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The Fervent EmbraceLiberal Protestants, Evangelicals, and Israel$

Caitlin Carenen

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814741047

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814741047.001.0001

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The Tide Turns, 1967–1973

The Tide Turns, 1967–1973

(p.133) 5 The Tide Turns, 1967–1973
The Fervent Embrace

Caitlin Carenen

NYU Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes a theological shift occurring in the late 1960s, wherein evangelicals and fundamentalists gradually dominated the landscape of American Protestantism. Disillusioned by the increasing loss of theological distinctions between most mainline denominations and their abandonment of orthodoxy in favor of modernity, American Protestants in the late 1960s began to establish their own churches. A move into the suburbs to newer homes and newer church buildings, coupled with a reactionary return to orthodoxy, had created this shift. This religious realignment had profound implications for American politics, and especially for U.S. foreign policy. The mainline American Protestants who had supported Israel for pragmatic and humanitarian reasons were increasingly replaced in numbers and influence by evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants who viewed Israel through an eschatological lens.

Keywords:   1960s, religious realignment, American politics, American Protestantism, evangelical Protestants, fundamentalist Protestants, U.S. foreign policy

The outbreak of war in the Middle East in the early morning hours of 5 June 1967 surprised no one. The sweeping Israeli victory in six days, however, did. By 8 June Israel had taken control of the entire Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall. As a rabbi blew the shofar to a crowd of emotional Israeli soldiers and civilians, American evangelical and fundamentalist prophecy watchdogs rejoiced as well. The end times had begun. Writing for the Moody Monthly John F. Walvoord, president of the Dallas Theological Seminary, could barely contain his excitement: “This return constitutes a preparation for the end of the age, the setting for the coming of the Lord for His Church and the fulfillment of Israel’s prophetic destiny.”1 Israel may have returned “in unbelief,” but this newest “piece of the prophetic puzzle” could hardly be ignored. Interpreters of prophecy scriptures outdid one another in their attempts to link the 1967 War with biblical verses. Whether it was the fulfillment of prophecy or not, however, the war certainly heralded a new age in U.S.–Protestant–Israeli relations, as the growing political power of evangelicals coincided with their increasing excitement over Israel. Although Israeli land acquisitions and the refugee crisis following the war would provide another political stumbling block for mainline liberal support of Israel, evangelicals professed no such reservations. Israel was back in the Holy Land, and its boundaries began to look increasingly like those maps in the back of their Bibles.

Yet even as the geopolitical landscape changed in the Middle East, the religious landscape in the United States was also undergoing dramatic transformations that would have a serious impact upon the U.S.–Israeli alliance. While the 1950s witnessed a surge of religiosity in American society, with record-high church attendance, profound internal controversies in Protestant denominations resulted in denominational splintering that created newer, more orthodox churches. The mainline Protestant denominations that had adapted to the sweeping societal changes of the 1960s and adjusted their doctrines accordingly (women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, and abortion), faced declining memberships.

(p.134) Disillusioned by the increasing loss of theological distinctions between most mainline denominations and their abandonment of orthodoxy in favor of modernity, American Protestants in the late 1960s began to establish their own churches. A move into the suburbs to newer homes and newer church buildings, coupled with a reactionary return to orthodoxy, created a profound shift in American Protestantism. Mainline Protestants were now the “liberals,” and evangelicals and fundamentalists gradually became the dominant group of American Protestants. This religious realignment had profound implications for American politics, and especially for U.S. foreign policy. The mainline American Protestants who had supported Israel for pragmatic and humanitarian reasons were increasingly replaced in numbers and influence by evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants who viewed Israel through an eschatological lens. Certainly the importance of having an ally in the unstable Middle East appealed to these Protestants, but more important than that was the prophetic role Israel would play in the end times. Whereas the reaction to the Suez crisis in 1956 had marked the beginning of a change in political activity, the evangelical response to Israeli military prowess and land acquisitions between 1967 and 1979 permanently altered evangelical Protestant political behavior and set the foundation for the dynamic political engagement that would characterize evangelical Protestants in the 1980s.

The War of 1967

In the months leading up to the outbreak of war the United Nations had been inundated with complaints filed by both Israel and Syria about constant border skirmishes and aerial dogfights between the two nations. In May Nasser, leading the United Arab Republic and twelve other Middle Eastern countries, had called for the total mobilization of military forces along the border with Israel and, on 18 May, demanded the removal of U.N. peacekeeping forces stationed in Gaza and the Gulf of Aquaba. To worldwide surprise, U.N. Secretary General U Thant complied with Egypt’s request and removed the U.N. forces. On 22 May Nasser implemented a total blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba, preventing the free passage of Israeli ships. The U.N. security measures implemented after the Suez crisis had enforced the right of Israeli ships to pass through the gulf. In response, the Israelis declared the new blockade a violation of international law and considered it “an act of aggression against Israel.” Israel began mobilizing its forces in preparation for war—a war that both the Arabs and Israelis did little to prevent and, in fact, appeared eager to commence.

(p.135) The superpowers were less eager for a Middle Eastern war. Both the Soviet Union and the United States issued cautious statements and called for Security Council emergency meetings to alleviate the crisis. Nasser publicly announced, on 29 May, that “negotiated peace is out of the question” and warned Israel that an attack would result in a united Arab effort, whose “main objective will be the destruction of Israel.” Furthermore, boasting of Soviet support for the Arab war effort, Nasser publicly announced that he had assurances that the Soviets would block U.S. intervention on Israel’s behalf. With the Security Council paralyzed by the Arabs’ and Israelis’ unwillingness to negotiate, and the refusal of the United States and the Soviet Union to negotiate over their Middle Eastern allies, the War of 1967 began with an Israeli preemptive strike against the Egyptian Air Force.2

Within several hours in the early morning of 5 June the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had completely destroyed the Egyptian Air Force. The Israelis quickly capitalized on the surprise attack and pressed their advantage with sweeping ground attacks on all fronts. The Egyptians and Jordanians, on 6 June, publicly charged the United States and Great Britain with aiding the Israelis—a charge both nations denied vigorously, but Egypt cut all diplomatic ties with the United States and England and declared a total blockade of the Suez Canal and a cessation of all oil shipments to the United States and Britain. By the next day, however, the Israelis had broken through the Sinai and captured the Suez Canal, effectively ending the blockade. The same day Jordan, suffering heavy losses in the West Bank, agreed to a cease-fire, ending the war on the Jordanian-Israeli front. On 8 June, one day later, Syria and Egypt agreed to a cease-fire, although sporadic fighting continued between Israel and Syria. On 10 June the Israelis and Syrians ended hostilities in a separate cease-fire agreement and brought the war to an end. Israel found itself in possession of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and in total control of the Old City of Jerusalem. It declared immediately that it would not return to its 1948 boundaries.3

The world had watched the events of the Six-Day War closely. For the first time the hotline between Moscow and Washington, D.C., had been used for purposes other than sending baseball scores and lines of poetry, as each tried to gage the other’s intentions. Although both superpowers had resisted involvement—instead issuing benign ambiguous statements—the Israelis’ sweeping and swift success had provided Washington with diplomatic ammunition in the United Nations. The superpowers had avoided direct conflict in the war, but at the war’s conclusion the United States worked to press its advantage on behalf of Israel. The U.N. Security Council, despite Soviet pressure, refused to condemn Israel as the aggressor.

