Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jews and Evangelicals

By Frank Schaeffer


There is no way to get on the inside of the who-is-chosen question without unpacking the quirky relationship Evangelicals have with Jews, both embracing them and condemning them to eternal damnation. This has to be one of the odder relationships ever concocted, sort of like those news stories that crop up once in a while about how a cat befriends a hamster.

Evangelicals brood over the Jews. Jesus was a Jew. But then He started a whole "new" religion that instantly was in conflict with the Jews. To Us Real Christians (as I once thought of us) there were Actual Jews and then there were Real Jews. Evangelicals' believe that they are also The Chosen People. Some Evangelicals believe they are the only chosen people now. Others think that the Jews are still chosen, too.

But at the beginning of the Church that "new" religion was made up mostly of Jews -- Paul and company. So Jews were a big deal to my Evangelical family. We, as with most Evangelicals, liked Jews, and feared them, and felt sorry for them.

Conflicted is the word.

Who the Jews "are" (from the Evangelical theological point of view) is a big deal to Christians. It should be to all Americans, too. It has a direct impact on American policy, given the sway of religion in America.

My late father, Francis Schaeffer, was a key founder and leader of the Religious Right. My mother Edith was also a spiritual leader, a formidable and adored religious figure whose books and public speaking, not to mention biblical conditioning of me, directly and indirectly shaped millions of lives.

Mom loved to try to "save" Jews (she even wrote a book called Christianity Is Jewish) and especially the ones already interested in spiritual matters -- or "Jew Stuff" as I always thought of such things when Mom carried on and on and on about a Jew she'd just met and the "great conversation we had about Passover's true meaning," or whatever. Mom urged her kids to find ways to talk to any Jew we met about "Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled" as a way to "open a door."

For a time, I joined my Dad in pioneering the Evangelical anti-abortion Religious Right movement and we worked with several neoconservative Jews. They weren't interested in our "issue," but we all were rooting for Israel. In the 1970s and early 80s, when I was in my 20s, I evolved into an ambitious, "successful" religious leader/instigator in my own right. And I wasn't just Dad's sidekick. I was also Mom's collaborator in her well-meant if unintentionally hilarious plot to "reach the world for Jesus." Converting Jews was part of that program.

I was put in touch with radically pro-Israel, anti-Arab, far-right, Islam-bashing neoconservatives. This "bridge-building," in turn, introduced me to Norman Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary magazine, who was using the Republican Party (and/or being used by it) to advance his single issue -- support for the State of Israel -- just as I was doing the same for my single issue -- abortion.

Commentary had emerged in the 1970s as the neoconservatives' flagship publication. I regularly reprinted some of their articles as books or as essays in my Evangelical newspaper. And when my mother raised $50,000 from her pal in Dallas, multimillionaire Mary Crowley, (founder of Home Interiors and Gifts, Inc.), to launch Mom's new book, Forever Music (1986), Podhoretz lent his support.

Mom used Crowley's money to rent Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center and hire the Guarneri Quartet. Mom's "best friends" -- about 500 of them -- showed up for the gala concert, including Podhoretz and his wife Midge Decter and their entourage. (I had invited them.)

I remember smiling at the bemused expressions on the faces of the members of the quartet while they sipped drinks at the reception after the concert and tried to figure out how the hell these two groups could possibly occupy the same space: the cream of the New York neoconservative Zionist intellectuals and a passel of mink-draped, diamond-crusted Southern Baptist Texans asking everyone if they had a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ."

I changed my mind about being an Evangelical -- I'm one no longer -- and also about my politics. I moved from far right to moderate liberal. I wrote a book to explain why: Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back. I no longer ride around "saving" America for God nor am I a regular on religious TV and radio these days.

Most American Evangelicals believe that to "be a Christian" means that you must give your full support to the extremist elements in the State of Israel, the sorts of chosen people busily constructing a new type of apartheid in the Promised Land. Many Evangelicals believe that God loves some people lots more than others and that He loves Jews most of all.

For instance, John Hagee, mega-church pastor and founder of Christians United for Israel, said: "For 25 almost 26 years now, I have been pounding the Evangelical community over television. The Bible is a very pro-Israel book. If a Christian admits 'I believe the Bible', I can make him a pro-Israel supporter or they will have to denounce their faith. So I have Christians over a barrel you might say."

But it's more complex than simply having a soft spot for Jews trying to populate "Judea and Samaria" (as they like to call land stolen from Arabs after the Six Day War of 1967). You see, to Us Real Christians, Real Jews were the Good Jews in the Old Testament, and after Jesus arrived (thus "fulfilling the prophecies" of the Old Testament) they were the Jews who accepted the Messiah.

