The Corner

Eschatology & Beyond

One more thing about that column. A couple readers object to this passage:

In fact, I think we get too hung up on motivations, particularly when it comes to religion.

For example, many Christian conservatives support Israel and look kindly on Jews because they believe they have a holy duty to do so. The Messiah will not return, according to the book of Revelation, until the Jews restore the Kingdom of Israel.

Evangelical Christians believe that when the Messiah returns, things won’t go too well for the Jews — two thirds die, one third convert. Gershom Gorenberg, author of The End of Days, once complained to 60 Minutes, “As a Jew, I can’t feel very comfortable with the affections of somebody who looks forward to that scenario.”

Well, boohoo. In the horrible annals of Jewish problems, the fact that a whole bunch of Christians love Jews for the “wrong” reasons has got to rank pretty low. Besides, since presumably Jews don’t believe in Christian prophecy, what’s the problem? If it’s not true, then no harm, no foul. If it is true, well, who are we to argue with God? My guess is God’s response to the morally decent Jew who gets really worked up about this would be something akin to “Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.”

Some Evangelicals who’ve written me say that I’m painting with too broad a brush in that not all evangelicals have as stark an eschatology as the above implies. For example, here’s an excerpt from a reader (slightly trimmed so as to stay faitful to my pledge):

My real comment, though has to do with eschatology.  It is true, as you write, that most evangelical Christians strongly support Israel, but I don’t think it has anything to do with eschatology.  The Book of Revelation is tricky stuff (my strongly Christian former drugee cousin in NC compares it to an acid trip), and I don’t pay attention to anyone who claims that it’s easy to understand. So, I really don’t think that the support for Israel among evangelicals (which I strongly share) has much to do with eschatology.  We recognize in Jews a common spiritual heritage; and while we might wish that our Jewish brethren would take the next step and recognize that our shared Messiah has already come, we truly do regard Jews as our brothers and sisters–or at least close cousins.  Our affection is not theoretical or self-serving; rightly or wrongly, most of us see a connection and honor Jews as our own. Most of us don’t buy into the whole “Left Behind” business.  I’m sure you’re familiar with Mike Adams at Townhall.  He’s as right-wing evangelical as they come, and he thinks that’s all silly (as I’m inclined to). I was born and raised in NYC, so I know how hard accurate cultural info on the rest of us in cow-country actually think.  I thought you “might could” (as Jay would say) use another point of view on that who end of days business. . . .

 Me: I think this reader is entirely right and I should have been more nuanced. Indeed, I was surprised upon re-reading that I hadn’t been. I’ve learned over the years as a writer to put “some” or “most” etc before the word “Evangelical” (and lots of other words) precisely because few very large groups are as monolithic and homogeneous as the media would like you to believe.   This was purely an oversight on my part. Indeed, this underscores my point. Theology, while important, is an unreliable guide not only for gleaning peoples’ motives, but also for their passions.  You can’t fake affection, nor can you easily explain it.  Ask me why I love my wife and you’ve already revealed you don’t understand what love is. Reason and calculation can never fully account for genuine affection. The best you get when you ask for such things is a rationalization of something that cannot be captured by reason alone. 

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