(p.136) In England and the United States individuals rallied to Israel’s side during the war. In England fights broke out among hundreds of Britons over available seats on El Al flights in order to fly to Israel to fight for the Israelis. Winston Churchill’s grandson, covering events in Jerusalem for News of the World, donated blood to the Israelis during the national blood drive on the eve of the war.4 In the United States fear for Israel’s safety prompted widespread support for the Jewish state. Franklin Graham, the evangelist Billy Graham’s son, rushed to Israel to join the war effort, and famed American author James Michener sent a telegram to the Israeli government pledging his support in any way the nation might request it. More important, Jewish organizations across the United States sent so much money to Israel that the government had trouble recording it. Congressmen who had increasingly voted against appropriations for the Vietnam War, voted for U.S. support for Israel during the crisis. It turned out to be unnecessary. U.S. intelligence studies of Israeli military preparedness had twice confirmed, in the months leading up to the war, that Israel, despite fewer numbers and less equipment, was nonetheless better prepared than her Arab neighbors and would surely defeat them in a confrontation.5 Yet the swiftness of the victory surprised many military experts.

The Israeli victory, surprising or not, inspired the American people. Despite the fact that on 8 June Israeli torpedo boats and fighter jets attacked an American warship, the USS Liberty, cruising in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, killing 34 sailors and wounding 172, American support for the Israelis in the Six-Day War remained unfazed.6 Bogged down in the quagmire of the Vietnam War, the idea of a David versus Goliath struggle in the Middle East (however inaccurate that comparison might have been) sparked a great deal of fist-pumping and wistful calls for Moshe Dayan, the celebrated military general of the IDF, to lead the U.S. offensive in Vietnam. One letter to the editor of the Boston Herald encapsulated American popular response to the Six-Day War: “If I were the Israelis (and how I dearly wish we had a Moshe Dayan in Viet Nam) I would not yield one yard of conquered territory till there were ironclad guarantees for the safety and peace of Israel.” Furthermore, the writer added, “I am not of Jewish faith or extraction, but an old line Yank, whose lineage is rooted in the Northern Kingdom. The daring courage and valor of the Israeli people as they smashed the aggressors thrilled me beyond words and taxed my emotions to the breaking point.”7

The 1967 War permanently altered the U.S.–Israeli alliance, as Americans, swept up in the euphoria of Israel’s rapid and sweeping victory, cheered for the perceived underdog and cemented the alliance.

(p.137) Liberal Protestants React

Despite continued hostilities between Israel and her Arab neighbors, when Carl Hermann Voss of the American Christian Palestine Committee discussed the development of American support for Israel before an audience of Israelis at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1966, he did so confident that Americans stood fully behind their Middle Eastern ally. The American public reaction to the Six-Day War illustrated the verity of such a belief. Yet it also proved problematic for the liberal Protestants who had only just begun addressing the theological significance of Israel and reevaluating historic antisemitic tendencies in Protestant theology. Many perceived Israeli aggressiveness in refusing to return land acquired during the conflict as verification of extreme nationalism and disregard for the worsened plight of the Palestinian refugees. The year 1967 was a high water mark for mainline Protestant confusion over Israel.

While these Protestants struggled to make sense of events in Israel, they were soon criticized for not being pro-Israel enough. American Jews, while celebrating Israeli victory, pointed to the silence of the mainline churches on the eve of the war when Israel appeared to be on the brink of destruction as proof of continued antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and likened such silence to the failure of the Churches to protest the Holocaust.8 The initial gains in interfaith dialogue made during the previous decade appeared jeopardized, even as the rest of the world struggled to come to terms with the new geopolitical realities of the Middle East. The mainline Protestant support for Israel that Voss and other ACPC members had worked so hard to build prior to 1967 fractured in the aftermath of the war, splitting apart the fragile alliance. Ultimately, however, the support that mainline Protestants had offered Israel in the building of the initial U.S.–Israeli alliance would be superseded in numbers and strength by the newly electrified evangelical base.

Concern for war refugees dominated many mainline Protestants’ initial reaction to the war. The Lutheran World Federation, for example, immediately launched an appeal for half a million dollars to assist Syrian and Jordanian war victims.9 Several weeks later the Lutheran reported that “church groups” had called for Arab recognition of Israel, international control of Jerusalem, and water-rights guarantees for all neighbors in the region as part of a proposal for long-term solutions in the area.10 The Lutheran reiterated the objections of the mainline churches to Israeli acquisition of land acquired during the fighting and noted that “Israel would make a mistake if it annexed conquered territory without negotiation.”11 But in an acknowledgment of the (p.138) damage done to interfaith relations by Protestant “silence” on the eve of the war, it also noted the criticisms of American Jews who “chided Christians for failing to support the Israeli cause” during the war.12 Early in the aftermath of the 1967 War, then, mainline Protestants recognized this profound rupture to their relationship with American Jewry. Such recognition catalyzed a greater push for theological reassessment of Jewish nationalism and the profound role Israel now played in Jewish identity.

As it had in 1948, the fate of Jerusalem once again divided mainline American Protestants. The National Council of Churches (NCC) issued a statement calling for international control of a city sacred to all three of the world’s major religions. The NCC could not “condone by silence” Israeli claims to territories seized during the war, but the organization did call for Arab recognition of Israel and secure territorial borders for all Middle Eastern nations to be enforced by the “entire international community.”13 The Christian Century echoed the call for the internationalization of Jerusalem. J. A. Sanders of Union Theological Seminary, writing for the journal, argued that “the likelihood of Jerusalem’s reverting to Jordanian administration under massive U.N. presence should be anticipated and, if need be, supported by the American Christian community.”14

Other Protestants appeared less cautious about an Israeli victory. For example, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, in joint cooperation with major Jewish American organizations, sponsored a massive pro-Israel rally in Washington, D.C., to raise money to help Israel.15 In addition, sixteen prominent Americans including Reinhold Niebuhr, Martin Luther King Jr., Krister Stendahl of Harvard Divinity School, and Jerald Brauer, dean of the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, issued a statement in support of Israeli control over Jerusalem. “During the past 20 years,” they wrote, “the City of David has experienced an artificial division. We see no justification in proposals which seek once again to destroy the unity which has been restored.”16

Indeed Niebuhr’s journal, Christianity and Crisis, symbolized the split among mainline Protestants over reaction to the war. In an editorial Niebuhr echoed mainline America’s celebration of the Israeli victory. Writing before the final cease-fire had been imposed, he criticized both the decision of U Thant to withdraw peacekeeping forces from the Suez and the inability of the Security Council to prevent the hostilities. Niebuhr addressed Israeli preemptive action sympathetically, noting that “obviously a nation that knows … it is in danger of strangulation will use its fists.”17 Perhaps peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors would, as Abba Eban noted earlier, (p.139) rest upon the nations finding “their own way to conciliation and peace,” Niebuhr concluded. Citing the “new cold war atmosphere” between the United States and the U.S.S.R., Niebuhr predicted that the National Security Council Committee on Middle Eastern problems “will have its hands full.” Ultimately, Niebuhr added, “all of us will cheer its efforts.”18 Niebuhr’s analysis reiterated the reason why many mainline Protestants had supported Israel since 1948—the Cold War necessitated U.S. support for a democratic ally in the unstable but oil-rich region. Israel’s strategic importance remained essential to Cold War interests and would require cooperation between the United States and the U.S.S.R.19

In the weeks following the war Christianity and Crisis ran a series of articles that further addressed the interfaith fallout from the crisis and the Christian responsibility in addressing the problems between American Protestants and Jews. Alan Geyer noted in one article that the Israeli victory and the American Jewish response to the war had sparked “a profound stirring … that is at once a religious event and a political phenomenon of astonishing poignancy and power.” Rejecting the charge from the American Jewish community that Christians had remained largely silent about the war and its consequences and causes, Geyer pointed to the widespread pulpit support for “the policies of the Israeli government” and noted that the war “has mustered an instinctively sympathetic response from some of our most visible churchmen. Religion and politics,” Geyer concluded, “have always provided a highly combustible if inevitable and necessary mixture.”20 To Geyer, interpretation of biblical prophecy in favor of Israeli land acquisitions should be roundly rejected by modern theologians.

