The results made public Thursday of a nationwide survey of evangelical and fundamentalist Christian attitudes towards Jews challenge some commonly held assumptions, according to the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith which commissioned the poll.
Conducted telephonically among a sampling of 1,000 religiously conservative Christians in September and October by the Houston-based Tarrance, Hill, Newport and Ryan research organization, the survey revealed that most of them do not “consciously use their deeply-held Christian faith and conviction as justification for anti Semitic views of Jews.”
The survey sampling was made up of 36 percent Baptists, 12 percent Methodists, 10 percent Lutherans, 7 percent members of the Church of Christ and the remainder included other Protestant evangelicals such as Pentecostal, Mormon and Assembly of God.
SOME OF THE ATTITUDES
Ninety percent disagreed with a statement that “Christians are Justified in holding negative attitudes towards Jews since the Jews Killed Christ,” five percent agreed and five percent said they were “unsure.”
Twenty-four percent felt that God views Jews “more favorably than other non-Christians” based on their belief that “Jews are God’s chosen people” and the fact that Jesus was himself a Jew. Ten percent felt that God views Jew “less favorably than other non-Christians.”
Eighty-six percent disagreed with the assertion that “God does not hear the prayer of a Jew,” a statement that was originally made in 1981 by the then president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Rev. Bailey Smith. Only 12 percent agreed with this statement.
Sixty-eight percent said Jews are viewed by God “no differently than other non-Christians” because they have not accepted Jesus, 20 percent said they may be judged “more harshly” and 12 percent were “unsure.”
PART OF AN ONGOING ANALYSIS
ADL national director Nathan Perlmutter said the survey is part of the agency’s ongoing analyses of Christian attitudes toward Jews and that many of the findings of this particular poll are significant in view of the increased prominence in recent years of religiously conservative Christians in this country — “a group about which Jews have expressed apprehension.” He added:
“While there are areas of important disagreement between the Jewish community and evangelicals and fundamentalists, such as prayer in schools and the teaching of evolution, these reflect differing values. Their support of voluntary prayer in the school, for instance, is no more necessarily anti-Semitic than our opposition to prayer is anti-religious. In a culturally pluralistic society, it is possible to be at opposite ends of an issue without religious bigotry being operative.” Perlmutter cited as “troubling” the survey’s finding that although 57 percent of the sampling revealed no secular anti-Semitic attitudes as measured by their responses to seven statements in an “anti-Semitic index,” 22 percent agreed with one of the anti-Semitic characterizations and another 21 percent with two or more. Only five percent of those surveyed accepted four or more of the statements as valid.
It was found that 49 percent of those between 18 and 34 years of age agreed with at least one of the anti-Semitic characterizations compared to 34 percent of those 55 and over.
The survey noted a statistically significant relationship between belief in a literal reading of the Bible and expression of one or more secular anti-Semitic views.
The seven statements reflected stereotypical attitudes towards Jews, including the following: “because Jews are not bound by Christian ethics, they do things to get ahead that Christians generally do not do,” 27 percent agreed; “Jews are tight with money,” 51 percent agreed; “Jews want to remain different from other people, and yet they are touchy if people notice these differences,” 39 percent agreed; “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the U.S.,” 27 percent agreed.
SOME “POSITIVE” TRAITS
But, sizeable percentages of those who accepted these characterizations felt they were “positive” traits. For example, of those who believe “Jews are tight with money,” 60 percent thought that was a positive trait. On the statement about greater loyalty to Israel, 49 percent of those who agreed thought it was a positive trait and 30 percent of those who saw Jews as wanting to be “different,” viewed the characteristic positively.
On their perceptions of how much power is wielded in America today by six selected groups-big business, organized labor, Arabs, Catholics, Blacks and Jews — 67 percent thought big business has too much power; 55 percent cited organized labor; 38 percent, Arabs; 23 percent, Catholics; 11 percent said Blacks have too much power; 31 percent felt Blacks do not have enough power; 7 percent said Jews have too much power and 11 percent said they have too little power.
“The findings on Blacks and Jews,” Perlmutter said, “are particularly instructive. The old canard that Jews have too much power in this country is overwhelmingly rejected by the interviewees. Regarding Blacks, the fact that nearly a third of the sample, the largest percentage by far, felt that they do not have enough power suggests that the view that evangelicals and fundamentalists are disinterested in the Blacks’ struggle for social justice may not be justified.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.