible belt has become Israel’s safety belt.
For Jews who would rather see slightly less whole-hearted support for Israel and who would prefer a nuanced vision for the Middle East in which Jew and Arab are seen as equivalent partners with congruent understandings of peace, well, Evangelical support is not so good.
Should we criticize Evangelical support for being self-serving? Though most Evangelicals dispute this, undoubtedly some Christians support Israel to accelerate messianic days. Jewish law mandates that we owe a debt of gratitude even to someone wishing us harm but who unintentionally does us good. At the very least we ought to gratefully welcome the support of those who wish us only good.
In today’s post-Christian Europe, Jewish men can no longer walk the streets of Paris, Manchester, Cologne, or Stockholm while wearing a kippah on their heads. Evangelical philo-Semitism indirectly helps protect kippah-wearing men in America. I for one, welcome their support and express a heartfelt thank you.