January 8, 2006


Among Evangelicals, A Kinship With Jews: Some Skeptical of Growing Phenomenon (Alan Cooperman, January 8, 2006, Washington Post)

"I feel jealous sometimes. This term that keeps coming up in the Old Book -- the Chosen, the Chosen," says the minister, who has made three trips to Israel and named his sons Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. "I'm a pardoned gentile, but I'm not one of the Chosen People. They're the apple of his eye."

Scholars of religion call this worldview "philo-Semitism," the opposite of anti-Semitism. It is a burgeoning phenomenon in evangelical Christian churches across the country, a hot topic in Jewish historical studies and a wellspring of support for Israel.

Yet many Jews are nervous about evangelicals' intentions. In recent weeks, leaders of three of the nation's largest Jewish groups -- the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Union for Reform Judaism -- have decried what they see as a mounting threat to the separation of church and state from evangelicals emboldened by the belief that they have an ally in the White House and an opportunity to shift the Supreme Court.

"Make no mistake: We are facing an emerging Christian right leadership that intends 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 . . . from the military to SpongeBob SquarePants," the ADL's national director, Abraham H. Foxman, said in a Nov. 3 speech.

Julie Galambush, a former American Baptist minister who converted to Judaism 11 years ago, has seen both sides of the divide. She said many Jews suspect that evangelicals' support for Israel is rooted in a belief that the return of Jews to the promised land will trigger the Second Coming of Jesus, the battle of Armageddon and mass conversion.

"That hope is felt and expressed by Christians as a kind, benevolent hope," said Galambush, author of "The Reluctant Parting," a new book on the Jewish roots of Christianity. "But believing that someday Jews will stop being Jews and become Christians is still a form of hoping that someday there will be no more Jews."

No people is so stiff-necked that if Christ returns they'll deny Him again, are they? While if someday the Messiah who comes turns out not to be Christ and tells the rest of us we biffed, there will be no more Christians. And if He comes and tells us Mohammed had it right then Jews and Christians can bow out together. Of course, if a whole bunch of folks show up to discipline The Squire of Gothos and apologize for what he's put us through, no one'll go away happy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 8, 2006 8:26 AM

But what if the heavens open and the voice of Immensity booms out: "Darwin was right!"? I sure hope there will be blogging in the next life.

Posted by: Peter B at January 8, 2006 8:59 AM

Not to worry; the voice of Immensity, no matter how convincing, need not, necessarily, be heeded, as the following midrash seeks to illustrate (via Richard Silverman):

…In that day Rabbi Eliezer refuted every one of their [the Rabbis’] objections. But they did not accept his view.

He said to them, “If the law is with me, let this carob tree prove it.” The carob tree was uprooted from its location by a hundred cubits. And some say ‘four hundred.’

They said, “One cannot find proof in a carob tree.”

He replied, saying to them, “If the law is with me, let the water duct prove it.” The water duct turned back on itself [the water flowed upstream].

They said to him, “One cannot find proof in a water duct.”

He replied, saying to them, “If the law is with me, let the walls of the beit midrash (”rabbinic academy”) will prove it.” The walls tipped over [as if to fall].

Rabbi Yehoshua rebuked them saying: “If scholars try to beat each other in halacha (”law”), how is it your concern?” They did not fall, out of respect for Rabbi Yehoshua. And they did not straighten, out of respect for Rabbi Eliezer. And they still stand bent.

He [R. Eliezer] said to them: “if the law is with me, the heavens will prove it!” A bat kol (”heavenly voice”) issued forth: “Why do you dispute Rabbi Eliezer, when the law is with him in everything!”

But Rabbi Yehoshua arose and said: “Not in the heavens is it…” [Deut. 30:12]. What did he mean by “not in the heavens?” Said Rabbi Yirmiya: “The Torah has already been given at Mount Sinai; we give no credence to a bat kol, because You had already written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, ‘Decide according to the majority’” [Exod. 23:2]

Rabbi Nathan met Elijah. He said to him, “What did the Holy One Blessed Be He do then?”

He said to him, “He laughed and said, ‘My children have beaten me. My children have beaten me.”‘

From Tractate Baba Metzia 59b (and in Hebrew).

(translated by Richard Silverstein)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at January 8, 2006 9:52 AM

And others of us look at the Olive Tree in Romans 11 as the explanation. (Yep, one of those evangelicals who reads the Bible to understand things. How tiring.)

Posted by: Arnold Williams at January 8, 2006 10:54 AM

That keeps you up at night, doesn't it Peter?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at January 8, 2006 11:46 AM

Galambush has it exactly backwards. The expectation of the Conversion of the Jews does not mean that there will be no more Jews, just that there will be no more of the sect of the synagogue of Satan.

It really isn't a good idea for us the fight about this. We should pray for one another, stand together against the common enemies, and wait for the answer.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 8, 2006 12:34 PM

What's odd about this is that, for Jews to care, they have to be open to the possibility that the Christians are right.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 8, 2006 12:41 PM

"But believing that someday Jews will stop being Jews and become Christians is still a form of hoping that someday there will be no more Jews."--Christians hope that everyone will become a Christian. But not under threat or coercion, which is, by definition, impossible anyway.

And Foxman gets the SpongeBob thing exactly wrong. I went to the WeAreFamily website who produced the video for schoolkids (just as the kids would be invited to do). It said the group advocated the largest possible definition of marriage & family. Presumably not just SSM, but polygamy, etc. as well. It wasn't Christians forcing their beliefs on others, but SSM advocates sneakily trying to proselytize other people's children with Queer Theory for kindergartners by using a popular cartoon character. Maybe we could get Santa to teach kids about abortion too. Anyway, SpongeBob isn't gay--he's just sensitive.

Posted by: Noel at January 8, 2006 9:35 PM