Some in the Jewish community are already enthusiastic supporters of the Christian Zionist movement; others have deep reservations. On Monday night, Nov. 30, both sides will have a chance to explore the issue when one of its leaders, the Rev. Dr. Robert Stearns, speaks at Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston.
The event, “The Pro-Israel Evangelical Christian Movement: What Is the Agenda?” is being cosponsored by the temple and the Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ in partnership with the Jewish Community Relations Councils of Central New Jersey and Northern NJ.
Stearns is the founder and executive director of Eagles’ Wings, a passionately pro-Israel organization based in his home town of Buffalo, NY. He is also northeast region director of Christians United for Israel, a coalition of mostly evangelical churches across the country that support Israel. CUFI’s founder is the influential and at times controversial pastor John Hagee.
Stearns’ talk in Livingston has been organized by Jim Daniels, chair of the Iran taskforce of the MetroWest CRC. He told NJ Jewish News he is aware that many in the community are wary of Christian Zionists — in particular, their conservative domestic agenda and their sometimes apocalyptic theology — and he wants to counteract that. “I can’t convey with my words the sincerity of these people. People need to hear for themselves,” Daniels said.
What is at stake, he said, is the support of as many as 50 million Christians in this country alone.
“Sure, there are many issues that we differ on,” said Daniels, “but as Robert Stearns says, ‘Why can’t we join forces on this one thing we share — our concern for Israel?’ At a time when we Jews are being isolated more and more, I feel very strongly that we need to show our appreciation to the Christian Zionists. I think that they might be beginning to feel taken for granted. If we don’t embrace them, we could lose them.”
Stearns has spoken to the NJ Jewish community before, at Temple B’nai Abraham in Livingston two years ago, and has been a featured speaker at CUFI’s Night to Honor Israel, held in Cranford over the past three years.
Stearns is also a cochair of the Day of Prayer for Peace of Jerusalem, held in the city the first Sunday of October for the past few years. According to the organization’s website, this year about 2,000 people gathered in Jerusalem for the event on Oct. 4, and followers from 300,000 congregations in 175 countries participated in the prayers long-distance from their churches.
Israelis themselves have welcomed Stearns’ support. Israel’s consul general in New York, Ambassador Asaf Shariv, has twice spoken with Stearns at the CUFI rallies in Cranford, and he has urged American Jews to support the organization.
David Lentz, chair of the MetroWest CRC, said in a written statement his group has learned “that pro-Israel Christians have stood with the Jewish community to promote peace initiatives and support Israel in its fight against malicious boycott campaigns, one-sided and unwarranted allegations of human rights violations, and, most seriously, an existential threat from Iran.”
Given that, he said, “we need to forge a path together with CUFI in support of Israel, even though we may differ on other important areas of concern.”
He described the Nov. 30 event as a further opportunity to dispel stereotypes and promote shared efforts in support of Israel.