*The following is Part II of an article that was first featured in The Jewish Press in March 2020. Part I introduced basic tenets of evangelism, to obtain an understanding of underlying principles behind contemporary evangelism. Part II explores the reasons modern evangelicals succeed, by analyzing 1) the goods and services they provide to Jewish communities, 2) the theological meanings and agenda behind evangelical terminology.
Seasons of Giving: Chanukah/Christmas Gelt Year-Round!
“Relational evangelists” are a patient breed of missionary. They understand that to actualize evangelical goals, they must temporarily suspend the goal of converting religious Jews. The first stage is to form relationships with Jews so that they are no longer perceived as strangers. They can then proceed to the more ambitious stage of infiltrating religious communities in Israel, and gradually integrating themselves into the day-to-day life of Jews.
Often, these relationships are tied with business ventures, which creates financial dependency. Hayovel Ministry’s well-known program of evangelical agricultural volunteerism ensured that Jewish vintners would be dependent (or believe themselves to be so) for future harvesting seasons. With Hayovel, we see how a clever business model wedded to “relational evangelism” created opportunities with previously insulated Jews. They succeeded in creating situations where Jews viewed their presence in Israel as essential. Hayovel’s ingenuity worked wonders. They have formed relationships throughout Israel and set themselves up with Jewish business.
Part of the historically unprecedented success of contemporary, relational evangelicalism can be attributed to three factors.
- Social Media: It has never been easier to disseminate one’s ideas across the world with relative ease. Social media platforms allow a savvy individual to tell a story to large numbers of previously unreachable audiences. And the narrative of “breast-beating, repentant, Israel/Jew loving Christians”, is an attractive one for many Jews who are desperate for non-Jewish friends; provided the former hide their agenda. Relational evangelists created a false narrative which is rich in dramatics (and tangible financial goodies) about wanting ‘to atone for Christian sins. It helps that Jews and Jewish hasbara organizations assist them in disseminating this narrative. Both groups use social media effectively and overwhelmingly to further their interfaith associations.
- No Rabbinic Pushback: Generally speaking, Torah scholars do not waste time on social media. So, while social media is utilized by Jews who foster evangelical relationships, the forums to respond to them do not feature the most logical voices to silence them. This of course begs the question: Were this not so, would more Torah leaders pick up the ball and run with it, in a society where religious Jews often think they know better than genuine Torah scholars? I have my doubts. Yet, even a marginal online rabbinic presence would have a dramatic impact. I know of no way to encourage Rabbis to explore Facebook. A more realistic approach would be for those who understand the issues to proactively show Rabbis the plethora of documentation confirming what is occurring. Inundate them with the evidence. Rabbis need to see the full extent of the problem, and that can only be conveyed in person with a laptop.
- Evangelical Donors: Evangelicals would be impotent if additional factors were missing: Evangelicals give money to Jews in Israel, whether goods/services or other forms of support which in turn raise revenue for Jews from evangelicals worldwide. Evangelicals give tangible benefits to Jews, in a society where things cost more, and people make less. They support Jewish causes big and small. They are experts at identifying neglected areas of Israeli society. The elderly, Holocaust survivors, minorities in neglected areas, the destitute, the emotionally and physically challenged, etc. Unfortunately, while COVID-19 has kept missionaries out of Israel, the economic breakdown provides new opportunities to “assist” needy Jews.
*The ability of evangelicals to discern weak points partly explains why evangelicals purchased MRI machines for Israel years ago, after noting the dearth of such lifesaving equipment in Israel. This author finds this to be an egregious chillul Hashem. That a strong, independent, Jewish nation tolerated the relative absence/dearth of such lifesaving equipment and relied upon evangelical handouts for them is disgraceful. It must be said that for all the wonderful charity institutions in Israel, there are still many Jews in neglected areas who have no one to turn to save the missionary organizations who are willing and able to help them.
Jews are generous towards Jewish (and non-Jewish) causes. Yet with many charities on the scene, few Jews are interested in funding Israeli businessmen who want handouts and free labor for vineyards, farms, and other ventures. I have discussed the use of free evangelical labor extensively in previous articles. Jews prefer to support Hatzalah, the poor, the sick, etc. Evangelicals support ALL causes, even non-productive Hasbara organizations whose activism amounts to little more than a Facebook page/Twitter account, a steady diet of “we cured cancer!” articles, and daily updates of which celebrities love us today. Hasbara organizations pop up overnight and they all present opportunities for evangelicals. It is part of a normalizing process. And if the Jew is religious and lives in “the Biblical heartland”? Praise the Lord!
