Why evangelicals must speak up about anti-Semitism

3 things to understand about the Jewish people

January 27, 2020

Recently, there have been a string of violent attacks against the Jewish community in America. 2019 saw an almost unprecedented increase in hostility toward American Jewry; from a vandalized synagogue in Beverly Hills and a desecrated cemetery in Nebraska, to a series of knife attacks and shootings in New York and New Jersey. In New York alone, in one week, there were nine acts of violence against Jewish people. Long known as one of the few places where it is OK to be a Jew, America is becoming more of a security risk than a safe haven for Jewish people. Anti-Semitism, arising from fever swamps across the political spectrum, are fueling this new and dangerous environment. 

There is something familiar and insidious about these reports and incidents. While they may appear random, each assault, shooting, and hate crime is more cultural muscle memory than it is a random act of violence. As I write this essay, I am sitting in Israel at a cafe in Jerusalem. Around me are tourists and pilgrims, Arabs and Jews, Israelis and Americans, sipping tea and basking in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun. Everywhere in this land are reminders of why the Jews fought so hard to claim a space they could call their own. Memorials to recent terrorist attacks vie for attention with museums and monuments documenting the horror of what frequently happened in history when “random” small acts of hatred went ignored. 

If you were to travel to Jerusalem and visit Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Holocaust, you would recognize in its displays a frighteningly familiar set of images. As the museum meticulously and chronologically documents the Holocaust, a pattern begins to emerge. Within a few short years, Jews went from being disliked and the fodder of conspiracy theories to being fuel for Nazi furnaces. A German boy who entered kindergarten in 1933 was able to be a guard at Auschwitz by the time he finished high school. While these narratives and statistics may seem implausible today, the faded photos of broken shop windows in Poland and torched synagogues in Germany are hauntingly familiar. As we witness a rise in anti-Semitism, it remains to be seen whether or not America has learned the lesson of history; of how little time it takes to slide into the abyss of the unthinkable.

Understanding our tie to the Jews

As an American and an evangelical Christian, I was raised to love Israel. Like many, I was nursed through childhood and Sunday school with stories of Israelite heroism and history. Moses, David, Daniel, and their exploits occupied a prime place of residence in my childhood fantasies. All these stories culminated with Jesus, the Jewish rabbi from Galilee. Many Christians however are tempted to forget the Jewishness of Jesus. For many, the relevance of Jews and Judaism ended after the Pentecost and only re-emerged after the Holocaust. In the gap is a lost history of defeat and diaspora punctuated with persecution and pogroms. 

When Jews are attacked for being Jews, we should stand with them because they are with us co-religionists in an increasingly secular age.

Jewish history and experience and Christianity’s role in that history are rarely discussed. As a result, despite our shared heritage, it is more difficult at times for American evangelicals to relate to modern Judaism or empathize with our contemporary Jewish neighbors when they are attacked. Several aspects are important for us to understand in order to know why we should advocate for the safety of Jewish people. 

1. The special relationship. More needs to be done to bring to light our unique tie to the Jewish people. Russell Moore describes the relationship Christians share with Jewish people: 

Jesus is a son of Abraham. He is of the tribe of Judah. He is of the House of David. Jesus’ kingship is valid because he descends from the royal line. His priesthood, though not of the tribe of Levi, is proven valid because of Melchizedek the priest’s relation to Abraham. Those of us who are joint-heirs with Christ are such only because Jesus is himself the offspring and heir of Abraham (Gal. 3:29).

As Christians, we are, all of us, adopted into a Jewish family, into an Israelite story. We who were once not a people have been grafted on, in Jesus, to the branch that is Israel (Rom. 11:17-18). That’s why the New Testament can speak even to Gentile Christians as though the story of their own forefathers were that of the Old Testament Scriptures. We have been brought into an Israelite story, a story that started not in first-century Bethlehem but, millennia before, in the promise that Abraham would be the father of many nations. Whatever our ethnic background, if we are in Christ, we are joined to him. That means the Jewish people are, in a very real sense, our people too. An attack on the Jewish people is an attack on all of us.

2. The co-religionists. We must remember that religious freedom is fragile; and while persecuted Christians and Jews across the globe understand this all too well, American Christians are clueless. When Jews are attacked for being Jews, we should stand with them because they are with us co-religionists in an increasingly secular age. When their synagogues are attacked, we should help them rebuild. Though American Christians and evangelicals often take comfort in our vast numbers, we should recognize that we, along with American Jews, take shelter under the same blanket of religious protections. We may see that blanket fraying at the edges and affecting only the Jews, but if it unravels, we will all be just as exposed. We should do what we can to insure that the Jewish community can live and worship unfettered by hate and intolerance.

3. The human shield. Throughout Israel, both in the north and the south of the country, Jews live in constant threat of rocket attack from Islamic militants obsessed with hatred of and grievance with the Jewish state. To combat this threat, Israel deploys the Iron Dome, which is a state of the art, American-made inception system which interdicts rockets in the air preventing loss of life. Although one is never completely free of the nagging fear associated with this threat, it is no small measure of comfort to know that there is a figurative shield over your head. The Iron Dome is both a deterrent to the violent and a comfort to the victim; would that the American church be described in such a way, when it comes to anti-semitic attacks against our Jewish neighbors. 

For Jews in America the threat is not from rockets, but from racism and hatred. And it is our duty as Christians to speak against anti-Semtism, regardless of the side of the aisle it originates from. Jews should feel invited into our communities. Pastors should meet with rabbis. Christian neighbors should attend shabbat dinners. Such actions may cause discomfort, and at times we may feel confused by the differences between us, but let that discomfort be the small price we pay to surround this community with care. 

The time has come for Christians to stand against anti-Semitism. We should defend our fellow neighbors’ right to free exercise of religion and their dignity as humans created in the image of God. After all, if one Jew was willing to give his life to save humanity, surely those of us who claim his name can stand up for the people to whom he came, and through whom the gospel came to us. 

Drew Griffin

Drew Griffin is a writer and editor who holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Arkansas and a M.Div. in Biblical and Theological Studies from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a veteran of over a dozen political campaigns and is a featured writer and speaker on … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24