Jews vs. Christians

By Klinghoffer, David | First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, February 2006 | Go to article overview
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Jews vs. Christians

Klinghoffer, David, First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

These are troubled times for Jewish-Christian relations. In November, two influential American Jewish leaders, representing large swaths of the Jewish community, gave major speeches vilifying politically conservative Christians. As an Orthodox Jew who has long worked with evangelicals, Catholics, and other serious Christians, I would like to propose an ameliorative measure aimed at furthering inter-religious peace and friendship: Let every Christian gently ask a Jewish friend for a moment of his time. Tell him you've been following the news about some of the statements issuing from Jewish organizations in regard to conservative Christians. Tell him you're confused and concerned. In a spirit of affection and respect, ask your friend if he would be willing to answer six simple but puzzling questions.

Preface this by giving the relevant recent background information. Mention that Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, the country's largest Jewish denomination, called Christians and other religious conservatives "zealots" and "bigots." Harshly attacking opposition to gay marriage, Yoffie remarked, "We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations."

Yoffie, whose movement includes 1.5 million members, spoke on the heels of comments from Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman. "Today," Foxman said, "we face a better financed, more sophisticated, coordinated, unified, energized and organized coalition of groups in opposition to our policy positions on church-state separation than ever before. Their goal is to implement their Christian worldview. To save us!" Foxman warned that evangelicals in particular have "built infrastructures throughout the country," intending "to 'Christianize' all aspects of American life, from the halls of government to the libraries, to the movies, to recording studios, to the playing fields and locker rooms of professional, collegiate, and amateur sports, from the military to SpongeBob SquarePants."

In view of these provocations, here are the questions I'd suggest that Christians ask:

* Is it not true that Jewish leaders have better things to worry about than the spiritual fate of SpongeBob SquarePants? Let's say, about radical Islam? Or secularism? At a time when radical Muslims threaten Jews and others around the world, why vilify American Christians?

Yoffie and Foxman spoke at a time when fellow Jews were worried about disturbing news from across the Muslim world. In France, Arab youths rioted--the same youths who since 2000 have been harassing French Jews, burning synagogues, and desecrating Jewish cemeteries. In Egypt, television viewers had just enjoyed a month-long dramatization of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The president of Iran called on Muslims to "wipe Israel off the map." Meanwhile, the number of Jews lost to any form of Christianity is minuscule compared to the number lost to nothing, to secularism. If the ADL's institutional purpose is to safeguard the existence of the Jewish people, if the Reform movement cares about Jewish souls as well as Jewish bodies, why has neither group ever campaigned against the threat posed by secularism?

* If conservative Christians were less politically powerful, would this help or hurt the security of the state of Israel?

No nation has been a better friend to the Jewish state than the United States, and for this, our country has earned the enmity of Israel-haters around the globe. In shaping American policy, domestic Christian pro-Israel sentiment has been at least as influential as Jewish support. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that some of them really are looking forward to Armageddon, in the manner of the Left Behind books, with a global war centered upon Israel playing a key role in the unfolding of events at the End of Days. However distasteful you might find that view, please consider: If these same Israel-loving conservative American Christians all retired from political activism now, would Israel be better off or worse?

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