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More On The Christian Left’s Problem With Israel


(Editor’s Note: In an op-ed article in the April 25 issue of The Jewish Press, Dr. Tilford addressed the anti-Israel sentiment and activism so rife in America’s liberal Protestant churches. In this follow-up piece, he looks at some of the specifics driving that animus.)

Most Christians, including many (if not a majority of) members of the mainline Protestant denominations, support Israel. Nevertheless, the Christian Left persists with its sometimes vehemently anti-Israeli and unabashedly pro-Palestinian sentiments. Why?

Bluntly put, Israel stands for things the Christian Left cannot abide: human values based on biblically grounded eternal truths; a clear understanding of the evil nature of the enemies arrayed against Israel; military power along with the inclination and will to use it, despite criticism from much of the international community; and a vibrant economy in a region where, Arab oil sheiks notwithstanding, most people are mired in poverty.

The graybeards among the current crop of Christian leftists were born of frustration with the materialism extant in the prosperity of the 1950’s and 1960’s, were nurtured on the idealism of the Civil Rights movement, blossomed during the Vietnam era anti-war movement, and indulged themselves with the neo-egalitarian hedonism of the counterculture.

As the multicultural mantras of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and the rhetoric of victimization, took hold during the 1970’s and 1980’s, Israel emerged as a political, economic, and military powerhouse to represent all that the religious Left abhors.

Israel’s values, like those of conservative Christians, derive from belief in a sovereign creator and ruler of the universe, a definitive truth, and the understanding that good and evil are objectively assessable. Definitive truth, righteousness, and sinfulness are concepts alien to a Christian Left that denies the existence of evil (except as it applies to political and religious conservatives, “big oil,” and anyone who questions the left’s assumptions).

An objective concept of good and evil implies judging much of what the Christian Left holds precious: subjectively-derived moral standards, hedonistic self-centeredness, and situational morality and ethics.

The Christian Left long ago abandoned definitive truth and distinctions between biblically derived concepts of right and wrong in exchange for a pseudo-gospel based on advocating “justice” in matters attendant to gay rights and unrestricted abortion – neither of which can be biblically supported.

Israel, a veritable garden of democracy in a wasteland of corrupt, dictatorial or oligarchic theocratic Islamic regimes, clearly understands the evil compelling Islamic fanatics to don suicide vests and blow themselves up amid innocents. Christian leftists by contrast believe all humans are essentially good. Evil, if it even exits, results from environmental or economic disadvantage. Israelis harbor no such illusions.

Further, Israel does something Christian leftists find incomprehensible: it uses military power to defend itself. Not only does Israel use its superbly trained and technologically advanced military in precision attacks on terrorists, both in preemption and retaliation, it does so with little regard for the outcries rising from some portions of the world community.

Israel simply doesn’t pay much attention to the howls of outrage emanating from Christian leftists – something that further infuriates the Christian Left. Additionally, leftists – secular as well as Christian – generally revel in appeasement, compromise, and international instruments of arbitration such as the United Nations, the World Court, and the World Council of Churches. Pronouncements and condemnations from those institutions do not seem to bother Israelis overly much.

Israel, much to the chagrin of the Christian Left, is a pluralistic country providing equal rights under the law for all its citizens, including Arab Christians, Arab Muslims, Israeli Christians and Druze along with Israeli Jews. What the Christian Left ignores is that anyone living in Israel, regardless of religion, is better off than Christians living in any Muslim country one might care to name.

Finally, Israel is an economic success story. Marxist orthodoxy, which undergirds the “social justice” gospel espoused by Christian leftists, maintains that prosperity results from exploitation. If Israel, despite its early socialist legacy and heavy defense burdens, is prosperous, that prosperity must derive from exploiting Palestinians “driven” off their land and denied the right to return. Oppression and victimization are concepts weighting heavily upon the hearts of most Christian leftists.

Israel, a beacon of democratic promise amid a wasteland of oppression, is a nation established on ancient religious values. As such, Israel is everything the loquacious liberals on the Christian Left cannot abide.

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