December 8, 2005


Finding Uncommon Ground: Jews and Evangelicals explore the boundaries of their relationship at New York conference (Adam Dickter, 12/08/05, Jewish World Review)

Several Evangelical Christians struggled to accept Rabbi Poupko's pronouncement that the teaching of biblical prophets as understood by Jews applied only to the circumstances at the time and do not necessarily tell us anything about contemporary life.

In the initial session, two demographers presented survey data that illustrated how wide a gulf exists between the two communities, although perceptions of each other have improved. The University of Akron political scientist John Green compared statistics from 1996 to the present and found that a better mutual understanding of both groups had emerged as a result of growing exposure of Evangelicals to mainstream American society and better education.

Barry Kosmin of Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., found in his survey that 97 percent of Evangelicals agreed with the statement "G-d helps me," as opposed to just 34 percent of Jews and 71 percent of adults in general. Economically, the two groups were not found to be dissimilar; 73 percent of Jews and 75 percent of Evangelicals said they owned their own homes and 58 percent of Jews and 49 percent of Evangelicals were college graduates.

A majority of Jews, 56 percent, said they were Democrats while a majority of Evangelicals, 58 percent, identified as Republicans. "Clearly, Jews are literally and figuratively blue-state Americans while Evangelicals are red-state," said Kosmin. "The source of the gap lies in political and social reasons more than economics." Geographically, 47 percent of Evangelicals and 60 percent of Jews said they lived in suburbs.

In his comments, Jack Wertheimer, provost of JTS, noted that "the great asymmetry of these two different communities is at the heart of what this conference is all about. The Evangelical population is surging while the Jewish community is in decline. The Jewish community does not define itself as necessarily religious. "

What can even observant Jews have in common with secular "Jews"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 8, 2005 7:36 AM

(I'm going out on a limb, but here goes): The fact that they're all Jewish?

(Just ask the dude who wrote "My Jihad" or something like that.)

To be sure, certain groups of ultra-orthodox sometimes find themselves asking the same question (though you might catch them asking the same question about other groups of ultra-orthodox, as well).

Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 8, 2005 8:36 AM

I would not agree that ". . .teachings of Bibical prophet. . .applied only to the circumstances of the time. . .." The position of most Evangelicals, and of at least one RC I know, is that the OT teaches Bibical principles, which are universally applicable, mutatis mutandni.

Of course the great thing which has been changed is the coming of the Messiah and the salvation of all who accept Him. Thus we may put sour cream or mayonnaise on our sandwiches, as might seem best to us at the moment, but we shall not go whoring after strange gods.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 8, 2005 11:40 AM

Barry: And both Pope Benedict and Ted Kennedy are Catholic. So what?

Posted by: b at December 8, 2005 11:56 AM

You forgot to mention Andrew Sullivan. Or the Berrigans, the liberation theologists and the Opus Dei types.

Or is the implication that Catholics with varying attitudes towards, and who place different emphases on, their common faith, its age-old traditions, hopes and affirmations have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in common?

(I'm an E Pluribus Unum guy, myself; and I like to think I believe in big tents. Not to everyone's taste, I know.)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 8, 2005 12:38 PM

The fact that the Nazis killed both religious and secular Jews seems to have created a strong sense of Jewish identity with whomever survived.

One could be "culturally Jewish" without being especially religious. The same among Catholics whose Catholicism is especially tied with their ethnicity - Irish, Italian, Polish, etc.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at December 8, 2005 12:44 PM


Yes, Evangelicals have much in common with the Church and nothing coomon with folks like Sullivan.

Posted by: oj at December 8, 2005 12:46 PM


Yes, the Nazis were Applied Darwinists--they perceived Jews as a race (and therefore a sub-species), not a religion. Need Jews adopt Hitler's view?

Posted by: oj at December 8, 2005 12:46 PM

Barry: The important thing is "their common faith." A lot of American Jews seem to think that their heritage is based on eating matzo ball soup a couple of times a year. The differences between them and Orthodox Jews extend far beyond fashion choices...

Posted by: b at December 8, 2005 1:13 PM

34 percent of Jews say that "God helps me"? That is it? I bet athesists have a higher rate.

Posted by: Bob at December 8, 2005 4:58 PM