Posts Tagged ‘christianity’
On Thursday, I went to the Christians United for Israel ‘Night to Honor Israel’ in Davenport. The 2,400 seat Adler Theater was filled nearly to capacity with conservative evangelical Christians. This is not typically my sort of crowd. Conservative preacher Pastor John Hagee, who is among the best known conservative evangelicals in America, was the keynote speaker. The crowd was filled with people who have a strict view of a different faith than mine and who have fairly severe differences with me on a wide range of social policies.
And yet, I was warmly welcomed, as a Jew, among these people. Hagee made clear that his love and support for the Jewish people is not based on any expectation that we convert to Christianity or any other sort of compromise of our beliefs. The crowd echoed that view.
And so, I wonder, why is it that among the supposedly tolerant and accepting people on the left here in Iowa City, I feel no tolerance; while among the typically less tolerant and conservative Christians, I feel real tolerance … even acceptance?
By way of example, a far-left Democrat from here in Johnson County, told me at the state Democratic Convention that I was a disloyal American and that I should leave and move to Israel. I feared nothing like that on Thursday evening. In fact, I experienced the opposite … my Jewish identity was seen as a patriotic expression of my American heritage. God bless these people for showing me real acceptance.
Iowa may be the Achilles’ heel in the fabled power of the Israel lobby. Unfortunately, Jews are losing the state.
Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses give it disproportionate political attention. Any serious presidential candidate must make multiple visits to the state to be viable. The lack of a significant Jewish presence in Iowa presents a problem for Jews in this country.
Most importantly, anti-Israel activists seek legitimacy for their efforts to delegitimize Israel. This legitimacy-seeking activity provoked candidate Barack Obama to say during the 2008 presidential campaign, “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.” One of the leading anti-Israel activists in Iowa set the trap with a question and Obama stepped into it. The Des Moines Register dutifully reported the story without important context that would have undermined the anti-Israel framing.
Read the rest of Losing Iowa at The NY Jewish Week.
On Thursday, I had the privilege of meeting with a lot of Christian supporters of Israel affiliated with CUFI, Christians United for Israel. The degree of love and support I felt from these people presents a challenge to the center-left.
I am a Democrat and a liberal on a large number of social policies. But, even when I acknowledged this fact, I was answered by the recognition that it makes our mutual interest in supporting Israel all the more awesome.
Christians for Israel support Israel and the Jewish people because of their Christian faith. The believe they honor God by honoring Jews and Israel. Unlike some Christians, they do not merely see Jews as part of some end-times story or desire dragging Jews into a war in order to provoke Armageddon. They pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the security of Israel and the Jewish people.
Senator Charles Grassley addressed the group of at least a few hundred people in Clive, Iowa. His expression of support for Israel and the Jewish people is a challenge. It is a challenge because, as a Democrat, I do not experience such expressions of support in my own party. I hear support, but it is often explicitly narrow support. In offering his unyielding support (not necessarily uncritical – but certainly unyielding), Grassley challenges Democrats like me to do better.
And, indeed, we must do better. Current polling shows that Jews are increasingly Republican. Indeed, one third of Jews report being Republican today compared to 20% in 2008 and 26% in 2006. Weakness on Israel among Democrats must be a factor in this shift.
How many of my fellow Democrats, for example would say, as Grassley did, that, “God commands me that I must pray for Jerusalem’s peace”? How many would say that, “Judaism can stand alone without Christianity but Christianity cannot stand alone without Judaism”? Among Democrats, would that line about Christian dependence on Judaism get the tremendous applause that these overwhelmingly Republican Christians gave? How many Democrats would join the echoes of Isaiah 62 that, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet”?
Now, I know people who work with Grassley’s general election opponent in November, Democrat Roxanne Conlin. They have assured me that she stands with Israel. But, when Grassley expresses his support with such passion, it makes voting with my party a little more difficult. For less active Democratic Jews, it might make standing with the Democratic Party much more difficult.
We Democrats must meet this challenge. It is a strategic necessity that we not allow Republicans to capture voters on this issue.
I listen to both NPR and 1040 WHO. NPR is generally to my left and WHO is generally to my right. On my way home, I usually listen to NPR. But, occasionally, I turn to WHO. When I do, Steve Deace is commonly on the air. Such was the case this evening.
Almost every time I tune in to his show, Deace is railing against homosexuality. His language is overwrought with heavy-handed appeals to sectarian Christian values. He reminds me of those Christians who would confront me growing up. Back then, my understanding of God was simplistic and I affirmatively rejected God and Christianity. I was attacked as a non-believer by the Christians at school and so I responded with similar hostility.
One particularly unpleasant run-in happened when I was a sophomore at Urbandale High School in 1993. I gave a speech on tolerance towards homosexuals. The first question I got, in front of the teacher and the entire class was, “Are you a faggot?” The teacher tried to intervene in my defense, but I would have none of it. The last thing you want as a kid is to rely on a teacher to protect you. It makes you a mark for bullies. Instead I used my presence at the front of the class to humiliate the student who questioned me. I said something along the lines of, “Well, even if I were, you would have nothing to worry about. You aren’t that attractive, and it would be very easy to do better.”
My animus against Christians motivated me to study Catholicism (all my attackers were Protestant) and Judaism. I made sure I knew more about the history of Christianity than my Christian attackers. When I was confronted, I wouldn’t defend myself as much as I would humiliate them with their ignorance. Given that kids don’t learn much in confirmation and many of my attackers hadn’t even completed confirmation, humiliating them was easy. And when it came down to it, I was quick to call them hurtful names, usually in combination with a profanity or two, that insulted their inelligence.
Every time I hear Steve Deace, I am reminded of that punk kid in my speech class. I am a better person now, but he always reminds me of the spiteful person I once was. His homophobic rants remind me of the worst kind of Christian-based hatred I experienced growing up. I know better now, and most Christians are not hateful. But as a child growing up, it was much harder to distinguish between decent Christians and hateful ones. In another post, I will discuss more at length why Steve Deace is horribly wrong about homosexuality and gay marriage. For now, I want to share what I wrote to him:
Listening to your show today, you reminded me why I am not a Christian. Your sectarian intolerance is downright appalling. Fortunately, I have met many decent Christians who have rehabilitated the borderline hateful view of Christianity and God I developed growing up. I was once a hard-core atheist. I am now a believing Jew in spite of Christians like you. It is only by learning that God is greater than what is offered by your narrow and hateful view, that my rehabilitation has been possible.
I was wondering, what do you think of Jews like me? I believe Jesus was at worst a myth and at best a Pharisee and a Rabbi who learned the teachings of the Rabbi Hillel and spread many of them to his followers. In any event, it is my belief that Adonai alone is God and that Adonai is One. Jesus is not God and nothing on earth can be God. I don’t think Christians are against God, I just think Christians are wrong about God. Most Christians are good people who have an equal share in the world to come.
I know that this is against your view of your bible. Based on what you have said on your show, I can only imagine that you see my faith as being “evil” because it is against your god, just as you see homosexuality as “evil” because it is against your god. I would be interested in your comments in this regard.