Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Did you ever ask yourself why some Christians are so pro-Israel?

David Brog is author of Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State. A former chief of staff to Pennsylvania Republican senator Arlen Specter, Brog explains that “the evangelical Christians who support Israel today are nothing less than the theological heirs of the righteous Gentiles who sought to save Jews from the Holocaust.”

Brog recently discussed the book with National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Which Christians in the U.S. are most Zionist and why?

David Brog: The evangelicals. No contest. Their Zionism comes directly from their theology. But, as opposed to what most people think, this theology is driven by the biblical promises of the Book of Genesis, not the biblical prophecies of the Book of Revelations.

Lopez: Was there an event that made this alliance stronger? Has it always been under the radar?

Brog: Evangelical Christians largely shunned politics until the late 1970s, when Jerry Falwell created the Moral Majority and led them back onto the political playing field. Israel was among the priorities of the Christian Right from the start. In fact, when Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority he made support for Israel one of the group’s four organizing principles along with the issue of abortion, traditional marriage, and a strong U.S. defense.

While Israel was always important to evangelicals, a recent event did make Israel even more of a priority. On September 11, 2001, evangelicals recognized along with many other Americans that radical Islam was the greatest threat facing our country and that we were in a war with its proponents. And in this war, Israel is seen as an ally and as the first line of defense of Judeo-Christian civilization. Support for this embattled ally has moved to center stage.

Lopez: Evangelicals who support Israel really don't want to convert people?

Brog: Evangelicals who support Israel most certainly do want to convert people. Evangelicals who don’t support Israel also want to convert people. The mission of sharing the “good news” of Jesus Christ is central to being an evangelical. But it is important to note that this is not about converting just the Jews—Christians want to share their faith with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and their Christian friends and neighbors who have yet to be born again.

The important question is this: Is evangelical support for Israel merely a tool in the effort to convert the Jews? Is this merely some scheme to soften the Jews up so that they can better sell Jesus to them? And the answer to this question is absolutely not.

If anything, the opposite it true. I and others who have worked with Christians in support of Israel all report that no one has ever tried to convert us. In fact, Christians who support Israel tend to know more Jews and to understand their sensitivities better than Christians who do not. Thus, they have learned that Jews find “Jesus talk” offensive, and they tend to leave it out of the dialogue.

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Lopez: Beyond politics, what good stuff do Christian Zionists do for Israel?

Brog: They do lots of good stuff. For starters, Christians give millions of dollars to Israel and Jewish causes every year. These funds support a variety of missions, including:

The cost of transporting poor Jews from the former Soviet Union, Argentina and Ethiopia to live in Israel.
Supporting poor Jews who stay behind in these countries.
Supporting disadvantaged Jews and terror victims in Israel
Beyond giving money, Christians also volunteer their time. Christian Zionists can be found throughout the former Soviet Union, teaching Jews about the opportunities and assistance available to them in Israel. Many Christian volunteers also go to Israel, where they contribute to Israeli society by operating food banks, homeless shelters, and providing health and repair services to those in need.

Lopez: How widespread is a Jewish suspicion of Christian Zionists?

Brog: As widespread as falafel stands in Tel Aviv. Jews tend not to know very much about Christian theology or Christian history. As a result, they tend to lump all Christians together and hold them equally responsible for the anti-Semitic atrocities committed by Christians in the past. If more Jews understood the profound theological differences between evangelical Christians in America today and the Christians of Europe in prior centuries, I think they would be more open to an alliance.

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Lopez: Whom do you want to read your book?

Brog: I want Jews to read my book so that they will get over their fears of evangelicals and embrace our friends. I want Christians to read my book so that they will understand both the imperatives of supporting Israel and the wary reaction they will receive from the Jewish community. And I want people who are interested in politics and foreign policy to read my book so that they can better comprehend the birth pangs of what in time will be a very important alliance.

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