American Jews rejected Geyer’s assessment of mainline pro-Israeli behavior. Rabbi Balfour Brickner, the director of the Commission on Interfaith Activities of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, a Reform organization, argued that “Christians saw what happened in and to Israel as a political problem with little or no real theological implications or overtones.”21 Brickner was critical of the Christian response to the war and pointed out that the silence of the churches on the eve of the conflict and Protestant claims that the issue was geopolitical, and not religious, astonished Jews in America who viewed Arab threats to “exterminate Zionists, Jews, and Israelis (with no distinction made between these groups)” as a threat to all Jews’ ethnic and religious being. Problems with Zionism in general, never fully resolved, Brickner charged, had once again become the focus of the debate in the aftermath of the war. Most Christians were “stateless,” Brickner explained, but noted the interest of the “theologically conservative (p.140) groups” who “do share the general Jewish conviction about Jerusalem but for different reasons.”22 After the 1967 War many American Jewish and Israeli organizations slowly began to embrace the “theologically conservative groups” that offered their ardent support as some mainline Protestant leaders withdrew theirs.23

Apart from the damage done to Jewish–mainline Protestant relations in the United States, the 1967 War alarmed many mainline Protestants for theo-political reasons. Geyer’s concern that a literal interpretation of Scripture might be gaining ground among mainline Protestants worried some who feared its foreign policy implications. Willard G. Oxtoby, a professor of religion at Yale University and active member of the National Council of Churches, criticized American Protestants for their “hypocritical” response to the Israeli victory. Any other war that resulted in such dramatic territorial acquisitions would have outraged Americans, Oxtoby pointed out. Yet, with Israel, “Americans seemed hardly to mind.” Such incongruent responses had generated an increasing double standard among American Christians toward the Arabs, “by which,” Oxtoby argued, “Arabs can be judged bloodthirsty from their rhetoric no matter how little they could actually do, while Israel could do no wrong no matter how far its conquests exceeded its provocation.”24

Oxtoby identified three reasons for such Christian reaction: humanitarian concern stemming from the Holocaust, evangelical support for Israel as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, and the lessening of antisemitism and improved interfaith relations between Christians and Jews in America.25 Moreover, the evangelical belief that Israel existed as a sign of prophecy fulfillment (ignoring, Oxtoby argued, the traditional Protestant teaching that “the promise [to Israel] had been fulfilled in antiquity and [now] applied by the New Testament to the church as the New Israel”) had influenced “liberal Christians” who “are subtly swayed by claims that modern Israel enjoys a historic right, a divine destiny that is above criticism.”26 Acknowledging that while “pockets of petty prejudice remain,” Oxtoby insisted that “among an educated younger generation it is fair to say that [antisemitism] has virtually ceased to exist.” Yet the fear of being labeled antisemitic had stymied real discussion of Israel between Jews and Christians.27 Oxtoby’s assessment of widespread American Protestant support for the Israelis and the conflation of anti-Zionism and antisemitism reflected the justification that members of the ACPC offered for their disbandment. American Protestants fully supported Israel, even if pockets of criticism remained among some liberal Protestant leaders.

(p.141) Evangelicals Celebrate Israel’s Triumph

However frustrated some Jews may have been by the response of mainline Protestants to the Six-Day War, the enthusiastic evangelical reaction was impossible to miss. Indeed the reality of Israeli victory, overwhelmingly celebrated by evangelicals and fundamentalists, heralded a new era for Protestant interest in the Holy Land and Judaism. As soon as the fighting ended, evangelicals and fundamentalists addressed the prophetic significance of Israel’s territorial acquisitions. Excited by images of Jews praying again at the Western Wall, American fundamentalists and evangelicals dove headfirst into the waters of prophecy interpretation. Unlike the liberal Protestants, prophecy watchdogs viewed Israel’s control of Jerusalem with cautious optimism.

In a radio broadcast in Chicago (home of the Moody Bible Institute) that aired four days after hostilities ended in the Middle East, three scholars from the Institute addressed questions about the significance of the war. While all three experts advised caution in interpreting events in Israel too specifically, all agreed that Americans should recognize that the outcome of the war could be a sign of the end of days.28 When the panel moderator asked about the significance of the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem, all three panelists expressed their optimism, although each noted that it was too early to tell whether Israel would retain control. Clearly, for them, Israeli control over Jerusalem would be an ideal outcome of the war. The idea of international control over the Old City or return of the territory to Jordan did not enter the conversation. C. I. Scofield’s “prophetic interpretation” that “Israel is God’s prophetical clock and this clock moves only when God is dealing directly with Israel in their land,” pointed to, as one panelist insisted, the importance of Israel to American Protestants concerned with the end of days.29

John F. Walvoord, president of the Dallas Theological Seminary, appeared less cautious than the three Moody Bible Institute panelists in his assessment of the Israeli victory. In the cover story for the October 1967 issue of Moody Monthly, Walvoord proclaimed that the “dramatic victory of Israel over the Arab states electrified the entire world.”30 Most significant of all, according to Walvoord, the Israeli control over Jerusalem surely heralded the “end of the time of the Gentiles” and the beginning of the end of days. Tracing the history of the ancient Israelites to the present situation in the Middle East, Walvoord noted that for Scripture to be fulfilled, and the end of times to begin, sacrifices must be resumed in the Temple in Jerusalem. Before the war such a fulfillment had seemed impossible. “Now,” Walvoord pointed out, suddenly a dispossession which has endured for 1900 years has at least temporarily (p.142) ended. Many therefore predict early erection of a temple by the victorious state of Israel.”31 The erection of the third temple marked the most significant precursor to the end of days, and evangelical and fundamentalist American Protestants waited with great anticipation for the first signs of construction.

Hal Lindsay, of the evangelical organization Campus Crusade for Christ, echoed Walvoord’s optimism that the world was entering the end of days and the coming return of the Messiah. In reviewing recent world events, Lindsay argued, “we must see these [pieces of a puzzle] as part of a plan which is leading to the culmination of history thus far—the second coming of Christ. And,” he added, “I believe a careful study of biblical prophecy reveals that this climactic event is drawing so close that we may be at its very threshold.” The reestablishment of Israel constituted “the most important development, of course.” The Israeli control of Jerusalem meant, according to Lindsay, that “we only await the rebuilding of the temple and this piece of the puzzle will be complete.”32 Many publications echoed these sentiments. The Baptist Bible Tribune hailed the Israeli victory because it would allow the rebuilding of the temple: “The Israeli state must have a temple. She will have one.”33 The fundamentalist journal Eternity recorded a minister’s take on the threat posed by Egypt and Syria: “This is more a prophetic question than a military one,” to which the Bible apparently guaranteed Israeli victory.34 The readers of Eternity, then, found nothing very surprising in Israel’s six-day military victory.