Don't get me wrong: Us Real Jews weren't anti-Semites just because we said that the actual Jews killed Jesus. Like Hagee and company, we loved Jews-Born-That-Way-Who-Stayed-That-Way, even if (according to our Bible and/or Mel Gibson) their great, great grandparents had -- in a rather imprudent moment -- killed God.

We didn't blame them for killing God. If you're predestined to fulfill a prophecy you're going to do it. And so we didn't blame the modern State of Israel's government for its brutality either. They too were merely "fulfilling prophecy."

Mom often said that the "miraculous return of the Jews to Israel is just one more thing that proves the Bible is true." That would not have happened if the Jews hadn't killed Jesus, been exiled, suffered the Holocaust -- "just what was needed to turn Zionism into a mainstream movement in order to fulfill prophecy" as Dad noted -- and returned to Israel, in order to pave the way for the return of Christ.

The Jews may have thought their return to Palestine was all about them. Of course Us Real Christians knew better, it was all about Us.

The American Evangelicals, following the Puritan's conceit of their special "call," cling to the concept of American exceptionalism, some sort of a setting apart to be special and lead the world to a better place. In other words, we're better than other people and must show the way, or at least force it on others through our non-stop wars, sort of like the Jews of the Old Testament.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. his books include Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back

18 comments:

Janet said...

Dear Mr. Schaeffer, Thank you for speaking up. I cannot tell you what a comfort it is for me to read your words. To read words that come from a person who has gone before me and experienced the same things that I am experienced. The feeling of isolation because you don't agree with your "crowd" is a feeling that I've come to accept. My mother and father are avid Zionist, although I don't think they know they are and if they understood the meaning. Just last week I received an email telling me how proud I should be of the PM of Canada because he proclaimed is unwaivering support of Isreal....how ashamed and damned America will be now because of the President not standing 100% with Israel. "May God have mercy on America" were her words. Funny thing is, after reading Obama's transript, I saw nothing that indicated his finger pointing to Israel. They are so blind and "Crazy" for God that they don't see how rediculous they sound, act or look. I can imagine she is praying for God to have mercy on me for not supporting Israel 100%. This issue, among others, has severed my relationship with my parents. Very sad. Keep Speaking out Mr. Schaeffer. There are thousands of us out here. Sincerely, Janet

Samuel said...

I think that most people think their parent's view of global politics were wrong. This is why holidays are so fun. I'm 30 - few (if any) of my evangelical peers are uncritical of Israel the way you describe evangelicals to be.

Frank Schaeffer said...

Janet: I'm pleased you read the article and find encouragement. Thanks so much for saying so.

Samuel: I think you're right, there is a generational change among Evangelicals on lots of "issues." The problem is that since religion tries to "understand" the world, say the State Of Israel, from a biblical point of view politics gets mired in Bronze Age myth. Not so good.

Mark DeYoung said...

Christian Zionism is a relatively new belief system. It may also have it origins in the United States.
We have a political establishment in America that lives in fear of the Israeli lobby. It is truly a case of the tail wagging the dog. The rest of the world knows this.
Instead of cutting aid in order to get Israel to stop building settlements, the American government is going to bribe them. http://www.slate.com/id/2274918?wpisrc=obinsite
What is scary about this relationship, we face the real prospect that if Israel goes to war with Iran, the American political establishment will drag us into it. John Hagee wants America to launch pre-emptive strikes on Iran in order to protect Israel. While Hagee is a quack, I am sure there are many people in power who agree with him.
It is absurd the America is obsessed with Israel, a small country on the other side of the planet with six million citizens, while Mexico falls apart, Brazil is becoming a major economic power and China owns our national debt.

Frank Schaeffer said...

Hi Mark, thanks for the comment and I could not agree more. "Absurd" is the word. Someday people will spend years of academic study trying to figure out how and why America wasted billions of dollars and tens of thousands of American lives trying to "keep Israel safe" when actually there is nothing we can do for them anyway given the demographic reality of the Middle East.

Susan said...

Mark overestimates the "Israel lobby". I oppose the settlements, but with friends like these..., American Jews are in trouble.

Frank, it is not possible to be Jewish and accept Jesus as one's savior. I call what your mother was trying to do an attempt at spiritual genocide. If your mother was successful, there wouldn't be a single Jew left on the planet.

