A left-wing professor and a right-wing rabbi have finally found something they agree on. In Israel’s fractured reality, that would normally be great news — were their point of agreement not one of the most counterproductive fallacies afflicting the Jewish world today: that an alliance between Jews and evangelical Christians is a bad idea because their short-term common interests are outweighed by irreconcilable long-term goals.
Writing in the Jerusalem Post this week, Prof. David Newman approvingly cited a commentary published last Friday by Shlomo Aviner, a leading religious Zionist rabbi from the settlement of Beit El. Aviner wrote that he refuses to accept money from evangelicals, because their ultimate aim is to convert the Jews to Christianity, and their end-of-days vision is of a world where Christianity has vanquished all other religions. Newman concurred. “No short-term gains in cultivating artificial relationships can hide the long-term objectives and contrasting religious ideologies as espoused by the Evangelical movements which, if implemented, which would lead to head-on confrontation,” he wrote.
If you ignore the context, both men have a valid argument. A short-term alliance with someone who is certain to prove a bitter foe down the road can indeed be dangerous, and history is full of grim examples: for instance, the Hitler-Stalin pact.
But in this case, the eventual conflict is a trumped-up bogeyman that has no chance of ever occurring in reality — because according to evangelical theology, it is due to take place only at the end of days. There are only two possible scenarios for what this end of days can look like, and contrary to the doomsday crowd, neither leads to Jewish-Christian conflict.
The first scenario is that the Jews are right and Jesus is not the Messiah. In that case, there will be no second coming, so the end-of-days demand that the Jews convert will never arrive, and fruitful cooperation between Jews and evangelicals can continue for all eternity.
The second is that the Christians are right, and Jesus is the Messiah. In that case, when he comes again, the Jews should all convert. After all, if they’re right, they’re right.
Needless to say, I believe the first, and my evangelical friends believe the second. But as long we can agree to disagree until the end of days arrives to settle the question, there is no conflict, and no potential for one.
Clearly, that would not be true if evangelicals wanted to forcibly convert the Jews before the end of days arrives. But so far, not even their harshest critics have found any grounds for suspecting them of that.
Even if Israel were awash with allies, it would be foolish to spurn friends as loyal as the evangelicals have proved to be over a trumped-up conflict that will never actually materialize. But to do so when Israel is besieged on all sides, with supporters few and far between, is nothing short of suicidal insanity. Israelis ought to have better sense — and so should their American Jewish supporters.