The Real Reasons That Evangelicals Support Israel
As Jews prepare for Passover and Christians prepare for Easter, it’s a good time to explain why Evangelicals support Israel.
Actually, it’s quite simple: we are grateful for the Jewish people because of our shared values. Evangelicals take the Bible seriously, and because of Israel’s stewardship of the Holy Land, we can safely visit and pray at the places we have learned about from the time we were children.
When we do visit, we arrive in a democracy like our own, and in a country whose innovations are making the world a better place in a thousand different ways.
Despite our ties to the land of Israel and its Jewish citizens, some mischaracterize Evangelical support for Israel for political reasons.
Here are the actual facts:
Christian support is not about the Apocalypse. The argument goes something like this, “Christians actually only want Jews in the Holy Land because Jesus can’t come back until they’re there.”
The truth is that all religions have their speculative debates about the end of the world. However, the Christian New Testament also warns “not to speculate about the time and hour of the Lord’s return.”
I know many scholars who study what theologians call “eschatology,” and all of them are ardent Christian Zionists who only want the best for their Jewish brothers and sisters. The job of a theologian is to piece together meaning from the words of the text in the same way that an archeologist pieces together a story from artifacts. The apocalyptic critique of Christian Zionism is just dishonest.
Christian support for Israel is also not about proselytization. There are those who confuse inexcusable efforts at proselytization with the Christian responsibility to be a witness.
The idea of “spreading the Good News” is certainly fundamental to Christianity, but the way most Christians fulfill their responsibility to do so is by living good lives and then explaining to others that their choices emanate from their relationship with God.
Christians are forbidden from trying to force anyone to believe anything. Belief in Christianity has to be an act of intentional choice. This “divine freedom of choice” was articulated well by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in the Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration in 2017. The declaration, written in consultation with the rabbis of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, reads, “We recognize that God instructs us to exercise the Divine Gift of Freedom of Choice and therefore we declare that compelled religion cannot bring a person into a meaningful relationship with God.”
Next, Christian support for Israel is not about what Christians want for Israel. These days, Evangelicals usually defer to Israel’s point of view on issues of concern. Many Israelis were surprised when the Trump administration chose to favor peace via the Abraham Accords over exercising sovereignty over the West Bank. I wasn’t surprised. Evangelicals want “what Israel believes is best for Israel.” Evangelicals have no “plans” for Israel.
Christian support for Israel is also not about partisan politics in the United States. While Evangelical advocacy is often credited by Israel’s critics for the move of the American embassy to Jerusalem in 2017, that decision received a 97-3 vote in the United States Senate in February of this year. Support for Israel is a bipartisan issue in American. In fact, it could be a balm to heal our divided country!
Frankly, it should cause concern that a few Christians disingenuously pose as Jews for the purpose of deceiving Jews, or that others obsess over certain ideas about the end times. But that is not the true nature of Evangelical-Jewish friendship.
One example of the true nature of the relationship is Christians families, like mine, visiting Jerusalem and enjoying a Shabbat dinner with Jewish friends; another is Mrs. Yael Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, visiting a Holocaust survivor last month in Israel. Her name is Shoshana and she survived Auschwitz.
Shoshana once looked Josef Mengele — the Nazi “Angel of Death” — in the eyes as he sent her parents to a gas chamber. Last month, Shoshana looked in the eyes of a Jew giving her food on behalf of a group committed to fostering Jewish-Christian ties.
The bad news is that the average Evangelical still probably doesn’t fully understand the terrible history of Christian antisemitism. The good news is that those Evangelicals who do know this history would find that past “Christianity” to be alien to their own.
Our Jewish friends should certainly keep their guard up given the brutal lessons of history, but they should also avoid being duped by those whose bigoted, political views of Evangelicals are coming under the guise of protecting Jews.
Rev. Johnnie Moore is the president of The Congress of Christian Leaders and founder of The KAIROS Company. He is a recipient of the “medal of valor” from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.