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Will Evangelicals Become a Boat Anchor That Sinks American Support for Israel?
In the Negative World, support from evangelicals may become more of a liability than an asset for Israel
Evangelicals have long been a bulwark of American support for Israel. They may in fact be the most monolithic and militantly pro-Israel block in the US, as even American Jews have become increasingly divided over the matter.
A recent New York Times article explains the evangelical relationship with Israel:
American evangelicals are among Israel’s most ardent advocates, compelled in part by their interpretation of scripture that says God’s ancient promise to the Jewish people designating the region as their homeland is unbreakable. Some evangelicals also see Israel’s existence connected to biblical prophecy about the last days of the world before a divine theocratic kingdom can be established on earth….Conservative evangelicals have long formed the backbone of the Republican Party’s support of Israel.
However, with the advent of what I’ve called the “Negative World,” evangelicals, who were already a lower status group in the country, are now increasingly viewed with hostility and as the leading threat to the new public moral order and even to the republic itself. The various attacks against “Christian nationalism” are an expression of this.
In this environment, support from evangelicals will perhaps ultimately become more of a liability than an asset to Israel.
Support for the Palestinian cause has grown significantly among younger people. A pro-Palestinian perspective has become deeply embedded into the academic left position via its focus on “decolonization.” While this is unpopular with the public, the left has a nearly perfect track record of ultimately bending official culture and the public to its will over time. The same forces that embedded “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” into every institution in the country are now at work doing the same for decolonization. Whenever you sit through a “land acknowledgement” at some event with passive acceptance, you are tacitly endorsing - knowingly or not - the logic that legitimates calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. Even here in the hinterlands, we see it. The coffee shop around the corner from my old house in Indianapolis used to have a Palestinian flag flying in the window, for example.
Support for Israel is declining for demographic reasons, an ascendent left is increasingly turning a pro-Palestinian position into the high status one (just as they successfully did for so many other things), and even American Jews increasingly question Israel in light of its hard right turn under Netanyahu.
If these trends continue, they will make evangelicals, who are themselves shrinking in numbers and significance, more conspicuous as outlier supporters of Israel rather than simply particularly enthusiastic supporters of a pro-Israel position that represents the mainstream. Given the low status of evangelicals as an official out group in American society, that would not be good for the cause of Israel.
This is not a phenomenon that is limited to Israel or is new, by the way. For example, while I’ve critiqued certain aspects of his book Of Boys and Men, I’ve been very positive on Richard Reeves’ work overall and am a supporter of his American Institute for Boys and Men.
But support from people like me may not work to the advantage of Reeves and his mission. He’s trying to convince the broad middle of society and even feminists to care about the problems facing boys and men. If his public backers are all a bunch of people who code as conservative, that actually undermines his cause. Hence I’m sure Reeves takes an ambivalent view of positive mentions from someone like me.
And as for me, I would rather not have the support of Bronze Age Pervert and his like. If I somehow despite myself became the darling of the alt-right, I’d consider that a threat to me and my mission.
It’s similar with evangelical support for Israel. Some progressive American Jews and Jewish groups have long been ambivalent or even creeped out by evangelical support for Israel. Read what The Forward has had to say about John Hagee of Christians United for Israel over the years. Maybe they were right to think that way.
How this plays out remains to be seen. However, this is an example of how the transition to the Negative World potentially changes everything, not just the experience of evangelicals. It’s hard to imagine Donald Trump actually getting elected President prior to the Negative World, for example. And possibly the Negative World will also reverse the script for Israel, turning evangelical support from a bulwark into a boat anchor that helps sink American support for that country.
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Cover image credit: John Hagee by Christians United for Israel