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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Christian Zionists...express a genuine love and care for Jews"

Right on the heels of my article about James Carroll's piece in the Boston Globe on Christian Zionists, Slate has a fascinating article by a skeptical Jew who has been won over by them.

If they're not doing it for a right-wing agenda, a missionary agenda, or an apocalyptic agenda, just why are Christians uniting for Israel?

It's because they love Jews. When I went to cover 2008's CUFI Washington Summit, the first person I met shook my hand and told me she loved me for being a Jew. It's happened to me at least dozens of times since. Ask any cross-section of Christian Zionists why they support Israel, and most of the time the first line out of their mouths will be citing Genesis 12:3, in which God says to Abraham, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse."
The more you dig into Christian Zionism, the more you realize it's less about Israel than it is about the Jews. There's plenty of talk about current events and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the repeated mentions of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and other episodes of Jewish persecution are often more prominent. In fact, Christian Zionists say they are primarily concerned about Jewish welfare and have tackled Israel advocacy simply because it's the issue on which they feel their political assistance is most valuable.

Jewish readers may be wondering how I could be so credulous. I've thought about that question a lot; there's certainly plenty of history of Jews being told one thing only to get slammed in the other direction. The simple reality of Christian Zionism is that the facts are different from many Jews' assumptions (and then for some Jews aware of the facts, there's still a tendency to resort to extreme conspiracy theories or strained arguments about Jewish continuity). There's no question that they have different politics, rhetoric, and even culture from what we're used to seeing in the Jewish world. But they do seem to express a genuine love and care for Jews. "Being loved" is not something Jews take to easily (or, at least, this Jew doesn't), and it's still pretty awkward for me in personal conversations with Christians—but, awkwardness aside, this palpable sense of concern for Jewish welfare is the first that Jews have felt from such a large religious group in their history.

Read the whole thing.