Wanted: Tough Rabbis Who Care
We need Torah leadership. The dearth of Torah leaders is tragic. Virtually no prominent person today in the Torah world addresses these issues. In certain circles, halachic boundaries are trampled upon with zero consequences. (This article does not even venture into the arena of interfaith religious activities that have infected smaller but very real growing segments of orthodoxy.) People do what they want. Jewish community leaders sometimes carry more clout than town Rabbis, provided the former has a podcast/blog, sits on a communal board, has political clout, or owns a vineyard/business.
One example comes to mind. In the past, one distinguished Rabbi’s unequivocal statement explicitly prohibiting evangelical labor was ignored by aggressive advocates for such alliances from his own community. Now more than ever, we need strong Torah voices. It will be harder for people to get away with these activities if more Rabbis publicly address these issues and demand accountability.
To be clear: Distinguished Rabbis HAVE issued halachic rulings in the past. At the time, Jews advocating for such alliances refused to listen. The problem is magnified today for several reasons: 1) Rabbinic declarations that were issued and ignored five years ago carry little weight today. 2) Several of these distinguished rabbis are getting older. One sympathetic Gadol died in recent years. 3) Rabbinic statements have become infrequent in recent years. 4) Many good people who advocated against these evangelical alliances for years, are weary. When community leaders obtain free labor for a local vintner or obtain a state-of-the-art playground for the community, few Jews stand in their way. There are good reasons for this. Many Jews who opposed the earliest efforts of evangelical volunteers were silenced/ostracized by people in their communities. Over the years, other Jews were libeled, slandered, and even sued by Jews AND missionaries.
Foes Who Look Like Friends
“For in point of fact, Judaism and Christianity are not basically one but are, as Professor Freidrich so aptly states, fundamentally opposed to each other.” (Judaism and Christianity: The Differences, Trude Weiss-Rosmarin; pg. 10)
“Replacement Theology” is essential to all forms of evangelism. Contemporary evangelicals use euphemisms to stay ahead of the game. Restoration Theology is offensive to Jews, so relational evangelism is a polite way to further replacement theology using the cryptic term “restoration”.
Restoration is not innocuous. It is code for bringing Jews to Jesus. Code words present one meaning for the Christian disciple & another for the one they wish to become as one. While evangelicals’ smirk & wink with believers, Jews ignore the underlying meaning.
One characteristic of intelligent people is that they change tactics when they see that the front door is barricaded. Ideological purists continue to kick away at the door. Many of the smarter evangelicals chose to enter through the back of the house. They saw opportunities where others lacked vision. Evangelicals all understand the true meaning of “restoration and redemption”. Frequently they use these terms in front of Jews. It is plastered on websites and scattered throughout their literature. Restoration and Redemption refer to the full spiritual restoration and redemption of Jews. Evangelicals want Jews to embrace their Christian messiah.
In truth very few Jews can honestly play the “we didn’t know” game today, about these problematic alliances. Counter-missionary experts have warned them repeatedly for years about the true meaning and intention of relational evangelism. If they are blind 10-15 years in, at this point it is self-imposed, willful blindness. For those who wish to delve further, “Esav Exposed” is a great resource for learning about deceptive evangelical terms and tactics.
What is in A Name?
“Return O’ Zion” is one of the newer evangelical pro-Israel groups forming “relationships” with Jews. Using the same doctrinal based language of “restoration and redemption” they mask a theological agenda at war with Torah. Far from merely advocating for “Jewish sovereignty” as they maintain, we see the inherent features of restoration’s hidden goals. As Reverend Anthony (Tony) Abma explains:
“We do well to remember the Apostle Paul’s exhortation concerning our duty to; “minister unto them in carnal things” . Our responsibility and duty is (sic) to not only pray and believe with them for this miracle of sovereignty but to put our faith into action for this spiritual nation to be fully restored.” (The Second Conquest)
Lest one miss the context of “full restoration”, consider this excerpt from Abma as cited in his article “A New Generation In Israel” (“Believers Newsletter”, February 2018)
“This new generation of Jews in Israel are very fervent for their promises in the Word and desperately want a spiritual restoration and revival. It is interesting to note how the Bible[iii] describes the 144,000 as being virgins. Brother Branham clarifies the interpretation of this by stating that “they are not associated in any way with churches…” [iv]. That “…they had been Jews from the beginning, ORTHODOX…” [v]. He is referring to the “nation” [vi], not Messianic Jews who are connected with Christian denominations around the world. Brother Branham said these “Orthodox Jews” will not be associated with Churches – or even the Gospel [vii]. And yet – their time is coming! Very soon the verse in Zech 12:10 will be fulfilled and they will “…look upon me whom they have pierced…”.
Can it be stated any clearer? We have an evangelical pastor making a direct reference to orthodox Jewish “virgins” finding their way (as Abma sees it) to the Christian messiah! To clarify, these religious Jews are likened to virgins when it comes to their knowledge of the gospels. We see similar sentiments from other prominent evangelicals on the scene: “I challenge all Christians this year to replace replacement theology with a new restoration mandate.”-Tommy Waller, Hayovel Ministry (2017)
(*As an aside, Abma cites the classic Christian distortion of the prophecy in Zecharia. For a complete rebuttal of this common yet flawed “proof-text” (so beloved by missionaries), please refer to the following video from Rabbi Tovia Singer.)
Evangelical Terms Explained
- Doctrinally, “full restoration” refers to the day Jews embrace belief in Jesus. Until that day, evangelicals believe that the Jewish nation remains collectively unrestored. Smart evangelicals rarely focus on “conversion” or even use the term, (as many ignorant Jews claim) and instead focus on the belief that Jews must accept Jesus. This subtle point was ironically made following a much-publicized fiasco when GODTV’s Ward Simpson admitted as much. (In many ways deceptive evangelical language is the spiritual mirror image of The PA vs. Hamas’s rhetoric regarding Jews. Both want to exterminate Jews. One says it openly.)
- Many missionaries believe that Jewish physical restoration precedes spiritual restoration. Some believe that jumping stages thwarts the goal. For these people, it is not merely tactical but essential.
- No Commonality: There is no shared vision of redemption between Christian and Jew. Our visions of a messianic age are as different as fire and water. No bridge can close this gap without rejecting individual beliefs.
Jews who engage in interfaith alliances usually do not care about evangelical intentions. Some of the coarser people admit this. They are comfortable in their ability to interact with people they know in their hearts to be missionaries but give little attention to the potential effect on disconnected/disaffected Jews. Rarely are they committed to an honest, intellectual, analysis of Torah texts and how it relates to contemporary issues of interfaith dialogue/alliances. Many have not read The Rav’s classic treatise “Confrontation” which is essential reading for the issue of interfaith relationships. Some actively denigrate it as irrelevant or outdated.
Usually, Torah justifications involve distorting a fragment of a Meiri. (Meiri was a classic medieval Talmudist known for lenient positions regarding Christians of his era.)
Ironically, Meiri retained standard halachic restrictions as it related to Christians and Jews. In other words, his unprecedented philosophical statements regarding the halachic status of Christianity for Christians (he says it is not idolatry for gentiles) did not carry-over into his halachic rulings. Many who cite him are unaware of Meiri’s halachic conservatism on this issue. To summarize, there are no classical Jewish texts (even those most accommodating to their worldview) that allow the kinds of pernicious associations we see today. They are certainly not following Meiri.
*On some occasions, Jewish proponents have distorted Rambam and Rabbi Moshe Feinstein to justify their behavior. Such efforts are obscene since only a tortuous reading of the sources could make one conclude the opposite of the authors’ intentions. I will address these sources (please G-d) in a future article. It need only be said that the referenced sources are strong arguments against interfaith dialogue, meetings, etc.
The Siren of Love
One hears talk of Christian love. “Love” is not enough. In the name of love, Hayovel would have never been granted permission to enter gated, insular, Jewish communities, nor would they have desired to do so. What do Jews obtain by aligning with evangelicals? They get real things in return! Above all, Jews obtain tangible benefits. In some instances, it is as simple as free labor, in the case of vintners, having his vineyards harvested for free. (An unheard-of concept since the abolition of slavery.) In other cases, individuals Jews obtain prestige, jobs/positions, and publicity (big and small) by having access to millions of evangelicals worldwide.
Whether monetary gain or other, evangelicals only GIVE because they GET something in return. This applies equally to a John Hagee or “Hayovel Ministry”. A distinguished Christian organization may give financial aid to Israel and obtain a “learning” center in Jerusalem in return, or a missionary center masquerading as a museum. A prominent figure may even be gifted citizenship!
FACT: The primary goal of relational evangelism is to gain access to Jews and to garner Jewish trust. Intelligent evangelicals (who form relationships) obtain unprecedented access and mainstreaming into Jewish communities, and even earn the ear of politicians. They have even partaken in interfaith Tanach sessions in Knesset. They have succeeded.
