The Zion Connection: Jews and Christians—Common Ground
By: William Sutter
A growing alliance of Jews and Christians is attracting increasing attention today. It is an alliance rooted in Judeo-Christian values. The Christians involved are known as evangelicals or Bible-believing Christians.
They are joining conservative-minded Jewish people who are active on behalf of the same core beliefs. The detractors to this alliance disparagingly refer to the Christians as the “Religious Right” and to the Jewish people as “Right-Wing Jews.” In spite of these attacks, the venues of cooperation are growing.
This joining of forces has nothing in common with what has been known as the ecumenical movement. The old ecumenism asked its followers to give up distinctive beliefs and core values to pave the way for cooperation. As adherents laid aside allegedly “divisive” beliefs and teachings, biblical truth became the most obvious victim, and Judeo-Christian values suffered enormously. When people were left without a vital spiritual focus, they lost interest, and their alliances suffered declining memberships and increasingly empty pews.
This new alliance is driven by our culture’s alienation from biblical values. Its focus, therefore, is on the Judeo-Christian principles that are important to both groups. Christians are usually aware of high-profile Christian leaders who champion biblical values, issues, and morality. Many leaders of the new alliance, however, are from the Jewish community.
National Unity Coalition
One of the best illustrations of evangelical Christians and Jews working together effectively for a unified purpose is the National Unity Coalition for Israel. Founded in 1994 by Esther Levens, this coalition of Jewish and evangelical Christian groups is dedicated to a single purpose: the survival of the State of Israel. Levens, a visionary leader from the Jewish community, became aware of support for Israel among Christians in evangelical churches. Her tireless work has accomplished an effective nationwide movement of Jews and Christians working together on behalf of Israel.
Today, the member organizations of the National Unity Coalition include approximately forty million Jews and Christians who have determined that they will not merely sit back but will make an impact in America by speaking out for Israel with a unified voice. In bringing diverse groups together in a forum of united support for Israel, the National Unity Coalition staunchly defends its policy that all participating organizations remain completely autonomous and true to their own distinctives.
The New York Times Ad
A dramatic paid advertisement that appeared in the New York Times on August 2, 1994, helped solidify the developing alliance. A group of 89 prominent Jewish people, many of them leaders in their own communities and Jewish organizations, responded to a negative report issued by another Jewish organization, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). On June 9, 1994, the liberal ADL released a report titled “The Religious Right: The Assault on Tolerance and Pluralism in America.” The disturbed signers of the Times advertisement titled their response, “Should Jews Fear the Christian Right” In part, they said, “We are a group of Jews who wish to make it known that we reject the implications of this report and deplore its publication. In so far as the objections to the religious right are honestly presented in the ADL report, they are mainly political ones: Christian conservatives advocate positions that run counter to many peoples’ beliefs about such issues as abortion, school prayer, homosexual rights and the meaning of the First Amendment. And not only do Christian conservatives advocate those positions but in recent years they have begun to organize, publicize, and attempt to elect candidates sympathetic to their views. This is no different from what many other groups, including Christian liberals, have always done.…The separation of church and state is not the same thing as the elimination of religious values and concepts from political discourse.
“Moreover, Judaism is not, as the ADL seems to suggest, coextensive with liberalism. Nor, we wish to emphasize, does the Jewish community speak with one voice on the religious and moral—and political—issues of our time.
“Above all, on the issue with which this community does speak with one voice, namely the survival of Israel, the Jews have no more stalwart friends than evangelical Christians.…So we call on our fellow Jews to reject this study.”
Since the ad appeared, many of its signers have been working with Christians on issues of mutual concern.
In the fall of 1994, Rabbi Daniel Lapin and his newly formed group, Toward Tradition, called for an alliance with conservative Christians at its meeting of three hundred politically active and religious American Jews in Washington, DC. Lapin said, “Right now we are facing a vicious and cruel society terrorized by predators.…Jews in particular don’t do well in civic anarchy. Jews could very well be the first to suffer under these conditions.…We can only thrive under the conditions of law and order, and we are here to affirm that our allies in returning America to these conditions are [Christian conservatives].”
Toward Tradition is a national movement of Jews allied with Christians who want to apply traditional, conservative, biblical values to America’s cultural, political, and economic life. Lapin comments, “I am grateful for the country’s Christian foundation, because it is that religious foundation that has made it possible for Jews to live in safety and security for over two hundred years.
“Jews are not being raped, robbed or murdered by Christians who are on their way home from church on Sunday morning but by irreligious nihilists. Jews and religious Christians are natural, moral allies.”
Presently making an important impact on the national scene is Daniel Lapin’s recently released book, America’s Real War (Multnomah, 1999). Dennis Prager, a Jewish theologian and radio talk show host, reporting favorably on Lapin’s book in the March 22, 1999 National Review, said, “Rabbi Lapins thesis is this, either America will recover its Judeo-Christian heritage or the American enterprise will fail: America’s culture war is between religious, i.e., Judeo-Christian ideas and anti-religious, i.e., secular ideas.” Prager continues, “When Christianity broke down in 20th-century Europe, it was not replaced by Boy Scouts, but by the greatest murder-machines in human history—Communism and Nazism.”