I participated in an interfaith group of Christians and Jews. We all agreed to not try to convert one another, otherwise it is a sham.

Susan said...

A Zionist is simply someone who thinks that there Jews should have a state where they can control their own destiny. It is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. Being a Zionist does not mean that one must support any particular position on the boundaries of the state of Israel. It is perfectly possible to oppose "Christian Zionism" and still be a Zionist.

Luke Gillespie said...

Frank, another fine post. Also, I echo the comments above by Janet, Samuel, and Mark.

I’ve always wondered about the "Christian" religious right’s love/hate of the Jews. Some of the most anti-semitic people I’ve met on the religious right are the most pro-Israel, and even if they are not anti-semitic, they still seem to be more interested in Israel as part of some silly literal eschatology rather than being sincerely interested in Jewish people themselves.

Back in the early 1970s after the publication of Hal Lindsey's book ("The Late, Great Planet Earth"), I remember my father saying how misguided it was to interpret contemporary political events, in the world in general and in Israel in particular, as literal fulfillments of biblical prophecy. My father said this as a Southern Baptist missionary to Japan (1947-1978). He probably considered himself to be an evangelical who felt “called” to follow Christ and “love your enemies” (namely, the Japanese people during WWII), but I never heard him use political words to describe himself (whether “conservative” or “liberal”), and he loathed the televangelists who preached “Christian zionism” and their literal politicizing of scripture as much as he loathed anti-semitic views. His political comments were influenced by the early Baptists from England who called themselves “Separatists” because they advocated the separation of church and state (he had no interest in the government being in the business of teaching Sunday School, and he was against, along with the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs at that time, prayer in schools: “Whose prayer are you going to pray?” he would say). He was also against having a “Christian flag” in churches and would say “the kingdom of God is in one’s heart,” not a flag or country or “Zionist” politics. The “Christian flag” struck him as being a ridiculous (if not blasphemous) militaristic attempt at promoting “American Churchianity” (so it may come as no surprise that he was also a pacifist). If he was alive today, he would be speaking out against such political posturing by the religious right masquerading under faux religious values.

To Susan: you say “it is not possible to be Jewish and accept Jesus as one’s savior,” but you’d have to tell that to the thousands of Messianic Jews who have done just that. They see no conflict with their Jewish/Messianic/Christian faith at all and embrace Yeshua as their Messiah. Is being Jewish, by definition, an exclusively religious phenomenon? What about those Jews who have no interest in religion or faith and are atheists? They still consider themselves Jews (are they any less “Jewish” because they are atheists?). If being a Jew or being Jewish is not exclusively a religious phenomenon, then every one of them would still be a Jew and Jewish, even if Frank’s mother had been successful in converting all of them. And I know of a number of Christians who consider themselves, rightly or wrongly, part of “spiritual Israel” and call themselves Jewish (whether they say they are “Christian Jews” or “Jewish Christians”).

Your interfaith group with Jews and Christians is surely a good idea, Susan. I have participated in interfaith Thanksgiving services with Jewish, Baptist, and Lutheran congregations all together (located on the same block). There are readings from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and no one tries to convert. May I also recommend the PBS “Point of View” (POV) documentary that first aired Dec 13, 2001, called “PROMISES” (interviews Arab and Jewish kids and shares their attitudes and feelings toward each other).

Susan said...

"you’d have to tell that to the thousands of Messianic Jews who have done just that. They see no conflict with their Jewish/Messianic/Christian faith at all..."

If a "Messianic Jew" say that are Jewish, they are lying, deluded or just plain wrong. Some Jews become "Messianic Jews" because they are ignorant of Judaism. They may believe that they are still religiously Jewish, but they are not. There is a conflict between their belief in Jesus as savior and Judaism. Judaism accepts not savior but God. In Judaism, the Messiah is not a savior. The Messiah brings an age of perfect peace and goodness, but the Messiah does not save anyone's soul, only God does that. Nor is it compatible with Judaism to believe that Jesus is the son of God or God. Jews have never conflated God and the Messiah.

When one converts to Judaism, one becomes part of the Jewish people as well. When one becomes Christian they means that they are no longer part of the Jewish people. It is true that Jews are an ethnic and a national group as well as a religious group. Yes, you can be an atheist Jew, but that is not the same thing as becoming a Christian.

ut you’d have to tell that to the thousands of Messianic Jews who have done just that. They see no conflict with their Jewish/Messianic/Christian faith at all

Boston College, a Catholic college, has developed a program of handouts and videos called Walking With God for Christian and Jewish interfaith groups. One can find it on their web site. It is excellent.

