Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Unintentional Antisemitism: Why Christian Institutions and Ideologies are Antisemitic Despite the Philosemitism of Individual Christians

You'll hear many Christians offhandedly refer to Messianic Jews as converts to Christianity.  They're familiar with Christian missionary groups like Jews for Jesus and assume that's what Messianic Judaism is:  a Christian missionary movement that turns Jews into Christians.  They see nothing hostile in requiring Jews to subject themselves to Christian doctrine. On the contrary, their intentions are pure and they see the missionizing of Jews as the quintessential way to express their philosemitism (i.e. their love for the Jewish People).

What could be more loving than introducing Jews to Jesus, right?

Antisemitism has been narrowly defined as an anti-Jewish racism, a subjective feeling of hostility toward the Jewish race.  If that definition is accurate then most Christian don't have anything to worry about.  They can't be considered antisemitic because they don't feel antisemitic.

But what if antisemitism isn't just about personal, subjective feelings?  What if antisemitism includes the objective, net effect of certain ideologies? In other words, what if an ideology or institution could result in an unintentionally antisemitic effect (i.e. a result that hurts Jews)?

But who decides what constitutes "harm" to Jews?

Christians have made their decision:  it isn't harmful for Jews to renounce the Torah or to renounce the legal system of whichever Judaism defined their particular Jewishness.  "Reject the Law and be free!  Here, have a ham sandwich to celebrate your freedom."  They see their Christian ideology and their particular Christian institution as helpful rather than harmful to Jews. They don't even realize the potential threat of assimilation, the erosion of Jewish identity over several generations.

However, I would like to propose that ideological and institutional Christian antisemitism--even though it is usually unintentional--attacks Jews in at least 2 ways: 

(1) undermining halachic Jewishness and

(2) undermining halachic ideology.

What is halachic Jewishness and why is it valuable?  Halacha is Jewish law.  And halachic Jewishness is the way that the family of Jews have historically regulated familial membership in the tribe of Judah.  If you are halachically Jewish then you are accepted as a Jew under Jewish Law.  So what happens when a Jew abandons halachic institutions for Christian institutions?  Answer:  suddenly there is no way to protect Jewish identity from the inevitable forces of assimilation.

Next, when Jews abandon halachic ideology for the "Law Free" ideology of Christianity, they are no longer living out the life that they were called to live.  How is a Jewish person supposed to have a good relationship with G-d if he isn't living the way G-d wants him to live?  The adverse consequences from this would be incalculable.

In conclusion, to the Messianics out there, build bridges with Christians, fellowship with Christians, but also be aware that they belong to an institutional framework and ideology that has an antisemitic effect even though the individual Christians may have nothing but love for the Jewish People and modern state of Israel.  We need to dialogue with them and let them know that the whole Christian system needs to undergo a radical transformation.




  1. "You'll hear many Christians offhandedly refer to Messianic Jews as converts to Christianity."

    That's because they are. Take if from a former MJ who was as "Orthodox" as MJs get. In virtually all matters there's little difference between MJs and Evangelicals, save for ethnicity and some emphasis on the Hebraic. From believing in a man-god, to being saved by Jesus from sins, believing that Greek Testament is scripture from mouth of G-d comparable to Torah to seeing Talmud as good for helpful suggestions only (and especially useful for evangelism), from choosing between Arminianism or Calvinist outlooks, Dispensationalism, from considering Torah as good but not essential for righteousness but believing in Jesus is, from intermarriage to Evangelicals gentiles to sending their no-longer-halachically-Jewish children to Christian schools, getting degrees from Christian Bible colleges or being ordained as pastors by mainline denominations (most of the current MJ leadership), and many, many other things.

    But your other thoughts on Christian institutional antisemitism are good.

    1. Gene,

      You of all people should understand that just as there are many different types of Orthodox Judaism (e.g. Modern, Centrist, Ultra) there are many different types of Messianic Judaism. And the factors which threaten Jewish survival (e.g. intermarriage, assimilation, low birthrates, disappearing halachic communities)--these factors can occur without any influence from Christians or Messianics. For example, acceptance in secular society in America has, paradoxically, contributed to Orthodox assimilation. The Modern Orthodox like to try to fit in. For example, I'm sure you're aware that many Modern Orthodox use the electric shaver in order to fit in with secular American society.

      Economic factors influence birth rates, societal factors influence assimilation and the breakdown of halachic communities. You're dismissing Messianic communities as a potential means to help ensure the survival of the Jewish People. You shouldn't be so quick to do that. It very could be that many halachically minded Messianic communities will be a force for Jewish continuity. Secular or Modern Orthodox Jews will see these Gentiles trying to be halachic and will be inspired to be faithful to halacha.

      It reminds me of a story of my mom and dad. My mom was asking my dad to finish the basement. My dad was working up to it… Eventually my mom decided to take matters into her own hands: she said to him something like, "I can get started on it. How hard could it be?" And so she went downstairs and started looking at the tools, realizing she had no idea how to finish a basement, and my dad walked up to her and said, "Give me the tools, I'll get it started, you go fix breakfast."

      The Gentiles in the Messianic movement may be lousy right now at doing halacha. But the very fact that they are trying--this is something! This may affect Jews in the same way my mother's chutzpah affected my father.



