Friday, November 6th, 2009
Earlier this week Sharon Udasin And Stewart Ain reported that Birthright-NEXT, the group focused on reinforcing Jewish and pro-Israel identity among young American Jews, invited Gordon Robertson – son of the controversial Christian broadcasting magnate Pat Robertson – as keynoter for a Birthright Israel alumni event. (Read their story here)
As the Jewish Week noted, Robertson can be seen on a Christian Broadcasting Network video praising “Messianic Jews” who live in Israel and try to convert Israelis to their religion.
I was interested to see that the story didn’t cause much of a stir. It seems to me there’s an interesting double standard at work here.
One can make a credible case that both the Christian left and the Christian right harbor elements that are hostile to Israel and damaging to Jewish interests.
Liberal Protestant groups, while saying they support Israel’s existence, are notorious for loads of sympathy for the Palestinians killed by Israeli troops, none whatsoever for Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian rockets and suicide bombers. Often they participate in “peace” efforts like divestment that make peace only harder to attain.
On the other side of the spectrum, many in the Christian right, while professing great love for Israel and the Jewish people, subscribe to millennial prophecies that want Israel to exist only so it can be destroyed in the great “end times” battles their Scriptures predict and which demand a new, even worse Holocaust.
And many, while talking about their love for Jews, actively support groups like the Messianic Jews, that use deception (you can still be Jewish and believe in Jesus, you can “fulfill” your Jewishness by accepting Christ, etc.) to undermine Judaism.
Put Robertson into that latter category.
But while Jewish groups are quick to pick up on every sin of the Christian liberals, they give a get out of jail card to the Christian right.
Presbyterians can talk about Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, and a half dozen Jewish groups joust to get out the first and harshest condemnation. Prominent pro-Israel clerics on the right can talk about God sending Hitler to hasten the movement of Jews to Israel, or about the satanic “Antichrist” figure of millennial prophecy being Jewish, and still be welcomed as important advocates for Israel.
An Episcopal group can talk about divestment and the Jewish “defense” agencies go ballistic; Robertson talks about supporting a group devoted to converting young Israelis to Christianity, and he gets a Birthright speaking gig.
I understand the argument that I hear all the time: “Israel has so few friends and so many enemies, we have to accept friends where we find them. But I don’t think that’s it.
Could it have anything to do with the fact that groups on the Christian right are raising tons of money for Israel, and that those dollars mute criticism of their other activities and views? Could it have to do with the fact much of the pro-Israel Christian Left backs an Israeli left that doesn’t garner much support from the Jewish leadership here, while the Christian right is perfectly happy with right-of-center governments – as long as they don’t give up any more land?
Where are the red lines here? What, exactly, do conservative Christian leaders have to do to generate concern?
Obviously, having views about Middle East policies shaped by apocalyptic prophecies in which Israel doesn’t fare very well and peace efforts are a deception of Satan isn’t enough, judging by the way major pro-Israel groups embrace some apocalyptic pastors. Nor, apparently, is supporting a religious movement aimed at winning Jewish converts through theological and cultural trickery.
I find the Christian left’s approach to the conflict troubling. They say they’re pro-Israel , but I don’t buy it, since their actions seem guaranteed to undermine Israel’s standing in the world and undermine efforts to find a route to the peace and security Israel craves.
But I also worry about a Christian right that may love Israel for the wrong reasons – reasons that may lead to policies and programs that hurt the Jewish state.
I’m just saying.