In one of the more sublime moments in the rock documentary “The Last Waltz,” director Martin Scorsese asks The Band’s Robbie Robertson and Levon Helm about the “moves” various singers had developed over the years. Robertson explained singers influence singers over time; what Mick Jagger was doing was borrowed from Tina Turner, and so on.
“It didn’t just fall out of the sky,” Robertson said, grinning. No one is truly a blank slate, and nowhere is that more evident than in the worldviews of diplomats and their bosses, the politicians. So it is that John Kerry’s frenetic shuttle diplomacy and pressure on Israel “comes from somewhere.” The US secretary of state developed his worldview from somewhere.
So did Barack Obama.Yet, it is often overlooked that their respective religious backgrounds also contributed to their view of the Middle East, specifically Israel.
Everyone recognizes that pro Israel leaders like John Hagee learned to love Israel from reading the Bible. There are wide-ranging views on interpretation, but in general, pro Israel Christians are Zionists because the prophets were Zionists.
But is it less credible that Kerry and Obama came to their left-leaning views from their understanding of the Bible? After all, Dr. Gary Burge of Wheaton, Shane Claiborne, Lynne Hybels, and Todd Deatherage support the Palestinians, including the Oslo framework.
Kerry and Obama are also professing Christians—the former a Roman Catholic and the latter a long-time member of the United Church of Christ.
We all come from somewhere, and we all learn our worldviews. Just as Hagee, the late David Allen Lewis, and scholars like Malcolm Lowe and Paul Wilkinson love Israel through their reading of the Bible, so too do mainline and Catholic traditions form a concept of the Holy Land.
A native of Colorado, Kerry came to protest the Vietnam War—the very war he’d fought in—and his liberal views are well-documented. As a Catholic, he probably did not learn growing up that Scripture contains promises to the Jewish people, including land promises. For him, religious Zionism, as understood by evangelical supporters of Israel, would be an alien concept and not a little…nutty.
A major pro Israel leader once told me excitedly that he had just come from the White House, where he’d had an opportunity to explain the biblical land promises to Israel, to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He walked away very content, but I was dismayed, knowing that Rice undoubtedly thought his views wacky. Public officials simply do not, by and large, subscribe to biblical Zionism. For them, such a stance is fringe thinking.
Obama’s somewhat murky past includes his famous time, as a very young boy, in an Indonesian Islamic school. Speculation is rampant that he is a “closet” Muslim, but that can’t be proven.
What we do know is that his close circle of advisors include plenty of anti-Israel characters, including folks aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is the president’s associations within the UCC, however, that are just as interesting. The United Church of Christ is one of the most left-leaning denominations, and Obama’s views marinated in and were formed by the teachings of radical pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Obama sat under Wright for two decades at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
Wright was influenced by radical theologian James Cone, whose liberation theology fits nicely with Palestinian propaganda (which, ironically, is making headway even within evangelicals circles in America). Cone was influenced by scholars Karl Barth and Paul Tillich, they of the Scripture is “true myth” persuasion. (Interestingly, as a youth in the suburbs of Chicago, United Methodist Hillary Rodham was also influenced by the teachings of Tillich. Is it any wonder US politicians for a generation have been foisting the “land for peace” millstone on Israel? For them, the biblical promises are allegory or, at best Replacement Theology.)
One can’t know, of course, the extent that Kerry’s and Obama’s Christian experience impacts this specific issue, but we can know their overall faith rests more in a “social gospel” experience, and the promotion of various left-leaning causes, such as an expanded federal government. Thus, when we see them applying unseemly pressure on the Jewish state, we know it comes from somewhere.
Some of us believe that opposing the apple of God’s eye—the Jewish people—puts the United States on the fast track to irrelevancy, at least. So long as America fully supported Israel, we were strong. Now that Obama has had a few years to introduce the smell of mendacity in the room of US-Israel relations, the correlation with American decline internationally is starkly seen.
Leftists like to say that those on the right simply regurgitate what they have been taught. The obvious rebuttal is that so have leftists. Their worldview came from somewhere.
It didn’t just fall out of the sky.
(Jim Fletcher is a researcher, writer, and speaker, and a long-time advocate for Israel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)