Despite Republicans' strong support for Israel, American Jews do not generally support Republicans. Michael Medved, a USA Today columnist and activist in the Republican Jewish coalition, looks at the numbers and asks why. Conservative blogger Sam Spagnola of Greensboro, NC wonders if Jewish skepticism toward Christian Republican politicians is a form of liberal bigotry:
"If a Christian refuses to vote for a devout Muslim solely because the candidate is a devout Muslim, wouldn't some people call that bigotry? If that's the case, then what would you call a Jew who refuses to vote for a devout Christian solely because the candidate is a devout Christian?" he writes.
First of all, advertising your faith for political gain doesn't tell us how devout or faithful you are. At the Republican forum in Iowa, all six candidates in attendance pledged their devotion to Jesus Christ. If American Jews are uncomfortable with what seems to be a religious test for the Republican presidential nomination, who can blame them?
Secondly, American Jews have strongly affiliated with the civil rights movement, because they faced rank discrimination themselves. Anti-semitism in America was quite prevalent well into the 1970s. If you were a Jew, you often encountered hostility at certain colleges, certain fraternities and sororities, certain neighborhoods or certain country clubs, some of which had restrictive covenants. You couldn't become partner at certain law firms, or the heads of certain companies. President Nixon on the Watergate tapes made highly offensive slurs against Jews. As late as 1980, Bailey Smith, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention, a leader of the religious right in the Reagan coalition, no doubt represented many of his compatriots in the church when he declared "God does not hear the prayers of Jews."
Even today, many Christian conservatives in politics advocate the re-installation of Christian prayers in public schools, and tuition tax credits for private Christian schools, policies Jews aren't likely to support. Holocaust survivor Eli Weisel has called on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has served in leadership roles in the Mormon church, to ask his church stop proxy baptisms of Jews. Mormons believe that the practice creates the possibility Jews (who haven't acknowledged Christ while alive) can still get into heaven.
A Jewish reporter I knew, when covering conservative evangelicals, was asked if he was a "completed Jew" or, as Ann Coulter suggested, a "perfected Jew," meaning a Jew who is saved because he has accepted Christ.
Thirdly, to understand Jewish skepticism toward Christianist displays of piety in politics, look at Jewish history. Jews have faced far more persecution from Christians than from Muslims. In traditional Christian theology, God punished the Jews for refusing to recognize their risen Lord and savior. The Romans' destruction of the Holy Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was seen as God's punishment. He supposedly sent them wandering for centuries across the globe as they tried to outrun persecutors. Many "Christians" cast a blind eye to the Jewish Holocaust because, well, the Jews were after all "Christ-killers." One of the reasons the nation of Israel was founded was because many Americans did not want tens of thousands of Jewish refugees entering the United States.
In the last 30 years, conservative Christians have attempted to over-compensate for their historical hostility to Jews by becoming "holier than thou" supporters of Israel. Timothy Weber in his 2004 book, On the Road to Armageddon, details how these conservative evangelicals -- known as "dispensationalists" for their belief that these are the "end times" -- have mobilized political support for Israel among their Christian flock in America. As he wrote in a Beliefnet article:
"In their commitment to keep Israel strong and moving in directions prophesied by the Bible, dispensationalists are supporting some of the most dangerous elements in Israeli society. They do so because such political and religious elements seem to conform to dispensationalist beliefs about what is coming next for Israel. By lending their support-both financial and spiritual-to such groups, dispensationalists are helping the future they envision come to pass."
But underneath Christianists' zealous support for the most aggressive policies of the most conservative Israeli governments, including assaults on Palestinians and financing of Jewish settlements in illegally- occupied territories, one wonders if there isn't an underlying religious intolerance and anti-semitism.
To Christian Zionists, support for modern-day Israel is rooted in Biblical prophecy: the return of Jews to Jerusalem is necessary for the second coming of Christ. In the Apocalypse, Jews will be converted to Christianity, as predicted by the Book of Revelation: "Behold, I give of the synagogue of Satan, of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but lie. Behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you."
As a Christian, I see the Book of Revelation as a mysterious and largely unfathonable allegory to demonstrate that God's love wins out in the end. Many Christian conservatives do not see the Book of Revelation as allegorical, however, but as a detailed predictor of the near future.
Disturbingly, many Americans support the modern state of Israel, founded in 1948, because they see it as fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and EQUIVALENT to the Biblical nation of Israel from 2000 years ago:
Over one-third of those Americans who support Israel report that they do so because they believe the Bible teaches that the Jews must possess their own country in the Holy Land before Jesus can return. Source.
For Jesus to come again, according to Biblical prophecy, the Jewish temple in Jerusalem must be rebuilt, and Islamic holy places must be destroyed. Then, "all who seek to keep the covenant with God will acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah in defiance of the Antichrist." (Wikipedia.) This is a radical call to war in the Middle East as a fulfillment of scripture.
Many American evangelicals who congregate in the Republican Party do not believe in the Mideast peace process. Indeed, as Weber pointed out in his BeliefNet article, they believe that the worst thing the United States can do is
force Israel to give up land for a peace that will never materialize this side of the second coming. Anyone who pushes for peace in such a manner is ignoring or defying God's plan for the end of the age.
One of the worst anti-semites among the "Christians for Israel" is Rev. John Hagee of San Antonio, Texas, pastor of Cornerstone Church and founder of Christians United for Israel. He blames antisemitism, including the Holocaust, on Jews themselves, for their rebellion against God in not accepting Christ. Liberal Jews, he says, are "poisoned" and "spiritually blind." He currently calls for a pre-emptive strike against Iran, acknowledging that Iran's response will likely kill most Jews in Israel.
So, Mr. Medved and Mr. Spagnola, if you wonder why Jews are reluctant to jump on the conservative Christian Republican bandwagon, study a little history and theology. It's not difficult to discern. Jews don't want to cheer on their own annihilation. It's hardly bigotry on the part of Jews to shy away from "devout" conservative Christian preachers and politicians.