Eternity’s excitement in viewing the events in Israel through prophetic lenses marks a significant shift in the Protestant assessment of Israel’s significance. Prior to 1967 many fundamentalists remained cautious about Israel as a nation founded in “unbelief.” More and more Protestant prophecy watchdogs appeared to have abandoned such caution in the months following the war, however, and plunged forward in assessing its significance.35 An Eternity editorial, published in January 1968, proclaimed that the Arab-Israeli War made 1967 a significant year because of the war’s prophetic importance: “Prophetic overtones echoed over the brief battle, as Jerusalem was controlled by the Jews for the first time since Nebuchadnezzar.”36

Christianity Today, the evangelical journal founded in 1956, also viewed the war through a religious lens. Nasser, a “Muslim,” had been assisted in his “revenge” campaign—“an adventurous anti-Israeli program”—by the “Buddhist” U Thant. “Israel,” the editorial board noted, “hedged on three sides by Arab foes and outnumbered twenty to one, began fighting to ensure its survival as a nation.” Commenting on the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem after nineteen hundred years, the editors explained that “the popular Israeli toast, ‘next year in Jerusalem!’ was crowned last week by anticipatory fulfillment (p.143) when a rabbi in soldier’s garb blew a ram’s horn at the Wailing Wall.” The editorial noted Americans’ overwhelming support for Israel and pointed out that “history must acknowledge the grim irony of the battle between hawks and doves in the United States, for doves quickly became hawks when Israel was in danger.”37

American Christians had the ability to understand the recent “imbroglio in the Middle East” through an understanding of prophetic scriptures, the editors insisted. Jewish control of Jerusalem served as a harbinger of the end of days and “even if they do not keep the old city now,” the editorial prophesied, “they will get it someday.” Ultimately, the editorial concluded, “the prophetic clock of God is ticking while history moves inexorably toward the final climax. And as that clock ticks, the Christian believer lifts his head high; for he knows that a glorious redemption draws near.”38

For fundamentalists and evangelicals, the Israeli victory only increased the urgency with which they addressed missionizing efforts toward the Jews.39 An advertisement by the American Association for Jewish Evangelism that appeared in Moody Monthly in the weeks after the 1967 War declared: “God Isn’t Finished with His People Whom He Foreknew, Are You?” The ad continued: “Recent events confirm that Israel will continue as a nation, and must be recognized in world affairs. Scripture has warned that those who seek Israel’s harm will not prosper—but God will reward those who seek Israel’s health and happiness.”40 Such an advertisement had significant foreign policy implications for American Protestants: evangelism remained a responsibility of Christians, and those who oppose Israel or “seek Israel’s harm” (including hostile Christians and the Arab nations) would “not prosper.” Consequently American Protestants who sought “Israel’s health and happiness” would surely be rewarded. The same issue of Moody Monthly highlighted evangelical efforts to reach out to Jewish congregations. In one article Louis Goldberg recounted the experience of the Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee (“one of the leading evangelical churches in the nation”) in implementing their first “Adventure in Understanding”—a dinner sponsored by the evangelical congregation to welcome several Jewish congregations and the local chapter of B’nai B’rith into an inter-religious celebration.

The Baptist congregation, in a dining hall draped with blue and white decorations reflecting the Israeli flag, presented a slide show from an Israeli trip to the 156 Jewish audience members who attended. Goldberg noted that “the Jewish guests seemed impressed by the Christians’ acute interest in the land of Israel as well as in the Israelis themselves.” While the sermon itself, led by Highland Park’s minister and titled “The Debt We Owe Judaism,” presented (p.144) the evangelical message of Jesus as Messiah, other aspects of the service celebrated Jewish traditions including the singing of the Psalms with traditional Jewish music, two rabbis of the community making a blessing over the dinner, and the singing of the Hatikvah at the evening’s conclusion.41 The purpose of the dinner, for the evangelicals, appeared twofold: “to witness to the claims of Jesus the Messiah” while simultaneously offering the “hand of friendship and love to Jewish friends.” Goldberg concluded his summation of the dinner by noting that Protestant ministers had, in the weeks following the event, received reciprocal invitations by rabbis to come to their congregations and that many more evangelical congregations had started their own “Adventure in Understanding” events.42

However much evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants celebrated the Israeli victory in the 1967 War and however much these celebrations sparked a renewal of missionizing efforts toward Jews, theological reevaluations of Christianity’s relationship to Judaism did not occur. Holding fast to orthodox teachings of the necessity of a personal relationship with Jesus for salvation, fundamentalists and evangelicals did not, in any way, reassess their theology. If anything, the Israeli capture of Jerusalem confirmed their eschatology. John F. Walvoord’s excitement about the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War and the capture of Jerusalem only fortified his theological assessment of the significance of current events for biblical prophecy.

In the conservative theological journal Bibliotheca sacra, Walvoord addressed the possibility of the return to animal sacrifice in a restored temple and added that premillennialists supported the idea as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy that predicted a return to the ancient rite in the last days before Christ’s return.43 Now, he insisted, “the facts of history” provided new encouragement to both orthodox Jews and Christians that a temple would be rebuilt and the sacrifices restored. Walvoord assessed the American Christian excitement about the possibility, including the rumors that a town in Indiana had shipped “500 railroad carloads of stone to Jerusalem” to help rebuild the temple, and other Christians in the United States had recast the bronze pillars necessary to restore the new temple to its original specifications. Although Walvoord noted that the Israeli government “flatly denied” such plans and noted that, should a temple be rebuilt, native stone would be used, the significance of such rumors lay in the hope that a restored temple would symbolize “the heart of Israel as both a nation and as a religious group.”44

Walvoord offered a close reading of Daniel, chapter 12, which predicted that the return of Christ would be preceded by the cessation of the sacrifices in the temple. For the sacrifices to stop, they must first begin, Walvoord (p.145) pointed out. Although problems existed to prevent the fulfillment of this prophecy, Walvoord argued, many issues that appeared impossible prior to the Six-Day War had been overcome: the restoration of Jews to Palestine, the reformation of the nation of Israel, and the Israeli recovery of Jerusalem. “History has recorded that Israel did return in spite of the difficulties. It is safe to conclude,” Walvoord argued, “that future history will also record a rebuilding of the temple”—in fulfillment of the premillenial interpretation of scripture.45

While the events of June 1967 no doubt excited a prophetic assessment of world events, Israel’s survival and victory in the Six-Day War prompted other evangelical Christians to remind themselves of the importance of the Jews to God. Although, as discussed previously, theological reevaluations did not result from this acknowledgment, still a new appreciation for what Judaism could teach Christians surfaced in the wake of the war. In an article that appeared in Eternity in August of 1967, author G. Douglas Young, director of the American Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem and professor of the Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois, urged “conservative Christians” to remember that “God still has something to teach us through the Jewish people”—a conclusion liberal Protestants had earlier embraced. Young concluded his article with a final reminder to his readers that “God is speaking to us today through them.”46 Young reaffirmed the significant shift evangelicals had undertaken in their approach to Jews and Judaism: both the individuals and the faith should be protected and celebrated as integral parts of the Christian story.

Ecumenical Implications of the War

As noted above, the reaction of liberal Protestants to the events of June 1967 resulted in a split in liberal Protestantism. Those liberal Protestants who had historically supported Israel, including former ACPC members, continued to voice their support for Israel and unequivocally condemned the Arab provocation. Other liberals who had appeared critical of Israel before the hostilities grew increasingly so in the war’s aftermath. As a result, the previous decade’s advances in improved Jewish-Christian dialogue halted, as American Jews voiced their consternation over the Protestant establishment’s inability or unwillingness to support the Israeli cause. Some liberal Protestants, such as Martin Marty, denied the Jewish claim of Christian silence and pointed out that because of the fractured nature of Protestantism, no single body could speak for all American Protestants. Moreover, he explained, events happened (p.146) so quickly that convening a committee on short notice to produce a unified statement condemning Arab hostility proved impossible.

