On August 17, 2008, David Brickner (director of Jews for Jesus) spoke at Sarah Palin’s family church in Wasilla, Alaska. Govenor Palin was in attendance. Mr. Brickner spoke extensively of his organization’s mission in Israel (they also do extensive work in America – especially with college students) to convert Jews to Christianity. They call themselves Jews for Jesus, but the religion the practice is Evangelical Christianity.
In his sermon (download/read the entire sermon on the Wasilla Assembly Church website) Brickner details Jews for Jesus’s missions in Israel (and his son’s work in India). He describes the difficulty of converting Jews in Israel and highlights the important work that his group is doing there.
Following the sermon, the Pastor of the church, Pastor Larry Koon, offered a special version of the congregation’s closing prayer. This prayer likely encapsulated the day and focused Koon & Brickner’s messages. Here is the prayer
Our Father in heaven, We stand before You as a people who’ve experienced Your grace, and we acknowledge that that grace was first extended to our people through Your people, the Jews; that there is not a one here in this room who would know Jesus and serve Him if there had not been a Jew, generations ago, that spoke Jesus’ name to our people. Father, that comes full circle and we wish to extend Your grace back to Your people. And we pray and we ask that as a result of this time here, and as a result of this offering, there will be people among the Jews today who come to say the name “Jesus” with faith. In His glorious name we pray, amen.
Governor Palin was there. Her church advocates for the active conversion of Jews. Not because the Jewish people are seeking such conversion (we are not), but because her church believes that is what they (good Christians) must do. In the time that she has been known as the nominee, Palin has often spoken of her faith but has never clarified that she differs with her church on this matter. Even after this sermon got a small bit of press on Politico.com, she did not see a need to say that her views are different from Brickner. All people need to seriously think about whether we really want to vote for someone who believes that Jews need to be converted. We already know that she doesn’t find any validity in Evolution, believes in (and promotes in her state) abstinence only education – both of which are closely linked to ideologies in the Assembly church movement. Since she acted on these issues in her state, why would she act differently about Jews being allowed to be Jews as Vice President? Why not? Will the Constitution really contain her? The GOP stance on religion in American life is clear – more of it. The walls separating church/state are already very very low with faith based social services receiving government money. Jews cannot vote for her without giving serious thought to this issue.
But, you may be thinking, isn’t she okay on Israel? We don’t really know. Let’s look to the sermon from her own church, the central focus of her life and her family’s life. Maybe Brickner’s sermon will give us a clue. Here is what he says about Israel.
But what we see in Israel, the conflict that is spilled out throughout the Middle East, really which is all about Jerusalem, is an ongoing reflection of the fact that there is judgment. There is judgment that is going on in the land, and that’s the other part of this Jerusalem Dilemma.
Brickner is blaming the Jews for the terrorist violence and war in Israel. Why is Israel being judged in his statement above? As you can see clearly in the full sermon – it is because Jews don’t believe in Jesus. Really. Is this the kind of Israel support that Jews need?
I went to the McCain Palin website to research this post and search for any statement put out by the campaign about Palin and her beliefs, her faith, and the role she sees it having in their administration. I searched “Palin” and “faith” and received an error message for an invalid search. (Guess McCain’s “I don’t use a computer” is also impacting the usability of their website. Either that or they don’t want people to know what Palin believes. Hmmm)
Governor Palin supports open, pressured conversion of Jews. She has said not one word to clarify, distance herself from, nor disagree with Mr. Brickner. The Israel that some Jews think she supports is one where the violence is destined because Jews believe wrong.
I ask you again, is this the Israel support that the Jews need?
How much does faith inform her decisions? Take a look at video of Gov. Palin preaching in her church in Wasilla on G-d’s plan for War (since we know that G-d “loves” war – not).
Two other blog posts on this issue: The Israel Situation, Blogs of Zion
Christians do not seek to convert Jews because that is what good Christians do, we do it because we truly believe Jesus is your Messiah and you would find what God offers you is so worth finding.
We believe from the writings of Moses that from the days of Abraham, that Jews have been a people of promise from God and part of that promise was a coming Messiah which would bring a new, living relationship with the whole world with the eternal hope.
I respect your right to believe whatever you want to believe. Believing as one chooses/is called to be is a blessing and a gift.
