November 30, 2004

SCALING ZION:

A pro-Israel group teaches us a lesson about Evangelicals and ourselves: Disagree all you want with the evangelicals, but give them their due (Jonathan Tobin, 11/30/04, Jewish World Review)

Can a group number as many as 70 million individuals fly under the radar? Outside of the context of politics, Christian evangelicals are virtually invisible in American culture, except to be laughed at or feared.

Just as the image of the Jew can be a dangerously misleading generalization, the same is true for the image of the evangelical.

Listen to many Jews talk about conservative Christians and you'd think they're discussing the Taliban.

This disconnect between image and reality is of no small importance in the aftermath of a presidential election in which evangelicals and "moral values" voters are said to have provided the margin of victory for President Bush.


There's no better predictor of someone's relative Zionism than where they fall on the scale from atheism (anti-Zionist/post-Zionist) to fundamentalism (rabidly Zionist).


Posted by Orrin Judd at November 30, 2004 12:05 PM
Comments

Well I'm currently at a kibbutz in the Jordan Valley and these folks are not post-Zionist.

Howitzers that saw service in the '48 and '67 wars are proudly displayed as monuments along with other rusting armaments, even a single engine propeller plane (Sopwith Camel?).

I've seen only one kibbutz car with a Shalom Akhshav (Peace Now) sticker, but many here have Israeli flags outside their homes.

But since they fall on the left end of Orrin's scale, that should not be so.

Posted by: Eugene S. at November 30, 2004 12:17 PM

I was very much struck by this exchange on Meet The Press last weekend:

MR. RUSSERT: And we are back. Welcome all.

Reverend Falwell, let me start with you. You wrote a Falwell Confidential, a newsletter memo out right before the elections, and you said this, "It is a responsibility of every political conservative, every evangelical Christian, every pro-life Catholic, every traditional Jew...and everyone in between to get serious about re-electing President George Bush."

Why was it a responsibility, a duty of Christians to vote for George Bush?

DR. JERRY FALWELL: Because I'm a [d]emocrat. I don't vote Republican. I vote Christian. And I believe that he is pro-life, pro-family, pro-Israel, strong national defense, faith-based initiatives for the poor, et cetera. And George Bush fits the criteria for all of them. John Kerry met little or none of those criteria.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 30, 2004 12:44 PM

The Jews who equate conservative Christians with the Taliban are the same Jews to whom the survival of the state of Israel and of Jews worldwide is much less important that guaranteeing the right to unlimited abortion. As I've said at least once before in a comment on this site in another context, those Jews who believe that Judaism is a social action committee and not a faith are those who are most prone to oppose those who treat their faith as what it truly is.


Posted by: Morrie at November 30, 2004 1:08 PM

Traveling through the Red States is, to many people in the northeast and more and more on the west coast, akin to the trips the pioneers had to make from Omaha to California in the mid-1800s -- unchartd territory with many strange and possibly deadly inhabitants lurking therein. And since the media is based in the areas where they live, it for the most part reinforces those beliefs, and is content to make evangelicals who make the most provocative statements and have access to a satellite uplink (like Falwell over the past 25 years) the voice and face of the entire community.

Posted by: John at November 30, 2004 1:13 PM

Perhaps the fact that so many evangelicals look upon Jews as ripe for conversion should be factored in.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at November 30, 2004 2:17 PM

Actually, no one ever tries to convert me. I think I'm a little insulted. I do get spam offering to introduce me to Christian singles in my area.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 30, 2004 2:52 PM

Why would we convert folks who got for free what we neded a Messiah for?

Posted by: oj at November 30, 2004 3:06 PM

And yet, people try to convert Jews. Perhaps they have a different spin on what Jesus' coming meant.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 30, 2004 4:12 PM

Well, there's no reason they shouldn't accept Him too, just to be safe.

Posted by: oj at November 30, 2004 4:17 PM

Michael: What people? Where? Show me the people.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 30, 2004 4:54 PM

OJ -- You wrote: "Well, there's no reason they shouldn't accept Him too, just to be safe." For all of your respect for Judaism, how can you trip over the "Jews for Jesus" trap? Or were you just joking?

Posted by: Jim Siegel at November 30, 2004 7:42 PM

Jim:

I was joking, but at this point there's a significant body of thought among theocons that holds we should recognize Jews as Chosen and Gentiles as redeemable by Christ. It seems fair to ask why Jews shouldn't accept the same.

Posted by: oj at November 30, 2004 7:55 PM

OJ:
Jesus, a Jew, came to the Jews as their redeemer. Jewish folks don't need to be converted to Christianity, per se, they simply need to recognize Jesus for who he was/is...The Messiah, the redeemer of the Jews, the Chosen One sent by the King of the Universe!

Also, while the chosen people of God, the Jews still needed a redeemer. Their redemption is, as is the case with all people (Gentiles), through Jesus.

Posted by: Phil at November 30, 2004 10:54 PM

David:

I'd be glad to talk w/you about Jesus anytime.

Posted by: Dave W. at December 1, 2004 2:35 AM

God has chosen a particular people.

What a revolting concept.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 1, 2004 6:45 AM

Strange coming from someone who believes Nature selects particular people.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 7:18 AM

Jeff:

God chose a particular people to be his children and has offered all the people of the world an an opportunity to be part of this family in an everlasting relationship with himself through the redeemer of his people --Jesus the Christ. It may sound like a revolting concept to you, but it sounds like good news to me. Merry Christmas!

Posted by: Dave W. at December 1, 2004 7:37 AM

Dave: Thanks. I have no shortage of people who would be happy to have that talk with me if I initiated it. I take Michael to mean something more forceful.

Jeff: If it weren't for the honor of the thing, we'd be glad to switch off.

