Another reader writes this week with a question about the “anti-Semitism” of the Alt Right. The reader seems to equate orthodox Christian belief with friendliness and good will towards the Jewish people. Presumably the reader is sympathetic with Alt Right positions on immigration and race but is having qualms with the common anti-Jewish sentiment.
First, I would encourage the reader to study the history of dispensationalism, which is the theological position that the Jews remain God’s chosen people. Like many in today’s evangelical church, I am guessing the reader believes that dispensationalism is equivalent to the Christian faith. There are many online critiques of dispensationalism (Google “problems with dispensationalism” and the like) so I will not detour into a theological refutation. I am personally not a dispensationalist, and I came to this conviction after realizing that it is a relatively recent theological innovation, not even 200 years old. Most Christians for most of church history have adhered to a view that the Church represents the ultimate fulfillment of Old Testament Israel. I am satisfied with that interpretation.
Nevertheless, just because a doctrine is new does not mean it is necessarily wrong, so I will delve into the Scriptures just a bit. The primary tension between dispensationalism and older views are certain passages in Romans that seem to imply a Judeo-centric “plot” to the Gospel. Romans 11 is probably the strongest passage implying the dispensationalist position. I would argue that the entire debate over dispensationalism is essentially whether one uses Romans 11 as a base text to interpret the entire book of Galatians, or if one uses the entire book of Galatians to interpret Romans 11. That requires a judgment call, as the fundamental rule of proper Bible interpretation is that clear passages must be used to interpret unclear passages. Galatians, in my view, makes it very clear that the Church is the true Israel:
21 Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman [r]was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 [s]This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children [t]who are to be slaves; [u]she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; [v]she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
“Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear;
Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor;
For more numerous are the children of the desolate
Than of the one who has a husband.”
28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30 But what does the Scripture say?
“Cast out the bondwoman and her son,
For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, [w]but of the free woman.
In this passage, Paul compares the Jews according to the flesh in Jerusalem to Hagar and Ishmael, who are to be cast out in favor of the children of the spirit, the Church.
Others, however, might believe that Romans 11 is the clearer passage. My personal interpretation here is not that the Jews retain any special status, but rather a specific prophecy that God will, at some point in the future, convert a significant number of Jews to the Gospel. This does not imply all of the other strange doctrines of dispensationalism, such as the reinstitution of temple sacrifices and the Mosaic law for a set period before a global World War against a reconstituted nation of Israel.
I have a good friend who is Alt-Right, JQ aware, and a dispensationalist. How does he reconcile the two views? He hangs his hat on Romans 11:28:
“As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs”
My friend argues that the fundamental error in dispensationalism, practically speaking, is not their particular eschatological beliefs but rather their deliberate ignoring of this instruction by Paul that the Jews remain “enemies.” Dispensationalists are constantly “jumping the gun” so to speak, hoping to accelerate Christ’s return through this or that political maneuver involving the Jews. However, if dispensationalists followed what the Bible actually says, there is no actual conflict in seeing Jews in their particular way and simultaneously treating Jews as enemies of the gospel for the time being.
Americans, it seems, have a particular attraction for apocalyptic cults, perhaps because of our overly optimistic tendencies. Instead of facing the fear and reality of death, many of us have been tempted into thinking the end of the world was nigh, and the idea of being raptured sounds better than old age. The dispensationalist eschatology was also formed in reaction to liberal theology, as a desperate attempt to take the Bible as “literally” as possible as a bulwark against progressivism. Later, it morphed into an escapist mechanism for Christians afflicted with despair about the state of the modern world.
Hardcore dispensationalism today is in decline, as newer scholars in the tradition eschew the date setting and Middle East politics of the older generation. “Progressive dispensationalism” is the order of the day, as a face-saving bridge between the cringe-worthy embarrassments of the past without the need to repudiate the doctrine wholesale.
To return to my reader’s inquiry, if you remain convinced of dispensationalism, this does not necessarily preclude an Alt-Right awareness of the Jewish Question. That Jews might support destructive, even Satanic, policies is fully compatible with dispensationalism. Romans 11 speaks of a hardening and darkening of the hearts of the Jews, until some point in the distant future. Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 further elucidates what this hardening entails, that the Jews are “hostile to all men” and that God’s wrath has coming upon them “to the utmost.” There is no theoretical or ethical problem with simultaneously not persecuting Jews while at the same time preventing Jews from enacting destructive, Satanic policies. A family with a child suffering from a severe mental illness might love that child, want the best for that child, yet still seek to restrain and prevent that same child from hurting himself or others due to his condition.
There are many variants on the Alt Right regarding this question and in its most basic and broad form it asserts that Jews have a paranoid tendency to seek to undermine Western societies. These patterns are strong and objectively verifiable for anyone who seeks the truth. Jews are simply overrepresented in every area of destructive liberal ideology.
I am personally not a Semitic determinist, in that I think individual Jews can deviate from and break this pattern. Stephen Miller is great example of this. Steve Sailer has posited a hope that Jews can see their own self-interest here, as an America that has always tolerated and rewarded them is a much better risk than the multi-racial, largely anti-Semitic world their destructive immigration and cultural policies are bringing about.
The Alt-Right’s supposed anti-Semitism is largely explained by the hypocrisy of American Jews who advocated nationalist policies for Israel, including a border wall, while undermining the American nation at home. The Alt Right is also annoyed at the virtual deification of the Jewish people and the intolerance visited upon anyone who notices patterns about Jewish involvement in liberal causes. What may most bother my reader is the over-the-top semi-ironic anti-Semitic memes. These are best understood as transgressive humor designed to mock and tear down the idols of our society, which includes the worship of and inability to criticize Jews, and especially the elevation of the Holocaust as the central event of history and the sole source of moral authority in an otherwise amoral world. They have more to do with troll culture than actual serious policy positions (see my first post on describing the Alt Right).
There is some hopeful evidence, in my view, of a divergence in the Jewish community. The smarter, conservative Israeli Jews may be beginning to realize that their Western brethren are fully invested in the death cult of Western liberalism. Netanyahu, a realist Sephardic Jew, is forming alliances with the far right parties of Eastern Europe. Is it possible Israel, in fulfillment of the Zionist dream, is becoming a “normal country” populated by Jews, capable of rational alliances with other states?
These things are still undetermined, but I see no necessary contradiction between the Alt Right understanding of the JQ and philosemitic dispensationalist theology. If anything, we are working to save Jews from their own worst tendencies, and from destroying the society in which they have most thrived historically.