Regardless, mainline Protestantism’s self-assessment of the importance of the State of Israel and the continued problem of antisemitism in traditional Protestant theology took on new significance. Even if some liberal Protestants condemned Israeli action, they nonetheless recognized the need to address Israel theologically in a more systematic manner. Ironically, as relations cooled between American Jews and their liberal Protestant counterparts in the war’s wake, liberal Protestant theologians prolifically engaged the theological and political significance of Israel’s rebirth.

Unlike the evangelical and fundamentalist journals, liberal Protestants had, especially prior to the Six-Day War, eschewed theological engagement of the significance of Israel, often remaining entrenched in the traditional teachings of supercessionism that relegated Israel to theological insignificance. Israeli control over Jerusalem and larger areas of the Holy Land prompted a flood of theological reevaluations. Although theological reassessments of historic Christian antisemitism had occurred with increasing frequency in the preceding decades, the war opened a torrent of new concern. Moreover, constant Jewish comparisons of Christian silence on the eve of the 1967 War with Christian silence during the Holocaust led to one of the most significant outcomes of the 1967 War: the beginning of liberal Protestantism’s assessment of the role of Christian theology in the perpetration of the Holocaust and a continued engagement with the reality of Christian antisemitism. While the political issues surrounding the war divided many liberal Protestants, attempts to engage the Christian responsibility in the Holocaust began.

In countless articles appearing in a wide variety of journals, including the Christian Century, the Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Interpretation, International Review of Missions, and Theological Studies, Protestant and Jewish theologians offered a wide-ranging interpretation of the importance of the Six-Day War in Christian theology, the need for improved Jewish-Christian relations, Christian guilt regarding the Holocaust, and issues of antisemitism versus anti-Zionism. Journals confronted theological tugs-of-war over the correct Christian interpretation of events and behavior in the war’s aftermath. Books appeared by Abraham Joshua Heschel, Markus Barth, and others that presented new Jewish and Christian theologies concerning Jews, Judaism, and Israel. Theologians discussed the Christian’s responsibility in preventing further conflict and issues of supercessionism and its political implications, and offered methods for improving dialogue without conceding principles.47 American Jews, though frustrated by liberal Protestants’ prewar lack of response, (p.147) responded nonetheless to the new ecumenical spirit by encouraging the increased interest in Israel’s theological significance to Christians while simultaneously affirming the reality of Israel’s existence and the need for its security.

Often articles addressing theological issues also proposed political solutions. In an article for the Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Markus Barth suggested creating a federation of the Holy Land, in which the Israelis would relinquish their “Jewish character and name” in exchange for peace. He argued that politics, foreign policy, and religious dialogue, so intimately connected, could be separated only at great peril to each. “It might appear that the political and the theological issues just described were unrelated to one another,” he noted, “but it is more probable that they are closely connected. The Israeli-Arab conflict … has a theological core which makes it as acid and acrid as it is. Theology and politics, matters of faith and questions of daily conduct can by no means be left in separate compartments. The threatened futures of the Israeli state, but equally the impossible future of the present curtailed to Jordan, require that Christians take a stance in these issues.” Barth concluded: “Unless they seek a strengthening of faith, they will be incapable of finding a solid footing.”48

In the summer of 1968 an article in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies by a Dutch Protestant theologian, H. Berkhof, encouraged Protestants to more actively engage the question of the theological significance of the modern nation of Israel. Disagreements about the place of Israel in Christian theology had resulted in two positions, Berkhof argued: the idea that the Church had replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people, thereby effectively severing any theological relevance of the Jews or the nation of Israel to the Christian Church today; or the position that modern Israel represented the literal fulfillment of biblical prophecy and therefore existed as an integral part of God’s plan for the world. Addressing both positions, Berkhof argued for a middle ground that denied literal interpretations of Scripture with regard to Israel but recognized, as the theologian Karl Barth insisted, that “the Jews are the other half of God’s people” and that geography remained a relevant and vital part of understanding God’s plan for the world, and Israel in particular.49

Israelis could teach the modern nations much about the fallacy of nationalism: both in their extreme Zionist position and in their easy acceptance of dual loyalty (to Israel and to their nations of origin). Berkhof concluded his article by urging Christians to engage the theological significance of Israel more deeply, to resist the extreme supercessionist theologies of Arab Christians, to prevent the Six-Day War from dominating religious discussions, and to engage the question among Christians first. Excluding Jews from these initial theological engagements would make some uncomfortable, Berkhof (p.148) acknowledged, “but at the same time they will be convinced that such conversations will necessarily create a wholesome feeling of incompleteness in the ecumenical movement—a feeling which is yet absent.”50

Professor of rabbinics and theology at Hebrew Union College, Jakob Petuchowski applauded Berkhof’s prescription for intra-Christian conversations on the role of Israel and the Jews in modern theology. “From the wide range of options available on the Christian continuum, he chooses the one which is most favorable to the Jews and most in accord with the reality of Jewish existence,” Petuchowski noted.51 Yet, as Petuchowski pointed out, Berkhof himself admitted that such theological wrangling constituted intra-Christian problems rather than interfaith ones. Petuchowski listed the issues he would like Christians to recognize: that “Jews are not pagans,” that Christianity did not supersede the special relationship between Jews and God, and that the joint biblical heritage possessed by both Jews and Christians is significant. He condemned the Christian criterion of assessing Israel’s significance only from the perspective of the fulfillment of “the Christian playwright’s script.”52 He pragmatically noted, however, that “to the extent to which the church still wields some political influence, it cannot be a matter of indifference to the Jew just how the church manages to come to terms with the reality of the State of Israel.”

The readers of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies were further challenged to confront the meaning of Israel and its implications for Jewish-Christian dialogue in an article by Rabbi Jacob Agus of the Beth El Congregation in Baltimore, Maryland. Clearly, Agus argued, the Six-Day War had forced Christians to address the issue of Israel’s theological importance: “was Israel a sign of the eschaton, just another nation-state, or a new ecumenical opportunity presenting itself?” Agus acknowledged that the Christian response in the United States to the Six-Day war presented a stumbling block to interfaith dialogue. Jews viewed the war as a threat of annihilation, whereas “Christian churchmen tended to disregard the Arab threats as idle rhetoric53 Both Jews and Christians must “abandon their medieval conceptions” regarding each other and recognize the spiritual significance each faith offered the other. Israel remained partly a Christian creation, after all, argued Agus:

Christian sympathy generated that atmosphere of international acceptance which made the homeland possible. Moshe Sharett, the one-time Foreign Secretary of Israel, noted after a journey through Asia and Africa that wherever the Bible was unknown, the Zionist movement was totally incomprehensible. Sympathy for the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine could only have emerged in cultures that were rooted in the Scriptures.54

(p.149) Agus’s analysis points to a bold implication—that without Christian sympathy for Zionism, Israel’s existence might not have occurred. In the year following the 1967 War, then, some mainline Protestants like Agus offered a direct connection between Christianity and Zionism.

American Jewish reaction to the Christian response to the Six-Day War revealed deep divisions within the community over the proper Jewish and Christian response to the event.55 Two pamphlets published in 1968 revealed the split among American Jews, each offering radically different assessments of the role Israel should play in Jewish-Christian dialogue.56 The first, written for a primarily Christian audience, protested the silence of official Protestantism on the eve of the war and insisted that Israel’s establishment and victory in the war “should be celebrated by Jews as an act of God comparable to the Exodus.”57 The other pamphlet, written by Michael Selzer of the American Council of Judaism, conversely ascribed no theological importance to either Israel’s establishment or the war and lamented the assertion that American Jews held a vested interest in Israeli matters. Furthermore, Selzer decried the supposition of American Jews that religious dialogue “be predicated on the political endorsement of the State of Israel’s actions.”

