A recent survey conducted by Infinity Concepts and Grey Matter shows interesting trends regarding the attitudes of Evangelical Christians in the United States toward Israel and the Jewish people.
The authors explain that in contrast to other surveys conducted in the past which examine what different religious groups—including Christians—think of Israel, they focus specifically on Evangelicals. They polled over 1,000 American Evangelical Protestants hoping to grasp what they believe about Israel and the Jewish people from a theological standpoint, as well as from a charitable standpoint.
For the purpose of the study, an Evangelical was defined as someone who agrees strongly with four theological positions:
- The Bible is the highest authority.
- It is important to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
- Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
- Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.
Those that identified with a non-Protestant group such as Mormons, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christianity were excluded from the survey.
What questions were asked and what were the results?
When asked whether the Jewish people remain the chosen people of God, the answers were divided. Fifty-one percent of those surveyed stated that they believe the Jews are still God’s chosen people. Nineteen percent reported that they were unsure, and 17% claimed that the Church had replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people. The 51% who do believe that the Jews remain God’s chosen people were more commonly older Evangelicals (59% of them were 70 and older), while the numbers gradually dropped among younger participants (44% for 40 and younger).
The survey also asked if Israel and the Jewish people are a priority when it comes to donating money, time and promoting causes. The questions intentionally avoided political-related support. The results might be surprising to many.
Just three out of 10 Evangelicals rated support for Israel and the Jewish people as a very high priority (on a scale of 1 to 5). A total of 48% said that supporting Israel and the Jewish people was an important part of their charitable behavior. Interestingly, younger people were more inclined to rate charitable support for Israel and the Jewish people as highly important than older generations.
Two possible explanations are given for this result. First, the authors of the survey left out political motivations for support on purpose. Therefore, it is possible that if the question was related to political support then younger people would be less inclined to rate it as a high priority. Second, younger people tend to be less focused and set in their ways and are more open to different causes than older people who have a lifetime of giving experience.
The research showed that a total of 20% of those surveyed answered that they see Jews as God’s people today, and put a very high priority on supporting the Jewish people and Israel. This group was classified as “Israel loyalists.” The survey found that those considered to be Israel loyalists are likely to be either White (21%) or Latino (32%) and have less formal education. They are also more likely to be those who read the Bible daily, are charismatic, and are heavier consumers of Christian media.
What can be concluded from these results?
As the authors highlight in the research, these results show that American Evangelicals are not a monolithic community and the stereotypes typically attributed to them are mostly false. For instance, Evangelical Christians are often portrayed as staunch lovers of the State of Israel. This survey shows that the ‘Israel loyalists’ make up a mere 20% of Evangelicals.
In addition, the survey results show that only 11% of Evangelicals said that supporting pro-Israel US politicians is a high priority. Evangelicals are often portrayed as being heavily involved in trying to sway politics in favor of promoting pro-Israel stances and issues. This shows that pro-Israel politics is a minor concern for the Evangelical community in the US.
At the same time, the results show worrying trends
Younger Evangelical Christians are increasingly distancing from Israel and are less likely to see any theological significance in the Jewish people. However, for many, this may not be the most worrisome development in and of itself. What is more concerning is that it is likely correlated with the fact that more young people are adopting Replacement Theology—believing that upon the birth of Jesus, the Jewish people ceased its role as the chosen people and the Church subsequently replaced them. Many of them are Millennials (34%) even though they only represent 22% of all Evangelical Christians.
These Millennials are today’s young leaders in the United States—in churches, business and government. This trend is unsettling because history has shown that Replacement Theology has produced both antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiments. Especially in European history, those holding positions of Replacement Theology have viewed God as being finished with the Jewish people and Jews as disloyal by being “responsible” for the crucifixion of Jesus. Historically, this has been the source of many antisemitic tropes.
Replacement Theology has also produced problematic anti-Israel sentiments as well. It is used as a way of denying the Jewish people today any ancestral connection to the Land of Israel. If God did away with the Jewish people, this means that promises of returning to the Land of Israel in the Bible are no longer valid. Therefore, there was no “return” of the Jewish people to its ancestral homeland, but rather, a gross case of settler colonialism at the expense of the indigenous Arab population. Aside from being historically false, as has been felt recently across Jewish communities in the United States and Europe, supporting Israel has sometimes resulted in anti-Jewish attacks, both verbally and physically.
It is important to break down the viewpoint that Evangelical Christians are a monolithic community. However, increasing views of Replacement Theology among young Evangelicals is a worrisome trend.