Rabbi Michael Lerner sounds a warning, not just for Jews, but for all right-minded, decent folk:
[T]he Gibson movie is likely to stimulate a broader assault on all of us who seek to build a world based on caring and love, cooperation and generosity, by giving strength to the part within each of us that despairs, the voice within each of us that tells us that cruelty is what is really how the other is, really how the world is, the voice inside each of us that feels that there is no point in struggling to transform the world because it is too hopeless and too dominated by craziness…
In the words of my Kentucky in-laws, Rabbi Lerner is ate up.
Unlike Lerner, I don’t see suppression of anti-Roman sentiment in the New Testament. Pontius Pilate is shown as weak, too afraid of ruining his political career to stand up to public pressure. (Elsewhere in the New Testament, Rome is referred to as Babylon, which was not a compliment.)
Nor are the Jews portrayed as villains, aside from the Sanhedrin. Jesus was a Jew. The disciples were Jews. The first Christians were Jews. Arguably the greatest apostle, Paul, was the ultimate Jew. However, since Rabbi Lerner is a spiritual descendant of the Sanhedrin, it’s easy to see why he’s upset, if a bit arrogant, I think, to equate the portrayal of the religious elites–Lerner’s social class–with anti-Semitism.
True Christians understand that the crucifixion of Jesus:
- Was necessary for the salvation of mankind from sin;
- Was done only with the willing cooperation of Jesus (remember, He rebuked Peter for trying to fight at Gethsemane);
- Was accomplished only with the cooperation of the Romans (Gentiles), under whose rule the Jews had no authority to condemn anyone to death (in other words, it was the Jews and the Gentiles–all of us–who put Jesus on the cross).
Evangelical Christians are the best friends the Jewish people have right now, and I’m shocked that Rabbi Lerner doesn’t see that. It’s the “liberals and progressives in the late 20th century” who continue to press the US and UN to force Israel to compromise and accomodate a people who want no peace, whose only desire is to drive the Jews from Palestine and into the sea. Rabbi Lerner and others like him should thank God that there is an evangelical Christian core in America that understands that the Jews are the history, the base, the foundation of Christianity. Without the Jews, there is no Messiah.
Do I sound a little upset? Good. Rabbi Lerner’s not-so-subtle use of Hitler as a boogeyman to scare Jews away from this movie, Christians in general, and ultimately Jesus Himself, is repulsive. He cleverly avoids calling Hitler a Christian, but claims instead that it was Christian teaching that made the Holocaust possible. Cute. Condemn Christ by condemning those who wrongly justify their actions in His name
Nominal Christians (as opposed to true Christians, who follow Christ’s command to “love thy neighbor”) are guilty of many things, but this is beyond the pale. Were Christians responsible for the Roman destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 (oh, excuse me, 70 C.E.–which to me stands for “Christian Era”, so it works, regardless, since the calendar still starts with His birth)? Or by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar? Or the destruction of the Ten Tribes by the Assyrians? Or the enslavement by the Egyptians?
Gosh, there seems to be a pattern here: An enemy tries to wipe out the Jews, God intervenes, and four thousand years later, they’re still here! Who could it be, that’s been trying to wipe out God’s chosen people since the Garden of Eden? Hmm, let’s see, could that enemy be, oh, I don’t know, SATAN? (End Church Lady impression.)
Sigh. I see that Rabbi Lerner’s organization is an inter-faith group. Well, that explains a lot. His theology, what I can discern of it from his web site, is based on works, humans striving together to spread Love and Togetherness. These are noble goals–that will never, ever be accomplished. Hasn’t happened in 6,000 years of recorded history, and the 20th century, the one that produced the enlightened “liberals and progressives” who he believes finally, after 2,000 years, began to make progress in the never-ending struggle against anti-Semitism, was the bloodiest mankind has ever known.
Hmm. Relying on our own efforts to “build a world based on caring and love” hasn’t worked too well, has it?
Lerner’s true message is clear: Silence the gospel. The only “loving” Christians are the ones who allegorize the Crucifixion instead of treating it for what it is, history.
In short, the only good Christian is a non-Christian.
He couldn’t be more wrong. About the gospel and about evangelical Christians.
Without American evangelicals, we could write Israel off as a nation. “Liberals and progressives” are pushing for acommodation of the Palestinians; evangelicals, by and large, recognize that the battle is not entirely fought in the physical realm, and understand that accomodating a Palestinian state is suicide for Israel.
And without the gospel, the truth of which was established by the documented historic fact of Jesus’ physical return from the tomb, we’re all dead.
It’s sad that Rabbi Lerner doesn’t know who his friends are. Men like Rabbi Lerner, and Abraham Foxman of the ADL, are doing more harm to relations between Christians and Jews than this movie will.
For a more reasoned response, see this colum by Rabbi Daniel Lapin.