Interfaith

Interfaith
: This is an odd — and essentially irrelevant but still intriguing — coincidence alongside the Easterbrook affair.

Part I: Yesterday, I pointed you to a controversy in the Presbyterian church over a fake synagogue being run by a Presbyterian minister (who doesn’t admit to his ordination in the congregation’s literature) in an attempt to proselytize, converting Jews to Christianity. My sister, a Presbyterian minister, is at the front of a fight against it.

Part II: Then I read Gregg Easterbrook’s apology for his anti-Semetic comments (below). It ends with this:

Every reporter who has called me today has asked me my faith. Since I say this is relevant for others, it’s relevant for me. I’m a Christian. I worship in one of the handful of joint Christian-Jewish congregations in the United States. This website describes the Bradley Hills Presbyterian (USA) side of the church. This website describes Bethesda Jewish, a Klal Yisrael (“All Israel”) congregation that shares the same worship spaces and finances. Two years ago I wrote in The New Republic of the Bradley Hills-Bethesda Jewish joint congregation, “One of the shortcomings of Christianity is that most adherents downplay the faith’s interweaving with Judaism.” I and my family sought out a place where Christians and Jews express their faith cooperatively, which seems to me a good idea.

It turns out that the pastor of Bradley Hills is Susan Andrews, moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) — essentially, the head of the denomination right now.

So Andrews has to deal with the controversy in Philadelphia. And she clearly brings a unique perspective to this: She and her congregation understand interfaith relations: learning from each other without trying to convert. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia proselytizers are trying, quite sneakily, to act superior to the Jews they are trying to attract — and thus, essentially, anti-Semetic — by trying to convert them, by trying to say that one way is right, the other not.

I agree with Easterbrook’s perspective on Christianity in that paragraph above. I often ask — and have asked in this weblog — why we Protestants do not adhere to more of the traditions of our own religious forebears. We should.

And now I wonder what the members of the Jewish congregation that shares Easterbrook’s church’s building — and what his Presbyterian pastor — would have to say about his sin and his confession. In the end, this is a matter of religion more than politics, media, culture, or certainly sports.

  • Bob Holmgen

    I’ll admit that I’m a bit confused here. First you’re upset that church starts up that you don’t like–fake synagogue?–and want the rabbi to stop doing what he feels called to do. (Incidently, has your sister reached out to convert you as she claims is the more proper behavior?) Then you jump to the defense of Gregg Easterbrook by saying we shouldn’t be so sensitive about speech. Someone just got up on the wrong side of the logic bed.

  • http://www.buzzmachine.com Jeff Jarvis

    The issue here is the sneakiness of it, which I write about in the comments on the earlier post. The Presbyterian Church does not make it a policy to proselytize Jews but this fringe snuck in a program to spend Presbyterian funds to do this. Worse, far worse, it is fraudulent to its congregants; you look at the literature and it does not reveal that it is a Christian enterprise. If this one minister wants to go off and convert, you’re right, he has a right to do so. But it’s not just him. He is using Presbyterian funds. And the enterprise is lying to those it alleges to “serve.” My complaint is not its freedom but its dishonesty.