G-d chose the Jews to receive his Commandments and Torah, and thus imposed the responsibility for obeying the Commandments. Those who weren't Chosen don't have that responsibility, but must obey only the seven Noahnic commandments. Judaism is less into the whole saved/redeemed thing than Christianity, but nothing is foreclosed to a righteous Gentile.

Everyone else is free to Choose themselves. Go see your local Rabbi.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 1, 2004 8:03 AM

Dave:

The ancient tribes of Israel concocted a story whereupon they self identify as God's chosen with the goal of promoting group cohesion.

Keep in mind I am not talking consequences here, only concept: How does that differ in any particular way from Hitler self-identifying Aryans as Chosen People?

Why couldn't God have chosen all people to be chosen? After all, according to the story all of us are created in His Image.

Answer: He could, and any self identification sounds an awful lot like special pleading.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 1, 2004 11:55 AM

Jeff:

He didn't.

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 12:04 PM

David Cohen:

"[M]ore forceful" ?

Like what ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at December 1, 2004 1:41 PM

OJ:
There are innumerable peoples who have self-anointed as God's chosen.

It is far more likely none are than one is.

Michael:

I dunno, fluffy cushions, perhaps?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 1, 2004 2:34 PM

Jeff:

Why?

Posted by: oj at December 1, 2004 2:40 PM

Folks,

here on the "Sea of Galilee" ( Lake Kinneret) Jews and Christians get along just fine. There are many Christian shrines dotting the lakeshore, and just last week a group of pilgrims from India stopped by.

They asked for bottles to collect some water to take home with them.

Not far from here is the city of Tsfad, a place visited by Jews from all over the world for its history of scholarship, including kabbalistic tradition.

Tourism, religious or otherwise, is way down unfortunately. This is a crying shame because up here in the North is one of the safest places to be anywhere in the world. I leave my door unlocked at night.

Think about going to Israel on your next vacation. Rates are way down, hotels are a bargain.

And with the dearth of tourists, it feels like you have the whole place almost to yourself.

Posted by: Eugene S. at December 1, 2004 4:06 PM

Michael: From your comments, I assumed you meant something more than a mere willingness to convert Jews when the Jews bring it up.

Jeff: I don't know why this is so hard for you: all those other groups are wrong, the Jews are right.

Also, any question that starts "Why couldn't God ..." is just tendentious. This is a hard subject on which to find neutral language, but that particular phrasing incorporates a world-view that makes it impossible to continue to have discussions.

Look, either the Jews are right and humanity is the creation of an omnipotent power acting for His own purposes, or their wrong. If the Jews are right, then we don't get to argue with the rules very much. The rules are the rules, they were created out-of-time by a Power for Whom the whole of creation is a single, known fact, and we don't even know what Its purpose is.

If the Jews are wrong, then all we have is a time-proven blueprint for the organization of society, which we get to tweak from time to time. As human logic is self-evidently flawed (we don't deal well with the problem of unknown unknowns), it behooves us to make small changes serially and see how they play out, rather than big changes in bunches. Why people think that it's ok to play with the fundamental rules of society in ways that they would never use to, for example, debug a computer program, is an ongoing mystery to me.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 2, 2004 9:56 AM

David:

"Why couldn't God ..." is just tendentious. This is a hard subject on which to find neutral language, but that particular phrasing incorporates a world-view that makes it impossible to continue to have discussions.

I beg your pardon, but you sound like a card-carrying Leftist there. It is all well and good for religionist, apropos of nothing, to insist God could and did. So why is wondering why God couldn't tendentious?

It is in no way tendentious to wonder why an Omniscient Being wouldn't bestow his rules on all of Creation. That is a simple question begging of an answer more persuasive than handwaving. [Full disclosure. It was precisely at this point during my religious education when I developed a strong suspicion it was all an empty exercise.]

Your assertion is what is so hard. There is precisely nothing to distinguish Jews from every other group that has self-identified as Chosen, including a whole slew of others who insist humanity is the product of an Omnipotent Creator.

Jews are no more likely to be right in their assertion of chosenness than, say, the Japanese.

Let's presume for the moment the Jews are right. How right? Completely? Partially? Just a little more than the rest? Anything other than complete, unalloyed, Correctness means the fundamental rules of society are at least partially flawed, and there is nothing left to deal with that except our human logic, is there?

I fully agree that changing in haste almost always means regretting in leisure, but that conclusion is valid no matter Who is Chosen.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 2, 2004 8:17 PM

Jeff:

God recognized His mistake so sent Christ to redeem us Gentiles.

Posted by: oj at December 2, 2004 8:20 PM

Jeff: What you want is for me to justify my believe system to your belief system; or for Hashem to explain Himself to Jeff Guinn. It doesn't work like that. Even if human reason was flawless, it wouldn't work like that.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 3, 2004 7:50 AM

OJ:

God did not make the mistake, his chosen people did. The Messiah came as their redeemer (Hebrew go'el). As part of God's graciousness, God chose to extend his family and to adopt gentiles into it.

Jeff:

Yes, your "why" questions for God regarding God's will and ways are tendentious. You have a deleiberate aim when you ask them and you are advancing a definite point of view. You apparently want nothing more than to discredit God and to champion the cause that human logic disproves the existance of God.

Also,
Do I understand you as saying that you began to see Christianity, and all religious expression for that matter, as an empty exercise because no one could answer the "why God chose the Jews" question to your satisfaction?

Posted by: Dave W. at December 3, 2004 10:07 AM

Dave: OJ's Christianity is very heterodox, though I suppose we wouldn't expect it to be homodox.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 3, 2004 10:15 AM

Dave:

If there's a difference between recognizing He'd made a mistake and extending His initial action it eludes me.

Posted by: oj at December 3, 2004 10:23 AM
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