Allying with Evangelicals (Extract)

Extract of an article in Issue 1, April 28, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. Of all the other faith communities with which American Jews partner on a wide range of issues, none generates more internal discord than Evangelical Christians. There are those on the left who hold common misconceptions about the Evangelicals' true aims and are therefore extremely reluctant to work with them, while others approach them with blinders on, embracing their support for Israel and ignoring significant differences of opinion over advocacy goals. The Jewish community long ago developed prudent strategies for engaging mainline Protestants and Catholics, but we have largely misunderstood the 52-million-strong Evangelical community. The result is that there's a tendency among Jews to apply a double standard when considering whether to establish a partnership with Christian Zionists as opposed to, say, Presbyterians, Methodists and Lutherans. Those who oppose alliances between Jews and the Christian right - like, for example, leaders of the large Union for Reform Judaism - see such ties as shortsighted and dangerous because the two communities are generally on opposite sides on abortion, school prayer and gay rights. But the argument that Jews shouldn't partner with Evangelicals on Israel due to these disagreements goes against the notion of issue-based coalition building. The nature of politics is such that disparate groups band together to advance their common agendas. It's not at all incongruous for the Jewish community to work with Evangelicals on Israel, divestment from Iran, or religious accommodation in the workplace, while simultaneously opposing their efforts to ban abortion or lower the wall separating church and state. Nor has it ever been a case of quid pro quo - Christian Zionists have never conditioned their support for Israel on Jewish support for their "family-values" agenda. Indeed, this is how Jewish community relations councils and other advocacy groups routinely operate with other non-Jewish partners. For example, progressive Jewish organizations tend to be strong advocates of Jewish-Muslim dialogue and partnership despite the fact that on social issues, American Muslims, on the whole, are nearly as conservative as Evangelicals, and on Israel there's hardly any common ground at all. Similarly, Jewish groups have routinely collaborated (without a peep of protest) with local Catholics in anti-poverty campaigns despite such prominent disputes as the beatification of the anti-Semitic 19th-century Pope Pius IX and the failure of the Vatican to open its Holocaust-era archives. Extract of an article in Issue 1, April 28, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. Bob Horenstein is Community Relations Director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland.