Left Behind’s Anti-Semitism: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Frank Schaeffer has written a great piece for the Huffington Post on the End Times theology which drove the Michigan Hutaree Militia.

The article draws direct ties between the mainstreaming of End Times theology and the trend towards violence which we are witnessing in the far-right wing of the American political spectrum.  But Schaeffer fails, in my opinion, to fully address the anti-Semitism which sits under the surface with the Tea Party movement and right-wing militias.

Schaeffer does mention the significance of anti-Semitic and white supremacist ideologies for Holocaust museum shooter James Von Brunn.

Sometimes right-wing paranoia takes an ugly twist. A website maintained by James Von Brunn, an avowed racist and anti-Semite well known to the netherworld of white supremacy — and the assassin who killed a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in June of 2009 — said that Brunn tried to carry out a “citizen’s arrest” in 1981 on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, whom he accused of “treason.” When he was arrested outside the room where the board was meeting, he was carrying a sawed-off shotgun, a revolver, and a knife. Police said he planned to take members of the Fed hostage.

Von Brunn’s actions represent some of the more extreme factions of the far-right but the belief in End Times theology, and the associated anti-Semitism and Christian Supremacism, is becoming dangerously mainstream.

At the heart of the mainstream End Times theology is the Left Behind empire of books and movies which have reached a truly staggering level of acceptance in our society.

As a relatively young observer of this phenomenon, I vividly remember seeing the Left Behind books read in my high school and enjoyed by people who I hadn’t thought of as right-wing evangelicals or “end timers”.

Schaeffer is right to point out that the books promoted violence and a sense of persecution amongst evangelicals, but what struck me upon finally reading the first book was the thinly veiled anti-Semitism which seemed to be a recurring theme throughout the narrative.

The ADL expressed their reservations about the series in 2004.

Among those who have followed the series, there are varying opinions as to whether it is anti-Semitic. The fact that reasonable observers, both in and outside the church, have characterized as hostile to Jews some of the most successful books of the past decade suggests that these novels pose unusually subtle questions about what it means to be unfriendly to Jews.

The contention is not that the Left Behind cycle is explicitly derogatory and stereotyped – it is not. It describes, however, a world in which Jews are not as fully human as Christians – unless they become Christians.

Since the 1980s, forming alliances with the evangelical far-right has meant turning a blind-eye towards the anti-Semitism which increasingly bubbles to the surface.

Irving Kristol deserves much of the credit for linking the neoconservatives and the evangelical movement back in 1984.  But even then, Kristol found himself having to excuse patently anti-Semitic remarks made by his supposed allies.

Max Blumenthal writes:

Kristol’s apologia was inspired by the anti-Semitic ravings of a preacher named Bailey Smith. “I don’t know why God chose the Jews,” Smith had said. “They have such funny noses.” When Jewish groups pounced on those remarks and on those of Jerry Falwell, who told his followers that Jews “can make more money accidentally than you can on purpose,” Kristol rushed to the preachers’ defense.

“Why should Jews care about the theology of a fundamentalist preacher when they do not for a moment believe that he speaks with any authority on the question of God’s attentiveness to human prayer?” Kristol wrote. “And what do such theological abstractions matter as against the mundane fact that this same preacher is vigorously pro-Israel?”

While being “pro-Israel” and Islamophobic seem to be well accepted within the far-right, openly anti-Semitic language or ideas are still frowned upon.  But according to a recent Gallup poll (Daniel Luban wrote about if for LobeLog) “the strongest predictor of prejudice against Muslims is whether a person holds similar feelings about Jews.”

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.