The End of Apologies?
Esther Kaplan printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Nov 20, 2005 at 08:16:11 PM EST
It seems to have finally dawned on Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League and a highly visible Jewish community talking head, that he should stop making nice with the Christian right. Just a few years ago he was calling on American Jews to show evangelical conservatives some gratitude for their hard-line support for Israel. But last week, Foxman used the ADL's annual conference to sound the alarm about attempts to "Christianize America."
Back in 2002, he was penning editorials like "Why Evangelical Support for Israel Is a Good Thing." "American Jews," he wrote, should be "highly appreciative of the incredible support that the State of Israel gets from a significant group of Americans-- the Evangelical Christian Right. In many ways, the Christian Right stands out as the most consistently supportive group of Israel in America.... This is especially noteworthy during the current Administration, as they are conveying their sentiments to a President who shares many of their religious and social perspectives."

Foxman went on to decry the "reluctance in certain sections of the American Jewish community to welcome or encourage Evangelical support," over concerns about anti-Semitism. Foxman dismissed such concerns: anti-Semitism is now "history...among Evangelicals," he claimed, "superceded by the new special role of the Jews in the modern state of Israel."

Never mind that Christian right leaders such as Jerry Falwell have called Jews "spiritually blind and desperately in need of their Messiah and Savior"; that the Southern Baptist Convention has made the conversion of Jews a special mission; and that much Christian right support for Israel is based on End Times scenarios in which Jews must return to Israel to expedite the second coming of Christ. There's just one catch: Once that glorious event occurs, Jews who don't convert will burn in hell for all eternity. As Craig Unger vividly illustrates in his article in the December issue of Vanity Fair, in which he recounts his travels to the Holy Land with best-selling apocalyptic novelist Tim LaHaye, if you peel back Christian right support for Israel, you find a Jewish death wish. Plus, in geopolitical terms, the Christian right's "pro-Israel" stance could prove to be a significant obstacle to peace; since Christian right support for Israel is based on belief in a Biblical covenant, conservative evangelicals typically oppose any dismantling of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Despite all this, Foxman has often used his position to confer legitimacy on the Christian right, offering movement leaders an interfaith stamp of approval for their messianic visions in return for their staunch support for the Likud regime. In 2002, Foxman personally thanked Gary Bauer, founder of the conservative evangelical organization American Values, for his support for Israel, and the ADL took out a full page ad in The New York Times to celebrate a pro-Israel statement by Ralph Reed.

But last week, according to an account in The Forward, Foxman used the ADL's annual conference to sound the alarm about attempts to "Christianize America." Criticizing several leading Christian right organizations by name, including the massive, Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family and the influential beltway lobby group Family Research Council, Foxman said the movement "had built infrastructures throughout the country... intend[ing] to 'Christianize' all aspects of American life, from the halls of government to the libraries, to the movies, to recording studios, to the playing fields and locker rooms of professional, collegiate and amateur sports....Their goal is to implement their Christian worldview. To Christianize America. To save us!"

But in straying off of his gratitude script, Foxman had annoyed top dogs on the Christian right. Tom Minnery, president of public policy for Focus on the Family, issued this threat: "If you keep bullying your friends, pretty soon you won't have any."

Representatives of the American Jewish Congress and other national Jewish organizations questioned Foxman's assertion that the Christian right was actively imposing its agenda on America. "Putting prayer back in the public schools?" the AJ Congress's Eugene Korn told The Forward. "It's not clear to me that it's a thrust." But Korn and friends must not be paying attention. The Christian right lobby has succeeded in rolling back access to abortion, family planning, and contraception here at home and around the world; they've pushed for abstinence-only and faith-based initiatives that have sent tens of millions of dollars into the coffers of Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing, Franklin Graham's Samaritan's Purse, and dozens of other Christian right organizations; they've replaced scientists with biblical literalists on key government advisory bodies; and they've strong-armed President Bush into stacking the federal courts with judges who want the Ten Commandments posted in public buildings and evangelism in the public schools.

It's great to see Abe Foxman wake up and smell the coffee.




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For the record, this is now the second antihate/antiracist group coming out against dominionists (the first being the Southern Poverty Law Center, whose listing of three dominionist groups as hate groups and whose Spring 2005 Intelligence Report which focused entirely on dominionist groups seem to have opened up the floodgates).

With the ADL, this is particularly delicate, as a lot of support for the ADL and other Jewish groups in the US has been through "Christian Zionist" groups--many of which have had long associations with dominionist groups that until now have been fairly well hidden.

The ADL has realised they've been sleeping with vipers, and are now warning other folks about it as well--the real trick is to extricate themselves (and already there are "Christian Zionist" groups that are demonising the ADL and accusing them of targeting all Christians, based on two separate released the ADL has made specifying they are not attacking Christianity but dominionism specifically).

As at least two denominations hip-deep in dominionist movements have a very heavy emphasis on conversion of Jews to "Messianic Jews" or "Hebrew Christians" (even going to the extent of adopting kosher diets and following High Holidays--essentially becoming "kosher pentecostals") the ADL is right to be wary.  They are also going to need the support of anti-dominionist and non-dominionist groups, because they are likely going to be the subject of some pretty fierce dead-agenting/character assassination by dominionist groups.

by dogemperor on Sun Nov 20, 2005 at 09:38:51 PM EST

As a deeply informed inaugural comment.

I think there may be common ground to be found between the awakening ADL and certain elements in Catholicism coming to this awareness as well : among many such likely emergent alliances.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Nov 20, 2005 at 10:03:07 PM EST
Parent

I'd love to hear more about an emergent Catholic response. The distorted media coverage of Catholic Church politics in this country is of endless frustration to me -- where a handful of bishops get headlines for denying John Kerry communion, but the entire U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops takes a position against the Iraq war and it's as if nothing happened. Are there efforts afoot to reduce Catholic participation in Christian right coalitions?

by Esther Kaplan on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 02:24:34 PM EST
Parent



Maybe the more narrow of the American Catholic Bishops will wake up to the vitriolic anti-papism just under the surface of the protestant far right.  Would be instructive to dig out  some of the  past sermons & pronouncements by the more prominent of older  leaders, Falwell etc.

by HorseshoeCrab on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 12:37:33 PM EST


by Bruce Wilson on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 01:09:24 PM EST
Parent


Has been a slowly dawning and painful shift in conscious for many.

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 01:08:39 PM EST


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