Stuart Schwartz
Stuart Schwartz

American Jews and Evangelical Christians: BFF, bagel and bacon

Forget the Rapture of the Church. Forget Tikkun Olam. That’s not to say that these theologies are not legitimate; they are. But both have been stretched by vocal minorities — the first by Christians and the latter by Jews — beyond their biblical antecedents, producing numerous roadblocks to Jewish-Christian comity. Instead, let’s focus on the present, on the need of this world for shalom in Jewish-Christian relationships.

Will God take a Jew mid-bite on a bagel with a schmear? Is He or She or Zhe repulsed by those whose theologies exclude the “zhe?” Dunno. God does what God will. Or, as that great theologian Doris Day opined, “Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see…Que sera, sera.”Focus on the present. In this time of trial for Jews, in both Israel and the United States, it’s good to keep in mind that American Jews and evangelical Christians are natural allies. It is in the interests of both groups to put aside stereotypes and suspicion, ignore those vocal and often insulting to the other interests, and consider the strength of the two walking together. BFF—Best Friends Forever. Despite the apocalypse. No intersectional quotas.

Foremost among the similarities are values. One of the most comprehensive studies of the Christian-Israel/Jewish bond is by a trio of American academics. who concluded that the kinship is significantly based on “(the Evangelical) feeling of cultural and religious affinity with Jews.” As one author reinforced in private correspondence, “They [evangelical supporters of Israel] are not antisemites, but philosemites.” An earlier PEW study concluded that the fastest growing segment of American Jewry, Orthodox Jews, “vote, believe, worship, act and raise their children more like” evangelicals.

Evangelicals have a profound respect for God’s word and, consequently, the Jews/Israelis. They view Jews as largely sharing that respect. Why support Israel? Why swim upstream and like, really like the Jews? Because God says. It’s that simple. Emphasis on family, love for others, the concept of shalom (peace founded upon God’s spirit) and so much more are the hallmarks of the authentic segments of both.

As the executive director of the Liberty Law Center at George Mason University put it, “…by far the strongest correlate of evangelical support for Israel (is) their opinion of Jews. In other words, evangelicals who are favorably inclined toward Jews (a strong majority) are strongly inclined to support Israel, and the minority of evangelicals who have an unfavorable opinion of Jews tend not to support Israel.”

Jews and Evangelical Christians share a worldview, biblical values and a love of God, not necessarily in that order. As a Jew who attended Hebrew school and was raised in a home where we kept kosher, and am now a member of a Southern Baptist church, I’m struck by the similarity in values. My Jewish identity rests on the love of God; ditto for my evangelical identity. No split personality there, no craziness. And certainly not hate.

Five years ago, The Times of Israel (TOI) warned that anti-Semitism was becoming “fashionable” in the United States. TOI was prescient, as hating the Jews has become a part of the very fabric of both American culture and its federal government. As The American Spectator put it, “the wickedness of the Jews” is part of the curriculum of our finest universities, a significant part of social media, and now integrated into government, largely by the Democrat party.”

This has prompted the New York Post to editorialize that “Democrats are mainstreaming anti-Semitism.” The Democrat party continues to push hate into the federal government through the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel policies and rhetoric of significant segments of both Congress and the executive branch. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has gathered a team of anti-Semites who have him cozying up to Jew-hating Iran.

Hating Jews in the United States, loudly and obscenely–and ignorantly, as much of Jew-hatred is knowingly based on deliberate lies about Israel and vile myths about the Jews themselves—is not only trendy but de rigueur if you want to be part of the favored class. It’s migrated from the preserve of just a few ill-educated Klan types to elite American thought in less than a decade. As has hatred of evangelicals with their emphasis on biblical precepts.

So what to do? For American Jews, recognize the spiritual bond you have with evangelical Christians. For evangelical Christians, embrace the biblical commonalities that increasingly larger segments of the Jewish community have with you. And ignore the crazies: the Jews, the Christians, the social justice warrior types who use hate as both a substitute for happiness and a tool for acquiring power.

Yeah but…whaddabout the anti-Semitism of some Christians, the absolute certainty of some Jews that fundamentalist Christians are knuckle-dragging Neanderthals determined to hate, etc.? As we say where I grew up in the New York City area, fuhgeddaboudit! Don’t listen to the lies about Evangelicals. Don’t listen to the hateful slurs about Jews.

As that noted theologian, Homer Simpson said, “It takes two to lie. One to lie and one to listen.”

Ignore the haters—which is something else they’ll hate, of course. Instead, come together in our communities, Jews and Christians, and explore the commonalities. On a local level, this means Jewish outreach to evangelicals, and vice versa. And seek understanding and insight, not conversion. Become friends; best friends, even.

A bagel with a schmear…and a side of bacon. Yum.

About the Author
Stuart H. Schwartz, Ph.D., is a retired dean and award-winning professor at Liberty University, the largest evangelical school in the world. He came to the university after a 25-year career as an executive with media and consumer merchandising organizations. In addition, he was a popular blogger for a leading political/cultural website, talk radio guest, and the author of a social media textbook.
Related Topics
Related Posts
Comments