For one Christian reviewer of the pamphlets, three factors complicated Christian participation in interreligious conversations about Israel: Christian guilt over the Holocaust, “our political ineptitude on the onset of the June 1967 war,” and concern for the plight of Arab refugees.58 The reviewer condemned the idea that the starting point for Jewish-Christian dialogue in the United States should come at the cost of “an uncritical acceptance of everything which the State of Israel does.” Ultimately, the reviewer concluded, “perhaps we can atone for our guilt” by insisting to government officials that Israel’s existence remained nonnegotiable. Yet Christians retained the moral imperative to care for the Arab refugees from Israeli wars and to “save the Arabs from the Jews, and vice versa.”59

According to Abraham Heschel, Christian celebration of Israel’s establishment and survival followed an important tradition of the early Church as revealed in the Book of Acts: “The Apostles were Jews and evidently shared the hope of their people of seeing the kingdom of God realized in the restoration of Israel’s national independence.”60 Heschel pointed to Luke 17, verses 20–21: “Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled”—a favorite of fundamentalists—as evidence that Christianity contained its own emphasis on the restoration of the nation of Israel. Heschel’s point would have found a ready and sympathetic audience in the evangelical and fundamentalist persuasions. Clearly, however, his (p.150) article—appearing in a liberal ecumenical journal—was intended to address traditional liberal Christian objections. For Heschel, Protestants must accept Israel’s theological significance to Judaism for real dialogue to begin, and should also recognize the messianic importance of Israel and Jerusalem in their own eschatology. Throughout his analysis, Heschel clearly pointed to the reality of the Holocaust as proof of the necessity of Israel’s establishment. As noted above, he rejected the idea that Israel served as “an atonement.” The relationship between the Holocaust and Israel’s establishment. however, could not be fully understood apart from each other.

In an editorial appearing in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Elwyn Smith pointed out that recent events in the Middle East had prompted new interest in evaluating the significance of the Holocaust: “What is notable at the present moment is that many who had never regarded the holocaust as a personal concern are changing.”61 More Christians now recognized that “the holocaust was precisely a Christian catastrophe.” Smith surveyed the role of Christianity in Germany in perpetuating the Holocaust and, though challenging the argument that Christianity led directly to the murder of six million Jews in Europe, he noted that Christians’ lack of effort to systematically protest or prevent it must be considered a failure. Christian theology could be partially blamed, however: “only too frequently Christian theology and attitude have been prone to see in disasters to Jews further proof that God is displeased with their failure to recognize Jesus as Messiah.”62 Such an attitude prevented Christians from acknowledging their inability to “love thy neighbor”—the most basic of Christian principles—and resulted in the failure to pass “the terrible test” of the Holocaust. Christians should recognize that standing with the Jews whenever they are in peril constituted a basic fulfillment of the biblical command. “Who would have thought that it could now be seen that insofar as Christians willingly share with Jews a common human fate amid the vagaries of politics, they stand more faithfully with their own biblical Word and Gospel?” Smith asked. “Perhaps,” he concluded, “that is what the holocaust should mean to them.”63

In the summer of 1970 the Christian Science Monitor published a five-part series titled “The Judeo-Christian Dialogue” that considered the importance of continuing attempts to recognize antisemitism within Christianity and eliminate it in order to foster improved relations between Christians and Jews. The first article, written by Louis Garinger, the religious affairs editor, noted that the Six-Day War presented “the most serious threat to improved Jewish-Christian relations.”64 Jews viewed the war as a war for Israel’s survival and “expected Christians to do likewise.” When American Christians did not respond as (p.151) expected, “Jewish religious leaders found it disillusioning to the point that their ardor for the dialogue cooled considerably.”65 The lack of support from Christians motivated Jewish leaders to encourage Christians to “face the question of Israel and acknowledge what Jews believed to be the justice of their cause.”

Although Garinger noted the recent New York Times advertisement sponsored by Karl Baehr’s Interfaith and University Committee, signed by 250 leading American Protestants, that condemned continuing Arab terrorism on the Israeli-Lebanese border and revealed the concern that many influential Protestants expressed for Israeli security, he also noted the divide that separated many Protestants on the issue.66 “Many Christians,” he noted, “separate Zionism as a political philosophy from Judaism as a religion and condemn the former while sympathizing with the latter.”67 Garinger also noted that while evangelicals and fundamentalist eschewed interfaith dialogue because of their adherence of orthodox Protestant theology, they had nonetheless attacked antisemitism through a variety of methods. He noted the Reverend Billy Graham’s vocal admiration for “his love of the Jewish people and the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem,” the fact that Graham’s son and daughter had worked on an Israeli kibbutz, and that Franklin Graham “served with support forces during the June 1967 war.”68

In his articles, Garinger recounted the long, troubled past of interfaith relations and placed the blame for its history on Christians, who, through traditional theologies, had relegated Jews to theological insignificance at best, or damned them to “divine punishment” (and thereby justified persecution) at worst. Even today, Garinger noted, Americans could witness “verbal antisemitism” in the rhetoric of extreme elements in both the American Right (the John Birch Society) and the Left (the Weathermen, the Revolutionary Youth Movement II, the Young Workers Liberation League, the Young Socialist Alliance, the Black Muslims, and the Black Panthers). Christians should also accept blame, he charged, because “Christian sins of omission” contributed to the existence of antisemitism. “Christians … who failed to speak out or act” in the prevention of the Holocaust facilitated the Jewish persecution.69 More needed to be done to face the troubled past of Jewish-Christian relations and improve outreach efforts to the Jewish community.

Echoing some of Grainger’s concerns about growing anti-Zionism, an article appeared in the Christian Century addressing the growing trend of anti-Zionism within the American Left as a result of the Six-Day War and charged that, although conceivably different from antisemitism, the two were often closely connected. While anti-Zionists “passionately repudiate” any suggestion that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are related, author Alan (p.152) Davies, a Protestant minister, noted, “Anti-Zionism sooner or later reveals a distressing tendency to shade into antisemitism.” Even if Jews themselves are divided on the issue, “every expression of opposition to the Zionist movement everywhere” did not make those criticisms “legitimate.”70 Although Christians may not recognize a “connection between Auschwitz and Israel” or “Auschwitz and Christendom,” Jews did. In order to achieve true dialogue, Protestants must come to terms with the emotional nature of Jewish support for Israel. “It is exceedingly difficult on the emotional level for the victims of the Holocaust to distinguish anti-Zionism from antisemitism, however clear the distinction may seem to gentiles.”71 Moreover, Davies argued, “Christians are confused about Auschwitz. The frequent journalistic comparisons between Zionist militarism and Nazi militarism are instructive. To find Israel in a morally ambiguous situation releases the Christian from thinking too much about Auschwitz and his own vicarious participation in one of the darkest moments in Western history.”72

Davies concluded his article with an admonition to the Christian community: “First, take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s.” Davies’s article highlighted a common theme among pro-Israel mainline Protestants: hypercritical assessments of the state ignored problems faced by American society itself and revealed a tendency to ignore the problems of anti-Judaism inherent in Protestant theology. Protestants could be too quick to offer sweeping indictments of Israel without a deep introspection of their own problems. In short, linking the Holocaust with Protestant attitudes toward Israel and Jews was not just being pushed by the American Jewish community. Loud voices within certain Protestant groups were doing it as well.


