Op-ed originally published at the Washington Times on December 26, 2022. See Part 2.
With anti-Jewish hate on the rise in major European and U.S. cities, there are more reports that American universities have become the new breeding ground for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bias. “BDS” student activism (boycott, divestment, sanctions), the cornerstone of anti-Israel campus animus, easily bleeds into antisemitism.
Recently at the University of California, Berkeley, nine student groups in the law school amended their bylaws to ensure that no pro-Israel speaker would be allowed to address their groups. This got me thinking about the attitudes that young evangelical Christian students have and how they might differ from their secular peers. Why should young evangelical Christians not only oppose antisemitism but also be largely supportive of the state of Israel? Let me provide some answers in this two-part commentary.
I define antisemitism as a hatred of Jews that stretches across centuries and continents. It has sometimes been called “the hatred that won’t go away.”
To begin with, young evangelical students should beware of getting sucked into the world’s oldest hatred. Because so often, it has gone way beyond hatred and morphed into something far worse — the impulse to do away with and annihilate. That is what is unique about antisemitism historically. It seems that in almost every generation, there are forces that keep trying to eliminate the Jews. In ancient Egypt, Pharaoh tried to destroy them. Under Sennacherib, the Assyrians tried to do the same. Then came the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar II. Then the Persians. Remember Haman? Then the Romans. Then the Ottomans.
Then the Nazis attempted to in the most ambitious attempt at genocide in history. Israel has fought numerous wars since its founding in 1948 simply defending its right to exist. Even today, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran want to eliminate Israel as we know it. That this hatred is so pervasive in history, coupled with the miraculous survival of the Jews through the ages, should alert us that something unique is going on here. Biblically, I believe the reason for this deep animus is because the Jews are God’s chosen people and behind Jew hatred is often a hatred of God.
The reason for their extraordinary survival is that God still has a plan for them. Consequently, when we join in the antisemitism, we put ourselves on the wrong side of the God of history. So do not fall for this evil that keeps rearing its head. Instead, stand with them and bless them because God himself says, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you” (Genesis 12:3).
Second, young evangelical Christians should never forget the Jewish roots of their faith. Sadly, many Christians have done just that. Most of our Bible is the Hebrew Scriptures. Without the Jews, we would have no Old Testament, which led up to and is essential to understand our New Testament. It first introduces us to the themes of creation, fall, redemption, atonement, and the promise of a new heaven and earth. Through the Jews, God gave the law of Moses and the Ten Commandments, the Great Commandment and the idea of covenant. We share the same hymnbook — the Psalms. We draw on the same wisdom literature.
Without the Jews, we have no church, no Mary, no Joseph and no Jesus! The mother church of early Christianity was the largely Jewish Jerusalem church. If the only thing Christians focus on is the early Jewish rejection of Jesus as Messiah, we end up with antisemitism. But if we highlight the biblical and yes, Jewish roots of our faith, it will reshape the church’s understanding. Remember your Jewish heritage.
A third reason why young evangelical Christians should not only oppose antisemitism but also be generally supportive of the state of Israel is that Israel is a guardian of worldwide Jewry today. After the Holocaust, when other nations would not guarantee a secure refuge, the United Nations saw fit to approve a separate homeland for the Jews. Israel has now become not only America’s best ally in the Middle East but also a democratic beacon in a tumultuous region. And while it is a secular state and not beyond criticism, and while the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not yet been realized, I believe such a time will come. Just as we have seen amazing open doors in other Arab states with the Abraham Accords, more breakthroughs are yet before us.
These are just a few considerations that young evangelicals must keep in mind as they observe the rise of antisemitism in our cities and on our university campuses, and then think through their own convictions on this important matter.