The Truth Will Out
For years a perception prevailed that cast the liberal wing of mainstream Christianity as the true friends of Jewry, whose dialoguing with Jews was earmarked by no mention of Christ, and who actively promoted an air of hostility toward conservative Christians who took seriously Christ’s command to propagate the message of the gospel. Conservatives were often painted as unscrupulous pursuers of Jewish souls who resorted to methods that were religiously and ethically abominable.
But establishment liberalism’s well-documented fondness for radical causes and its propensity to side with the entrenched enemies of Israel is causing a perceptible shift in the wind. Signs abound that the truth has come out, confirming that some elements in Jewry are taking another look at their attitude toward fundamentalist Christians.
A three-page article by Steven Ochs in the November 15, 1991 Jewish Exponent documents the emerging change in attitude. Ochs’ article, “Support From the Bible Belt,” was focused on a recent trip to Israel by a group of select Christian leaders and a number of members of the Jewish community. “Everywhere the Christian leaders went in Israel this summer, Israeli officials told them their help was needed now more than ever … ‘We need moral backing. We need material support,’ Ariel Sharon [Israeli Housing Minister] told the Christian leaders. ‘When you come here we know a group of friends have come to our homeland.’”
That Sharon and other Israeli leaders held out a warm hand of welcome to leading fundamentalists came as no surprise. Israeli recognition of the value of conservative Christian support has been an active fact of life for some years now. Menachem Begin, among others was keenly aware of the potential for friendship resident in the millions of Christians who hold firmly to the biblical promises ceding the land of Israel to the Jewish people in perpetuity.
What is noteworthy is the emerging appreciation by some American Jewish leaders of such Bible-believing Christian support, coupled with a new sense of reality about who these people are and why they choose to stand by Israel and the Jewish people.
The Jewish Exponent article comments: “The fervent support for Israel by fundamentalist Christians may come as a surprise to many American Jews who think of fundamentalists as anti-Semitic or as people determined to convert Jews. The Anti-Defamation League has conducted a study showing that only a small percentage of American fundamentalists hold anti-Semitic views.”
Rabbi Leon Klenicki, director of the ADL, concedes that while many Jews may be disturbed by some aspects of fundamentalist eschatology, “they still have a solid ally in fundamental Christians [who are giving] much needed support,” in contrast to liberals, who have sided with the PLO. “After the war with Hussein,” Klenicki continues, “there were more evangelical Americans in Israel than Jews.”
Jewish film maker David Rose views Christian support as “a very good thing. In America,” he said, “there are tens of millions of people who say they believe the Bible, and I believe this is Israel’s greatest support.”
Holocaust survivor James Rapp, chairman of the International League for the Repatriation of Russian Jews, stated that he is not concerned about the fundamentalist position of Jewish people being converted to Jesus in the last days. “A friend of the Jewish state is a friend of mine,” Rapp says.
Herbert Zweibon, chairman of Americans For a Safe Israel, firmly asserts, “The bottom line is, they do support Israel.”
This recognition, while long overdue, may be even more important in the days to come. While in Jerusalem recently, I discussed Israel’s future relations with the United States with a prominent Israeli. “Others disagree with my assessment,” he told me, “but I believe that the current strain we have with the United States is not a passing phenomenon. I am afraid it may represent a fundamental change in policy. Perhaps in the next three to five years Israel may be without significant American backing.”
We, of course, pray that this will not be the case. But if it is, Israel and Jewry will need the support of America’s Bible-believing Christians more than ever.