Thursday, November 3, 2011

An Open Letter to Messianic Jewish Leaders and Congregants

I've never written a letter like this, but I believe this correspondence is a dire necessity.

I've been involved in the messianic movement since the early 70s. I've served as a messianic pastor for over twenty five years, founded and headed a messianic organization and written numerous articles and blogs on the messianic movement.  I've happily observed the messianic movement grow - sometimes to the joy of the evangelical church and other times to their chagrin.

Throughout the years I noticed the messianic movement split into two entities:  the messianic congregational wing and the "missionary" model perpetrated by Chosen People Ministries, Jews for Jesus and other lesser known organizations.  In light of this duality within the messianic movement we ended up with one segment distancing itself from the evangelical church while the other side remained within the churches to collect contributions to help further their efforts to bringing the gospel to Jewish people.

The bottom line is that the messianic movement has not had the best relationship with the evangelical church.  In the midst of this messianic two-headed whatchamacallit , the Christian Zionist movement grew its own head, wanting nothing to do with messianic Jews but instead reaching out to the Jewish community with their overwhelming love for the people and land of Israel.  Of course, many of our Christian Zionist brothers and sisters keep the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation "to the Jew first" hidden behind their backs to make their Jewish guests and dignitaries feel comfortable.

This synopsis of the messianic movement and the growing Christian Zionist community forms a necessary background to what I want to say.

Brothers and sisters -Jews and Gentile followers of Yeshua - we are in the midst of a full on effort by many of our evangelical brothers and sisters to bring an anti-Israel message into the evangelical church.
This "Evangelical Intifada" has crept into the church through several major avenues:



*Theological anti-Israel thought.  Some of us are familiar with NT Wheaton professor Gary Burge and his well known publication Whose Land? Whose Promise? What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and the Palestinians in which he claims modern Israel has no right to the land today.  In a September 17, 2011 article by CAMERA writer Dexter Van Zile, a strong proponent of Israel, quotes Burge:
More ominously, under Rev. Dr. Burge’s scriptural analysis, Jews who reject Christ have forfeited their land and risk their lives by attempting to live in it. For example, on page 176, Rev. Dr. Burge interprets John 15:6 as follows: “The people of Israel cannot claim to be planted as vines in the land; they cannot be rooted in the vineyard unless first they are grafted into Jesus. Branches that attempt living in the land, the vineyard, which refuse to be attached to Jesus will be cast out and burned.Clearly, under Rev. Dr. Burge’s analysis, Jews living in Israel are transgressing limits set for them by the New Testament. 
Another anti-Israel theologian is Vicar Stephen Sizer from the UK, whose writings attack Christian Zionism and Israel in favor of the Palestinians. Sizer is not only an author but an activist who has shared podiums with Holocaust deniers, pro-Hamas advocates and has spoken his anti-Israel messages in Iran.

What these evangelical theologians have in common is their dedication to use both Old and NewTestaments to demonstrate God's covenant with the Jewish people promising them the land of Israel through Abraham is discontinued and now the Lord's only covenant is with the church. Therefore, there is nothing divine about the Jewish people having returned to the land of Israel and establishing a Jewish homeland. God's only relationship with Israel is for them to accept Jesus and become Christians.

*Political anti-Israel thought. The list is rather long when it comes to the political efforts put forth by these evangelicals to support Palestinians, point out Israel's so-called injustices towards the people in the Palestinian territories, attack Israeli government policies in dealing with the terrorist threat, fail to denounce anti-Semitic rhetoric broadcasted by Hamas and Fatah and argue to discredit the validity of a "Jewish" state. I cannot do this aspect of the "Evangelical Intifada" justice.

These Christian political activists include Palestinian Christian as well as American evangelicals like Lynne Hybels, wife of mega church pastor Bill Hybels; Sami Awad, a Palestinian Christian who advocates a non-violent approach in dealing with Israeli soldiers through his organization Holy Land Trust yet his tweets point to the fact he does not support a Jewish state and British journalist anti-Zionist polemicist Ben White who is quick to label Israel as an apartheid state as he does in his book Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide (for a great response to White click here).

You can tell I've quite a list that includes organizations that claim to be dedicated to peace and non-violence yet they send out daily blurbs through tweets, Facebook posts and blogs in which they do nothing but attack Israel and try to convince evangelical Christians to not support Israel. It is only a matter of time before these anti-Zionist Christians start calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. In a recent published set of seven evangelical affirmations from the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference at Bethlehem Bible College in March 2012, the seventh affirmation reads,
The Bible teaches us to pray for all in political authority. We are called to obey them, whether they are Israeli or Palestinian, as an expression of our faith in God’s sovereign rule. We are also called to be a prophetic voice, challenging injustice creatively and non-violently.
This statement clearly sets the groundwork for BDS on the part of evangelicals spearheaded by anti-Zionist evangelicals. An affirmation like this makes one wonder whether the drafters of these affirmations will ever call for boycotts against Fatah and Hamas for their terrorist attacks on Israelis.

