Robert W. Nicholson, a Christian writer, argued this month in Mosaic that Zionism is not as ubiquitous to American evangelicals as many believe, and that Jewish supporters of Israel would be well-served to try to better understand evangelical Christianity and its divergence over Israel—prompting a flurry of impassioned responses on the magazine’s website.
In fact, Nicholson points out, there growing disagreement over whether or not the founding of the modern State of Israel occurred as the bible prescribed, with some going as far as calling it immoral. This shift highlights how fickle Zionism can be when rooted in interpretation of scripture or theological conviction, which is why Nicholson suggests that pro-Israel Jews ought to be more receptive to American evangelical support of Israel:
By all rights, this rather stunning fact—the fact of a vibrant Christian Zionism—should encourage a welcoming response from beleaguered Jewish supporters of Israel. Instead, it has caused palpable discomfort, especially among Jewish liberals. Wary of ulterior religious motives, and viewing evangelicals as overly conservative in their general outlook on the world, such Jews either accept the proffered support with a notable lack of enthusiasm or actively caution their fellow Jews against accepting it at all. To many, the prospect of an alignment with evangelicals, even one based on purely tactical considerations, seems positively distasteful. Very few have attempted to penetrate the evangelical world or to understand it in any substantive way.
Nicholson references Tablet columnist Lee Smith, who wrote in 2012 about these rising factions in American evangelism, predicting that if the pro-Palestinian minority wins out, pro-Israel Jews might acquire a belated appreciation for Israel’s Christian Zionist supporters.
Though the vast majority of evangelicals still maintain that support, for the first time since the establishment of Israel in 1948, there is an increasingly heated debate in the evangelical community that may augur a shift in the political winds. And if the Christ at the Checkpoint camp wins out, the pro-Israel Jewish community that once looked warily upon evangelical support may come to regard that movement with nostalgia.
Rachel Silberstein is a writer living in New York.