Opinion

God TV Evangelicals: Please Stop Pitching Your Hatred of Judaism as 'Love'

We Jews know Christianity is a missionary faith. But if your brand of Christianity specifically aims to destroy Jewish faith and traditions, don’t call that anti-Semitic contempt 'love'

Avi Bell
Avi Bell
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Screenshot of God TV CEO Ward Simpson discussing its new Israeli channel, Shelanu TV.
Screenshot of God TV CEO Ward Simpson discussing its new Israeli channel, Shelanu TV.Credit: Screenshot
Avi Bell
Avi Bell

I read with interest, Michael L. Brown, your defense of the Christian missionary station God TV (or "Shelanu") that began broadcasting in Israel, and which employs your services (Jews Welcome Evangelical Love, Money and Influence for Israel. But Call Our Christianity 'Poison'?

I rather doubt that you are interested in real dialogue, but on the off-hand chance that you are genuinely interested in the friendship with the Jewish people that you claim, here’s something to bear in mind.

Many Jews, in Israel and elsewhere in the world, are offended by God TV’s missionary activity, which is also in direct violation of its broadcasting license. 

This is not because we are attempting to silence the voice of American Christian missionaries (or, in your patently dishonest description, "Israeli Jews who believe in Yeshua.") I, and those who think like me, have no objection to you sharing your views of Christianity with your Christian coreligionists and with those non-Christians who want to hear your views.

GOD TV broadcast promoting its Israel-focused programming, featuring 'Discovering the Jewish Jesus with Messianic Rabbi Schneider'
GOD TV broadcast promoting its Israel-focused programming, featuring 'Discovering the Jewish Jesus with Messianic Rabbi Schneider'Credit: Screenshot from YouTube

The offense is also not because of an animus towards Christians or Christianity. You are absolutely wrong when you accuse the many Jews offended by God TV’s missionary activity as characterizing the message of the gospels as "toxic" and Christianity as "poison." 

I, and those Jews who think like me, respect Christians and their religious beliefs, and we are well aware that Christianity has contributed much that is good to the world. Religions are complex, and we understand that there is more to the Christian faith than millennia of anti-Semitism —we don’t judge your faith solely by the worst actions of its followers. Certainly, we respect the right of Christians to revere their holy text — the New Testament, including the Gospels — and to interpret it in light of their faith.

Our respect for your religion is one reason why we are offended by your contempt for ours. We are not telling you how to interpret your New Testament, and you should stop telling us Jews how we are to interpret our Torah. We actually love you, even if your "love" for us, unlike that of your philosemitic coreligionists, is nothing more than serpent’s poison. We respect your choice to abandon the religion of your people. Now respect our choice to stick with the religion of ours.

When you and your fellow preachers at God TV claim that Christianity is the true Judaism you are making a claim that is disrespectful, anti-Semitic and toxic. You are telling us that not only do you have the right to define your Christian faith (you do!) and to interpret your own religious tradition (you do!), but that you also have the right to define our Jewish faith and deny us Jews the right to interpret our religious tradition.

Yes, the Christian faith has traditionally been a "missionary faith," and for many it has also, traditionally, been a supercessionist religion. It doesn’t have to be that way, and we are grateful to the many Christians in the world who love us and reject the anti-Semitism of their religious predecessors. 

We know that Christianity is an evangelical religion, and we don’t attribute your toxic approach to all your co-religionists; we know you don’t speak for all evangelical Christians even though you pretend to.

'March of the Nations,' a pro-Israel rally by evangelical Christians in Jerusalem. May 15, 2018
'March of the Nations,' a pro-Israel rally by evangelical Christians in Jerusalem. May 15, 2018Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS

If you want your brand of Christianity to be supercessionist, specifically aimed at destroying Jewish faith and traditions, we can’t stop you. We can’t prevent you from trying to persuade other Christians to adopt a similarly hateful attitude toward Jews. We can’t make you join fellow Christians in treating us with respect. 

But don’t expect a free pass for attempting to defraud Israeli regulatory authorities just because most evangelical Christians are wonderfully philosemitic, unlike you and your ilk at God TV.

Please stop trying to pitch your disrespect for Jews and hatred of our religion as "love." It’s the kind of "love" we don’t need. We don’t welcome your antipathy for our religion and traditions. If you feel that you are entitled to destroy our traditions, disrespect our beliefs, violate our laws, and show contempt for us as a people because you claim to offer us "support, money, political influence and service," then please keep the "support" to yourself. 

Friendship begins with respect. What kind of "friendship" are you preaching?

Avi Bell is a professor at the Bar Ilan University Faculty of Law and the University of San Diego School of Law

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