G-d teaches in the Torah or Jewish Bible in Leviticus 19:26 that each person must “Love your neighbor as yourself.” These words do not mean ‘Love your neighbor only if he/she agrees with you.’ These words do NOT mean ‘Love your neighbor by trying to convert them to agree with you.’ For you to take your belief and force them on someone else to “save their soul” is hubris and assumes that you have the only answer. Why would G-d create the world in such a way that there are many religions, cultures and means to belief if G-d only wanted people to believe in one narrow way?
Jews who live a good life filled with the commandments, with G-d’s love and with care for every person (Judaism teaches that every person is created in the image of G-d [even those who hate us or want to convert us]), such Jews will be with G-d in the world to come.
Please respect my right to believe as I do, please do not try to save me or convert me. When you and your colleagues do this, all you do is make me think less of your understanding of Christianity.
(By the way, Judaism teaches to treat G-d’s name with reverence. We only fully write out G-d’s name in any language when used for a holy purpose (prayer book, Torah, Talmud, modern commentaries, etc).)
Palin, through the Pepublican campaign spokespeople, distanced herself from these views and claimed to have attended without knowing this speaker would be in the pulpit.
However, not everyone is convinced that she will be able to separate Church and State and run a secular government acc to the US Constitution.
Thanks for the link. While in the Navy Chaplain Corps I served with colleagues from the Assembly of G-d churches. They all tried to convert me (even though accepting others is part of the chaplain corps values) and talked about violence against Jews as evidence of judgement from G-d. Those interactions suggested to me Brickner’s ideas are mainstream and not new to Palin.
Thanks for these comments.
I know they try to make a distinction between their movements (hard to when they ultimately share the same goal), but they and Messianic Jews on the whole represent such potential for fracture within Jewish communities, by poaching those that live on our fringes: elderly, uneducated/unaffiliated, youth isolated from communities during college/military.
I’ve blogged about it in the past, the evangelical-friendly climate created at the Pentagon has landed the Army with its first Messianic “Jewish” chaplain. This already spurred a “who’s the real Jew” situation with regards to Pesach supplies in the Iraqi theater, when this “rabbi” pilfered a kit belonging to an Orthodox surgeon. This “rabbi” was even invited to represent the Jewish voice at 3rd Infantry Division’s Holocaust Remembrance observance, highlighting a very real concern that the average American cannot understand the distinction between our groups.
What scares me is that mere membership of Palin in a church that is sympathetic to Jews for Jesus may confer even more legitimacy to a movement that represents harm to Jewish communities, however she distances herself from Brickner’s speech.
Clearly, with the Establishment Clause both working for and against us in this case, we depend heavily on the Christian community to keep these people on the fringes where they belong.
Is this the first time a presidential or vice presidential candidate has been in the presence of these deceptive groups?
This whole commentary goes under the category of “not to worry”.
Even if Palin deeply wants to convert every jew to Christianity when would she even have the time and legal means to initiate such frivilous idealism with all that’s going in the world and at home.
If she doesn’t have a hundred more serious priorities on her mind she has no business running for the federal government. And I’m sure she does, evangilist Christian and all.
By the way, to Chrisitian enthusiasts, you calim Jesus in the personal son of G-d, or G-d himeself, and that has no basis in judiasm; it as an affront and an assault on judiasm.
Sam: Your last line ring so true, and it is an assault on Judaism.
The Jews for Jesus members clearly cross boundaries, in my opinion, in trying to mislead people as to their real cause. The “Rabbis”, themselves, with their doctrine, are an affront to Judaism.
Thank you for the post, 1Rabbi.
Sam, I think you miss the point. Palin belongs to a class of people who overtly conflate religion with politics/government. The goal is nothing less than a desire to influence government to the point of theocracy. Limited or not, a theocracy is still a theocracy and while dissenters may be permitted to have their own beliefs and worship as they please, the laws will be based on fundamentalist/orthodox Christian dogma which means non-aherents will need to abide by religious based regulations. This is not exactly the freedom of religion that was part of the agreement to get the founding fathers to support the declaration of independence or the constitution – some of them may have wanted to enforce a Christian nation but to have a United States they had to put that aside.
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