No one can accurately predict the nightmarish scope of possibilities resulting from evangelical mainstreaming. One would have to be a prophet to foresee everything. Yet from outright conversions (already happening thanks to overt missionary activity in Israel), to subtle forms of assimilation, normalization, appropriation, and gaining respectability (as seen in contemporary relational evangelism), we know that the result will be disastrous. Evangelicals are ecstatic. Fifteen years ago, no pastor on earth could regularly ‘share his thoughts’ about Chanukah or Tisha Ba’av in a religious newspaper. And never in history, were religious Jews and rabbis living in deeply committed Torah communities, so terribly complicit in such an unkosher forbidden admixture.
There is one degree of separation between “good evangelicals” who hide their hearts and hard-core zealots like Dr. Michael Brown or Ward Simpson, yemach sh’mam. Those who question such a claim should look at Mike Huckabee’s open support for the missionary organization One For Israel Ministry. I challenge any self-respecting Jew to watch the video above and see how they feel about Huckabee after “hearing his heart”. Jim Garlow, formerly of the missionary “Skyline Church” is often cited as a “non-missionary evangelical” (an impossibility by definition). Watch this video where Garlow welcomes the messianic synagogue “Tree of Life” to Skyline Church. Do you agree?
There is no difference between GODTV’s Ward Simpson or Hayovel ministry’s Tommy Waller. When it comes to an endgame, both share the frenetic desire to share with Jews, “this Jesus that we know”, as “Hayovel Ministry” stated years ago (minute 3:17 onward) in their foundational video. Nor has this changed today, despite the desire of Jews to believe that Tommy Waller is different today. After all, it was only several months back that “Hayovel” broadcast their virtual “Yom Haatzmaut” Conference from inside the Messianic “Bram Center” in Jerusalem, which is associated with the aggressive missionary organization “First Fruits of Zion” (FFOZ). Not only did they broadcast from the center, they openly endorsed FFOZ which is run by messianic Boaz Michael. It is obvious to any sensible thinker that no truly non-evangelizing Gentile would endorse a missionary center whose aggressive tactics are clearly defined on their website.
Longing for The Mikdash
Ironically, there is an overlap among many religious Jews who advocate for building the Third Temple and who also support evangelical alliances. All Torah minded Jews long for the rebuilding of the Mikdash. But at what cost? God forbid we build the Third Temple with such support. Better to wait a thousand years. Evangelicals have stolen untold numbers of Jewish souls. To recruit these evangelicals as our partners is perverse, and the antithesis of the Mikdash’s true aim.
We should consider these things when mourning the destruction of our two temples this coming Tisha B’av. Unfortunately, this subject matter becomes painfully relevant yet again. “Lipkin Tours” will be hosting the “Nations’ 9th of Av” a series of online interfaith events this week. The interfaith events will feature prominent evangelical missionaries AND religious Jews. Many of the Jews involved in this event insist that these people are not missionaries (some do not even care), yet a careful search of the names and organizations of the Christian participants will prove their missionary agenda. For the record, many counter-missionary experts have reached out to the scheduled Jewish participants to inform them that their actions are inappropriate and dangerous to Jewish interests. As of now, this chillul Hashem is set to take place this week.
If only certain Jews would get the message through their heads. What does it take? It is a simple equation: Restoration theology equals replacement theology! They all want the same thing. Some evangelicals are impatient zealots who burn for the gospels, others burn as well, but they have the patience and discipline of a monk. Yet all of them burn for the day when they can bring the cross to Jews.
Summation: “Return, Restore, Restoration, and Redemption” are code words for evangelists, and they have nothing in common with traditional Jewish usage. Authentic Torah prophecies yearn for the day when Jew AND Gentile will call out in HIS Name. What Jew does not long for this era of peace when the true Moshiach arrives? Yet, evangelicals are NOT the gentiles the Torah speaks about. Evangelicals evangelize to Jews and call out in the name of another. They believe that Jews who refuse to do so will be damned. When the time arrives, they will surely have no place on the mountain of Hashem.
*Rabbi Soloveitchik’s classic essay “Confrontation” and the follow-up “Addendum” are essential reading for Jews who care about this issue. The Rav articulated a sophisticated, dignified, Jewish approach on all matters of interfaith meetings, including those areas he permitted for non-religious universal matters affecting society. In the opinion of this author (as well as experts in the field), the Rav’s teachings must be the framework for future discussions and decisions involving people of Torah, as well as the opinions of the Rav’s esteemed peers at the time, who took stricter positions. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein opposed even non-theological interfaith discussions, and he used harsh halachic terms when referencing Jews who participate in such events.