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October 30, 2018 2:59 pm

After Pittsburgh, Some Practical Steps Christians Can Take to Combat Antisemitism

avatar by Noah Summers

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Police stand at the entrance to Rodef Shalom Temple before funeral services for brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S., October 30, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

The horrific antisemitic attack in Pittsburgh should alert Christians to the dangerous reality their Jewish friends and neighbors are facing. As Dr. Richard Lux — the National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel (NCLCI) board president — noted in the NCLCI’s statement, “Christians need to stand in solidarity with Jews in the US and do some soul-searching to consider the role they may have played in promoting this hostility.”

From very early on in church history, Christian churches — in direct conflict with their New Testament — have tolerated and sometimes participated in antisemitism. Some individual Christians and churches throughout history have been the exception to the norm. Knowingly or otherwise, they have confronted the doctrine and spirit of Balaam head-on. These modern-day “Ruths” have confronted the “Balaks” and “Balaams” of the world, and held them to account for their antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments. 

Ruth was a Moabitess who reversed the curse of Balak and Balaam, and entered into covenant with the Jewish people and the nation of Israel. Her powerful pledge to Naomi must resonate with Christians seeking to confront antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments today: ‘Do not entreat me to leave you, to return from following you, for wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. So may the Lord do to me and so may He continue, if anything but death separate me and you.’ It is time for Christians to make a similar pledge, such as the RUTH Declaration.

Nikki Haley is a Christian who has directly confronted anti-Israel prejudice at the UN. From vetoing resolutions that targeted the only Jewish state to holding Israel’s enemies (modern-day “Balaks”) accountable for their terrorism, Haley ensured that Israel’s enemies knew that the United States would not play the role of a modern-day “Balaam” — paying lip service to Israel while strategizing with Israel’s enemies behind its back. 

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During World War II, churches in Denmark refused to see their Jewish citizens as the “other,” and instead worked to frustrate the Nazis’ murderous plans. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin recently visited Denmark to commemorate the 75th anniversary of 7,000 Danish Jewish citizens being protected and safely taken to Sweden. In sharp contrast to some Polish citizens who confiscated Jewish property, many Danish citizens kept Jewish property safe until it could be returned to its rightful Jewish owners. 

Today, Christians’ willingness to address antisemitism should be gauged by their willingness to follow the direction of Revelation 2:14-17. There are four practical steps — RUTH — that they should take to demonstrate the depth of their commitment to uprooting antisemitism from their churches.

Repent: Christian scriptures make it clear that Christians must repent for the toleration of antisemitism in churches. Jim Fletcher, a Christian researcher who has devoted his life to exposing antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments in churches, has expressed his frustration with Christians being unwilling to name and shame those who profess Christianity and a desire for peace but simultaneously spread destructive theology, harmful ideology, and hate-inspired propaganda. 

Obviously, the church addressed in Revelation 2 was experiencing the very same problem. Christians serious about addressing antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments in their churches must have the backbone necessary to reject popular Christian celebrities (such as clergy, authors, and speakers), churches, and church-related organizations that promote the doctrine of Balaam and operate in what might be termed the antisemitic spirits of Balaam and Balak. 

Understand: Christians must educate themselves and their communities to better understand the threat that antisemitism poses not only to Jews, but also to Christians themselves. This means that Christians must be willing to study the Jewish roots of their Christian faith, and denounce and reject theology and doctrines that undermine an appreciation for the Jewish foundations of their faith. It does not matter what term is used to describe it — “replacement theology,” “fulfillment theology,” or “supersessionism” — the doctrine and spirit of Balaam animates these and many other antisemitic and anti-Israel theological positions and doctrines. 

Teach: If church leaders demonstrate the courage to give sermons on the antisemitic doctrine of Balaam, it will quickly expose those who embrace the doctrine. Church leaders, authors, and conference speakers must be unafraid in addressing this topic. Churches tolerating antisemitism or anti-Zionism have no credibility to speak on matters of antisemitism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since they have either been ignorant of or have refused to comprehend the Hebrew Bible’s example and the New Testament’s instruction on how to address antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments among their own congregants.

Help: Christians have to be willing to hold individuals and organizations accountable for their actions. They must do their due diligence to ensure that those who embrace the doctrine of Balaam have not infiltrated their churches and influenced their members. Furthermore, churches should disfellowship those individuals and organizations that practice or preach antisemitism. 

It is time for Christians to come together and make the Ruth Declaration pledge embracing the legacy of Ruth, who reversed the curse of King Balak and the Moabites.  

So will Christians today embrace the example of Ruth, Nikki Haley, and Denmark’s churches during World War II? Or will they continue the legacy of the church of Pergamus and generations of Christians since, who have put relationships with those who espouse the doctrine of Balaam above truth, righteousness, and justice?   

Noah Summers is a specialist on Middle East affairs and American foreign policy.

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