Millennial crazies not just in Israel

As the millennium approaches, the religious crazies are coming out of the woodwork.

Certainly, the most obviously threatening are groups like the Denver-based Concerned Christians, suspected of planning violent actions in Jerusalem to bring about the return of Jesus.

Fortunately, Israeli authorities were able to round up 14 of the members in Jerusalem. But whether there are other groups plotting mayhem remains an unknown.

In fact, the majority of Christians who are gathered in Jerusalem to greet the millennium may have beliefs that are alien to us, but most don't pose a physical threat.

Less overtly perilous but perhaps more insidious are the threats to Judaism in our own country, represented by the Rev. Jerry Falwell's latest remark about the Antichrist. At a gathering in Tennessee, he said, "The only thing we know is he must be male and Jewish."

Such statements are troubling because Falwell has the ears of a small but significant segment of Americans who see Jews as pawns in the Christian crusade to take control of Israel and establish a theocracy. Their long-range goal is to turn both Israel and the United States into Christian countries.

Many Christian right organizations pose as friends to Israel, with Holy Land missions that bring in significant tourist dollars. But any group that has as its mission the destruction of the Jewish people — through violence or assaults on their beliefs — is no friend.

Falwell's remarks are also troubling because they illustrate a lack of respect for the Jewish people, and spawn the worst kind of intolerance. His statement "borders on anti-Semitism at best and is anti-Semitic at worst," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Phil Baum, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, said such views "will have an inevitably incendiary and degrading effect on Christian attitudes toward Jews."

While we recognize that Israel knows its enemies all too well, perhaps it's time for Israel to take a closer look at its friends. And on the home front, we call upon mainstream Christians to denounce not only the forces that are overtly threatening Israel but those that are undermining the Jewish people and religious pluralism worldwide.