The Christian Right is both anti-Semitic and stridently pro-Israel -- here's why

The Christian Right is both anti-Semitic and stridently pro-Israel -- here's why
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday, March 25, 2019, to the South Portico entrance of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

One of the most bizarre characteristics of the Christian Right has been its ability be anti-Semitic and stridently pro-Israel at the same time. On the surface, it seems like a contradiction: how can far-right evangelical groups such as Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition of America and the Family Research Council (FRC) be passionate supporters of Israel and anti-Semites at the same time? But when one delves into the End Times ideology that is so prominent among white evangelicals, it makes perfect sense to them.

Certainly, not all Christians are anti-Semitic; in fact, the vast majority of Catholics and Protestants are not. The Christian Right embraces a severe form of fundamentalist Protestant Christianity that is separate from what non-fundamentalist Christians believe — and in Christian Right ideology, Jews will be condemned to eternal hell unless they convert to fundamentalist Protestant Christianity. In contrast, numerous Catholics and Mainline Protestants (non-fundamentalist Protestants such as Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians and the African-Methodist Episcopal Church) are happy to join forces with synagogues for charitable events and agree to disagree about some elements of scripture. Catholics and Mainline Protestants, as a rule, aren’t interested in trying to turn Jews into Christians; their bottom line is that Jews, Christians and Muslims all believe in the Ten Commandments.

But to the Christian Right, Judaism is a one-way ticket to eternal hell — and that includes Jews they claim to consider allies, such as White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Far-right white evangelicals will insist that they aren’t anti-Semitic yet claim that President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump (a convert to Judaism) is going to hell unless she returns to Christianity (the president was raised Presbyterian). So why does the Christian Right consider itself supportive of those it believes deserve eternal punishment? They view it as a marriage of convenience, and this marriage underscores their obsession with Armageddon and the End Times.

On January 23, Mother Jones published an excellent, highly informative article by journalist Stephanie Mencimer that described one of the Christian Right’s most disturbing reasons for being so fond of President Trump: they believe he will escalate a catastrophic war in the Middle East (which Israel will be a key part of), and that war will speed up Jesus Christ’s return to the Earth.

Among End Times evangelicals, one book that is considered essential reading is “Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days,” which was published in 1995 and written by Jerry B. Jenkins and the late Rev. Tim LaHaye (a highly influential Christian Right evangelist). According to Mencimer, that 25-year-old book addresses the war of Gog and Magog, a biblical conflict prophesied in the Book of Ezekiel. In the Bible, Gog is the leader of Magog, a ‘place in the far north’ that many evangelicals believe is Russia. According to Ezekiel’s prophecy, Gog will join with Persia — now Iran — and other Arab nations to attack a peaceful Israel ‘like a cloud that covers the land.’ LaHaye, like many evangelicals, believed this battle would bring on the Rapture, the End Times event when God spirits away the good Christians to heaven before unleashing plagues, sickness and other horrors on the unbelievers remaining on Earth. Meanwhile, the Antichrist reigns supreme.”

The Christian Right views Netanyahu as a hell-bound sinner who deserves eternal punishment because he has refused to bathe himself in the blood of Jesus Christ, who Jews and Muslims don’t consider the Messiah. But if the Israeli prime minister can play a role in the End Times and the Rapture, they’re happy to ally themselves with him.

It’s important to understand that the anti-Semitism of the Christian Right is quite different from the anti-Semitism of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, who are bitterly anti-Israel. While groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the Aryan Nations view Israel as an enemy of Aryans, the Christian Right view Israel as an ally that will play a crucial role in the End Times and the Rapture — even though Israeli Jews will go to hell when they are killed in the catastrophic Middle East war that End Times evangelicals long for.

To fully understand just how twisted the Christian Right is, one needs at least a basic understanding of how diverse Christianity is. There are plenty of non-fundamentalist Protestants who flatly reject the Christian Right’s extremist interpretation of Christianity, including the Rev. Al Sharpton (the liberal civil rights activist who hosts “Politics Nation” on MSNBC) and Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg (an openly gay Episcopalian). And the decidedly left-of-center Chris Hedges, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, has spent a lot of time explaining why he considers the Christian Right so dangerous. Hedges’ 2007 book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America,” pulls no punches and describes far-right white evangelicals as the extremist lunatic fringe of Christianity — a fringe that the Republican Party has been embracing for decades.

The Christian Right is not only anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim —

it is also contemptuous of non-fundamentalist Catholics and Mainline Protestants it considers insufficiently radical. But if a Presbyterian like President Trump can support their theocrat agenda, the Christian Right will embrace him. President Trump is wildly popular among far-right white evangelicals even though his daughter, Ivanka Trump, is a convert to a religion they don’t believe offers salvation.

For neo-Nazis, meanwhile, the Christian Right’s support for Israel is a deal breaker. The Christian Identity movement, which is separate from right-wing white evangelicals, believe that only WASPs — an Aryan Anglo Saxon race — are true Christians. The Christian Right will feature token blacks in its megachurches; neo-Nazis and white supremacists won’t even associate with either Jews or African-Americans.

Although End Times evangelicals are likely to hold racist views and applaud President Trump’s white nationalist rhetoric, they won’t be marching with the KKK or the Aryan Nations — as they see it, white supremacists’ contempt for Israel gets in the way of the Rapture. But rejecting the KKK, neo-Nazis and flat-out white supremacists doesn’t make the Christian Right any less anti-Semitic.

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