Israel Relies on Evangelicals at its Moral and Political Peril

By Jeffrey Goldberg

It is a source of great frustration, even pain, among liberal American Jews that Israel finds such stalwart support among American evangelical Protestants, with whom they share very little. It is, of course, a source of great comfort to Israeli politicians such as Benjamin Netanyahu and to his even more right-wing colleagues, that evangelical support for Israel is so strong. Evangelical support always struck me as a narrow reed on which to rest Israel's fortunes in America, and not only because many evangelicals, in my experience, have no love for Jews as autonomous people, but merely as vehicles for the Christian redemption. I also thought it was odd to build a strategy around evangelicals because evangelicals don't represent a majority of Americans.

Now, according to an important op-ed in The Times by a young evangelical pastor, it seems as if evangelicals represent fewer Americans than ever. I hope those Israelis who believe they can ignore the wishes of their liberal brethren (and their increasingly-former allies among non-Jewish liberals in the U.S.) read the whole thing. Here's an excerpt:

In 2012 we witnessed a collapse in American evangelicalism. The old religious right largely failed to affect the Republican primaries, much less the presidential election. Last month, Americans voted in favor of same-sex marriage in four states, while Florida voters rejected an amendment to restrict abortion.

Much has been said about conservative Christians and their need to retool politically. But that is a smaller story, riding on the back of a larger reality: Evangelicalism as we knew it in the 20th century is disintegrating.

In 2011 the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life polled church leaders from around the world. Evangelical ministers from the United States reported a greater loss of influence than church leaders from any other country -- with some 82 percent indicating that their movement was losing ground.

I grew up hearing tales of my grandfather, a pastor, praying with President Ronald Reagan at the White House. My father, also a pastor, prayed with George W. Bush in 2000. I now minister to my own congregation, which has grown to about 500, a tenfold increase, in the last four years (by God's favor and grace, I believe). But, like most young evangelical ministers, I am less concerned with politics than with the exodus of my generation from the church.

Studies from established evangelical polling organizations -- LifeWay Research, an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Barna Group -- have found that a majority of young people raised as evangelicals are quitting church, and often the faith, entirely.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/12/israel-relies-on-evangelicals-at-its-moral-and-political-peril/266398/