By the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, those liberal Protestants who lobbied for increasing American Protestant support for Israel found their concerns shared by a growing number of liberal Protestants—despite bureaucratic and “official” Protestant reluctance to endorse the U.S.–Israeli alliance. “The general responses have been amazingly good,” former ACPC member Franklin Littell wrote to Niebuhr regarding the establishment of the pro-Israel activist group Christians Concerned for Israel. “They strengthen my conviction that once you get behind the bureaucrats in the church boards, there is a vast reservoir of goodwill toward the Holy Land that can be channeled into intelligent and critical support of Israel.”73

(p.153) In the following years, tapping the reservoir of American Protestant support for Israel remained a goal of those liberal Protestants who believed that American Christian support of Israel was a moral imperative. On the theological front, even Protestants who appeared ambivalent or even critical of Israel nonetheless embarked upon urgent reevaluations of traditional Protestant attitudes toward Jews and Judaism—a process that had begun in the 1950s but continued with renewed vigor in the 1960s and 1970s. The frustration that American Jews voiced in response to a lack of Protestant institutional condemnation of Arab provocation resulted in 1967 in a sense of urgency among American Protestant theologians to address the theological significance of Israel and repair the damage to Jewish-Christian relations.

Meanwhile, the excitement over the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War and the capture of Jerusalem pushed evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants toward unqualified support for the Israeli cause. The increasing resemblance of the current map of Israel to the biblical Holy Land catalyzed evangelical Protestants to support the land acquisitions of the Six-Day War as a sign of the fulfillment of biblical prophecy and the coming end of times. While evangelicals did not reevaluate their orthodox theology in response to current events, they nonetheless embraced a new tactic in their missions to the Jews, one that emphasized a common Judeo-Christian heritage and love for Israel. Evangelicals and fundamentalists would continue to employ this strategy, and it would have profound implications in the coming decades for U.S.–Israeli relations and U.S.–Middle East foreign policies. The decline of the influence of liberal Protestants in politics in the 1960s and 1970s would be matched by the political rise of evangelicals and fundamentalists. With new political prowess came a determination to influence foreign affairs on behalf of Israel and in accordance with their understanding of biblical prophecy. Those liberal Protestants who had worked to promote a strong U.S.–Israeli alliance for politically pragmatic and humanitarian reasons found themselves overpowered by an increasingly large and politically engaged group of Protestants who supported Israel for their own eschatological reasons. (p.154)


(1.) John F. Walvoord, “The Amazing Rise of Israel!” Moody Monthly, (October 1967): 22.

(2.) Robert J. Donovan and the Staff of the Los Angeles Times, Six Days in June: Israel’s Fight for Survival (New York: Signet Books, 1967): 157–160.

(4.) Ibid., 10.

(5.) Ibid., 98.

(6.) Official U.S. and Israeli investigations of the USS Liberty event concluded that the attack was accidental and reflected problems of communication and misidentification in the midst of battle. Some members of the U.S. intelligence community disputed the official conclusion.

(7.) George T. Hilliard, Letter to the Editor, Boston Herald (June 12, 1967), Small collections 11590, Box No. 2286, Jacob Rader Marcus Center for the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio.

(8.) The noted religious historian Martin E. Marty published the transcript of an interview he conducted with an Israeli in 1969 that addressed the perceived silence of the American churches on the eve of the Six-Day War. When the Israeli mentioned the silence of the churches, Marty replied: “I’ve never been able to accept all the criticism of Christians that followed upon that war. American Jews do not understand how hard it is for Protestants to speak out officially on anything! We Protestants are still not urban, not concentrated, not authorized to ‘speak out’—and certainly cannot mobilize much within six days! Martin E. Marty, “Christians and Jews: An Inconclusive Quest for Accord,” Christian Century (12 February 1969): 206–207.

(9.) “Staff Safe, Hospital Damaged in Middle East War,” Lutheran (5 July 1967): 24.

(10.) Ibid., 25.

(11.) “Churches Seek Lasting Peace in Settlement of Mid-East War,” Lutheran (19 July 1967): 24. (p.234)

(12.) The Lutheran reported the remarks of Abraham Soetendorp, chairman of one of England’s Israel emergency committees, who added, “In a day when we speak about the dialog between Jews and Christians, it is disappointing to find that in a time of mortal danger for the Jewish community, the church does not stand behind the Jews.” Los Angeles rabbi Balfour Brickner, the journal noted, also argued that “organized American Christianity failed to give Israel visible support” (ibid.).

(13.) “World Concern Focused on Fate of Jerusalem,” Lutheran (2 August 1967): 25.

(14.) J. A. Sanders, “Urbis and Orbis: Jerusalem Today,” Christian Century (26 July 1967).

(15.) “Jews in Old Jerusalem! A Historic Re-Entry,” Christianity Today (23 June 1967): 38.

(16.) Advertisement in New York Times (12 July 1967).

(17.) Reinhold Niebuhr, “David and Goliath,” Christianity and Crisis (26 June 1967): 141.

(18.) Ibid., 142.

(19.) John Bennett, the acting editor of Crisis, appeared more circumspect in his reaction. Bennett addressed the apparent contradiction in the American response to intervention in Israel but growing calls for withdrawal from Vietnam. The two cases were different, Bennett argued, since “Israel was threatened with extermination [and] no one threatens the extermination of South Vietnam. To aid Israel would be to help an existing nation to defend itself, to be itself.” Yet the victory had placed a burden on Israel, Bennett charged, to address the problem of the Arab refugees as magnanimously as possible, and thereby earn improved relations with her Arab neighbors. The United States should assist Israel in alleviating its plight and, therefore, by extension, improve its international reputation. Bennett insisted, however, that the Arab/Soviet attempt to label Israel as the aggressor “would seem to most of us in the West to be so one-sided that it would discredit the General Assembly at a time when the UN is desperately needed as a means of overcoming American unilateralism.” John Bennett, “Further Thoughts on the Middle East,” Christianity and Crisis (26 June 1967): 142.

(20.) Alan Geyer, “Christians and ‘The Peace of Jerusalem,’” Christianity and Crisis. (10 July 1967): 161.

(21.) Balfour Brickner, “No Ease in Zion for Us,” Christianity and Crisis (18 September 1967): 200.

(22.) The remainder of Brickner’s lengthy article addressed the hurt the Jewish community felt at Protestant silence on the eve of the 1967 War and explanations for Jewish responses to both the war and its criticism of the American Christian community. Ibid., 202–203.

(23.) John Bennett answered Brickner’s plea for greater Protestant understanding about the war by insisting that Christianity and Crisis had, in fact, “emphasized the right of Israel to live” on the eve of the war. Bennett noted that the editorial board was “at first controlled by the fear that she might be annihilated and that the Jews as a people might suffer another holocaust.” Bennett pointed out that major Protestant organizations had remained neutral in their response but that major Protestant leaders had expressed their solidarity with Israel. Nonetheless, of most concern to “Protestantism” now, after the Israeli victory, remained the fate of the territories acquired by conquest. Bennett insisted that “we cannot proceed as though Israel as a modern nation has a biblical deed to Jerusalem.” Israel, Bennett explained, should hold onto the newly acquired territories only long enough to use them to negotiate for peace with her Arab neighbors. John C. Bennett, “Theological Premises Must Not Override Issues of Justice: A Response to Rabbi Brickner,” Christianity and Crisis (18 September 1967): 204–205. (p.235)

(24.) Willard G. Oxtoby, “What Is the Christian Stake in a Jewish Dream?” Presbyterian Life (1 July 1967): 26.

