[Freemanlist2] Ruth Matar - WHO ARE THE EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS?
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WHO ARE THE EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS?
Letter from Ruth Matar (Women in Green) Jerusalem
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Recently an event occurred in Israel which upset me greatly. Two Christian Evangelical groups, Bridges for Peace and the International Christian Embassy were planning a Conference in Jerusalem “to promote the status of Women based on Biblical values”, under the auspices of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus in Jerusalem.
I was unpleasantly surprised to hear that the Chief Rabbinate, by a majority vote, declared a ban against Jews participating in this Conference. Unfortunately, the Rabbis supporting this ban were influenced by misinformation as to the true intentions of the Evangelical Christians. The misinformation was insidious, mainly the claim that Christian Evangelicals only pretend to befriend the Jews in order to convert them.
Who are the Evangelicals?
Evangelicals today are the most fervent supporters of Israel in the Western World. Political support for Israel is one of their highest priorities. They are genuine Zionists whose faith is based on the Bible, believing that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish People.
Most importantly, the Evangelicals completely reject Replacement Theology, which means they regard Judaism as a FOUNDATION for Christianity, rather than that Judaism was replaced by it.
No doubt, some Christians are intent on converting Jews. Some others may be downright anti-Semitic. However, the overwhelming majority of Evangelicals – there are today 100 Million throughout the world- are decent people who try to promote Christian ethical values- many of which mirror the Judeo-Christian heritage.
Below is a very interesting article by Isi Leibler, who chairs the Diaspora-Israel Relations Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and is a veteran international Jewish leader. ileibler at netvision.net.il
The chief rabbinate is wrong about Evangelicals
By Isi Leibler
I was astonished to learn that by a majority vote, the Chief Rabbinate recently promulgated a ban against Jews participating in a Christian women’s conference “to promote the status of women based on biblical values” under the auspices of the Knesset Christian Allies caucus in Jerusalem.
The alleged grounds for the ban were that the two Christian evangelical groups involved – Bridges for Peace and the International Christian Embassy – were engaged in missionary activity.
Having been directly involved with these groups, I can confidently state that the accusation is absolutely false. The rabbis supporting the ban were influenced by a few misguided zealots who for years have been conducting an ongoing campaign based on the outrageously false allegation that our closest allies, the Christian Evangelicals, have merely created a facade of friendship with Jews in order to convert them.
There are Orthodox Jews closely associated with these bodies who would not countenance transgressing Jewish law. They uphold the position of Rav Joseph Soloveichik who opposed theological dialogue with other denominations, but endorsed joint activities with Christians to promote the Judeo Christian heritage in the broadest social sense, including support for Israel.
It is gratifying that the Jewish organizers immediately rebuffed the boycott call and a highly successful conference took place. But having formally issued a boycott call based on false premises, against any association with these groups, the Chief Rabbinate must now unequivocally retract. This outburst is, incidentally, only one of a series of bizarre rulings by the Chief Rabbinate which of late have been undermining the standing of religion in the nation and bringing into question the utility of maintaining a state-sponsored Chief Rabbinate. OUR CHIEF Rabbinate is possibly unaware that, in contrast to other Protestant denominations, Evangelicals vigorously reject replacement theology and regard Judaism as the foundation for Christianity rather than being replaced by it. That explains why many Protestant groups tend to display hostility toward Israel and have frequently even indulged in actions to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state.
However that should not be seen as suggesting that 100 million Evangelicals throughout the world are all philo-semites. They are in fact no more monolithic than Jews. Yes, many of them believe that the return of their Messiah will be hastened by the Jewish ingathering of the exiles. But this surely should not be of concern to us.
Some undoubtedly may be obsessed with the wish to convert Jews and others may even be anti-Semitic. But the overwhelming majority are unquestionably decent men and women seeking to promote Christian ethical values – many of which mirror the Judeo-Christian heritage.
They are concerned with the breakdown of public morality and family values, and strongly oppose abortion. They believe that in our world, humanity is confronted by a struggle between good and evil – terms alas, which many Jewish liberals regard as outmoded and have even purged from their lexicon.
Evangelicals also reject the moral relativism currently dominating Western liberal thought. They share with Israelis an unwillingness to endorse moral equivalency between killers and their victims. They also avoid prattling on about “cycles of violence” which avoids apportioning blame on those responsible for initiating conflicts sustaining the Israel-Palestinian conflict. EVANGELICALS have today become the most fervent supporters of Israel in the Western world. Paradoxically, in recent years, when many of our traditional allies have been forsaking us, Evangelicals are intensifying and upgrading their political support for Israel. Today this has in fact escalated to one of their highest priorities. As genuine Christian Zionists whose faith is based on the Bible they believe that God gave Eretz Israel to the Jewish people. They pray for our welfare and most of them unconditionally love Jews as God’s chosen people. I often wish that some of our more aloof Diaspora kinsmen
could display similar passion and commitment for our cause.
Many rank-and-file evangelical church goers donate generously to social welfare and other projects designed to strengthening Israel. For example, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews played a crucial role in launching the Nefesh B’Nefesh in its early days, providing millions of dollars necessary to subsidize olim to Israel. After the Lebanon war they also donated large sums to assist Israelis in the North who were all but forsaken by their own government. In addition increasing numbers visit Israel on pilgrimage tours.
Today Evangelicals are undoubtedly one of the greatest sources of political support for Israel in the US. They represent the core of Republican backing for the pro-Israeli policy of President George W. Bush and their representatives in Congress constitute solid support for Israel. Recently they even created a Christian counterpart of AIPAC with evangelical groups lobbying Congressmen to support Israel and organizing their supporters to vote against legislators hostile to Israel.