    2. Peter, I second Gene's take on things, being a former 'Messianic' as well.

      I wanted to respond to your idea that Jews are disappearing somehow. I don't know what the statistics are for America and Europe exactly, but in Israel, the religious, from Haredi to Dati Leumi to Masorti (which span what Americans would label Ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, Modern Orthodox, Orthodox Conservative, for those unaware).

      The birth rates among the religious, especially the Haredim, are very high, and Haredim will be the majority Israeli population in the not so distant future. The Jewish people are not disappearing, nor are religious communities.

      Even if this weren't the case, it would be pretty ridiculous to consider involving Christian/Messianic ethnic Jews and/or Messianic gentiles to be a support for the worldwide Jewish population. One, because we Christian and Messianic Jews who believe in Jesus as a deity to be heretics, and secondly because Messianic gentiles are not Jewish and not Benei Noah. Even if they were Benei Noah (i.e. non-convert gerim, unofficially accepted gerei toshav), they wouldn't be eligible for intermarriage among Jews.

      I hope that those among the Messianic persuasion who are Jewish will do as Gene and I did, and I hope that those Messianics who are gentiles will simply drop the idolatry and become Benei Noah/unofficial gerei toshav, or convert if they feel necessary - although conversion is not a means to salvation for the gentile, it is simply not necessary for their relationship with God.

      If the claim that acceptance of Jesus would make gentiles "grafted in", we would see gentiles dropping all foreign religions and all kinds of idolatry and either become Benei Noah or converting to Judaism. What I see the Messianic movement as is a stepping stone for souls of Jewish or gentile origin to make their way to the God of Israel. It is definitely not an end in and of itself. It's certainly no place to camp, and I honestly don't believe the whole Messianic thing will last very long for this reason.

    3. "You of all people should understand that just as there are many different types of Orthodox Judaism (e.g. Modern, Centrist, Ultra) there are many different types of Messianic Judaism."

      Peter, your reply doesn't seem to address what I actually wrote. What I was saying is that even the "very best" (meaning, "most Judaism-emulating") form of "Messianic Judaism" has as its core far more affinity with Evangelicals than with ANY form of Judaism. Beneath a thin Jewish veneer there's Charismatic Protestant Evangelicalism. And not just as its doctrinal and practical foundations - it's membership makeup is also more like your average Evangelical church. And most of them even meet in churches. Now, if this is what their "best" is, what does it say about the less "Hebraic" streams?

      Also, you greatly exaggerate the differences between various streams of Torah Judaism (Orthodox). The differences are primarily in minor matters, of customs, not the core - by its very definition the core of Orthodox Judaism is uniform and Orthodox Jews can and do freely pray in any Orthodox synagogue. (BTW, I do not consider liberal American Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionists and Humanists movements as Judaism at all, since they all either deny or distort both Torah and Halacha in one way or another to be more acceptable to the non-Jewish society).

    4. "The Gentiles in the Messianic movement may be lousy right now at doing halacha."

      They shouldn't feel bad about it - they don't need to be doing "halacha" in the first place. If they at least sought to pursue all the laws already required of them (which, first and foremost, includes not worshiping gods - cough, man-god Jesus - other than the G-d of Israel), they would be far greater in G-d's eyes:

      "Greater is one who is commanded [to perform a mitzva] and fulfills, than one who is not commanded but fulfills." (Talmud - Bava Kama 87a)

      Christian Gentiles in Hebrew Roots ignore the greatest law they are actually commanded to perform (to reject all forms of idolatry and false religions), and instead they seek to pursue (often with pathetic and laughable results) laws that G-d only commanded Jews to fulfill.

  2. What did Yeshua say? You can't fool us, we have heard the truth already and believed it.

    You can not love Yeshua, why?

    Yeshua replied to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me; because I came out from God; and now I have arrived here. I did not come on my own; he sent me.

    Why don’t you understand what I’m saying? Because you can’t bear to listen to my message. You belong to your father, Satan, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. From the start he was a murderer, and he has never stood by the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he is speaking in character; because he is a liar — indeed, the inventor of the lie! But as for me, because I tell the truth you don’t believe me.

    Which one of you can show me where I’m wrong? If I’m telling the truth, why don’t you believe me?

    Whoever belongs to God listens to what God says; the reason you don’t listen is that you don’t belong to God.”

    1. You forgot "To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted."

      this quote was from the second book of third peter chapter 119, verse 8: And Yeshua said unto them "You can't fool us, we have heard the truth already and believed it."

      Which one of you can show me where I’m wrong? G-d can:

      It is not the thing that enters the mouth that defiles a man, but the thing that proceeds from the mouth that defiles a man.”

      Leviticus 11
      “‘Every creature that moves along the ground is to be regarded as unclean; it is not to be eaten. 42 You are not to eat any creature that moves along the ground, whether it moves on its belly or walks on all fours or on many feet; it is unclean. 43 Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them. 44 I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground. 45 I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.

      Jesus/Yeshua said that nothing that goes in the mouth makes us unclean, but G-d say, not to eat some foods because they render us unclean.

      Whoever belongs to God listens to what God says: "See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand."

      You worship and idol, a dead man that is not G-d. G-d made it clear, but you won't listen because you believe in the greek testament, which requires you to worship a man, who is not G-d.

  3. Excellent post, chaver! Great thoughts for meditation over the long weekend.

    1. David,

      Thank you for your kind words!



  4. Good thoughts, achi!!

    Linked from post on my blog:

    1. Pete,

      Thank you for the encouragement, brother. Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving!