In recent years, Israel’s greatest support has come from a source that would have previously been considered unlikely; devout Christians. While the alliance might seem incongruous at first glance, right-wing religious Israelis are finding much common political ground with right-wing religious Americans. And at least one Texas Pastor believes this friendship is Biblically based.
As American politics become polarized, the divide between liberals and conservatives is increasingly involving their attitude towards religion. A Pew Research report showed that 56% of evangelical Protestants in the US identify as Republican. This compares to only 26% who identify as Democrats.
This separates Christians from American Jews who are 70% Democrat. The exception is Orthodox Jews who vote more like the evangelicals than like their Jewish brethren. 75% of Orthodox Jews identify as Republicans or lean toward the GOP.
Similarly, right-wing Israelis also are aligning (and allying) with their American evangelical counterparts. The most burning issue in Israel that creates a massive gulf between the right wing and the left is the issue of the Jewish settlement of Judea and Samaria. This issue is divided along religious lines. Pew Research reported that a solid majority of Jewish respondents who live in the West Bank (63%) are Orthodox, including 26% who identify as Haredim and 36% who identify as Datiim (religious).
This developing political alliance might seem counterintuitive, binding devout Christians with devout Jews, both in Israel and the US, in a manner that transcends the religious boundaries that have separated the two faiths for millennia.
Pastor Trey Graham of First Melissa in Texas told Israel365 News that despite appearances, right-wing Jews in Israel have much in common with right-wing evangelicals in the US.
“Voters choose parties and candidates based on values,” Pastor Graham explained. “Evangelical voters in America are usually focused on social issues, such as the defense of the unborn, the sanctity of traditional marriage, and the traditional family. These are what we would call biblical values or family values. Most evangelical voters are guided by these values.”
“They are political issues but they are Biblical values,” he added. “So there’s no common ground connecting right-wing Orthodox Jews and right-wing evangelicals other than the fact that a lot of those fabulous family values come from the same verses from the same Bible that we share.”
Pastor Graham explained that despite the shared values, Israeli voters are focused on different issues
“Right-wing voters in Israel are usually focused on security issues because they live in a constant security threat,” Pastor Graham said. “Biblical values in America mostly focus on ethical or moral issues. Biblical values in Israel include those morals, but they also include the sovereignty of the state of Israel, the God-given rights to the land, and the historical heritage of the Jewish people to the land. And so those are typical values.”
Pastor Graham explained that this “Biblical value” connected Christians to Orthodox Jewish settlers in Israel, leading both groups to vote for their respective right-wing parties.
“American Christians believe in the sovereignty of Israel and the historical biblical rights of the Jewish people who live there,” Pastor Graham said. “It’s not a social biblical value per se but it is absolutely a Biblical value. That ties us together.”
Pastor Graham explained that the connection with Israel enabled Christians to express a Biblical value that is unavailable to them in the US.
“The Bible doesn’t tell me I have the right to live in Texas,” he said. “But the Bible does tell me that you have the right to live in Israel. The Bible gives us values and moral issues that are relevant everywhere. But when it comes to territorial claims, that’s not expressed by being an American because you can be an evangelical voter in Minnesota, or Texas, or New York.”
“My understanding of biblical truth is that God made a covenant with one people about one place and that is the Jewish people in the Biblical homeland,” he remarked. “In many places in the Bible you are told to pray for your city, wherever you live, but there is only one city that you are told to pray for no matter where you live.”
The pastor cited the Book of Psalms:
Pray for the well-being of Yerushalayim; “May those who love you be at peace. Psalm 122:6
“Evangelicals connect to Israel because we have a blessing from your city. So as an evangelical Christian should pray for my city, wherever I live, and the leaders and the people. But I should also pray for Jerusalem. Because that is a biblical commandment.”
Despite the guiding principle of separation of church and state, Pastor Graham felt that religious beliefs should be an integral part of a Christians political considerations.
“I want to be a devoted follower of Jesus, who understands and believes his Bible,” he said. “The media calls that a synonym for or the definition of an evangelical but that is, in fact, a political term. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus, a devoted follower of Jesus, you need to make every political decision as biblically focused, as biblically honoring, and as biblically faithful as possible. So I will never tell a person you can’t vote for a specific candidate because of a certain policy or platform. I will simply say, my understanding of Scripture and my devotion to Jesus as Savior are what drives my decision to support candidates and parties while taking into account that no candidate or party is biblically perfect.”
The political and financial support of the evangelical Americans for Israel has been invaluable but Pastor Graham emphasizes that the relationship is mutually beneficial.
“Of course, we are blessed for blessing Israel, as it says in Genesis,” the pastor said. “In addition, as a pastor, I study Torah with many right-wing religious Jewish rabbis and so, I am offered amazing insights all the time. These people are also my personal friends. And so, we pray for each other. We try to encourage one another to be good husbands or fathers or citizens or Bible teachers.”
According to the pastor, the relationship between American evangelicals and religious Israelis should be “a biblical friendship, based on values that we share from the Bible.”
But he emphasized that this relationship was also mutually beneficial for practical reasons.
“Israel is vital to America’s national interests,” he said. “We must be an ally to the only democracy in the Middle East. We share founding principles since Israel is the Jewish state and America was founded on biblical Christian values.”
While Judaism and Christianity are deeply divided on their eschatological visions, Pastor Graham believed that as the end of days approached, this alliance would become more important.
“As we approach the end times redemption. I believe that the partnership between Jews and Christians, the friendship between them is part of that redemption process. What should be happening now in the political arena is that Jews, in their political arena and Christians in theirs, should be seeking to be Biblical, honest, moral, and ethical. This opens the door for personal friendships. But nothing is going to stop or speed up or slow down God’s prophetic time.”