A Call for Caution: The Complications Surrounding the ‘Antisemitism Awareness Act’

R7F2P0 USA, Washington, the US Capitol building home of the US Congress

Op-ed by David T. Crum | Photo: Alamy

While theologians and those well-versed in their biblical knowledge are familiar with the eschatological (end-of-time) matters regarding Israel and what constitutes the “church,” most people are not.

The Antisemitism Awareness Act, being supported by both Republicans and Democrats, means well, seeking to ensure the 1930s persecution of the Jews doesn’t repeat itself.

However, some opposing the bill, including Rep. Matt Gaetz and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, fear the bill could hurt Christians who use parts of the Bible that underline the difference between the Jewish and Christian faith.

It is important to note that Christians are divided. This bill has prompted a deep theological discussion, causing a division among Christian denominations regarding their beliefs in eschatology and even the divine-human relationship (E.g., Covenant theology vs. dispensationalism/premillennialism).

For example, historic Lutheran and Reformed teachings emphasize God’s relationship with people rather than nations and believe that Christians are the new chosen people, linking the commitment God made to Abraham being the “father of many nations.” More specifically, adherents to this form of theology note the Christian church is a continuation of the original Jewish people.

On the other side of the debate are more American Christians viewing Israel and the Jews as remaining the chosen people of God and explicitly linking end-of-time events to the salvation of the Jews and even the deliverance of Israel into Christ’s hands. This view is probably more predominant in America today, simply resembling the position of most dispensationalists.

Understanding the historical context is critical. The significance of President Harry S. Truman’s support for the creation and aid of the nation of Israel in 1948 cannot be overstated. Scholars continue to note that Truman was largely affected by his own Christian faith, including receiving spiritual guidance from leading Baptist J. Frank Norris.

So, do Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene have a legitimate point in their concerns?

In the eyes of some Christians, probably so. Rep. Gaetz highlighted several specific verses that people could use as hate speech.

“Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.” (Acts 4:10)

“But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:14-15) John 11:50 (18:14) and Matthew 27:22-25 are additional examples since they show the Jews of Jesus’ day themselves asking for this.

While the Christian faith heavily influenced most of the Founders, James Madison highlighted the existence of theological disagreements among Christians that could never be resolved. Perhaps it is moments like this that he predicted.

The best of theologians disagree on matters regarding Israel and its role in the present and future days.

Regardless of one’s opinion on Israel’s theological distinctions, Americans can support the nation as a legitimate ally without bringing in theological implications that can negatively affect some sects of Christianity and their beliefs on the definition of the church.

When bringing in hate-speech bills, we should exercise extreme caution, and Americans certainly do not want to resemble the neighbor up north (Canada), who has entertained a bill that would remove a religious exemption on hate speech law. The Canadian proposed bill would essentially label the Bible as hate speech because of its teachings on biblical marriage and sexuality.

All Americans, including Christians, should never tolerate hate or persecution against Jewish people, and Americans can align with Israel as a military ally according to their conscience. It is also essential for us to view bills with theological implications through a sincere lens, acknowledging that even Christians debate the definition of the “church” and the future of Israel in biblical prophecies or fulfillments.

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