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Why Tout Evangelical 'Menace'? For the Money!

November 23, 2005 By:
David Klinghoffer
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Devoted to fighting anti-Jewish bigotry, the Anti-Defamation League is America's most influential Jewish group. So what are we to make of the air of unreality in the ADL's public statements about Christians?

Consider the recent address by Abraham Foxman, the ADL's national director, at the group's annual meeting, in which he called for a response to a growing threat.

Foxman spoke Nov. 3 in New York during a week when disturbing stories were unfolding around the world. The riots across France by immigrant Muslim youths were building to a climax. These are the same youths who have been terrorizing French Jews for the past five years - assaulting individuals, firebombing synagogues and desecrating Jewish cemeteries.

The same week, Iran's president was refusing to back down from his call to fellow Muslims to "wipe Israel off the map." Meanwhile, TV viewers in Egypt had just spent Ramadan enjoying a new drama series based on "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

If there's one religion that poses a danger to Jewish interests, it's worldwide Islam. How odd, then, that Foxman held up the terrifying specter of, um - American Christianity.

"Today," said Foxman, "we face a better financed, more sophisticated, coordinated, unified, energized and organized coalition of groups in opposition to our policy positions on church-state separation than ever before. Their goal is to implement their Christian worldview. To save us!"

He warned that mainstream evangelical groups have "built infrastructures throughout the country … intend[ing] to 'Christianize' all aspects of American life, from the halls of government to the libraries, to the movies, to recording studios, to the playing fields and locker rooms of professional, collegiate and amateur sports, from the military to SpongeBob Square-Pants."

This must mean that evangelical leaders want to Christianize us either by legal coercion, or by inspiration and moral example.

If Foxman means by legal coercion, his accusation is ludicrous. To take a controversial illustration that's in the news, the concept of "intelligent design" has drawn support from Christians and condemnation from the ADL. One may disapprove of it, but I.D. in biology class is an entirely different thing from "Christianizing" American life - a phrase that calls to mind the Spanish Inquisition.

If Foxman means that evangelicals would "Christianize" by inspiration and example, he's right - but so what? Good for them!

Broadly speaking, that direction is one we Jews traditionally have regarded as healthy and positive. Many classical Jewish sources - the Talmud, Midrash, Maimonides and other authorities - speak of the need to bring humanity closer to the values of the One God.

And there's nothing exclusively "Christian" about favoring traditional marriage, lamenting abortion or defending a helpless woman like Terri Schiavo. Christians are doing what we Jews ought to do.

So why vilify them? Surely, Jews are rational enough to appreciate that we don't live in medieval Europe, but in a time of unprecedented Christian philo-Semitism, especially among conservatives.

For the needlessly heightened state of concern about evangelicals, we can't blame the ADL entirely. Yet the group has done much to exacerbate Jewish worries. What drives it to stoke our fears?

Let's be realistic. Naturally, a crusading nonprofit needs a bad guy to give a sense of urgency to its fundraising campaigns. The ADL has more than $52 million in yearly expenses. Not bad.

No, the anti-defamation professionals of the Jewish community are no dummies. Nor, I believe, are they paranoid. Or cynical.

Rather, don't dismiss the Marxist insight that money can shape consciousness. For whatever reason, hyperventilating about Christians makes Jews open their wallets. Very possibly, a dynamic inherent in the nonprofit business molds the attitudes of those who work in this curious industry.

Not cynics at all, they've come to believe those things they must say to raise money.

In more ways than one, the ADL's success is our loss.

David Klinghoffer is an author and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.

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