Angela Winter

Dear Jews: Many Christians are on your side

We believe the Jewish people are indelibly connected to the God of the Bible, and therefore our brothers and sisters, and we would defend you with our lives.

Dear Jewish friends,

Jew-hatred is increasing with shocking rapidity. Good solutions seem hard to come by. But I want to say this, as a Christian and as a supporter of Jewish people: Many, many Christians have your back.

We Christians who love our Jewish friends and support Israel do not all come from the same Christian backgrounds (nor are all of us Americans). Among us are Anglicans, Catholics, Baptists, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, those in nondenominational churches and other groups from around the world. We are not all motivated by the same particular theologies. We disagree (sometimes intensely) amongst ourselves in regards to what the Bible does or does not teach about the Jewish people or the state of Israel. But we Christian philosemites have this in common: We believe the Jewish people are indelibly connected to the God of the Bible, and therefore our brothers and sisters, and we would defend you with our lives.

Some Christians cannot articulate the reason they feel a connection with Jews, or Judaism, or Jewish culture, or Jewish food, or the state of Israel. Some Christians, often those from evangelical-ish homes, have simply been taught that the Jews are God’s ancient people, period. Some recognize the long history of Christian antisemitism, grieve over it, wish to make amends by fighting the latest antisemitism. Others have well-developed theologies of the essential place the Jewish people hold in the scriptural canon, the biblical story. Some are well-versed in the latest New Testament scholarship which emphasizes the Jewishness of Jesus and of the early church. These all provide solid foundations for pro-Jewish attitudes and actions.

This Christian philosemitism does not always give Jewish people the warm fuzzies. Some pro-Jewish Christian theologians support dispensationalist eschatology, which has been sharply criticized as a form of antisemitism masquerading as philosemitism. I also find aspects of dispensationalist doctrine troubling. But I have friends who attend churches where this is taught, and I am absolutely certain that–though I disagree with them over this particular theology–these Christians also feel genuine connection with Jews and Israel. Christian philosemitism also is sometimes viewed with deep suspicion on the grounds that the friendship being offered has strings, that it is a cover for the Christian desire to convert Jews to Christianity. Again, I would say, please do not dismiss Christians as partners. I understand why many Jews find some Christian theology offensive, but within philosemitic Christendom, a range of views exist on whether Christians should attempt to persuade Jews to consider Jesus. Christians who claim to be pro-Jewish merely to further a missionizing agenda are rare; most Christians would consider such an approach deeply unethical. Within the big tent of Christians who are pro-Jewish and pro-Israel, the affection for Jews as Jews is deeply etched.

Many Christians grow up with positive ideas about Jewish people, based on their reading of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament. This does not mean such Christians all think the state of Israel is perfect, or that they know how Israel should resolve its difficulties. But they do believe God made an eternal covenant with the Jewish people and that he promised them the land of Israel (leaving the specifics of that up to Jewish people themselves to figure out). And when Jews are under attack, these Christians instinctively take their side. Not long ago, my elder daughter, who lives with her English husband in the UK, drove by an overpass in Devon emblazoned with genocidal language against Jews. She called the local government to complain. She is not interested in academic questions about biblical scholarship or even that interested in Jewish history. But she has an ingrained concept that Christians should stick up for Jews.

I know a fair bit about the legitimate historical reasons that Jews have for not trusting Christians. I know about the disgusting antisemites currently on social media who claim to be Christians (and surely are not). But for many Christians, the sense of the Jews being God’s “chosen people” is part of our religious heritage. We grow up breathing it. My first encounter with Jewish history was a series of Bible story books which covered the “Old” and New testaments. These books contained intricate maps; as a small child, I used to sit, tracing the travels of the Israelites with my finger, entranced with the stories. My favorite heroes and heroines came from the Hebrew Bible. We earned spending money by memorizing Psalms, whose language I loved. I went on to read Chaim Potok novels, then Saul Bellows books. There were biographies of Ben Gurion and histories of the state of Israel in the house. We didn’t have a lot of specific theological discussion about Jewish people or Israel in my home, just the general ethos that Jews are God’s people (and Israel also a democracy we should support). Many Christians have had similar childhoods, which engender genuine affection for Jews and for Israel. Just after the October massacre, I took white roses to the nearest Chabad center. The elderly rabbi and I wept together. God is our only hope, he said. I agreed.

But God uses people. Please know that many Christians seek to help. We feel anger at the unrelenting barrage of hostility Jews are facing. The Hamas massacre and subsequent war have kept many of us Christians up at night, as they have Jews everywhere. Each night before I sleep, I pray for the safety of the Jewish nation, for the hostages, for the families who have lost children or spouses, for the brave soldiers. I pray especially for the Israelis I know from Facebook, or Youtube, or who are members of Israeli music groups I listen to, or who are the Israeli relatives of Jewish friends of mine or of my husband’s. Increasingly, as antisemitic mobs appear in public places like train stations and restaurants in the US and Europe, I pray for the Jews who I’ve been privileged to have as professors or Hebrew tutors, for their families, and for the Jewish people who are my neighbors and friends. I ask God to protect and keep them.

Please know: You Israelis are not alone. You American Jews and English Jews, and those in many other places, are not alone. The God of Abraham is with you, and many Christians are with you too.


About the Author
Angela Winter is a former features reporter with The Baltimore Sun who teaches classes in churches about the history of Christian antisemitism. She writes about Jewish-Christian relations, Protestant Christian theology, and the Holocaust.
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