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FAITH FRONT

Throwing cold water on the 'hell' gripe

January 29, 2006|Dennis Prager | DENNIS PRAGER'S nationally syndicated radio show is heard daily in Los Angeles on KRLA-AM (870). He may be contacted through his website: www.dennisprager.com.

'They say we're all going to hell!" That is the most frequent complaint Jews make about Christians. And it is the most frequent Jewish objection to Jews who welcome Christian support for Jews and Israel, and who regard Christians as ideological allies on such issues as the need for God in the public square.

"How can you align yourself with people who believe you are going to hell for eternity?" these Jews ask.

Before answering this objection, it is important to make clear that rejection of this belief is one of the few things that Jews share. A core Jewish belief is that God judges non-Jews -- and Jews -- by their actions, by how they behave toward other human beings during their lifetimes.

To Jews as well as to Judaism -- the two are often not in agreement -- the thought that Dr. Jonas Salk, who saved millions from polio, would go to hell for not believing in Jesus while some Nazi murderer could be saved, thanks to his belief in Jesus, is theologically and morally unacceptable.

For Jews, it is axiomatic that people should be judged by their behavior, not their theology.

But guess what? That's exactly what most Jews do to evangelical and other Christians.

The same Jew who passionately and loudly protests Christians who judge people by their theology rather than by their deeds turns around and judges Christians by their theology, not by their deeds.

So the obvious first response to those who ask how a Jew could accept the support of -- let alone offer support to -- Christians who believe all non-Christians go to hell is that a Jew is obliged to judge people by their conduct.

And from a Jewish perspective, the conduct of the great majority of these Christians is worthy of praise, not censure. The millions of Christians who truly care for Israel and the Jewish people -- in the light of precious little reciprocity, one might add -- are extraordinarily decent people.

To dismiss them in the belief that their support of Israel stems from a desire to hasten Armageddon is to malign these Christians.

I have often asked Christians who support Israel and the Jews to explain why. Not one has ever invoked Armageddon.

Rather, they believe that Israel is a democracy that needs to protected from enemies that wish to annihilate it, and that God blesses those who bless the Jews and curses those who curse them.

There is another simple response to this issue: So what?

Why should any Jew be the least disturbed that Christians think all non-Christians will go to hell?

Maybe Jews who are insecure in their beliefs are more easily disturbed by others' beliefs about them. From the day I learned of this belief as a child, it has had no effect on me.

I am not annoyed, and I am certainly not offended -- especially because these Christians so want me not to suffer in hell. We all have beliefs that potentially offend others. What matters always is how others treat us, not the content of their beliefs.

No group today treats Israel and the Jewish people with more sincere affection, not to mention political and financial support, than Christians who believe non-Christians go to hell.

At the same time, many leftists who loathe that doctrine of salvation treat Israel and the Jews awfully.

Jews should be preoccupied with how groups treat them in this world, not where groups think Jews will be in the next one.

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