The Rabbi Wonders When We’ll Discover Our Communal Gag Reflex

This post is by my dear friend, Rabbi Joseph Edelheit, in which he reflects from a Jewish perspective on the Jews for Jesus video about which I posted last week. He wrote it for Yom HaShoah, which is today’s commemoration of the Holocaust.

I sometimes wonder how much murder, hatred and contempt it takes to provoke a collective expression of utter disgust—a shared communal gag reflex.

The Kansas City murders of three innocent Christians by a known White Supremacist anti-Semite close to Passover shocked most Americans, but this vulgar 73-year-old bigot is no surprise; even his timing was logical.

Terrorizing leaflets passed out in the chaos of Donetsk, Ukraine said authorities had “…decided that all citizens of Jewish descent, over 16 years of age and residing within the republic’s territory are required to report to the Commissioner for Nationalities in the Donetsk Regional Administration building and register.” The leaflets were written for the expressed purpose of terrorizing Jews, but disavowed by all authorities in Donetsk. Again, we heard all the correct words, labeling even the threat of such requirements as Nazi-like and disgusting, but in order to remove the sting of the leaflets we began reading that this was a “fake” act of anti-Semitism.

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A Public Condemnation of Jews for Jesus

“That Jew Died For You” screenshot.

The always-offensive evangelistic group, Jews for Jesus, released the above video just in time for Easter last week. It is, quite honestly, one of the most blatantly offensive and disgusting pieces of Christian propaganda that I’ve ever seen. In fact, I’m not going to link to it, because I don’t want you to watch it, and I don’t want them to receive any more permanent inbound links.

The video is called “That Jew Died for You.” It’s a cheaply produced piece of crap, in which “Jews” are pushed around by Nazi soldiers and sorted between the work camp and the showers. The, the only colorized character comes to the front of the line. It’s Jesus! And he is sent to the gas chambers. After that, the Suffering Servant text rolls across the screen and some images of Marc Chagall paintings of the crucifixion are shown. Get it? Since Chagall was a brilliant Jewish painter who used a Christian image in his work, Christians can take the Holocaust and use it for evangelism!

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Five Reasons You Probably Shouldn’t Attend a Christian Seder

The Seder plate at Rabbi Joseph Edelheit’s home, including oranges, olives, and tomatoes.

It’s Passover until this evening, and lots of Christians — especially evangelicals — are attending Passover Seder dinners. But they’re not traditional Seder dinners, with Jews. No, they’re a co-opted rite, sometimes hosted by a “messianic” Jew, and sometimes just by Christians who’ve read a Wikipedia entry.

I’ve been to a Seder for the past couple years. My family and I have been hosted by Rabbi Joseph Edelheit, a sometime contributor to this blog, and a dear friend. In his role as director of the religious studies program at St. Cloud State University, Joseph has hosted Seder dinners for Christian students — at the Lutheran campus ministry for instance — but the difference is that he’s really Jewish. He’s a rabbi. He’s not playacting. This is really his thing.

Many Christians, particularly evangelicals, are drawn to primitive Christianity. They want to follow Jesus like those first Christians did, before Constantine and Charlemagne mucked everything up with Christendom. I personally think that’s a noble goal, and I’m not totally averse to it. However, having a Seder meal at your church or Christian college is not the way to do here. Here’s why:

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How’s Your Atonement?

Marc Chagall’s “Yellow Crucifixion,” which hung on Jürgen Moltmann’s wall as he wrote The Crucified God.

As you may know, I’m completing a book on the atonement. It’s called Did God Kill Jesus?, and it will be released on March 17, 2015. The first draft of the book is off to the publisher and a few friends for reading. Edits will happen over the next couple months, as will decisions about subtitle, cover, interior design, endorsements, etc. All pretty exciting stuff.

I’m currently teaching a reading seminar, “Theologies of Atonement,” at United Theological Seminary, and still reading and thinking about atonement. And I’m not the only one.

My first foray into wring about the atonement came with my ebook, A Better Atonement, published a couple years ago. Now Jason Micheli has done me the great honor of publishing an accompanying ebook, Preaching A Better Atonement. Therein, Jason lays out some of the versions of atonement in church history and gives sermon illustrations for each. It’s a great resource for Lent and Holy Week, all the proceeds go to the Guatemala Toilet Project, and it can hold you over until next March.

And just think, you can get Jason’s book and my A Better Atonement for less than 5 bucks!


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