Evangelical- Jewish Relations

by Jared Feldman

 

Working in coalition with other groups/communities to achieve common purposes and establishing dialogues as a means of education and as a possible first step to cooperative efforts are core community relations’ strategies.  In a variety of settings and with diverse points of view, American Jews are today exploring how these strategies apply to Evangelical Christians. This difficult subject takes on special importance as Evangelical Christians are often among the few significant non-Jewish communities routinely expressing support for an embattled Israel.  This valued support is prompting many Jews to revisit the question of relationships with Evangelical Christians on both Israel and other issues. 

 

Evangelical Christians – estimated to number as many as 60 million Americans – do not constitute a monolithic community.  Accordingly, their support for Israel derives from diverse theological, political and sociological perspectives.  Some evangelical leaders explain that on the whole this support is based more on America and Israel’s shared democratic values, abhorrence of terrorism and the belief that Jewish sovereignty over Israel fulfils a biblical covenant, than it is based on what many Jews view to be problematic notions of biblical prophecy.   . 

 

Among the most significant topics that can be addressed in the context of ongoing relationships and dialogue is the support of some Evangelical Christians for aggressive and misleading tactics to convert Jews to Christianity.

 

The JCPA:

  • Believes that increased dialogue between our communities could help each better understand the other and help build recognition of the range of issues on which Jews and Evangelical Christians are already working cooperatively: treatment of religious minorities in other lands, religious accommodation in the workplace, religious freedom restoration legislation, and social services.. Where appropriate this dialogue might also address issues where differences may remain between some segments of the Jewish community and Evangelical Christians, e.g., church-state separation, the role of religion in public life, women’s and reproductive health issues, and perceptions of Islam in the modern world. In short, dialogue will possibly diminish some of the objections to Jewish-Evangelical ties and the sometimes ill-informed negative stereotypes that characterize many in each community.

 

 

  • Reaffirms that its communities and agencies can beneficially pursue interaction (dialogue and/or cooperation) with Evangelical Christians (Joint Program Plan 1994-1995), and that while the nature of such interaction should be molded to particular situations, our abiding objection to proselytization targeted at Jews must be clear and consistent (Resolution on Aggressive and Misleading Proselytization, June 2002).
  • Recognizes that our interaction or partnership with Evangelical Christians on issues of common interest should not in any way affect the positions or actions of the Jewish community on issues on which we disagree.

 

The community relations field should, taking local and other dynamics into account:

  • Pursue expanded interaction with Evangelical Christians, seeking to learn and to teach, to confront and to cooperate where appropriate
  • Work with the Evangelical community applying standard community relations principles in a way that strengthens America, Israel and our community.
  • Consult and involve appropriate rabbinic and Jewish organizational leaders, including JCPA, as this set of relationships develops.
  • Explore opportunities to mobilize and harness the pro-Israel sentiments and activities of Evangelical Christians.

About the Author


Jared Feldman