Try this: Ask any fundamentalist Christian why his/her spiritual forebears launched the Inquisition, the Crusades, or the Holocaust. 10 out of 10 will retort, "Those weren't real Christians. Real Christians love the Jews and wouldn't do that." So, what then, do "real Christians" believe about Jews?
written by Mark W. Sanders
As a former fundamentalist minister, I know the answers intimately. I spent years living by one imperative: Preach the Gospel (personal salvation through faith in Christ) to the ends of the earth (to all people everywhere), as outlined in Matthew 28:18. Through this enterprise, I believed that Christians would eventually trigger the second coming of Christ, who could not return to earth till all had heard the Gospel, till the last home and hamlet had been reached. This is the ultimate responsibility of all real Christians (Matthew 24:14). Ask them. They will tell you. Otherwise, they are not truly "Bible believing."
Real Christians affirm that all non-believers are lost. Each must repent or reject in response to hearing the Good News. Paul of Tarsus, who wrote at least 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament, refined the focus, saying "the gospel . . . is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." (Romans 1:16)
Many missions to Jews use this text to validate their outreach. For them, the conversion of the Jew is the top priority in world evangelism. While all souls are important, Jews are most important. Paul hints at a day when the Jews will respond: "Israel has experienced a hardening in part (by rejecting Christ) until the full number of Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved . . ." (Romans 11:26). I myself used these passages in raising funds to evangelize Jewish souls (may G-d forgive me).
Real Christians have a love-hate relationship toward the Jews. While believing the original Hebrew Scriptures to be the infallible and inspired word of God, they also believe the New Testament to be equally, though superceedingly, inspired. This includes Paul's words in which he calls Jews "the enemies of the Gospel." But Paul explains that this had to happen for God's acceptance to be extended to the Gentiles.
Using an olive tree to represent "the people of God," Paul says the natural, cultivated branches (the Jews) were broken off so that wild branches (the Gentiles) could be grafted in. He adds that Jews who come to faith in Christ can be regrafted and thus there will be one reconstituted people of God (Romans 11:17-24).
So, real Christians believe that Jews and Gentiles should become one people, one community of faith. Paul explains "the mystery of Christ . . . is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharing together in the promise in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 3:6). Can you say a-s-s-i-m-i-l-a-t-i-o-n?
Real Christians believe they have replaced the Jews as the chosen people. Peter, one of Jesus' closest disciples, wrote "you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God" (I Peter 2:9). All of these terms were used exclusively of ancient Israel. Look at Exodus 19:5, 6. The borrowing, the redefining, and the conclusions are obvious -- and ominous, as we shall see.
Real Christians believe the Torah is null: "Christ is the mediator of a new covenant that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, now that he has died to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant" (Hebrews 9:15) Real Christians regard observance of the Torah as an impossibly futile exercise. The only value of the Torah is to teach us all that we couldn't keep God's standard and thus needed a savior to rescue us from the penalty of falling short of it.
Lest you think these are harmless theological sound bites, consider the applications of these views. To real Christians, the Jews are currently in a state of spiritual blindness and rebellion and subject to the wrath of God. (An unfortunate percentage believe the Holocaust was a payback for the Jews' role in the crucifixion.) Jews do have value as the former harbingers of God's justice and righteousness, but today they must be absorbed into Christendom to find their real identity. Star Trek fans will discern a Borg-like parallelism in this. (I shudder to think how I contributed to it.)
Over the last 20 years, a multi-million dollar assimilation movement has evolved internationally to woo, win, entice, beguile, or ensnare the secularized Jew, the unaffiliated Jew, the biblically illiterate Jew, the disillusioned Jew. In my church of several thousand members, we had some 600 Jews. I once observed that many of them were not well-adjusted psychologically or emotionally. They had not found a secure place amongst their own families and communities. However, amongst the Christians, each could be a minor celebrity. A converted Jew was awarded special significance; s/he was the fulfillment of the ultimate Christian mitzvah. Looking back, I recall that not one of those 600 converts was from a truly Orthodox Jewish home. Coincidence?
While many fundamentalist Christian leaders express contrition for the historical abuses of Jews, their baseline objective has not shifted: Bring the Jews to faith in Christ by any and all means. These include establishing messianic "shuls" with free Passover seders and high holy day services, sponsoring massive literature mailings to Russian immigrants in Israel, printing "Jewish New Testaments," holding high visibility street and campus rallies to attract vulnerable Jewish youth, and promoting special "Jewish" youth camps with an emphasis on messianic music and Bible study. One leader I know raised money to put up billboards in Orthodox neighborhoods saying only "Isaiah 53," then changing to read "Jesus" after a few weeks. They actually believe such activities will inspire a spiritual shift in Jew's allegiance and affiliation.
Southern California is home to high profile evangelists who have raised millions of dollars to "improve" Jewish/Christian/Israel relations, including Orange County's Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel and Paul and Jan Crouch of the Trinity Broadcasting Network. This has involved grandiose philanthropy for Jewish and Israeli projects, massive "Christian Zionist" tours to Israel, as well as carefully cultivated meetings with Israel's top leaders. But from my own personal dealings with these and other groups, I guarantee that all talk of "understanding, support, and reconciliation towards the Jews" is a siren's song. All of these people are unflinchingly committed to evangelize the Jews. Jesus warned of wolves in sheep's clothing. Gucci couldn't have designed a better fit.
There's a darker side to this. I spoke with a wealthy, well-connected Newport Beach "real Christian" who told me "the Jews of today are not Jews at all. They are really Edomites, descended from Esau. They don't practice Judaism. They practice Talmudism. The real Jews are the descendants of the Northern Europeans, who originally were dispersed from ancient Israel by the Assyrians and Babylonians." Not surprisingly, he also informed me that the Holocaust was "a mega-myth, choreographed by those clever Edomite-Jews who are really part of the subhuman mud races." While this man's views are not mainstream, they are increasingly in popularity.
Today's Jews are a spiritual anachronism for real Christians. The fundamentalist theo-political agenda has no room for pluralism or tolerant co-existence with people of divergent views. You are in or out, saved or lost, redeemed or damned. All non-Christians are in darkness and need a savior. All non-Christians must hear the message of salvation. Belief in that imperative keeps the money flowing to fulfill the Great Commission to reach all the world. This is a passionate point of no compromise for all real Christians, who claim to be 40+ million strong in America. When seen for what it is, however, their zeal includes the spiritual extinction of today's Jews.
How is that any different than the evils done 50, 500, or 1,000 years ago? As one who engaged in it in this generation, I soberly submit, it's not. Perhaps the real Christians could love us a little less and pursue justice a little more?
Mark Sanders is a former Pentecostal, fundamentalist minister who engaged in missionary activity in Israel, working in kibbutzim and the Israeli public school system. In the process of mastering Hebrew, he began to see many serious inconsistencies and errors in the Christian Bible. His studies of Tanakh persuaded him to rethink & eventually resign from his Christian views of the Bible. Now an observant Jew, Mark is the Outreach Director of the Los Angeles office of Jews for Judaism.