An unlikely partner

By NATHAN GUTTMAN
July 20, 2006 23:13

A Jewish-American author explores Christian Zionism and its motives.

3 minute read.



David Brog runs the Washington office of Christian United for Israel - the newly formed pro-Israel Christian lobby - from the den in his apartment. As executive director of the lobby, Brog has great plans. Not only for moving into a real office, but also for convening more than 1,000 activists for the first conference of the lobby and making the group's voice heard in the nation's capital. Meanwhile, Brog is touring the country, trying to win the hearts and minds of Jewish and non-Jewish Americans who oppose the idea of Christian Zionism. His new book - Standing with Israel - Why Christians Support the Jewish State - is the first comprehensive attempt to make the case for the pro-Israel Evangelical Christians. The book targets the doubtful and the suspicious and takes on, one by one, the claims being raised against the Christian Zionists. A former chief of staff for Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Brog began taking an interest in the pro-Israeli Evangelicals after meeting their representatives on the Hill. "They loved Israel, they cared about Israel and I was touched by that," Brog says in an interview. He was disturbed by the dissonance between this impression and the common view in the Jewish-American community - which tends to steer clear from any contact with Evangelical Christians - and took on a mission of exploring Christian Zionism and its motives. Brog's conclusions are far from the consensus in the Jewish community. He does not believe the Evangelicals are out to convert him and all other Jews, does not suspect their motives in supporting Israel and does not think they are not worthy of partnering with the Jewish community, which differs from them on almost every social issue. "The Christian Zionists are the heirs of the righteous gentiles who saved Jews in the Holocaust," Brog exclaims, providing a historic explanation to the phenomenon. According to the book, published this May, the Evangelicals are continuing the tradition set by some European Protestants which rejected the "Replacement Theology" claiming God has rejected the Jewish people and the Christians had replaced Israel as the chosen people. "There was a revolution in Christian theology toward the Jews in America, but no one noticed," he says. In his book, Brog - a relative of former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak - deals with one of the most disturbing issues for many American Jews: The fact that Evangelicals evangelize. According to Brog, Christians cannot give up their ambition to convert everyone - Jews, Muslims and fellow Christians - but he claims that as they get to know the Jews better, they understand the Jewish sensitivity to any attempt at conversion, and grasp the historic trauma of conversion for the Jewish people. "They're literally shocked that we find it offensive," he says of his Christian friends. "Once they learn about our sensitivity to Jesus-talk, they talk about it less." But the main reason the US Jewish community doesn't feel comfortable joining forces with the pro-Israel Christians has more to do with their domestic politics than with their belief in Christianity. The Evangelical Christians represent a mirror image of Jewish-American beliefs. While the Jewish community is staunchly pro-choice, Evangelicals are leading the fight against abortion rights; the Jews support - in large numbers - gay marriage, stem cell research and separation of Church and State, while the Evangelicals take the opposite views on these issues. Several Jewish leaders, among them Rabbi Eric Yoffie, who heads the Reform Movement (the largest Jewish movement in America) and Abraham Foxman of the ADL, have lashed out recently at the Christian Right and stressed the ideological differences between them and the Jewish community. Brog claims that while political differences do exist, they should not prevent Jews from forming pro-Israel coalitions with the Evangelicals. "To say that Evangelical Christians are not worthy of joining with? I find that an extremist position that is highly troubling." Brog would like to see his fellow Jewish Americans accept Christian-Zionists as true friends, not only in the sense of "holding the devil's hand while crossing the bridge," as he puts it. Can that ever happen? Brog believes that with his books, speaking tours and lobbying activity he can make the Jewish community see the Christian Zionists in a different light and accept them as they are. Yet the growing political gaps in American politics make realizing his vision difficult. As the power of the Christian Right grows in Washington, the mainstream Jewish community feels its values are under attack. Brog himself is optimistic. "There are two words I'd look to hear American Jews saying to their Christian friends, and these two words are 'Thank You.'"


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