Morrison said...

Frank, the Jews are apparently a real Cobb Up Your Ass, aren't they.

But you need to understand something.

The Jews practically rolled over and died in World War Two.

Ain't gonna happen again, sport, so wise up.

Luke Gillespie said...

@ Susan: the Messianic Jews I've known are quite learned about Judaism. That doesn't make them "right," but to say "they are lying, deluded or just plain wrong" sounds like you're advocating a narrow view of what it means to be a Jew or Jewish. The salvation references in the Hebrew Bible may not necessarily be referring to the Messiah (though some scholars might say that the word for Messiah, “Yahshua,” actually means “YAH is salvation”), but to say that the Messiah is the one who "brings an age of perfect peace and goodness" and is not a savior sounds like splitting hairs.

The fact that “Jews have never conflated God and the Messiah” is not quite true. Most of the early Christians, including Paul and perhaps all of the New Testament writers (except Luke) were Jews and thought they were embracing a new sect of Judaism. The fact that a group of Jews more recently have equated God and the Messiah in similar ways doesn’t mean that these Jews can’t retain their Jewishness any less than the early Christians. And what about the Rabbi several years ago who said he believed in the resurrection of Jesus (as a prophet of God), though he didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah? Is this Rabbi “too liberal” or “too close” to relinquishing his religious Jewishness?

You say one “becomes part of the Jewish people” when one converts to Judaism. Exactly how does that happen? If being Jewish is both a religious and ethnic designation, as you say, can one become a Jew ethnically when one converts to Judaism? By what standards does one measure the “purity” level of being Jewish ethnically and religiously? Are Gentiles who have converted to Judaism over the centuries less “pure” than their ethnically Jewish brethren?

If we agree with the ethnic definition of a Jew, then a Jew could not lose this ethnic identity by converting to Christianity. If being Jewish is inextricably linked to one’s religious identity, how can a Jew retain complete Jewishness by being an atheist? From a religious standpoint, I fail to see how being a Jewish Christian or a Christian Jew (the early Christians) would be considered contradictory. One could say that the book of James basically talks about Christian “works” and Jewish “faith” (unusual for the New Testament, but no less profound).

Thanks for the Boston College interfaith info. I’m sure we would both agree that groups like that are quite positive, and I see no need for people to try to “convert” each other. Embracing another faith (even in part), however, will surely have an impact on one’s initial faith, but to say that the new faith, by definition, destroys or eliminates the old faith (in this case, Christian and Jewish faith) sounds too narrow.

Maybe Judaism and Christianity are not as mutually exclusive as some would believe, and maybe the distinctions you are making about Jews and their ethnic, religious and national identities are not as concrete as you may imply. And maybe the alleged concrete lines between Jews, Christians and Gentiles are simply a chimera and meant to be broken. I think that’s what Jesus was trying to tell us, as he claimed to “fulfill” the Jewish law (Matthew 5:17-20), even as he allegedly broke the Jewish law, and also Paul, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3:28), quite radical words back then and still today. They sound like an indictment of both the “American exceptionalism” that Frank exposes so well and any notion of “ethnic cleansing,” whether done by Hitler, or any other dictator or totalitarian regime, in the name of religion, science, politics or whatever.

Susan said...

Luke, the Hebrew world for Messiah is Mashiach. It literally means anointed one in Hebrew.

My point about becoming part of the Jewish people when one converts is the exact opposite of ethnic purity.

I know that in the Philadelphia area the founder of a "Messianic Jewish" group was a Christian who legally changed his name to a Jewish sounding name and declared himself a "Messianic Jew".

Luke Gillespie said...

@ Susan: Yes, I'm aware of the word meaning "anointed one" in Hebrew. I'm also aware that some "Messianic Jews" have their names legally changed, as you say, but so what? That still doesn't answer my questions about the early Christians being as Jewish as any Jew who has ever lived and all other Jews who believe they have embraced their Judaism by embracing Jesus as the Messiah. I’m not asking Jews to do this. I’m simply saying that many who do it feel that they are doing exactly what the early Christians (who were Jews) did. Are you saying that this Jewish “sect” was wrong? Are you saying they have betrayed the Jewish faith? Are you saying they are no longer Jewish and have relinquished the right to call themselves Jews?