Whereas Evangelicals are usually sensitive and avoid publicly challenging Israel government policies, many liberal Jews regard their stance on Israel as right-wing. But that surely does not invalidate the enormous benefit their backing provides Israel. Mounting Jewish appreciation of Evangelical support was reflected by the incredible standing ovation received by Evangelical leader John Hagee at AIPAC after providing an exemplary address, calling on Americans and all people of goodwill to support Israel and resist Islamic fundamentalism.
It is also clear that had Evangelical influence in Europe been greater the extent of the prevailing European hostility against Israel would undoubtedly have been substantially lessened.
Of course we unquestionably differ from Evangelicals on many other issues. But today, it is unbecoming to insult our friends and painful to witness ignorant Jews biting the hand that feeds us – especially at a time when we so desperately seek allies. As an observant Jew I am comfortable, enthusiastic and grateful for the support we receive from Christian Evangelicals.
At a time when even many Jewish liberals are finally beginning to appreciate the importance of Evangelical support, the Chief Rabbinate must act quickly to repair the damage they have created. If not, it is time for responsible religious Jews to speak up and dissociate themselves from such bigoted outbursts.
May the Almighty bless our Christian supporters for their good will and friendship and may He also provide wisdom to misguided rabbis.
Should we really be biting the hand that feeds us?
When anti-Semitism is growing all over the world, we desperately need true and loyal friends like the Evangelical Christians. Many Evangelicals donate generously to social welfare and other projects designed to strengthen Israel. For instance, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews played a crucial role in launching the Nefesh B’Nefesh program in its early days. They provided and still provide millions of dollars to subsidize olim to Israel. After the Second Lebanon War, they donated large sums to assist Israelis in the North who were all but forsaken by their own government.
Most importantly, Evangelicals are the greatest source of political support for Israel in the United States. They lobby their congressional representatives to support Israel, and organize their supporters to vote against legislators hostile to Israel.
On a personal note, I feel very comfortable with my Christian Evangelical friends, and truly respect them as genuine friends of the Jews and Israel. On the other hand, I cannot blame people who feel antagonistic toward Christians. Many Jews have unfortunately had only negative experiences with non-Jews during the Holocaust. After all, every one of us is shaped by our own life experiences, thus creating a unique reaction toward other people.
Using my own life as an example: Growing up in Austria I became more and more distrustful and even afraid of my Christian neighbors. To this day, I have a very vivid memory from my childhood: I was about 6 years old, playing in the park near our house with a group of children who I thought to be my friends. We were playing some kind of circle game where players were eliminated with each round. I remember being so happy because it looked as though I would be the winner! The kids who were already out of the game went into a huddle and then pronounced their verdict, which was very hurtful to a little girl: “you can't play with us anymore, because you killed Jesus Christ.”
I was absolutely sure I hadn't killed Jesus Christ. I didn't even know who Jesus Christ was!
This is a prime example of how parents in Austria and other anti-Semitic countries instilled anti-Semitism in their children. Even little children were taught to hate Jews by their elders.
Fortunately, this early childhood experience was overshadowed by a different and very positive experience. In fact, Christian Zionists had a hand in saving my life.
I was 8 years old when Hitler took over Austria, in 1938. In November of that year, the atrocities of Chrystal-Nacht were a clear indication of Hitler’s intent. My father was ousted from his business and our family was dragged out of our home. It became clear that escape from Austria was our only hope. However, all doors seamed to be closed, with the exception of some European countries who agreed to take in a very limited number of children, by way of the Kinder Transport.
I remember my family waiting on long lines in front of the various embassies- France, England, Holland, Belgium, etc. The answer was always the same when we reached the front of the line: All the places are taken.
Miraculously, finally the interviewer at the Swedish Embassy promised that she would try to provide foster parents for myself, my sister and my brother. She subsequently told us that all three of us were accepted and that we were to be at the central railway station of Vienna in two day’s time. The day before our planned departure, my parents received a call from the Swedish Embassy, with the good news that we had not lost our places on the Kinder Transport. What upset our parents greatly was that there were no Jewish families who were willing to take us in. Only Christian foster families were available.
This was a very difficult decision for our parents, who were strictly observant Jews. They feared that we would cease being Jewish. However, this was September 1939, and the situation was daily becoming more life-threatening. My parents decided wisely that saving our lives was of paramount importance, and they agreed to turn us over to gentile foster parents, thus, no doubt, saving our lives.
For the next few years I lived with my Christian foster family. Their daughter was my age and we were always the best of friends.
My foster parents, while being very religious Christians, never tried to influence me in any way to change my religion. In fact, they tried, to the best of their ability, to accommodate the beliefs of my Jewish education.
Thus there is no wonder that I feel such affinity toward religious Christians, who truly believe in the Tanach (the Bible) we share, and in what is written therein.
Many believing Jews uphold the position of the Great Torah Scholar, Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik, who opposed theological dialogue with other denominations, but endorsed joint activities with Christians to promote the JUDEO-CHRISTIAN HERITAGE in the broadest social sense, including support for Israel.
An important Christian teaching is: “Those who curse Israel shall be cursed, and those who bless Israel shall be blessed.”
May the God of Israel bless our Christian supporters and may he give us the good sense to stop biting the hand that feeds us.
With Blessings and Love for Israel,
Women For Israel's Tomorrow (Women in Green)
POB 7352, Jerusalem 91072, Israel
Tel: 972-2-624-9887 Fax: 972-2-624-5380
mailto:wfit2 at womeningreen.org
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