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Jewish, Evangelical leaders meet over differences

“What could be more bigoted than to claim that you have a monopoly on God? When they cloak themselves in religion and forget mercy, it strikes us as blasphemy.”

— Union for Reform Judaism President Eric Yoffie on the Religious Right

“The extreme Christian right” is campaigning to impose Christocracy and take permanent control of the major political, cultural, educational, medical, judicial, economic, media and legal institutions of the United States.”

— Reform Rabbi James Rudin, author of “The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans for the Rest of Us”

Jewish leaders met with members of the evangelical movement for the first time to discuss their growing differences of opinion on gay rights issues, and other social conservative political stances in the fringe evangelical movement that represent a desire to “re-form” America in its own image. Who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall for those sessions? (

Conservative Judaism’s prime campus was the site for respectful talks between national-level figures from both faiths, with participants agreeing on support for Israel and greater willingness from each side to learn about the other. But there also was evident wariness on domestic politics, reflecting the complicated relationship between the two groups.

Planning for the meeting, co-sponsored by Baylor and Temple universities, began in 2002. It probably wouldn’t have happened in years past. One expert panelist, University of Akron political scientist John Green, noted polls that show evangelicals are no more negative toward Jews than other Americans and that their attitudes have softened markedly since an anti-Semitism survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League in 1964.

Yet the timing of the meeting coincidentally pointed up rising tensions between the two groups. Just last month, the heads of two major U.S. Jewish organizations unleashed incendiary attacks on conservative religious activism, in which evangelicals stand in the forefront.

Director Abraham Foxman told the Anti-Defamation League’s national leadership “the key domestic challenge” now facing Jews is arrogant “Christian Right” leaders’ campaign to “Christianize all aspects of American life.”

…Foxman targeted the work of evangelical groups including the Alliance Defense Fund, American Family Association, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family and Florida-based TV preacher D. James Kennedy.

…Jewish complaints about evangelicals have historically centered on their zeal for converts, in some instances specifically seeking out Jews.

The new furor is political. Foxman, Rudin and Yoffie are variously concerned with issues such as abortion, gay marriage, civil unions, embryonic stem-cell research, school prayer and Bible-reading, “intelligent design,” abstinence education, the right to die, assisted suicide, judicial nominations and government aid for “faith-based” charities.

The article goes on to note that traditional, socially conservative Jews (and Catholics) often agree with evangelicals, as well as the fact that some evangelicals are disturbed by the fringe element within the community that has hijacked their brand of faith.

It sounds like an interesting time in history between these two groups, and the fact that a major basis for the widening gulf of understanding is over gays (under the cover of “values issues”) is kind of bizarre if you think about it, though it is the batsh*t evangelical crowd that is politically obsessed with homos, which explains a lot. There are so many issues that the faith community should be worrying about/discussing across the board — poverty, child mortality, environmental destruction, the treatment of women in the developing world…the list goes on and on. Why is this issue driving the train?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding