By Tim Echols
America has been a strong supporter of Israel – and leading the charge has been Evangelical Christians. This spring, churches across the country can speak out against modern-day antisemitism with special messages highlighting the solidarity between Christian and Jews – between America and Israel.
Who among us does not know the story of Queen Esther and her heroics that saved the scattered Jewish people from annihilation contrived by an evil anti-Semite named Haman? The Feast of Purim, celebrated by Jews to this day, holds an inspirational message and a reminder to stand against antisemitism – wherever we find it.
When I was a boy, the late Corrie ten Boom visited The Rock Baptist Church in sleepy Rex, Georgia on her book tour promoting her book “The Hiding Place.” Boom and her sister, Dutch Christians, were put into concentration camps for hiding Jews in their home. Her sister died there, but Corrie eventually traveled the world and told her incredible story of bravery and conviction.
I knew little of the Holocaust and the Jewish people. Boom’s testimony, her writings and subsequent movie informed Evangelicals like me of the horrific nature of what the Nazis had done to Jewish people.
Fast forward to today.
There is an anti-Israel movement sweeping the country that is leaving in its wake a plume of ugly acts against Jewish Americans. It is called BDS – a call to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel – but it is American Jews of all ages who are paying the immediate price, with some paying the ultimate price. I personally met a student from Riverwood High School in Sandy Springs who had been called the equivalent of the “N” word for Jews by some of his classmates. He was only 16 years old.
New York City, home to more Jews than any other American city, is not immune. Jewish students were assaulted last year in Washington Square Park, where student rabble-rousers were arrested after desecrating Israeli flags. Swastikas showed up in a university’s residence hall. The NYU Jewish Student Center received several threats. And in a shocking resolution, the NYU student government passed an anti-Israel BDS resolution receiving kudos from some administrators.
And most horrific of all, last October eleven congregants of the Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue were gunned down by a gunman shouting anti-Semitic slurs.
Evangelical churches can bring awareness to this antisemitism as well as America’s special relationship with Israel by putting special focus this issue in two ways.
First, pastors can preach a message on the Old Testament’s Queen Esther and making a clear connection between the antisemitism she experienced and what is happening in America today. A perfect Sunday to do this is March 8, 2020 – coinciding with the Feast of Purim.
Second, churches can reach out to groups like the American Jewish Committee or a local Rabbi and feature them in an appropriate venue and allow them to share personal stories of antisemitism. I attended the American Jewish Committee Global Forum and was stunned with the volume of anti-Jewish hate throughout our country.
Judeo-Christian has a dash in it for a reason. We share so much in common. Join me in speaking out against antisemitism wherever it lurks.
Commissioner Tim Echols grew up at The Rock Baptist, served as president of the UGA Baptist Student Union, created the non-profit TeenPact (now in 45 states), and currently is a statewide elected official in Georgia. Reach Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org to participate in his Judeo-Christian Forum in January at the Capitol.