Christian Zionism and a positive relationship with Jews and Judaism

Christian Zionism is undoubtedly a controversial topic.

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August 22, 2017 21:08
3 minute read.
car ramming

Rescue workers assist people who were injured when a car drove through a group of counter protestors at the "Unite the Right" rally Charlottesville, Virginia, US, August 12, 2017.. (photo credit: JOSHUA ROBERTS / REUTERS)

 
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In response to the racist and antisemitic events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia recently, the media has done a great deal of virtue signaling, sometimes even accompanied by thoughtful reporting and discussion.

One well-known media outlet, however, made a terribly irresponsible choice, and it’s one we need to talk about.

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Possibly in a move to demonstrate their prescience, perhaps to squeeze one more article out of a topic that has received intense scrutiny from all corners, Newsweek decided to pull out a 1981 piece from its archives and explicitly link it with the Charlottesville rally. The article announced, “Newsweek published this story under the headline of ‘Again, Anti-Semitism’ on February 16, 1981. In light of the recent neo-Nazi, white power and alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Newsweek is republishing the story.”

The original 1981 article documents the rise of antisemitic incidents in 1980 and some of the efforts to address it within and outside of the Jewish community.

The choice to reprint this article, with the implicit suggestion that nothing much has changed in Christian – and particularly Evangelical Christian – relations with Jews and Judaism since 1981, is simply ignorant. In fact, Evangelicalism’s major developments in engaging productively with Jews and Judaism have taken place since that time, specifically parallel to American Evangelical Christianity’s move toward greater participation in the political arena.

Christian Zionism is undoubtedly a controversial topic. But one thing is for certain: Christian Zionism has brought millions of Evangelical Christians into an unprecedented positive relationship with Jews and Judaism. Through their core issue of support for Israel, American Evangelical Christians are now far more interested in and sensitive to the Jewish roots of Christianity, the practices and beliefs of Judaism, and the centrality of Israel to our people. Overwhelmingly, Christian Zionism has grown among the American Evangelical public in the time since the original article was written, and contemporary Christian Zionism’s major organizations and ministries date from 1980 and later.

That Evangelical Christian Zionist interest in and love for Jews and Judaism is not uncomplicated. It’s by no means a simple issue. But it cannot be denied that the model of engagement with Jews and Judaism that is communicated to Evangelical Christians through these movements is far more positive than we find in earlier articulations of Evangelicalism/ fundamentalism.



Much more disturbing than simple ignorance of content, however, is the shocking new headline. This headline is remarkably different than the 1981 version. Had the original title “Again, Anti-Semitism” been retained, no one would really have an argument. But Newsweek chose an inflammatory new title – “Why Do Nazis Hate Jews? How Christian Politics Fuels Anti-Semitism in the United States.”

The article has 10 paragraphs. Only one of them even mentions Christianity.

Yet this headline suggesting that something Christian fuels antisemitism in the United States by the editors at Newsweek is now all over the Internet, spreading its own lie and bigotry.

Christianity has a long and sorry history of both anti-Judaism and antisemitism. But since the Holocaust, Western Christian denominations have seriously and carefully examined the role that Christian teaching might have played in normalizing anti-Jewish attitudes and continue to engage deeply in the challenge of representing, preaching and teaching about Jews and Judaism in responsible and truthful ways. Jewish-Christian relations are at a remarkably different stage of development than they were in the past. And Evangelical Christianity is very much a part of this extraordinary progress.

There is still much work to be done. Part of it is for Christians to call out and condemn racism and antisemitism when it rears its ugly head, as it did at Charlottesville. And part of it is for us as Jews to boldly name and condemn anti-Christian bias when it arises. And this week we saw it on full display – in Newsweek.

The writer is the director for the Israel Center for Jewish-Christian Relations and an Associate Fellow at the Philos Project. She can be contacted at director@ jewishchristianrelations.com.

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