Journalist Giulio Meotti calls for rejection of Judeo-Christian blend

"…Israel’s leaders urgently need to set up a moral platform rejecting the “Judeo-Christian” blend, which theologically fuses Jews and Christians together without protecting the Jewish faith and maintaining Israel as an independent single-faith Jewish community..."

 

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, "The Rav", couldn't have said it better himself. But, in fact, the above words were penned by the fiercely pro-Israel and very articulate Italian journalist and author Giulio Meotti, in his recent YNET op-ed, Does Israel need Christian help?  

 

Depending on one's viewpoint, Meotti's conjuring up memories of Rabbi Soloveitchik's stance, in order to defend Israel's alliance with evangelical Christians, can be seen as either a brilliant strategic move by advocates of the interfaith partnership or as somewhat disingenuous and suspect by those who oppose the faith-driven coalition.  Jewish Israel sees it a little differently…

 

Benevolent exploitation and theo-political expediency

While we found it surprisingly refreshing to see the Rav's ideas materialize in the most unlikely of places, we feel Meotti's use of the Rav's position to shore up a theologically loaded relationship is ultimately incongruous and misses the mark. For lack of a better term, let’s call it "benevolent exploitation".

 

Jewish Israel believes that Giulio Meotti  is a Gentile who is sincerely inspired by Israel and truly concerned about the Jewish people (he's even made a thoughtful attempt to understand Israel's Hareidi  sector).  However, it's likely he recently pulled the counter-missionary card and Rabbi Soloveitchik out of a hat in an attempt to quell the internal Jewish debate over evangelical support which threatens to erode a much larger "theo-political" agenda.

 

 Muslim persecution of Christians, and the death of Christianity in the Middle East, appears to be a primary motivation behind Meotti's love for Israel.  His articles passionately lament the demise of Arab Christianity in the region:

"The cross is near extinction in the lands of its origin."

"The Islamic tiger is now devouring the Christian lamb. Indeed, the Christian era in the Middle East is coming to an end."

There is currently empathy for the plight of Christians and the future of Christianity emanating from Jewish Zionist circles and Meotti would like to maintain that momentum.

 

He feels the fate of Israel is "intertwined" with the fate of Christians in the Middle East. For Meotti, Israel represents the great white hope for a resurgence of Christianity in the region:

"Today, the white flag with the beautiful six pointed star is a symbol of survival and hope for both Jews and Christians…"

Meotti has his finger on the pulse of the world churches and trends towards anti-Semitism. However, to ask the Jewish people to choose between the good church and the bad church is a little one-dimensional. Had Meotti a more accurate understanding of the nature of the American evangelical movement, he would realize that his urgent call for "rejecting the 'Judeo-Christian' blend " is an exercise in futility, as the pro-Israel evangelical enterprise is missionary in nature and aspires towards a "Judeo-Christian" fusion (see Ephesians 2:14, Ephesians 2:15, Ephesians 3:6, Galatians 3:28).

 

Although fatally flawed and a bit misleading, Meotti's article, Does Israel need Christian help?, is a worthwhile read. The article raises the bar on the level of debate over the issue of boundaries in interfaith relations and will perhaps challenge Jewish and Gentile minds and hearts.  Here is something to chew on: while Israel should be concerned with international human rights abuses and involved in humanitarian issues in our region and the rest of the world, is the Jewish state and the Jewish people also obligated to support the preservation and perpetuation of Christianity in the Arab world?  Where are the lines?

 

As expected a number of popular anglo-Israeli bloggers (see here and here) were thrilled by Meotti's article. Jewish Israel responded accordingly with the following talkback comment:

 

It's nice that Meotti's article draws from Rav J.B. Sovoleitchik z"l and recognizes the urgent need for red lines:

"…Israel’s leaders urgently need to set up a moral platform rejecting the “Judeo-Christian” blend, which theologically fuses Jews and Christians together without protecting the Jewish faith and maintaining Israel as an independent single-faith Jewish community..."

In fact, the renowned Talumdist opposed the term “Judeo-Christian” and wrote in his essay "Confrontation", which is still upheld as halacha that,“people confuse two concepts when they speak of a common tradition uniting two faith communities such as the Christian and the Judaic.”

But the entire pro-Israel evangelical enterprise is advocating the "Judeo-Christian blend", and is promoting that toxic blend via the messianic and Hebraic roots movements in Israel. Indeed, folks like Pastor Hagee, Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, Tommy Waller, and numerous pro-Israel evangelical members of American Congress have their hearts set on implanting the "Judeo-Christian" spirit "in Israel's heartland, and strive to break down the theological barriers between Jew and Christian.

Meotti uses the Jethro vs. Amalak model, but it is incorrect to couch this issue in terms of the philo-Semitic church versus the anti-Semitic church. When it comes to concerns of Jewish spiritual continuity this argument is irrelevant. Even if Christians had been kind to the Jews for two millennia, a distance and separation of faiths would still be a core principle and concern of Judaism.

Pro-Israel Christians are fond of usurping the biblical figures of Ruth and Jethro for their cause, yet both of these figures were converts to Judaism. As Meott's reference to  Amalek is concerned, it was Amalek who - like the missionaries of today- attacked the weak and vulnerable sectors of our nation. Do we have an amalekian- like situation today where activists and those leading the Jewish state are turning a blind eye to the dangers and turning their backs on the more vulnerable Jews -while proudly declaring that they are secure in their faith and that nobody can convert them.

When it comes to the church and our grappling with the new Christianity versus the old Christianity, perhaps the biblical model of Esau would be more appropriate. Because, while "Esau's bite" in the form of anti-Semitism is obvious, "Esau's kiss" may ultimately be more deadly.

Some commentators, like Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, the Beis HaLevi (not to be confused with his great-grandson Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik) infers that Yaakov was more frightened of Esau as a brother and friend than as Esau the man of violence.

In fact, Rav J. B. Soloveitchik followed in is great-grandfather's footsteps and in the 1960's expressed concern of the new evangelical direction of the Catholic church and feared the camaraderie which would result between Jew and Christian. Spiritual assimilation rather than anti-Semitism was his concern.

So the real issue is not one of which church is nicer to the Jews, but whether or not the Jews are equipped to play with this evangelical fire in a responsible manner. It's clear that red lines need to drawn in Israel's relationship with pro-Israel evangelical Christians and that there should be an accountable framework with which to monitor the relationship on an ethical, political, spiritual, financial, and legislative level.

 

The challenge of establishing political, physical and spiritual boundaries with friends and enemies alike has been part of the Jewish epic journey from time immemorial. There are indeed solutions at hand which will not compromise our faith, heritage and inheritance. We only need to face the issues honestly and directly, rather than skirt them.

 

Gentile friends, like Mr. Meotti, also have their task cut out for them.  They should continue in their efforts to take a principled and just stand with Israel and the Jewish people, while thoughtfully considering ways to separate the moral sphere from their personal political and religious agendas.

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Tags: Christian persecution, Giulio Meotti , Judeo-Christian, Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, evangelical, interfaith, missionaries

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