If, as you say, becoming part of the Jewish people when one converts is the exact opposite of ethnic purity (and I would hope that you are, of course, right) and religious faith trumps ethnicity, then how does a Jew retain being a Jew if he/she becomes an atheist? Is one more Jewish as an atheist rather than as a Christian? Again, tell that to the early Christians (who were Jews and probably followed Jewish law much more rigorously than many current Jews).

The Jewish existentialist writer, Martin Buber, and his excellent essays, “ECLIPSE OF GOD,” compliment my own faith, and I’m aware of some Jews who actually embrace the teachings of Jesus (and, as I mentioned before, even a Rabbi who believed in Jesus’ resurrection), without necessarily “believing” that he was the Messiah. This need or requirement to “renounce” Jesus (to be a “faithful” Jew) as if he provoked other Jews (the early Christians) to become “Jew-haters” or whatever seems silly to me, and I wonder if it contributes to the problem just as much as Christians who claim that the “Jews killed Jesus” and other nonsensical statements.

You speak of Jews having to renounce Jesus as the Messiah as a kind of litmus test to retain their Jewishness, but there are clearly some Jews who don’t agree with you. I would assume that some orthodox Jews would claim that you are not being truly Jewish unless every detail of the law is followed (in daily practice). If so, it sounds just like those right-wing Christians who would claim that I am not a true Christian because I don’t interpret the Bible in exactly the same way as they do or my politics are too progressive.

Perhaps it all boils down to how people interpret things (what things to interpret literally, what things to interpret figuratively, and so on), and I believe one problem is exactly as Frank has described.

May I add another quote: “I don't want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it” (from Rev. Billy Graham, no less, back in 1981--I believe he was quite right and his words have, sadly, come to pass!).

Susan said...

Luke, yes there were Jews who thought that Jesus was the Messiah, but they thought that a Messianic Age would eventually follow Jesus. That has not happened. If Jesus was the Messiah, we would be living in an age if peace and non-violence. That has not happened. None of things that were supposed to happen when the Messiah came happened. It is very different to believe that Jesus was the Messiah in the ancient world than it does now.

Christianity did split from Judaism and it split for a good reason. I am open to limitless interpretations of the Bible and of Judaism, but I am not so open that my head can fall out. I don't know anyone who is a part of any branch of Judaism that disagrees with me on this. Jews should be allowed to define Judaism.

An atheist Jew has not left Judaism. He or she can return to a belief in God at any time. A "Messianic Jew" has become a Christian. They are not equivalent.

Luke Gillespie said...

@ Susan: That's fine that "Jews should be allowed to define Judaism," as long as you allow others to define their views, but it sounds to me like there are blurred boundaries that need to be acknowledged a little more than you have (I have equally disagreed with your characterization of what Christians are supposed to believe).

I'm not disagreeing with you entirely in your last paragraph, but to say that "an atheist Jew has not left Judaism" makes no sense since Judaism requires belief in God. Sure, he or she can return to belief in God (and Judaism), but so can someone who claims another faith for a period of time or temporarily believes in a different kind of God.

It may be, at least to some extent, "very different to believe that Jesus was the Messiah in the ancient world than it does now," and the early Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah may have believed that a "Messianic Age would eventually follow Jesus," but many would disagree with how you characterize this belief when you say "That has not happened." You say that none of the things "that [was] supposed to happen when the Messiah came happened," but, of course, you understand that the whole history of Christianity and its traditions and writings would say that these things have, indeed, happened, at the very least, and perhaps the most important, in one's heart.

Maybe the whole notion that the Messiah would bring an "age of peace and non-violence" has nothing to do with a literal political and social peace and non-violence. (If you still believe that the Messiah will eventually come and do this literally, I'm afraid you will be waiting forever.) Maybe the whole notion of believing in and living by a set of traditions, rules and regulations, whether it's about diet, clothing, appearance or anything else in one's daily routine (let alone claiming some kind of exclusive "ethnic exceptionalism" and its fundamentalistic variants--I'm not speaking of you, but others), has little or nothing to do with faith. So, I do not accept your literal interpretation of what Jews think Christians believe or are supposed to believe about the Messiah, then or now. Maybe the whole point of faith has nothing to do with literal interpretations of anything except to say that "God is love" and the "age of peace and non-violence" can only be found in one's heart: "The kingdom of God is within you" (Tolstoy got that right!).

You and I may have more in common than you think, especially in the "interfaith" groups you spoke of in an earlier comment (as you know, sadly, some Jews and Christians would not agree with such a group). I'm just skeptical about those who interpret their traditions so literally, whether Jewish or Christian, that they miss the forest for the trees.