  • Paul

    I read Easterbrook’s apology and I had to chuckle over this:
    “How, I wondered, could anyone Jewish–members of a group who suffered the worst act of violence in all history, and who suffer today, in Israel, intolerable violence–seek profit from a movie that glamorizes violence as cool fun?”
    Well, first of all, I don’t think those CEOs have any personal knowledge of the situation in Israel, apart from perhaps visiting their friends and family, which one might assume they have.
    Secondly, who is suffering in Israel? Yes, Israelis, but also Palestinians in the Palestinian terrorories, but also those caught in no-mans land inside the new wall built.
    I can’t condone the suicide bombings of the Palestinian fringe; but that fringe is being made much larger by the actions of the _state_ of Israel. Not a fringe of Israelis, but the whole mighty force of a country that receives an incredible amount of American dollars in form of foreign aid and military aid.
    The Israelis are profiting by war against the Palestinians. They get cheap labor, cheap land, foreign “Aid”, misguided christian sympathy. If Israelis turned to making wholesale violent movies to turn a profit, noone would be pertubed; it seems that the state of Israel is only for their own good and as unilateral as the USA.
    But, that aside.
    Movies are just fiction. I’ve cried more and whinced more of the graphic descriptions of war in the classic “War and Peace” than in any explicit violent Hollywood charade. And, if you turn on the news you can see real violence, you can see real people suffering.
    Tonigth, in Norway, around USD 20 million was collected in a door to door aid session. that’s about USD 4 from each Norwegian. Not a large sum, but it will go towards making the world a little bit less violent, a little bit less suffering. The money will build schools in for example Cambodia.
    My point?
    Most humans seem to rail at fictious problems, at things which doesn’t really hurt people. They value life by the monetary income of the person dying (as per the horrendous amounts of money granted to the families of those who died in the twin towers), they value life of a dog in their street more than that of people in a poor country.
    It doesn’t matter if people are christians, jews, or nazis. They want to make money for themselves, make their friends and family secure, and when that is attained they go on and get wounded when their sensibilities are hurt instead of focusing on real problems and real people. And people will always rationalize away all moral qualms about how they earn money. Someone else would do it if I didn’t.
    Trying to get people to change their lives by appealing to their belief is very childish. Their professed religion has _nothing_ to do with how people live their lives. Witness Napoleon, Hitler, they were god fearing men, and yet they proceeded to create unhappiness and bring the whole European into war and strife. Not to mention the almost total anhillation of Jews in Europe which Hitler overseed.
    That brings me to the “Interfaith” part of your posting. I don’t like proselytization at all. That people earn their livings by misguiding people is despicable (in the meaning hateful, with the synonyms disgraceful, disreputable, cheap, awful, base, etc).
    If people are interested in learning about something, they should themselves come to that conclusion and search what enlightenment they believe they need.
    The power wielded by ministeres of all faiths are due to their wealth (not barely personal, but not least the wealth their congregations can wield) and influence.
    People across the world suffer due to this power and wealth. The US, for example, does not help any organization economically if that organization supports any kind of abortion. It is not as abject as the Catholic church who says that condoms isn’t any protection against aids, but in spirit and not least in utter disregard of human worth and the right of people to be their own masters and the ones to decide their own lives. Ironically, this is what the Republican party claims is one of their tenets, less state, more right for people to decide their own fates and make their own happiness.
    Of course, the US decision comes because the politicians (and according to Michael Moore this also applies to Bill Clinton as per a chapter in Bowling for Columbine where he lists a lot of things we think Bush is the father of, but which Bill Clinton actually was preciding over…) over there look more to the money given to them by special interests groups and their fear of the right wing christian lobby.
    Where, may I ask, is their respect for others? Where is their chrisitan morality, their heart of Jesus? Well, I know, because I answered above.
    Do not trust people to do as they belive or as they say. Judge them only by what they do, and be ready to see the world in all its horror.
    Have a nice day.

  • http://industrialblog.powerblogs.com IB Bill

    I often ask — and have asked in this weblog — why we Protestants do not adhere to more of the traditions of our own religious forebears. We should.
    Many Protestants do … there are many movements to understand the Jewish elements of the Christian faith.
    But Jeff, I wouldn’t call you a Christian. Back during the Gene Robinson controversy, you called those who hold to the traditional Christian faith “bigots.” Bigots. Ignorant, intolerant people filled with prejudice. Not those who held a different point of view. Not those who held to the scriptures and traditions of the church. Not those who fear God and think sin is still sin. No, you called us bigots. And said, “let them leave” if Robinson were granted an episcopal ordination. Traditional people were called bigots.
    Traditional Judaism makes similar condemnations. Are they bigots, too?
    You should think a little more before you post.