The tension on the Right between conservative evangelical Christians and conservative Jews–particularly those of the Neoconservative variety–is an old phenomenon, most famously exposed by the so-called Neocon-Theocon dispute of 1996, in which a variety of prominent Neocons took sharp exception to Christian Right suggestions that judicial approval of abortion and gay rights might justify a revolutionary stance.
This tension didn’t, of course, prevent Neocons and Theocons from cheerfully cooperating to develop some of George W. Bush’s most disastrous international and domestic policies. But the bad feelings are re-emerging in the context of Rudy Giulani’s presidential campaign, which has drawn conspicuous Neoconservative support while tempting Christian Right leaders to threaten a third-party run if Rudy is the GOP nominee.
Interestingly enough, the most direct expression of the Neocon-Theocon dispute over Giuliani comes from a Jewish writer, David Klinghoffer, who has penned a National Review article accusing Rudy’s conservative Jewish supporters of elevating the Islamic terrorist over domestic moral-issues considerations in a way that is unfaithful to the Jewish tradition.
Klinghoffer performs this provocative bit of Neocon-baiting by appealing to the example of the Jewish prophets revered by both Christian and Jewish conservatives. As he notes quite cogently, the Prophets typically warned Jews that faithfulness to divine commandments was the best, and indeed the only, defense against foreign threats to Israel, and often treated such threats as God’s punishment for wickedness (though Klinghoffer naturally doesn’t mention it, this was the biblical basis for the infamous reaction of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to 9/11 as retribution for America’s tolerance of abortion and homosexuality).
You certainly don’t have to agree with Klinghoffer to admire his savage use of the prophetic example to skewer the Neocon obsession with the Clash of Civilizations:
Consider Jeremiah, about whose life we know more (from his own writing), than any of his prophetic colleagues. He lived through the sacking of Jerusalem and the leading away to captivity of her people by the empire of Babylon.
In the run-up to this tragedy, was he out banging the drum for a tough anti-Babylonian stance, sponsoring a “Babylo-Fascist Awareness Week” a-la-David Horowitz? No. On the contrary, he was accused of treason by the war party among his fellow Jews. He warned that, in the context of Israel’s corrupt moral culture, it was useless to resist Babylon.
He taught that purifying the culture was the real priority, of which the defense against Babylon was merely a secondary expression.
If and when Rudy Giuliani gets really close to nailing down the Republican presidential nomination, I suspect we will hear echoes of Klinghoffer’s argument from elements of the Christian Right. They may hate and fear Islam, but their deepest hatred is reserved for America’s “holocaust” (to use Mike Huckabee’s recent term) of abortion and its alleged assaults on the family and people of faith.