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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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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Law and Prayer and Sin and Homosexuality [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity came back with a vengeance this week. Wow. I’m especially grateful to William Birch, who asked the question, for being so engaged in the comment section — you should go read them all.

William’s question was:

If God hates homosexuality so much, then why won’t He deliver me from it?

Many commenters took exception to the way that William posed the question. They didn’t like the “If…then…” formula, because if you reject the conditional clause at the beginning, then there’s nothing else to talk about. But everyone worked through that, since this is obviously a personal and haunting question for William (and many others).

For beginners, I’m going to agree with premises that William stated in the comment section. Even though I don’t necessarily wholeheartedly affirm these premises, they’re essential to answering the question in the way that William intends it:

  • The words of Leviticus and the words of Paul cannot be pitted against the words/thoughts of God. If it’s in the Bible, we’re going to assume that God intended it to be there.
  • God does actually hate some things.
  • God does actually answer prayers and deliver people from things that vex them.

With those as background, here’s my response:

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The Paradoxical Lesson of Paula Deen’s Language (for Tony Jones)


You’ve heard from my friend and rabbi, Joseph Edelheit, before. He’s in Brazil at the moment, and he’s been thinking about Paula Deen, Edward Snowden, and the contentious posts on this blog. He sent this piece and the above photo, unsolicited, and I post them here, unedited, for your consideration. This post may strike some as inflammatory, so I hope that you will keep your comments civil.

When we find out that someone in popular culture uses language, no matter whether in private or public, that is “outrageous” the response is immediate! Paula Deen’s popularity cannot save her from the swift judgment of corporate America. Her tears and explanations, even her plea taken from Christian scripture: let anyone who has not used words that are hurtful and unacceptable throw a stone at me! The “N-word” has become a recognized act of self-destruction even as the Supreme Court hands down legal discourse that seems to soften decades of legislation that set the standards of racial redress.

Paula Deen is gone, but the Supreme Court might have opened the door for Voter IDs? It might be worth taking a few weeks to consider whether our immediate repugnance of this oh-so Southern gal whose food and cooking masks her denial of diabetes and the much more dangerous institutional racism that was just nullified by the Supreme Court. Paula Deen used the “N-word” — shame on her; meanwhile, the majority of the Supreme Court gave permission to known racist state legislators to create new mechanisms to deny anyone the right to vote. The problem is we cannot cancel the Supreme Court’s television programs or their corporate sponsorships, so maybe Paula Deen is our collective sacrifice of shame?

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