One more examination of these affirmations will suffice. Affirmation number 6 states:

Messianic Jews are the brothers and sisters of all who follow Jesus or Yeshua. We are one family bound together in a fellowship of love. Although diversity in political opinions as well as theological emphasis inevitably exist, we refuse to allow these views to hinder our fellowship in Jesus.
Messianic Jews are welcome to attend the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference as long as we can set aside our "political opinions" aka Zionism. If that is true, then why are the conference speakers allowed to speak against Christian Zionism, the Israeli aspirations for a Jewish homeland and Israel's policies towards protecting the citizens of Israel -Jewish and Arabs- against Palestinian terrorist attempts.

This sixth affirmation is a call for Messianic Jews to set aside our Zionistic commitment. Yet once the CATC is over, our pro-Palestinian brothers and sisters will spread out over the globe to broadcast their anti-Israel propaganda messages.


*Anti-Israel propaganda films are also being shown in churches, Bible Study groups and Christian colleges across America: Little Town of Bethlehem, featuring Sami Awad and Porter Speakman's With God on Our Side. Both films are filled with historical inaccuracies regarding the Middle East conflict, erroneous analogies comparing the Palestinian Intifada with the Civil Rights Movement in America and ignoring Islamic Palestinian terrorism aimed at Israel. Both of these films are produced with the greatest of quality but filled with the lowest of bias against Israel. When these films are shown, a panel usually follows for the sake of discussion. The two that I am aware of did not include on the panel a pro-Zionist expert.

Thank the Lord we do have several websites that address the anti-Israel evangelical crowd and we should be familiar with them: HurryUpHarry, ElderofZiyon, MEMRI, SeismicShock, RoshPinaProject CAMERA, ThinkingOutsidetheBlog and many others.

In light of what I've shared, ask yourself, "Can the messianic movement afford to stay away from confronting these books, individuals, blogs, articles, tweets, films and lectures by anti-Israel Christians committed to the Evangelical Intifada?"

It is time for the messianic movement to end the separatism that exists between the church and messianic congregations and come alongside our Christian brothers and sisters to unmask the deception being hoisted upon them by anti-Israel evangelical proponents. Organizations already in churches presenting "Christ in the Passover" or "Israel in Prophecy" need to switch gears and go beyond prophetic messages to tickle the ears of Christians and present substantive responses to the anti-Israel advocates.

I call on messianic leaders and congregants to join in this effort to not sit still while Christians once again present an anti-Jewish message from within the ranks of Christendom. This is not new to us as Jews.

Christianity has presented an anti-Semitic message from the early church fathers, has purged the Holy Land of Jews during the Crusades, tortured our ancestors during the Inquisitions, preached replacement theology in modern times and now has crafted an anti-Zionist theology to once again alienate Jewish people from their own Messiah and Redeemer, Yeshua.

Messianic leaders, I encourage heads of organizations to start meeting and compose plans to deal with the Evangelical Intifada. Dialogue with anti-Israel theologians at Christ at the Checkpoint may be advantageous for a few days, but the Christians messianic Jews dialogue with at CATC are activists not merely theologians. They are on the internet day and night sending out their destructive missiles to convince the church to turn its back on Israel.

I am willing to work with any group to do what I can to help any effort to form a serious, relentless confrontation using scholarly materials to usurp the falsehoods being foisted by the Evangelical Intifada on unsuspecting Christians.

I close with one more example. In light of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration in 2017 a new website has been launched as a 5 year project. The goal of the project is to "promote a series of international conferences and cultural exchanges to enable participants to engage with empathy those who have been negatively impacted by the Balfour Declaration.”

From Stephen Sizer's website it is clear from his own words that he is instrumental in the launching of this five-year project. I strongly doubt if Sizer and his cohorts will give a fair presentation of Israel's side regarding the Balfour Declaration or for that matter anything that occurred after the issuing of that document and the ensuring establishment of the State of Israel.

Can we as messianic Jews afford to be silent while these events take place? Haven't we had enough silence when the church remained closed mouthed as our grandparents and great-grandparents were demonized by Hitler and his twisted theologians.

I do not want to compare what is taking place today to the Holocaust and thereby trivializing the Shoah.

However I do want to impress upon my readers the seriousness of sitting by and doing nothing while the church is once again duped by theologians with an agenda to place all the blame of the Middle East conflict on the Jews and to paint the Israelis as evil oppressors trampling the underdog Palestinians. Sadly, Christians fall for these kinds of comparisons and images. I trust this time we are wiser and that we will heed the call to activism.

In the Messiah's grace,

Louis Lapides

Share/Bookmark

11 comments:

Terri Knoll said...

The Palestinian 'underdogs' happen to include hundreds of thousands of Christians. Those are the 'activists' you should be talking to. They are the ones living the 'truth'. blessings and peace.

Louis Lapides said...

Terri: your comment is somewhat unclear but I'll try to respond. Let me start off by correcting you about 100s of 100s of Christians living in Palestinian territories. To be more accurate, the number is 27,000. See my blog http://thinkingoutsidetheblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/how-are-christians-living-in.html
You have to ask yourself why are there so few Palestinian Christians living in the territories. It can't be due to Israelis going after PCs. It is more likely that PCs find it difficult to live among 3 million Palestinian Muslims who lack any respect for Christianity.
Also, there are almost a million Arab Israelis living in Israel who enjoy more freedom than Arabs living in every Muslim country in the ME. If you read my blogs and the other ones listed in the most recent blog includes authors who do address "the underdogs." The purpose of my article is to widen the base of authors, bloggers, leaders, speakers from among the messianic Jewish community to deal with the efforts by PCs to turn the evangelical church against Israel. Who are the ones "living the truth"? Palestinian Christians? They are good at making people believe they are for non-violence and peacemaking and showing love to their enemies- the Israeli soldiers. Most of it is a front.
Sami Awad , a leading Palestinian Christian claims he wants peace with Israel and wants to recognize Israel as they recognize a Palestinian state. But in Sami Awads tweets, he refers articles aimed at calling into question the legitimacy of a Jewish state. The PC crowd may sound like they want to love Israel but their ultimate goal is to deny the existence of a Jewish state. Here are some of Sami Awad's tweets; he is president of the Holy Land Trust.
http://twitter.com/#!/holylandtrust/status/15917301951
http://twitter.com/#!/Sami_Awad/status/120370108756533248
http://twitter.com/#!/holylandtrust/status/77679200038961152

Opening_Doors said...

I hope that readers will take the time to read the articles.

Docnimsby said...

A very timely reminder of the need to ensure our faith is grounded in nothing less than the whole counsel of Scipture and to view world events through that as opposed to our poltical and cultural bias. As an evangelical pastor Replacement Theology has always concerned me, if for no other reason that if God has changed his mind concerning his rpmises to his chosen people then on what basis can we have confidence in his word to us through Jesus Christ. Likewise on what basis can we say that he is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow?

HisVessel said...

Dear Mr. Lapides,
I have never heard of these evangelicals you warn about. It could be that you also have never heard about the following Jewish men and their work. 1. Joel Kovel, "Overcoming Zioniosm"
2. Uris Davis, "Israel: An Apartheid State"
3. Israel Shahak, "Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel"
4. Israel Shamir, "Galilee Flowers"
5. Gilad Atzmon, "The Wondering Who?"
6. Eitan Bronstein, activist (http://www.zochrot.org/en)
7. Michael Neumann, "Israelis and Indians".
I humbly encourage the reading of any of the above.

Louis Lapides said...

@HisVessel Thanks for your comments. It's of no surprise to me that you'd come up with a list of leftist, anti-Zionist Jewish writers who deny the need for a homeland for the Jewish people. I'm not interested in ideologies or emotional arguments but in historical data, My response to you is to "Google" all the liberal, apostate Christian theologians who deny the deny the Jesus, deny the second coming, the authority of the Bible, the virgin birth and the atonement made by Christ. These people start with the presupposition of a lack of belief in supernatural, the existence of God and the veracity of the Bible. If you read those books, would you still be "His Vessel." I've read a lot of them and I am ever more committed to the truths of the Christian faith only because I understood the presuppositional hatred these Christian writers have for the Truth. The same can be said for Jews who write against Zionism. Many of them are leftists self hating Jews like Norman Finkelstein in the film With God on Our Side. He's an embarrassment to the Jewish people.

HisVessel said...

