Anti-Semitism di­vides evan­gel­i­cals

The Prince George Citizen - - Religion - Julie ZAUZMER

As she cleans up the counter where the teenagers at her church’s Vacation Bi­ble School ate their cook­ies and yo­gurt, Luba Yanko com­plains about the state of the coun­try. U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is try­ing to act on Chris­tian val­ues, she be­lieves. But from what she reads on­line, it seems that a cer­tain group keeps get­ting in the way.

Trump, she says, “is sur­rounded by a Zion­ist en­vi­ron­ment with com­pletely dif­fer­ent val­ues from Chris­tians. It’s kab­bal­ist. It’s Tal­mu­dic val­ues. Not the word of God.”

In other words: It’s the Jews’ fault.

“Why do we have pro-abor­tion, pro-LGBTQ val­ues, and we do not have more free­dom to pro­tect our faith? We are per­se­cuted now,” Yanko says about evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians like her­self. “(Jews) say, ‘We’ve got Amer­ica. We con­trol Amer­ica.’ That’s what I know.”

It’s an anti-Semitic viewpoint shared by a num­ber of evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians across the coun­try. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Chris­tians and Jews has been fraught for al­most 2,000 years since the death of Je­sus.

Today, with a pres­i­dent who lev­els ac­cu­sa­tions about Jews and who en­cour­ages his fans to mis­trust the main­stream me­dia, a grow­ing num­ber of evan­gel­i­cals are turn­ing to the In­ter­net for in­for­ma­tion, and find­ing anti-Jewish be­liefs there.

Chris­tians take their cues for what to think about Jews from many sources: from the long his­tory of evan­gel­i­cals’ sup­port for the state of Is­rael. From fiery pas­tors who de­cry Jewish in­flu­ence in their YouTube videos. From Trump, who last week de­clared that Jews who vote for Democrats – mean­ing more than 70 per cent of all Jews in the United States – are “dis­loyal.”

In churches across Amer­ica, evan­gel­i­cals say they don’t be­lieve they can get un­bi­ased facts from any tra­di­tional news out­let that Trump has branded “fake news” (though many are fans of Fox News, and also watch other TV net­works and read ma­jor news web­sites). In­stead, they seek news from al­ter­na­tive web­sites and videos.

Pas­tors are aware of the con­spir­acy the­o­ries float­ing among their con­gre­gants, in­clud­ing a small num­ber of vir­u­lently anti-Semitic and anti-Is­lamic be­liefs that some Chris­tians pro­fessed.

But lead­ers are of­ten un­will­ing to ad­dress these be­liefs head-on. After a church­go­ing evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian killed a Jewish woman at a syn­a­gogue in Poway, Calif., ear­lier this year – an act he pref­aced with a man­i­festo in­clud­ing both anti-Semitic tropes from the in­ter­net, and Chris­tian the­ol­ogy from church – some pas­tors called for a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion about how evan­gel­i­cal pas­tors can make clear that such be­liefs aren’t ac­cept­able in their pews.

That doesn’t sit well with many evan­gel­i­cal pas­tors’ in­sis­tence that their job is to preach the Bi­ble, not stray into cur­rent events.

At Chris­tian Life Cen­ter, the evan­gel­i­cal church north of Philadel­phia where Yanko, a house­keeper, es­poused anti-Semitism at the snack counter, lead pas­tor Mark English was un­ruf­fled to hear about Yanko’s state­ments.

“I’m not in gov­ern­ment. It would be like me try­ing to un­der­stand the in­sur­ance busi­ness,” he said, when asked about Yanko’s al­le­ga­tion that Jews con­trol the gov­ern­ment.

“The gov­ern­ment is so com­plex – I don’t think that any one group con­trols ev­ery­thing.”

He felt no need to ad­dress his con­gre­gant’s anti-Semitic be­liefs, ei­ther one-on-one or from the pul­pit.

His­tor­i­cally, evan­gel­i­cals have thought of them­selves as very good friends of the Jews, not as anti-Semites. The two faiths share the Old Tes­ta­ment – known to Jews as the He­brew Bi­ble – and share ba­sic watch­words of tol­er­ance like lov­ing your neigh­bor as yourself. Evan­gel­i­cals of­ten think fondly of Jews as their re­li­gious fore­bears – after all, Christ’s early fol­low­ers were Jews of 2,000 years ago – even if they think Jews are miss­ing the cru­cial Je­sus part of the story.

And evan­gel­i­cals tend to fiercely de­fend and em­brace the state of Is­rael, a Jewish na­tion, be­cause of its cen­tral role in their own faith. The na­tion is the site of nu­mer­ous Chris­tian holy spots, in­clud­ing the places where Chris­tians be­lieve Je­sus was cru­ci­fied and res­ur­rected.

Cer­tain in­ter­pre­ta­tions of Rev­e­la­tion say that Jewish pres­ence in Is­rael is im­por­tant for Chris­tians, be­cause it will take the home­com­ing of Jews to the land of Is­rael to bring about the re­turn of the Mes­siah.

But Chris­tian the­ol­ogy has also gone hand-in-hand with anti-Semitism for cen­turies, dat­ing back long be­fore Martin Luther. To this day, some Chris­tians com­monly be­lieve that the Jews killed Je­sus, and modern Jews should bear the guilt.

And po­lit­i­cally, evan­gel­i­cals find them­selves shar­ing com­mon cause with right-wing anti-Semites. They might have lit­tle else in com­mon, but both groups are en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port­ers of Trump. And Trump, who strives to court that evan­gel­i­cal fan­dom, has flirted with an­tiSemitism be­fore last week. Dur­ing his cam­paign, he retweeted and de­fended an im­age from a white su­prem­a­cist web­site, show­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton’s face over a pile of money and a six-pointed Jewish star. He fa­mously said that the demon­stra­tors who chanted “Jews will not re­place us” in Char­lottesvill­e, Va., in­cluded “very fine peo­ple.”

Some on­line video-mak­ers who es­pouse anti-Semitism do so with an openly Chris­tian im­pri­matur.

Aryeh Tuch­man, the as­so­ci­ate di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter on Ex­trem­ism at the Anti-Defama­tion League, points to sev­eral YouTube chan­nels where pas­tors pro­mote a mix of Chris­tian the­ol­ogy and an­tiJewish an­i­mus.

TruNews, a nightly news­cast with more than 18 mil­lion views on YouTube, bills its pur­pose “to of­fer Chris­tians a pos­i­tive al­ter­na­tive to the anti-Chris­tian big­otry of the main­stream me­dia.” Jews and Is­rael are a con­stant tar­get for Rick Wiles, the Florida pas­tor who runs the show.

In the past month, he has posited that sex of­fender Jef­frey Ep­stein might not have died but in­stead been spir­ited away to a safe house in Is­rael; listed the names of “Hol­ly­wood Jews” who pro­duced the pulled-from-the­atres satir­i­cal movie The Hunt and sug­gested that they want to hunt and kill white Chris­tians; called the non-Jewish bil­lion­aire “Rabbi War­ren Buf­fett;” said the gov­ern­ment could take guns from any­one who crit­i­cizes Is­rael; re­ferred to Ivanka Trump, who is Jewish, as “Yael Kush­ner;” and more.


Steven An­der­son, of the Faith­ful Word Bap­tist Church of Tempe, Ariz., right, con­fronts pro­test­ers in June in front of the Re­vival Bap­tist Church of Or­lando in Cler­mont, Fla. The church was hold­ing a “Make Amer­ica Straight Again” event and the pro­test­ers were gath­ered in front of the church. An­der­son at­tended the event.

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