It was bound to happen. Among the countless “post mortem” articles to come out in the aftermath of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress last week, was one that maintained that as much the invitation to the Israeli leader was a well-intended “potch in Ponim” (slap in the face) to the President, it was also a outpouring of support and love toward Israel and the Jews on the part of a very vocal and growing segment of Christians in this country, known for a well designed and very troubling (some would say dangerous) agenda of their own.
Here we go again! There are those who set off the alarm that we must be on guard against those Christians, who many believe are out to turn America into a Christian nation, where their savior will be visible in all walks of life and will reign supreme. Accordingly, it is incumbent upon us Jews to do everything in our power to thwart their “diabolical” plans. Maybe I’m reading the wrong publications. But from what I am able to deduce nationwide, church attendance is abysmally low. I’m not aware of any waiting lists to gain entry into the ministry, and I don’t believe that it would be an exaggeration on my part, if I were to say that the priesthood is moribund. Here in Dallas, where megachurches abound, it’s easy to get the wrong impression. Forgive me for saying so, but Dallas is not representative of these United States. So to those Christians who are out to Christianize America, you have a yeoman’s task ahead of you. Why not try something easier, like memorizing the Talmud!
Closely related to the above charge, is the concern, that these Christians have such love for us Jews, that it pains them deeply to know (they are certain of it of course) that aside from our prayers not being heard, we don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of making it into heaven. As such, they are out to convert us. For argument’s sake, let’s say that this is entirely true. Realize however that one of our quirks as a people is that we are “conversion proof”. That’s not to say that Jews have not converted; that not to say that assimilation among Jews is of no concern to us. But when Jews convert or assimilate, it typically comes from within. In the case of assimilation it’s the individual Jew who either makes no effort to be part of the community or for whatever reason disassociates from the community. In the case of conversion, it’s the individual Jew who either runs from the Jewish community because of some wrong he has suffered, either real or perceived or openly embraces Christianity because of some appealing factor, either real or perceived. But G-d help any Christian who has designs to bring any Jew into the fold, however deceptive or genuine the designs may be! Jews may not always be the most loyal toward HaShem, but any Christian who attempts to slight HaShem by stealing a Jew away, had better run for cover. If there is any behavior we Jews have perfected over the centuries, it’s resisting any and all attempts from outside sources to convert us.
Last but not least, is the charge that these Christians make us look bad when it comes to Israel. The amount of Christian groups aboard flights from the United States to Israel is astounding. Many years back, I officiated at a wedding, where the bride’s father was a Protestant minister (the bride had converted to Judaism – with her parents’ blessings – before she was out of college). Having left the pulpit, the bride’s father was now a travel agent dealing exclusively with Christian pilgrimages to Israel. Ask any Israeli tour guide and they’ll tell you that they spend far more time with Christian groups visiting Nazareth and the Jordan (for Baptism) and Gethsemane, and Dormition Abbey than with Jewish groups at the Kotel, Yad VaShem or Massada.
Neither I, nor any other Jew can prevent Christians from visiting Israel, whether it be once or numerous times. And I for one can’t do anything about letting these Christians make us Jews look bad, when it comes to Israel. But you can! Once Jews visit Israel frequently, then the number of Christian tourists in Israel will be superseded by Jewish tourists.
And so, my fellow Jews: Be not concerned about the behavior of over eager Christians who you believe have an agenda; be concerned about the behavior of apathetic Jews who you know have no agenda.