Evangelicals, Jews and Politics
On a Christian radio show last week, former Minnesota Representative and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann expressed her opinion that the End Times will soon be upon us, and that:
We recognize the shortness of the hour, and that’s why we as a remnant want to … help bring in as many as we can — even among the Jews — share Jesus Christ with everyone that we possibly can because, again, He’s coming soon.
Bachmann is certainly welcome to her opinion, but during a time when the GOP is making headway into the Jewish vote, her words are fodder for Democrats desperate to show their Jewish base that they can’t trust Republicans, especially regarding Israel.
This is exactly the kind of talk that can give Jews, especially American Jews, the creeps. It speaks directly to our deep-seated fears and insecurities, stemming from the historical relationship between Judaism and Christianity.
The reason Bachmann’s comments are so jarring is that most Jews thought, or hoped, we had left the better part of this behind. In 1965 Pope John XXIII’s Nostra Aetate stopped blaming me personally for Easter; and later, Cardinal Ratzinger would help to demote evangelizing the Jews significantly in the Church’s priorities.
In 1967, Israel’s astonishing victory in the Six Day War secured her existence a mere 19 years after independence, forcing many Christians to re-examine their assumptions about Jews and their alleged perpetual exile. Indeed, Christian Zionists such as Pastor John Hagee, whose Christians United For Israel is the largest pro-Israel organization in America, are solely focused on the safety and security of the Jewish State and the wellbeing of the Jewish people.
For some Jewish liberals who still prioritize the safety and security of Jews in Israel and abroad over progressive issues such as abortion rights and same-sex marriage, comments such as Bachmann’s are what Democrat operatives will use to appeal to Jews disenchanted by the Obama administration’s abandonment of Israel and courtship of Iran.
The head of the National Jewish Democratic Committee, Greg Rosenbaum, lost no time in calling into question the sincerity of all Christian Zionists:
In the 83 percent that support Israel, what are their motives? Are they supporting Israel as a natural homeland for the Jews and to some extent a reaction to the millennia of persecution? Or are they in support of Israel because it represents the avenue for people who are evangelicals to get to heaven?
I’ve always said, you’ve got Evangelical Republicans supporting Israel because they are building a stairway to heaven on the backs of the Jews in Israel. We don’t get to go with them, unless—as Michelle Bachmann said over the weekend — all of the Israeli Jews convert to Christianity, as soon as possible. So you have to look beyond the numbers to really understand how the parties shake out in support of Israel.
The partisan attack prompted a sharp rebuke from the Jewish Federations of North America, not generally regarded as a bastion of right-wing Christian apologetics: “Federations work closely with pro-Israel churches and church leaders across the continent. We strenuously object to any characterization that calls into question their motives for supporting the state of Israel.”
Christians United For Israel is demanding Mr. Rosenbaum apologize “to the millions of Christians he stereotyped and slandered.”
“Under what rock has this man been living? I simply cannot believe that in 2015 he still publicly professes such smug anti-Christian bigotry. As a people who have suffered so much from lies about our faith, we should be the last to traffic in lies about the faith of others,” David Brog, CUFI board of directors, told the Salomon Center.
Under such fire, Rosenbaum later tried to wriggle out of the comments, claiming he had specifically meant Bachmann herself, but one might be pardoned for questioning the sincerity of the clarification.
Understand, Bachmann neither holds office nor is a candidate for one. She holds no position of power within the Republican Party. She heads no PAC of any consequence, and her personal political following is minimal at this point.
At the same time, Al “tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house” Sharpton, organizer of an anti-Jewish riot that resulted in the murder of Jewish rabbinical scholar Yankel Rosenbaum, is a regular visitor to the White House, and Hillary was his first guest on his new Sunday morning time slot. Attempts to get the National Jewish Democratic Committee to comment on that have been to no avail.
So the irony is that the Left will play on this as evidence of the precariousness of the Jewish position in American/Christian society, while Obama has done the most to increase that marginalization.
Joshua Sharf is a Fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought and is head of the PERA project at the Independence Institute, a Denver based free-market think tank. Follow him @joshuasharf.
This article was originally published by The Jewish Journal.