On May 27, 2010, we asked readers whether Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, should cover Christian Zionism, and if so, how often. The answer is pretty clear. Of the 112 people who responded, 24% believe we should cover Christian Zionism “frequently,” 44% believe we should cover Christian Zionism “occasionally,” and another 25% thought we should cover the topic “infrequently.” Only 7% of readers said we should never cover this phenomena.
What we take this to mean is that Zeek definitely should cover Christian Zionism, but that we should look carefully at how often we run pieces on this phenomenon and most importantly, why we are running these pieces. A number of readers explained that they liked our coverage, but cautioned that they did not want Zeek to become solely occupied with Christian Zionism to the detriment of our other pieces. As one weekly reader put it, Zeek must make sure that our coverage of Christian Zionism is actually relevant to our larger mission, which is understanding Jewish identity:
I think the most instructive question the E-Board could ask when choosing whether or not to publish on Christian Zionists is “Why?” As in, Why is the topic of Christian Zionism capturing our attention? The answer to that question is going to help determine if the discussion will contribute to the goal of Zeek. Certainly, I’d never encourage anyone to shy away from any topic; I think the frequency at which this topic surfaces is indicative of something more than sheer curiosity. Perhaps exactly what that “something” is only time, and further writing/exploration, will tell. As long as the goals of the inquiry are honest ones that match up to the goals of the publication, the examination of Christian Zionism will continue to be a worthy one.
For readers who wanted to see us publish on the topic frequently, Christian Zionism is in fact a key to understanding American Jewish identity. Many readers said something like this weekly reader of Zeek: Christian Zionism is significant because the movement is defining Jews, Israel, and Zionism for much of the world and politically involved in countering peace efforts. We badly need more information in the Jewish community about the beliefs, motivations, and activism of these organizations which some Israeli and Jewish leaders have chosen to embrace.
Another reader who asked us to publish frequently on the topic felt that Christian Zionism has been ignored for too long: Christian Zionism is the elephant in the room of current questions surrounding Jewish identity. Jews have always been the Other, but what happens when the role has suddenly reversed and we are confronted by Christians in tallit telling you how proud they are to comfort and feed God’s Chosen People? It is a circumstance which we have never experienced and we need more critical dialogue surrounding our engagement with this movement.
This opinion was not, however, universal. Another weekly reader who did think we should publish pieces on Christian Zionism occasionally wrote that it really is not a topic central to Jewish identity: While I think it is important for Jews to understand the mission and outlook of Christian Zionists, I don’t think it is a topic central to Jewish identity. It’s about them, not about us. Politically, it is important because we need to understand the agenda that underlies the hand (and dollars) of “friendship.” But in the end it has almost nothing to do with real Jews. It is about someone else’s fantasy Jews, and face it, other people’s fantasies have never been very good for the Jews.
These nuanced answers match the conversations Zeek staff have been having: many of us feel that Christian Zionism, as a phenomenon, is more than a movement that impacts Israeli-American political relations. By holding a mirror up to Jewish Zionists, the Christian Zionists tell us much about ourselves. Christian Zionism, for example, illuminates the extent to which our “love of Israel” raises a conflict between a nationalist desire to protect the Jewish people (which the Christian Zionists support) and a religious desire to protect Judaism (which cannot drive a movement dedicated to an apocalyptic vision of the Second Coming).
Zeek is not much interested in the self-definition of Christian Zionists, nor in any specific alliances between groups of Christian Zionists and members of the Israeli government. We are, however, interested in an analysis of Christian Zionism as a movement that defines itself in relationship to Jewish Zionism, and in so doing, helps hone our understanding of our own relationship, as Jews, to Zionism and the Israeli project.
Expect, then, to see more stories on Christian Zionism in the future. And yes, for those of you who asked, we will ask Rachel Tabachnick to write for us again.
Meanwhile, another persistent comment came up in our survey that we want to address. I would stop all web development you’re doing right now and focus on a robust commenting section. Debates like this one should be in an open forum, not one-on-one via survey monkey. But of course you know this already and I’m sure you agree… :-)
Yes, we do agree. We did have commenting on our last website, but had to take it off because some of our authors were receiving threats from anonymous commentators. We tried Facebook instead, since that is a forum in which people are necessarily known to each other. However, clearly, you want and need comments on zeek.net. We have decided to put in place Intense Debate, a rich commenting system used by many other sites.
Doing so will strain our resources, however. So we want to ask for your help.If you feel this dialogue on Christian Zionism has been valuable, we’d like to ask you to put in $10 or $20 to support our new commenting system. The total cost of the system will be $750. So if all 112 of you who commented gave us $7, the system would be paid for. You can donate by clicking here.
All money donated as a result of this appeal will be used on our commenting system. If more money is donated than the system costs, we will use it to put in place other interactive features. In fact, if you want to support Zeek and have the means, we are trying to raise an additional $2000 to put in place better tools for multimedia and a better interface for readers. Zeek is a non-profit project of the Foundation for Jewish Culture, so your donation is tax-deductible. You can donate any amount here, or, if you want to make a substantial donation (over $100), you can contact our Executive Director, Jo Ellen, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Again, you can donate by going to https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=40041 or by clicking “Donate to Zeek” in our nav bar.
Thanks for participating in this conversation. We look forward to having many more in the future.
p.s. to tech geeks: Yes, Intense Debate is a free, open source program. However, zeek.forward.com uses an unusual CMS, Symphony. The cheapest estimate we got for integrating ID with Symphony was $750. We know life would be easier and cheaper with a CMS like Wordpress/Drupal/Joomla, but we cannot change our CMS right now. Thanks for asking! Jo Ellen
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