CUFI director stresses importance of working together for Israel
[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]
When David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), came to Louisville on April 21 to speak at “A Night to Honor Israel” at Evangel World Prayer Center, he also came to the Jewish Community Center to speak to members of the Jewish community at a brunch sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council.
Brog’s clear message to the Jewish community at the brunch was CUFI is a one-issue organization. Its sole purpose is to support Israel and it is to the advantage of both the Jewish community and the Christian community to work together on this issue. He shared CUFI’s message in prepared remarks and in answering questions from those in attendance.
Brog was straightforward in addressing issues of concern some members of the Jewish community have raised about working with CUFI, and he posits that much of the discomfort arises from a lack of understanding of the organization.
CUFI is a Christian organization that was founded by Pastor John C. Hagee, the senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, TX, an evangelical congregation. The only activities CUFI engages in are advocating for Israel.
Brog, himself a committed Jew, stated unequivocally that CUFI does not proselytize. He was clear that Christian theology teaches that the only way to salvation is through belief in Jesus and Jewish theology teaches that the messiah has not yet come. Rather than put this issue front and center, CUFI has put its priority on supporting Israel. Its members treat the Jewish community with respect, and on the theological issue of the messiah, they acknowledge the differences and have agreed to disagree.
He acknowledged that there are Christian groups that do believe it is their duty to share their faith and convert Jews, and he pointed to Jews for Jesus as an example, but CUFI understands that such attempts are offensive to the Jewish community and its policy is to disagree on theology.
Brog contends the Jewish community’s concern that CUFI members are engaging them in support of Israel today to open the door to conversion efforts in the future are unfounded. CUFI bases its support for Israel on two principles: Genesis 12:3, which states that those who bless Israel will be blessed and a sense of guilt and shame for the Holocaust.
The guilt that some Christians feel, he explained, is that those responsible for the atrocities were Christian Europeans and many churches did nothing to prevent it. Brog said he often argues that Christians are not responsible for the Holocaust, and CUFI members often take responsibility and apologize for the horrors, and vow never to be silent again.
Another misconception Brog says is common in the Jewish community is that Evangelical Christians support Jews returning to Israel in the belief that it will hasten the end of days and bring the second coming of the messiah.
The Christian belief, he explained, is that God alone sets the timing of the coming of the messiah and people can’t do anything to affect God’s schedule. It is a Jewish concept that the actions of individuals can bring the messiah more quickly.
Again and again, Brog stressed CUFI treats Jews with respect, does not proselytize and is a single issue organization. He challenged the Jewish community to address its own prejudices with respect to Evangelical Christians and to learn more about them.
Some members of the Jewish community have also expressed concern about working with Evangelical Christians on Israel, the one issue about which they strongly agree, when there are many other social issues where they strongly disagree, like gay marriage or abortion.
Neither the Jewish community nor CUFI members are monolithic in their opinions on social issues, Brog pointed out. While many Jews tend to favor liberal positions and many Evangelical Christians come out on the conservative side, there are members of both groups who fall on the other side.
In addition, CUFI’s membership is not limited to Evangelical Christians. Brog described outreach efforts to various ethnic groups and to members of mainstream Christian denominations who are disaffected from their churches’ anti-Israel positions.
Once again, Brog advocated setting aside issues on which people disagree to work together on behalf of Israel. There is no expectation the groups working together in coalition on a specific issue agree on any other issues, he stated.
He also indicated that CUFI, like AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) supports Israel but does not take a stand on Israeli government policy decisions. The decisions on whether to pursue peace with the Palestinians, and if there should be a one- or two-state solution, should be left to Israel’s democratic government, he contends. We don’t live there. How can we determine what’s best for Israel?
Looking at world opinion about Israel, Brog described Europe as “post-Christian,” where a secular viewpoint governs decisions, and the United States as “Christian,” where faith still shapes policy decisions.
That means that Americans tend to give credence to Jewish claims of rights to land in Israel as given by God, where Europeans discount those claims and see the Israelis as occupiers of someone else’s land.
Pro-Palestinian groups have been quick to capitalize on these attitudes. It’s easy to arouse sympathy for the Palestinians by showing a photo of an Israeli soldier with a gun and a cowering Palestinian young woman. It is more difficult for pro-Israel groups to teach the history behind the photo to explain how the Israeli soldier with the gun came to be there and why it is necessary.
Brog identified American college campuses as an important battleground. Young people are less affiliated than prior generations, he contends, and they are more likely to be neutral in their feelings toward Israel. With active propagandists for the delegitimation of Israel on campus, CUFI needs to be on campus to present the pro-Israel side. Currently, there are CUFI chapters on 100 campuses across the country. Brog would like to see that expanded to 1000.
Leon Wahba, the Jewish Community Relations Council’s chair of the Interfaith Relations Subcommittee, indicated that the JCRC is beginning dialogue with CUFI to establish a CUFI chapter on the University of Louisville campus. Most of the time, he said, U of L is quiet, but once a year there is a week that focuses on Israel as an apartheid state. A CUFI chapter could effectively present more balanced information at that time and work on behalf of Israel year ’round.
Wahba also encouraged people to attend the “A Night to Honor Israel” program at Evangel World Prayer Center that evening.
David Brog is the executive director of Christians United for Israel (CUFI). Before CUFI, Brog worked in the United States Senate for seven years, rising to be chief of staff to Senator Arlen Specter and staff director of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He has also served as an executive at America Online and practiced corporate law in Tel Aviv, Israel and Philadelphia, PA.
Brog is the author of Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State (2006) and In Defense of Faith: the Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity (2010). In 2007, the Forward newspaper listed Brog in its “Forward 50” most influential Jews in America. He is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School.
Brog’s biographical information came from www.cufi.org.