Interfaith Institute: Evangelical Christianity, American Politics, and the State of Israel

March 25, 2019

On March 11, Ms. Rebecca Hogg brought eleven seniors to the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation to attend the 59th Annual Interfaith Institute. Each year, the event has a new topic relating to an interfaith issue, and this year’s topic was “Evangelical Christianity, American Politics, and the State of Israel.” The day mainly consists of a keynote speaker, a responder, and a moderator for the session.

This year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Matthew D. Taylor, is a Protestant Scholar at the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies in Towson. His presentation explained how Evangelical Christianity is largely rooted in a Conservative tradition that, in the context of American politics, translates to a Conservative political approach. Evangelical eschatology—the theological study of the end of the world—is often interpreted to include the Jewish people returning to Israel, and it is for this reason, Dr. Taylor argues, that American Conservative Evangelicals in political power wanted to assert a Jewish ownership of Israel.

The responder, Rabbi Geoff Basik from Kol Halev Synagogue, offered his personal opinion on the issue of Israel and the roles of both Evangelicals and Jews within the United States. He asked how Evangelical “values voters” could set aside many important values, such as those of gender equality and democratic government, in the pursuit of a religiously-motivated theory. He concluded by saying that it was paramount that those of the Jewish faith put their values and relationships with the world above any understanding of the end times, and that relationships in life be the main focus of the faith.

The students then went to lunch and discussed what was heard in the previous session. Students from Jemicy School, St. Paul’s School for Girls, and Mercy High School were part of this session. Students discussed preconceptions of the term “evangelical” and thoughts on Israel held prior to the presentation, and then thought about how the presentation may have changed their opinions. Students were then able to write questions to the speakers on index cards to be read at the next session.

The day concluded with a question-and-answer session with the speakers that were heard from throughout the day. Questions varied from congressional elections to religious callings, and the speakers deferred to one another based on their expertise on the topics that were asked about.

The Baltimore Hebrew Congregation holds an Interfaith Institute event annually, and the topics vary each year. This is an opportunity Mercy girls have had many times in the past, and will likely be a great opportunity for more girls to attend on a school trip in the future.

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