The Christian Right, which has been an integral part of the Republican Party since President Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign, is known for its strident support of Israel as well as its belief that fundamentalist Christianity is the only way to escape eternal hellfire and damnation. It’s a bizarre contradiction: far-right white Protestant evangelicals believe that Jews will receive a one-way ticket to hell unless they become fundamentalist Christians, yet they profess to be unwavering supporters of Israel — even going so far as to denounce others as anti-Semitic for not being pro-Israel enough. Journalist Peter Beinart takes a close look at the Christian Right’s supposed love affair with Israel in a thought-provoking piece for The Forward, and he concludes that their obsession with Israel is not rooted in a love of Judaism, but in a white nationalist viewpoint.
Beinart opens his article by discussing President Donald Trump’s racist assertion that four congresswomen of color — Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City and Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — should leave the United States and return to “the places from which they came” (three of them were born and raised in the U.S., while Omar was born in Somalia but has been a U.S. citizen since 2000). A recurring theme among Republicans, Beinart notes, is that all of the congresswomen are anti-American because they “hate Israel.”
“Republicans no longer talk about Israel like it’s a foreign country,” Beinart asserts. “They conflate love of Israel with love of America because they see Israel as a model for what they want America to be: an ethnic democracy.”
Beinart adds, “Israel is a Jewish state. Trump and many of his allies want America to be a white Judeo-Christian state.”
The “Judeo” part is questionable: fundamentalist Christian Right groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council believe that Christianity is the only true faith, and ultimately, they hope to convert Jews — including those living in Israel. And as Beinart notes, “Evangelical Christians, most of whom vote Republican, see Jewish control of the holy land as necessary to bring about the second coming of Jesus.”
Of course, there are plenty of card-carrying Democrats who are very pro-Israel. But they aren’t motivated by fundamentalist evangelical Christianity. And their religious belief system could be anything from Judaism to Catholicism to non-fundamentalist Mainline Protestantism to Hinduism to non-fundamentalist Islam. The Democratic Party is a very big tent when it comes to religion.
“Republican support for Israel…. isn’t driven by American Christians as a whole,” Beinart explains. “It’s driven by conservative white Christians, whose political identity sits at the intersection of religion and race. In the Trump era, conservative white Christians have grown increasingly obsessed with preserving America’s religious and racial character, and they see Israel as a country that’s doing just that.”
Beinart wraps up his piece by stressing that white fundamentalist Republican Christians are not really concerned about Judaism when they proclaim themselves to be pro-Israel — their motivation is making the U.S. as white as possible.
“Republican attacks on Omar and her colleagues as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic aren’t ultimately about Israel or Jews,” Beinart asserts. “They’re an effort to use Israel and Jews to further the central goal of the Trump-era right: maintaining white Christian dominance in the face of demographic change.”