James Q. Wilson is a very smart man, who has written a profoundly not smart article. In “Why Don’t Jews Like the Christians Who Like Them?” he argues that evangelicals are Israel’s best friends in the U.S., and that they love the Jews in spite of the fact that most of the ones in the U.S. are wayward liberals. It seems awfully churlish of the Jews not to welcome these gracious gestures, doesn’t it? They’re so devoted to their liberal politics, in fact, that they favor the blacks—who are anti-Semites, by the way.
This is an only slightly caricatured representation of Wilson’s article.
His reasoning is so muddled that I scarcely know where to begin (and he’s worked in West Los Angeles for years—doesn’t he know any, like, actual liberal Jews he could’ve run this by?). First, not all American Jews are concerned with Israel first, so that unvarnished support for Israel doesn’t endear the evangelicals to them. And second, many who do care strongly about Israel don’t think that the lunatic soil fetishism of the West Bank settlers—who are the principal beneficiaries of evangelical largess—are good for Israel.
Israeli domestic politics aside, the evangelicals’ love for the Jews is not the sort of love most of us are looking for. So far as I can tell (because I’m a little behind on my Book of Revelations, which I’ll get to right after I finish Gravity’s Rainbow), millenarian dispensationalism holds that the Jews have to be living in Israel to set the stage for Armageddon (which is a good thing), during which most of the Jews are killed, the rest convert, and then everything is groovy. As I said, I’m unclear on the details, but I’ve read enough to know that the end of days is definitely not good for the Jews. (And, yes, I’m familiar with the doctrinal and practical distinctions between evangelicalism and fundamentalism; Wilson sometimes distinguishes and sometimes conflates them.)
Wilson also addresses American domestic politics, but doesn’t make much more sense. He contends that (liberal) Jews’ suspicions of evangelicals’ intentions are unwarranted:
Christian Smith, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, analyzed four surveys of self-identified evangelicals and found that, while they do think that America was founded as a Christian nation and fear that the country has lost its moral bearings, these views are almost exactly the same as those held by non-evangelical Americans. Evangelicals, like other Americans, oppose having public schools teach Christian values, oppose having public school teachers lead students in vocal prayers, and oppose a constitutional amendment declaring the country a Christian nation. Evangelicals deny that there is one correct Christian view on most political issues, deny that Jews must answer for allegedly killing Christ, deny that laws protecting free speech go too far, and reject the idea that whites should be able to keep blacks out of their neighborhoods. They overwhelmingly agree that Jews and Christians share the same values and can live together in harmony. Evangelicals strongly oppose abortion and gay marriage, but in almost every other respect are like other Americans.
So now I should be suspicious of all Americans, who think that the country was founded as a Christian nation? Not reassuring. And maybe most liberal Jews don’t strongly oppose abortion and gay marriage, and so aren’t inclined to align themselves with those who do.
Wilson also counterposes evangelicals to mainstream Protestant groups, who are resolutely anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian. I have no interest in getting involved in Protestantism’s interdenominational disputes, any more than I do those between fans of rival teams in sports I don’t follow. I generally disagree with the National Council of Churches’ positions on Israel (or, more often, with their reasoning), and would consider boycotting companies that accede to their divestment demands (were I in the market for heavy earthmoving equipment). But the Presbyterians don’t insinuate themselves into Israeli politics, supporting the worst elements of Israeli society, and expect my love in return.
As for black anti-Semitism, I’ve dealt with my share of 5-percenters and Protocols-and-incense street vendors. I don’t think they’re providing much aid and comfort to the enemy.
Update: I forgot to mention that “the evangelicals and the Jews” is well-trod ground. Zev Chafets wrote A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists and One Man’s Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance last year. He’s with Wilson:
I looked hard for evidence that the evangelicals are insincere, cynical, or devious in their attitude toward Israel and the Jews, and I didn’t find it. They may love Jews too much. They may love Jews for the wrong reasons. They may, in the future, not love Jews at all. But for now, the evangelical Christians of America are not the enemy. They are the enemy of the enemy and they want to be accepted and appreciated. In return they are offering a wartime alliance and free partnership in a Judeo-Christian America. It is an offer the Jews of America should accept while it is still on the table.
Gershom Gorenberg, author of End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount has a different take:
This is the kind of friend your mother should have warned you about when you were young: the one you accept when you are feeling unpopular, who is loud, dares you to do dangerous things, gives you a bad name, drives other people away.”
And Jeffrey Goldberg thinks that Barry Diller might be the Antichrist.