Susan said...

Luke, there is an interpretation of the Bible that says that the Messiah will come when he is no longer needed. Obviously, most Jews are not sitting and waiting for the Messiah to come.

I don't interpret the Bible "so literally". I don't think that there is just one right interpretation of the Bible. I just think there is a difference between seeing what you what to see in the Bible or finding a rationalization of your beliefs in the Bible and seeing what is really there.

You have also ignored that for Jews Christianity has caused the death of millions of Jews, excluding the Holocaust. Not only was there not a world of peace and goodness brought by Jesus, there was hatred and what one Protestant theologian called "the theology of contempt" instead.

Luke Gillespie said...

@ Susan, those who have said and done the things you speak of have nothing to do with Jesus and his teachings. Individuals who have "hijacked" Christianity and used Christian jargon, hiding behind false self-righteous cloaks of "divine prescription," and aligning themselves with political ideologies (mixing politics and religion is a recipe for disaster!) have caused the death of millions of Jews (and Christians I might add) and "brought not a world of peace and goodness [but] hatred," and a "theology of contempt" instead, using them as a scapegoat for whatever appeared to go against the consolidation of those in power.

I'm the first to believe that religion can become evil when abused. I'd simply ask that you not lump all Christians or Christianity into the same group. If a person's belief-system (and everyone in that belief-system) has an intrinsic hatred and contempt for Judaism and Jews, I'll join you in condemning it completely.

May I use a baseball analogy? Many players and owners have abused and dishonored the game by cheating, gambling, using steroids, and being racist bigots against blacks and Jews. The game of baseball itself, however, is not racist, despite its racist history. Just as anti-semitism existed long before Christianity, so did racism long before baseball. It's the "players" involved (in Judaism, Christianity and baseball) that need to be "cleaned up," rather than condemning the game or faith. In fact, baseball has gone far to repair racist attitudes and bigotry, whether it was against the great slugger Hank Greenberg (who was Jewish and said he tried to hit homeruns "against" Hitler) or against black players like Jackie Robinson or Latin players like Roberto Clemente.

If Christians actually followed Jesus' example and teachings ("Love your neighbor" and "Blessed are the peacemakers") and exhibited "Christ-like" behavior and Solomon's wisdom, we'd have no war or hate, "for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52). That's why my father (a Southern Baptist missionary to Japan right after WWII, no less), was a pacifist. (My own leaning now includes liberal Baptist "separation of church and state" roots, but I'm also sympathetic to the Orthodox Church that Frank is a member, though I have not officially joined.)

Yes, there are different ways to interpret things, and I also don't interpret the Bible so "literally," but when we both say "we don't think that there is just one right interpretation of the Bible," that, in itself, is a particular interpretation. Is it possible for both of our interpretations to be valid? And I also agree when you say you "just think there is a difference between seeing what you want to see in the Bible or finding a rationalization of your beliefs in the Bible and seeing what is really there," but the problem is that "what is really there" may not necessarily be as clear cut as you and I might like.

The history of the Christian Church has also given us countless hospitals, schools, loving communities and charitable groups that care about people. Christianity has also been at the root of the abolition of slavery in this country and the scientific revolution in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, pushed to eradicate poverty around the world, and stood for women's rights and Civil rights. If that's rationalizing my beliefs, so be it, but it seems to be "seeing what is really there."

So, I believe Christianity and Christians can and should help to change people's hatred to love and peace--I hope Judaism and Jews do the same. That's what I believe as a Christian and it's what I will continue to strive for in my life.

David.R said...

Frank:
I just found your blog. I think it is great! Politically, I am very much in the boat with you. Far-right 'Christian' republicanism is pretty scary. I try to stay in the middle.
But I have a question; is the Orthodox Church
anti-semitic? What is a balanced position concerning Israel? I think anti-semitism is wrong. And I have to say that anti-zionism coincides with anti-semitism more than many anti-zionists are willing to admit. On the other hand I affirm that disagreeing with some of Israel's foreign and domestic policies
does not make me an anti-semite. I am an Orthodox Christian and ethnically, I have Sephardic-Jewish ancestry. I am particularly
shocked by what seems outright hostility and anti-Jewish hatred in Orthodox Christian circles. It is particularly grievous to hear
people quoting St John Chrysostom amd Patriarch St Niphon etc. to justify their prejudice.
I affirm that the fullness of God's revelation is in the Orthodox Church but I refuse to join the Jew-bashing mob. Any thoughts?