In a spate of recent articles appearing in major Jewish, Christian and mainstream publications, there appears to be a consensus across the political and religious divide acknowledging a significant weakening of evangelical support for Israel.
JewishIsrael has heard the murmurings over the last few years, as pastors and pundits have been predicting the emergence of an evangelical Left. As far back as September 2007, in an article entitled “Theopolitical Climate Change”, JewishIsrael noted the following:
“…progressive voices in the evangelical movement are stepping forward and putting poverty and environmental concerns at the top of their agenda. They are meeting with Arab ambassadors, distancing themselves from Israel's national camp, and promoting a two-state solution. Theopolitical winds could be shifting.”
While today many Jewish and Christian leaders continue to tout the Israel-evangelical relationship as a “together forever match made in heaven”, those closest to the “Christian Zionist” camp are troubled and conscious of a very definite trend pointing to serious cracks in the “unshakable” Israel-Evangelical alliance.
The March 2014 magazine cover and issue of the Jerusalem Post Christian Edition was dedicated to the question, “Do the old Zionist ties still bind the young generation of evangelicals?”. It featured several articles on the subject, including Nathan Guttman’s “Israel’s grip on evangelical Christians loosens”.
Jürgen Bühler, executive director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), recently penned an article in Charisma Magazine stating that:
“For many decades, evangelical support for Israel seemed rock solid. Today, however, many younger Christians in Western churches are hesitant to give Israel the same unconditional support their parents did. Stories of Palestinian suffering, rather than the struggles and triumphs of Israel, have attracted the sympathy of young evangelicals. They appear to be motivated more by the cause of social justice for the “oppressed” Palestinians than the prophecy-driven backing of the restored Jewish state”.
David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), wrote a widely disseminated, eye-opening piece for the spring edition of the Middle East Quarterly titled “The End of Evangelical Support for Israel?”. Excerpts:
“The days of taking evangelical support for Israel for granted are over. As they are increasingly confronted with an evangelical-friendly, anti-Israel narrative, more and more of these Christians are turning against the Jewish state…”
“The threat is not that these activists will turn the majority of American evangelicals into Israel haters. They do not have to. The real danger is that they will teach their fellow evangelicals a moral relativism that will neutralize them. The day that Israel is seen as the moral equivalent of Hamas is the day that the evangelical community—and by extension the political leaders it helps elect—will cease providing the Jewish state any meaningful support.”
Jim Fletcher, a prolific pro-Israel writer and member of the executive committee for the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel (NCLCI), wrote an article titled “Rise of the Anti-Israel Evangelicals”, which was published two months ago in Frontpage Magazine. Fletcher wrote:
“Rank-and-file evangelicals, though, are for the most part unaware of this shift that is taking place. It is easy to continue believing “70 million evangelicals” support Israel, but the spokesmen and leaders of the past (such as Jerry Falwell) are passing from the scene.
As they do, a new generation of leaders suspicious of Israel and her supporters are fomenting a growing hostility for the Jewish state…and her backers in the church.”
The headlines and developments over the last few months have indeed been dramatic. They cite recent Pew polls, anti-Israel endeavors such as Christ at the Checkpoint, and note the palpable lack of enthusiasm for Israel among millennial evangelicals (the younger generation).
The Rebellious Son?
A very telling, if not stunning illustration of the erosion of evangelical support for Israel can be seen by comparing Stephen Strang, publisher and founder of Charisma Magazine, to his son Cameron Strang , publisher and founder of Relevant Magazine.
For a number of years, the senior Strang served as a very active and outspoken Regional Director of CUFI. Despite CUFI’s alleged non-proselytizing policy, Stephen Strang openly supports the messianic community in Israel as well as missionary campaigns targeting Jews. He even dedicated the cover and issue of Charisma Magazine to the missionary agenda in Israel. Nevertheless, Stephen Strang and Charisma’s politics remain consistently pro-Israel (albeit sometimes reeking of anti-Semitism).
The same cannot be said of Stephen’s son, Cameron Strang, who has come under severe criticism from organizations such as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) for leading young evangelicals down an anti- Zionist path under the banners of “peace”, “justice” and “Palestinian suffering”.
Jewish Writers Stepping Up to the Plate.
In addition to the problems already cited which are eroding Israel’s alliance with evangelicals, there are a number of Jewish columnists who are increasingly writing about the pitfalls inherent in Jewish-Christian interfaith endeavors, as zealous evangelical leaders continue to target Jews with proselytizing, encourage the messianic deception, and regularly blur and cross the lines between faiths.
Diane Weber Bederman is a multi-faith, hospital trained chaplain who lives in Ontario, Canada. She is staunchly pro-Israel and blogs on interfaith issues for publications such as the Huffington Post and Times of Israel. She has spent years working with people of different faiths and using their beliefs to help them through crises. Most recently she has turned her attention to the deception of “messianic Judaism” and has written a number of articles on the topic:
Judy Lash Balint is an award-winning Jerusalem-based journalist, writer and author whose works have been widely published. A trusted and respected voice, her finger is always on the pulse of what is really happening in Israel.
Can the Left Ever be Right… Sometimes?
Sarah Posner is an investigative journalist, author, and expert on the intersection of religion and politics. Posner’s politics are decidedly left. Yet when it comes to her more recent articles concerning the evangelical missionary agenda, she has toned down some of the political slant in favor of hard-hitting articles based on meticulous research and facts. Her articles on the topic of the Israel-evangelical relationship and the influence of messianics in Israel have appeared in publications from The Atlantic, to Moment Magazine, to Mother Jones. They are worth a read.
Jewish Leadership Cannot Read the Writing on the Wall
Christian Zionist leaders are writing about a new and disturbing anti-Israel trend among evangelicals, while Jewish writers across the political and religious divide are warning about the dangers of faith-based alliances with zealous Christians. It seems everyone who reads these writers’ reports becomes acutely aware of what portends to become a new and disturbing reality. The only members of the Jewish community who remain illiterate when it comes to reading the writing on the wall appear to be those who are receiving benefits and funding from various evangelical, messianic and Hebraic roots entities.
Rather than pause and step back to assess the changes and challenges, these Jewish organizations and activists continue to try and “make room for jesus”, declaring it a “new dawn” of Christian love and a sign of prophetic times. They remain oblivious to the proselytizing and foothold that these very same groups and the missionary partners they are in alliance with are gaining in Israel, even as evangelical political allegiances and theologies shift.
JewishIsrael has spent the greater part of its efforts over the past several years trying to call Jewish leadership to order and pleading for accountability and foresight vis-à-vis Israel’s faith-based partnership with evangelical entities. At the same time JewishIsrael has consistently advocated a moral non-theological relationship with Israel’s gentile friends.
Jews who spent years weaving together a theology-based relationship should use their foresight and shift their strategies to where they should have been in the first place: building an inspired, yet grounded, moral and ethical relationship with all gentiles based on Judaic values.