A formal decree drafted by the World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA) Theology Commission during a Berlin conference held in August, has world Jewish communities up in arms: The decree, which explores “Jesus’ individuality and Jewish evangelism,” is meant, according to the WEA, to find ways in which Christians can profess their true love for the Jewish people, especially those residing in Europe.
The conference, which was attended by German Christians and Messianic Jews, ended with a statement calling for forfeiting the Christian-Jewish dialogue in favor of distributing the gospel among the Jewish people. This act, said the WEA, “should be made with a true concerns for the Jewish people’s redemption.”
The document that contains the directive is called, “The Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in the World Today” and you can read it here (pdf) (but you can see the full thing in this post, by an American who attended the Berlin conference, at Bible.org). The writer of this Daily Kos post does a good job of outlining why then it is so unsettling to learn about the current GOP VP candidate’s history of religious affiliations. And if you google blog search the name of the document, you will find some very frightening results which I don’t want to link to because frankly, I don’t want them coming to this blog.
Promoting a campaign to convert Jews away from their faith is a serious affront to the Jewish people and disrespectful to Judaism’s own teachings. Though the World Evangelical Alliance claims it seeks to convert Jews out of their “love” for Jews, we believe that if the WEA really loved Jews, they would respect Jewish teachings and recognize the integrity of Jewish tradition.
It is especially troubling that the WEA includes and validates the deceptive proselytizing tactics of Messianic Jews and groups like Jews for Jesus. To issue this declaration from Berlin, where the Nazis directed their Final Solution to exterminate the Jewish people, is the height of insensitivity. This Evangelical document is not an offer of love, but a prescription for hate. As long as the WEA teaches that Judaism is incomplete or misguided, anti-Semitism will continue.
We urge on the WEA to withdraw its call to target the Jews of Europe for conversion and immediately begin serious dialogue with Jewish interfaith representatives, so they can understand the immense pain and anger they are causing with their ill-advised and theologically misguided position.
Rabbi Brad Hirschfeld seems to think that dialogue is the answer, even though the statement clearly doesn’t embrace dialogue as much as evangelism, and admonishes the ADL and the Christians:
There are however two fundamental questions which the WEA must confront. First, is it possible that as much as they need to witness their understanding of the truth, they need to separate that public witness from the stated outcome of seeing me and my brothers and sisters join them in faith? In other words, I am calling upon the ADL, and all those who share their views, to reconsider the notion that Christian evangelism may be an act of love from their perspective. But I also ask if evangelical Christians are willing to consider that it may not be an act of love, if those on the receiving end do not experience it as such?
The second question is simple: can anyone out there point to a single time in human history which ended well, when the success of one group was defined by their ability to convert their neighbors? There isn’t one. You may not think I am right, but the damage done by those who wanted to “repair” the spiritual shortcomings of their neighbors, and judged that repair as necessary to attain blessing or salvation, is too vast to detail here.
So why not try something new for most of us? Genuine inter-faith dialogue in which each group tried to understand the logic and the love which motivates the other side. We are not likely to agree many things, I know. And it will be hard to give up the sense of moral superiority that we all love so much. But it strikes me as far healthier than Jews who intimate that Evangelicals are in cahoots with Nazis, and Christians who refuse to admit the damage done by well-intentioned people who just never got over seeing their neighbors as spiritually damaged goods.
The WEA declaration is pretty clear on not wanting more dialogue so I’m not quite sure why the rabbi is making this suggestion. On this one, I lean in the ADL’s direction, especially having just spent several hours at Yad Vashem which offers proof after painful proof of all the influences that contributed to the Holocaust, and I struggle to imagine how Jews can feel comfortable supporting the McCain/Palin ticket, knowing the VP candidate’s religious leanings and its influence over her political efforts.