(26.) Ibid., 27.

(27.) Ibid., 28.

(28.) “Bible Prophecy and the Mid-East Crisis” (transcript of radio broadcast), Moody Monthly (July/August 1967): 22.

(29.) Ibid., 24.

(30.) John F. Walvoord, “The Amazing Rise of Israel!” Moody Monthly (October 1967): 22.

(31.) Ibid., 25.

(32.) Hal Lindsay, “The Pieces Fall Together,” Moody Monthly (October 1967): 28.

(33.) Noel Smith, “The Israel State Today: They Are There in Unbelief; What Lies Ahead for Them?” Bible Baptist Tribune (June 30, 1967): 1.

(34.) Raymond Cox, “Eyewitness: Israel,” Eternity (July 1967): 6–8.

(35.) Yet not every article concerning the prophetic importance of the war found an unequivocally positive response. One author, William Sanford LaSor, appeared more cautious in ascribing biblical significance to the events of June. He insisted that the question of whether the current Israeli state should consider the former boundaries of the ancient nation of Israel demanded a careful assessment: “At present, I am not willing to concede that the State of Israel is to be identified as the Israel described in Holy Scripture. But at the same time, I am willing to admit that it seems quite likely that the regathering of the Jews, the establishment of the State of Israel, and the almost incredible military successes of Israeli armies against what appeared to be overwhelming odds, are somehow to be related to God’s promises.” Christians should remember, even “in the excitement of studying signs of the times,” that their purpose remained in doing “the will of God. And the will of God is to bring men to know Him. We are debtors, not only to the Jew but also to the Arab.” LaSor conceded that “most evangelical Christians are more sympathetic to the Israeli than to the Arabic side of the conflict.” The common biblical heritage, the promise given to Abraham to inhabit the Holy Land, and the American proclivity to “cheer for the under-dog” had eclipsed American Christian duties to the Arab. Both the Jew and Arab deserved Christian consideration, and Christians should remain “positively impartial” encouraging “our own governments to act with the same principles” of concern for both parties. William Sanford LaSor, “Have the ‘Times of the Gentiles’ Been Fulfilled?” Eternity (August 1967): 32.

(36.) “What Made 1967 a Significant Year?” Eternity (January 1968): 6.

(37.) “War Sweeps the Bible Lands,” Christianity Today (23 June 1967): 20.

(38.) Ibid., 21.

(39.) An editorial in Christianity Today argued that the most important consequence that could arise from Jerusalem’s uncertain future would be the creation of greater religious freedom that would allow evangelicals to witness to Israelis more openly. The editors noted that “NCC advisers and consultants are in dire confusion about the Gospel and the Jew. Some contend that to evangelize the Jew is antisemitic; others share [Reinhold] Niebuhr’s notion that Israel is already a segment of Western Christianity. Evangelical Christians consider non-evangelization of the Jew a supreme act of lovelessness. It is important to remember, continued the editorial, “in casting lots for Jerusalem, those who profess to be the friends of freedom ought not to overlook freedom to proclaim the good news.” Editorial, “Casting Lots for Jerusalem,” Christianity Today (18 August 1967): 30. (p.236)

(40.) “God Isn’t Finished,” Moody Monthly (September 1967): 46.

(41.) Louis Goldberg, “The Church That Said ‘Shalom,’” Moody Monthly (September 1967): 54.

(43.) John F. Walvoord, “Will Israel Build a Temple in Jerusalem?” Bibliotheca Sacra (April–June, 1968): 99–106.

(44.) Ibid., 100.

(46.) G. Douglas Young, “Lessons We Can Learn from Judaism,” Eternity (August 1967): 22.

(47.) See, for example, Murray Saltzman, “Will Judaism Survive the Seventies?” Christian Century (4 March 1970): 263–266; Monika Hellwig, “Christian Theology and the Covenant of Israel,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies (winter 1970): 37–55; “Convocation Presses toward a New Theology of Israel,” Christian Century (16 December 1970): 1521–1522; Peter Richardson, Israel in the Apostolic Church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969); Pinchas E. Lapide, “Jesus in Israeli Literature,” Christian Century (21 October 1970): 1248–1253; Johan M. Snoek, The Grey Book: A Collection of Protests against Antisemitism and the Persecution of Jews, Issued by Non-Roman Catholic Churches and Church Leaders during Hitler’s Rule, with an introduction by Uriel Tal (New York: Humanities, 1970); Abraham Joshua Heschel, Israel: An Echo of Eternity (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969); Jacob Agus, “A Jewish Response to Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies (summer 1970): 556–558; Markus Barth, Israel and the Church: Contribution to a Dialogue Vital for Peace (Richmond, VA: John Knox, 1969); Herbert B. Huffmon, “The Israel of God,” Interpretation (23 January 1969): 66–77.

(48.) Markus Barth, “Shall Israel Go It Alone?” Journal of Ecumenical Studies (spring 1968): 346–352.

(49.) H. Berkhof, “Israel as a Theological Problem in the Christian Church,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies (summer 1969): 329–347.

(50.) Ibid., 347.

(51.) Jakob J. Petuchowski, “A Jewish Response to ‘Israel as a Theological Problem in the Christian Church,’” Journal of Ecumenical Studies (summer 1969): 348–353.

(52.) Ibid., 351.

(53.) Jacob Agus, “Israel and the Jewish-Christian Dialogue,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies (winter 1969): 18–36.

(54.) Ibid., 34.

(55.) See, for example, Emil L. Fackenheim, “The People Israel Lives,” Christian Century (6 May 1970): 563–568; Jacob P. Rudin, “On World Reaction to Developments in the Middle East,” Christian Century (22 June 1969): 110; and Stuart Gottlieb, “Judaism, Israel and Conscientious Objection,” Christian Century (3 September 1969): 1136–1137.

(56.) Henry Siegman, ed., The Religious Dimensions of Israel: The Challenge of the Six-Day War (New York: Synagogue Council of America, 1968); and Michael Selzer, Israel as a Factor in Jewish-Gentile Relations in America (New York: American Council of Judaism, 1968).

(58.) Thomas M. Raitt, Journal of Ecumenical Studies (summer 1969): 452.

(60.) Abraham Heschel, “Christian-Jewish Dialogue and the Meaning of the State of Israel,” Cross Currents (fall 1969): 425. (p.237)

(61.) Elwyn A. Smith, “The Christian Meaning of the Holocaust,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies (summer 1969): 419.

(62.) Ibid., 421.

(63.) Ibid., 422.

(64.) Louis Garinger, “A Path away from Bitterness,” Christian Science Monitor (14 August 1970): 2.

(65.) Louis Garinger, “Mideast Clash Muffles Dialogue,” Christian Science Monitor (17 August 1970): 12.

(66.) “A Christian Response to Arab Terrorism,” advertisement sponsored by the Interfaith and University Committee, New York Times (8 May 1970): 14.

(68.) Louis Garinger, “How Various Groups Approach Interfaith Relations,” Christian Science Monitor (25 August 1970): 4.

(70.) Alan T. Davies, “Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, and the Christian Mind,” Christian Century (19 August 1970): 987–989.

(71.) Ibid., 988.

(72.) Ibid., 989.

(73.) Letter from Franklin Littell to Wayne Cowan, 10 April 1972, Reinhold Niebuhr Papers, Box 49, Library of Congress Archives.