Dear Mr. Lapides,
You are right to say that you “do not to care for ideologies and emotional arguments, but in historical data”. Why then resort to name-calling? “Leftist”,“self-hating Jews”? I’m not sure that the L-word (leftist) can be used to describe the ideology of every man on my list, but I do know that the modern state of Israel was founded on leftist principles; the kibbutz, being one example. Name-calling and labeling people is a way to trick oneself into not listening to reasonable arguments that go against what one cherishes.
They are not less of a Jew those who do not desire Israel as their homeland and who write in criticism of it. To be critical of a political state; Israel, who by the way, discriminates against Messianic Jews, cannot and should not in any way be compared to sinful men questioning and denying the sacred, holy truths of God. I much regret your analogy. To deny Jesus’ claims is spiritual suicide; to deny Zionist’s claims is not, unless Israel be the fourth person of the Trinity.

Louis Lapides said...

@His Vessel To call someone a "leftist" is not name calling. Neither is the term "self hating Jew" anymore than the terms "liberal Christian" or "apostate Christian." These names describe the political ideology of a person; you can call me a Republican conservative. My feelings won't be hurt and neither should the feelings of those in the left wing camp. We all need tougher skins today.

Yes, Israel was established on left-leaning socialist democratic principles. However, the country has evolved into the most democratic nation in the ME, including all Arab countries. The Jewish people who were expelled from Russia and migrated to Israel brought with them these ideologies of communal living but since then have left the kibbutzim mindset and have become more westernized. What Arab nation has Jews on their governing board? Israel has Arabs in the Kenneset and they are given the power to vote and voice their policies even if they are anti-Israel.
In the pro-Palestinian Christian film With God on Our Side, producer/director Porter Speakman has a self hating Jew Normal Finkelstein represent the Jewish side. Is that fair? Why did he not have Jewish scholars who are familiar with Jewish history? Instead, he chooses a Jewish person known among the Jewish community as one who is anti-Zionist. That's called propaganda. Where were the messianic Jews in the film? Evangelical biblical scholars? I have to use the word "leftist" to warn readers about who they would be reading in your list. I would use the word "liberal" if you listed a group of books written by Christian liberal theologians who denied the fundamentals of the faith. It is my duty as it is yours to warn people just like the biblical writers did. If it bothers you so much, then you have problems with Paul who called out false teachers in their midst. As for the messianic Jews in Israel, the law in Eretz Yisrael states Jews cannot be offered any gifts/bribes by Christian evangelists in order to persuade them to read the BNew Testament. I think it is an unfair law and I do not support it. Neither do I support persecution of messianic Jews by radical Orthodox Jewish groups like Yad L'Achim who have made themselves enemies of the gospel but they are to be prayed for. They hate messianic Jews because we preach Jesus as the Messiah and Lord not because messianic Jews are anti-Zionists. Your comment about "Israel being the fourth member of the Trinity" is a cheap shot. As a messianic Jew I do not agree with everything Israel does; I don't agree with everything done in evangelical Christianity either. But when I read propaganda manufactured, financed and distributed by Palestinians Christians, I am going to speak up. Thanks for the continuing dialogue. As a brother in the Lord, I know there is a lot we do agree on -the essentials of the faith-and ultimately that is all that matters from an eternal perspective. God bless.

HisVessel said...

Thank you, Mr. Lapides for your kind response.

David Cho said...

"Conservative Republican" is not a pejorative term. Conservative Republicans proudly call themselves Conservative Republicans, so why would you equate it with "self-hating Jews," or "apostate Christian"? Nobody calls himself that. You are not comparing apples with apples.

Now to your blog: I am wondering if you can point me to reviews of God on our Side. I am interested in what the Christian Zionist side has to say about the film that does not distract their points with unnecessary pejorative terms and inflammatory rhetoric.

Louis Lapides said...

David: thanks for your comment. I am going to disagree with you regarding the pejorative nature of the term "Conservative Republican." In some circles, it is a negative to be a CR. I grew up Democratic and I am Jewish. So I became a Jewish Republican Conservative as an adult. I've been on the receiving end of a lot of negative comments - I've been called a racist because I am a CR; I've been tagged as someone who has no compassion since I embraced Republican ideals. To make my point even more poignant. Prior to the sexual allegations against Herman Cain, he was the object of scorn, ridicule and racial comments by white liberals in the media and black liberals. Some shocking comments were made by Harry Belafonte against Cain simply because Cain in a black conservative. There is a group think in liberal black circles that if you are part of the party of Lincoln, you're a puppet of white people or a "self hating black: or still serving the white master. Google the comments made by liberal media pundits prior to the sexual allegations. Cain is not free to be a CR. He must tote the black caucus group think or else. The same is true for conservatives Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell. About those links to the reviews of With God on Our Side here they are: http://www.newenglishreview.org/Dexter_Van_Zile/The_Mis-Education_of_a_Young_Evangelical/

http://www.scribd.com/doc/49980263/A-Response-to-the-film-With-God-on-Our-Side

Thanks for your comments, David.