A Guide to Judaism for Evangelicals Corrects Misconceptions, and Confronts Ugly Truths

In Separated Siblings, John E. Phelan, Jr., an evangelical pastor and scholar, attempts to explain to his coreligionists the basic facts of Judaism, its relationship with Christianity, and Jewish history. Gerald McDermott notes a few “gaps,” especially pertaining to Zionism and Israel, but overall finds the book both informative and effective:

Christian readers will find resonance in Jewish texts they might otherwise overlook. The kaddish, for example, is a daily Jewish prayer that begins with words nearly identical to the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer: “May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified.” Phelan observes that while the Talmud . .  . might appear, to outsiders, as obsessed with “minor matters” of religious law, faithful Jews regard it as a divine guide to everyday holiness that puts reason to work “in service of love and obedience.”

This book should also surprise readers who have been led to believe that God rejected the Jews as His chosen people when most 1st-century Jews rejected Jesus as their messiah. Phelan argues that while God’s covenant with Moses was conditional on Israel’s obedience, His covenant with Abraham was unconditional. Moses warned that God’s people would lose control of the land if they turned to idolatry (Deuteronomy 28:36), but they would remain God’s chosen.

If the surprises Phelan documents are intriguing, they are also painful. He highlights many moments in the last two millennia when Christian leaders taught hatred for and persecution of Jews. Erasmus, for instance, refused a trip to Spain because it was too “full of Jews.” Martin Luther preached that if Jews would not convert, “We [Christians] should neither tolerate nor endure them among us.”

Of particular interest is Phelan’s treatment of the great mid-century European Protestant religious thinkers: the Swiss theologian Karl Barth (cited frequently by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik) and the German pastors Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who founded the Confessing Church as an alternative to the Nazis’ official racialized Christianity) and Martin Niemöller (best known for his saying, “First they came for the socialists, . . . then they came for the Jews. . . .”).

As Phelan explains, even Barth, Bonhoeffer, and Niemöller, who “spoke out against the Nazis and anti-Semitism” before and during World War II, nevertheless in their “records reveal anti-Jewish stances and equivocal support for Germany’s Jews until it was once again too late.” The Barmen Declaration (1934) famously declared that Jesus Christ was Germany’s only leader (Führer), but it said nothing about the persecution of Jews because “the Confessing Church would not have accepted it.”

Read more at Christianity Today

More about: Anti-Semitism, Jewish-Christian relations, New Testament

Using the Power of the Law to Fight Anti-Semitism

Examining carefully the problem of anti-Semitism, and sympathy with jihadists, at American universities, Danielle Pletka addresses the very difficult problem of what can be done about it. Pletka avoids such simplistic answers as calling for more education and turns instead to a more promising tool: law. The complex networks of organizations funding and helping to organize campus protests are often connected to malicious states like Qatar, and to U.S.-designated terrorist groups. Thus, without broaching complex questions of freedom of speech, state and federal governments already have ample justifications to crack down. Pletka also suggests various ways existing legal frameworks can be strengthened.

And that’s not all:

What is Congress’s ultimate leverage? Federal funding. Institutions of higher education in the United States will receive north of $200 billion from the federal government in 2024.

[In addition], it is critical to understand that foreign funders have been allowed, more or less, to turn U.S. institutions of higher education into political fiefdoms, with their leaders and faculty serving as spokesmen for foreign interests. Under U.S. law currently, those who enter into contracts or receive funding to advocate for the interest of a foreign government are required to register with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). This requirement is embedded in a criminal statute, and a violation risks jail time. There is no reason compliance by American educational institutions with disclosure laws should not be subject to similar criminal penalties.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American law, Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus