In the venerable cartoon, the protagonists’ conflicting agendas define the epitome of cat-and-mouse rivalry: simple survival for the mouse while the cat relentlessly tries to gobble him up. On rare occasions, as when both find themselves evicted from the house, they set aside their differences and pool their cunning for as long as it takes to reclaim the common right of residence, whereupon the old enmity is inevitably resumed. Today’s alliance between the American theological-political landscape’s most curious of bedfellows–” evangelical Christians and Zionist Jews”– is a case of life imitating the cartoon.
During a speech to Baptist pastors in Texas earlier this year, U.S. House of Representatives majority whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) averred that only Christianity offers a “a viable, reasonable definitive answer” to life’s key questions. He predictably expressed no such sentiment last April when he addressed a Washington conference of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The half-dozen standing ovations he received on that occasion were for his various expressions of unconditional support for Zionism, such as his quip about touring “udea and Samaria” and seeing no occupation, “only Israel.”
If silence is a sign of assent, then Mr. DeLay was true to form when he withheld public comment about the invective that marked this year’s Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis. Florida Rev. Jerry Vines chose the occasion to slur Islam by proclaiming that the Prophet Muhammad’s matrimony with a 9-year-old girl made him a “demon-possessed pedophile.” Another American evangelical stalwart, Jerry Falwell, subsequently appeared to delight in endorsing Vines’ right to his opinion in front of a national U.S. audience on CNN’s Crossfire.
If the practice of dredging up minutiae from centuries-old holy text to discredit individuals or devotees of a faith is kosher, it would surely behoove the orthodoxy among AIPAC’s ranks to start an early preparation of their defenses, rather than wait until the confluence of the AIPAC and evangelical agendas has run its course. For should his jab at Islamic sensibilities be a measure of his method, orthodox Jews must dread the day when Rev. Vines tosses aside the Koran and reaches instead for the Talmud, considered to be the basis of religious authority in Orthodox Judaism. One can only wonder if Vines will be as outspokenly intolerant of the Talmud’s sanctioning of sex with a child as long as the child is less than nine years old, or of its proviso that a Jew may marry a three-year-old girl. And what will be the evangelical reaction to the Talmudic assertion that Jesus Christ is boiling in hot excrement in hell? Might such revelations strain the alliance?
Probably not, for as far as the evangelicals are concerned the agenda reigns supreme. Their support of Zionism is not based on feelings of empathy for Jews. It is, rather, a manifestation of their fixation on Christian theology’s pre-conditions for the return of the Messiah: Restoration of the State of Israel, Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem, and the re-building of the Temple. To that point, evangelical Christians and Zionist Jews are complementary voices in the same choir. It is in the expectation of what happens next that the unity of purpose ends.
Judaism teaches that the coming of the Hebrew Messiah will usher in the Olam Ha-Ba (the World to Come), commonly referred to in English as the “Messianic Age”, the time when all people will recognize the Jewish God as the only true God, and the Jewish religion as the only true religion. For the evangelicals, the return of the Christian Messiah signifies the time when the Jews will convert en masse to Christianity, or perish. Given that there is no place for Jews (let alone Muslims) in the heaven of Tom Delay, Jerry Vines and Jerry Falwell, can the Zionist-evangelical alliance withstand the riving force of such inherently divergent interpretations of the endgame?
Do mice convert to cats?
TARIF ABBOUSHI lives in Houston, Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org