Synagogue Fellowship Group
As I was becoming more active with Jewish people on issues of importance to the developing alliance, I was invited to speak to a couples group from a local synagogue. I was to represent the “Religious Right” and respond to questions from the group. Those in attendance had very little exposure to evangelical Christians and almost no previous knowledge of our developing Jewish-Christian alliance. The questions and discussion continued for two hours. I explained evangelical Christianity’s commitment to biblical values, while emphasizing our strong opposition to anything resembling a church-run state. I related that Christian support for Israel is a logical extension of our commitment to the Scriptures. Christians, as well as Jews, should be Zionists, supporting a God-given, secure homeland for the Jewish people.
A frequent misunderstanding among some Jewish people is the belief that everyone in the “Christian” world is basically the same. I shared the distinctives of being an evangelical Christian and answered questions about the Bible and Jesus. I argued that Germany, because of its theological liberalism and rejection of the Scriptures, was ripe for Adolf Hitler. Finally, I explained that their being able to say “We are Jewish” is a miracle of God.
The evening ended having accomplished new levels of understanding. A doctor who led the questioning exclaimed, “I’ve never heard a discussion like this before. I never understood some of these things.” This kind of response is happening across America. Christians and Jews are discovering each other as natural allies.
The media is no friend of Judeo-Christian values. No two Jewish leaders know this better than Hollywood film critic Michael Medved and columnist Don Feder. Medved writes for the New York Post and cohosts a weekly movie review show on the public broadcasting system. As an outspoken supporter of decency, he writes of his “protective instincts” for his children, mixed with a “terrible sense of powerlessness.”
Hollywood seems to disregard religion in general, smear Christianity in particular, and malign the Bible while glamorizing sin, concentrating on violence, and constantly seeking new forms of exhibitionism. Regarding television, Medved declares, “The most violent ghetto in life is the ghetto of prime-time television.” Presently, Medved is responding to increasing numbers of invitations to speak on Christian radio and to Christian groups.
Don Feder is a columnist and editorial writer for the Boston Herald. His column appears in more than 40 newspapers, and his articles have appeared in National Review, Human Events, Reader’s Digest, and other periodicals. Feder is the author of two books, A Jewish Conservative Looks at Pagan America and Who’s Afraid of the Religious Right Feder observes, “By pagan America I mean that this is no longer a Judeo-Christian nation…with its special emphasis on honesty, hard work, caring, and self-discipline. Instead we are evolving into the type of Canaanite culture which my ancestors encountered at the dawn of moral history.”
Feder writes, speaks, and works hard to gain ground against the moral decline of America. He declares that his conservatism is “God-centered…based on the ethical world of the patriarchs and prophets.…” Michael Medved and Don Feder are joined by grateful conservative Christians in supporting values that are derived from the same source—the Scriptures.
Unfortunately, the establishment of our national agenda is a highly politicized process based on skewed notions of political correctness. As such, the problem of the persecution of Christian minorities is very low on the totem pole of our national priorities. There has been a virtual media blackout on the plight of persecuted Christians worldwide. Christians are encouraged by two individuals, Michael Horowitz and Charles Jacobs—both of whom are Jewish—who have stepped forward to become their champions on this issue. Michael Horowitz is Senior Fellow of the Hudson Institute and Director of its project for International Religious Liberty. According to Horowitz, “Anti-Christian persecution is the worst and most wide-spread form of religious persecution in the world today.” He cites the fact that “more Christians have been martyred in this century than in all previous centuries combined.” While encouraging the national press to cover issues of Christian persecution, he has worked tirelessly with Congress for tough trade sanctions legislation against the offending regimes.
In the New York Times and in a number of other media outlets, Dr. Charles Jacobs, cofounder of the American Anti-Slavery Group (AASG), broke the story of modern-day African slavery of Christians. The AASG monitors, documents, and publicizes the plight of slaves around the globe. Their special focus is on the most ignored cases of human bondage, specifically the slavery of black Christians in Sudan. The Sudanese government has deliberate policies in place, including murder, starvation, mass resettlement, forced conversions, enslavement, and even crucifixion. In addition to building public awareness, Jacobs has organized conferences and seminars and initiated Congressional action. Currently, AASG’s Freedom 2000 Fund is raising money in America to purchase the freedom of Christian Sudanese slaves. Thus far they have helped to emancipate nearly four thousand individuals.
Few would have thought that there would come a time when evangelical Christians and Jews would band together in a cause common to both communities. Although considerable theological differences remain, there are good reasons to appreciate this improving relationship. To understand that evangelical Christians and Jewish people have much more in common than either party believed in the past is a major step in the right direction. It is, therefore, a development that warrants careful nurturing by conservative-minded Christians and Jews alike.