Loren Jacobs came up with an interesting Halloween costume.
He disguised himself as a rabbi.
That is what happened on Monday, when Vice President Mike Pence appeared at a rally in Michigan, and invited "a leader in the Jewish community" to offer a prayer for the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre.
The "Jewish leader" was Loren Jacobs, a Messianic Jewish minister, who was ordained at an evangelical seminary.
To quote the New York Times:
Rabbi Jacobs believes that Jesus is the Messiah, a conviction that is theologically incompatible with Judaism. Some Jews believe that the movement the rabbi represents, Messianic Judaism, is not only antithetical to Judaism but also hostile to their religion because its goal is to persuade Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah, and by doing so convert Jewish people to Christianity.
It gets worse.
For it was not Mike Pence who issued the invitation. (Though, let us remember: this administration has a penchant for evangelical Christianity inserting its presence into "Jewish" events, like the controversial dedication of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Just sayin').
Shanda (great embarrassment to the Jewish people) alert: it was Lena Epstein, a Republican candidate for Congress, who boasts of her deep roots in the Detroit Jewish community and who claimed to have made this invitation as a way of stressing the need for religious unity.
To which my colleague, Jason Miller, responded on Twitter:
There are over 60 rabbis in Michigan & yet the only rabbi the Michigan [Republican Party] could find to offer a prayer for the 11 Jewish victims in Pittsburgh at the Mike Pence rally was a local Jews for Jesus rabbi? That’s pathetic!
It is not only pathetic.
It was the second great act of anti-semitism to have occurred during this past week.
On Shabbat, the target was the Jews.
And while no one intended it as such,
On Monday, the target was Judaism.
This is what Jacobs' congregation says on its website:
Messianic Judaism is a movement of Jewish people who believe that Yeshua (Jesus’ original name in Hebrew) is the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world. Yeshua is the most Jewish of Jews. He perfectly kept the entire Torah (see Galatians 4:4). He taught that He came to fulfill, not set aside, the Torah (see Matthew 5:17-19). He was a rabbi who performed unparalleled miracles, bringing great blessing to the nation of Israel. All His early disciples also lived very Jewish lives. The Messianic movement was entirely Jewish at its inception, and continued to exist as an authentic Jewish movement for 700 years after Yeshua’s death and resurrection. Messianic Jews have not stopped being Jewish. On the contrary, we remain strongly Jewish in our identity and lifestyle! We believe that the Sinai covenant, upon which much of traditional (Rabbinic) Judaism is based, is a broken covenant. There is no Temple and there are no sacrifices by which we can be brought near to God and experience genuine atonement. Non-Messianic Judaism is based on this broken covenant, which cannot save us. In contrast, we believe that God already established this New Covenant by means of Yeshua’s death and resurrection. He died and rose again to atone for our sins, so that we can enter into this New Covenant relationship with God. We believe that Yeshua ascended to the right hand of God the Father and is coming back to Earth to reign from Jerusalem over Israel and all the nations of the world. At that time the fullness of the New Covenant will be realized. (emphasis mine -- JKS)
I would not know how to start refuting the historical errors in this paragraph. Christianity was an authentic Jewish movement for 700 years after Jesus?
That would surprise every Christian or Jewish scholar worth his or her tenured position.
There is a word for Loren Jacobs' religion.
The word is not Judaism.
The word is Christianity.
On a recent visit to the Twin Cities, I quipped: How are the Jews like Minneapolis? They are both opposed to St. Paul.
At the risk of oversimplifying: Paul took the message of the risen Christ to the gentile pagans of the Roman Empire. He taught that the Torah was no longer valid. In particular, he taught that the dietary laws (kashrut) was no longer in force, and that ritual circumcision (brit milah) was no longer necessary.
Why? Because who needs all those drops of circumcision blood, when it is the blood of Jesus shed on Calvary that brings redemption to the world?
For Paul, the mitzvot were not only irrelevant. They have no redemptive value.
Or, to put it in modern terms:
The covenant at Sinai, made between God and the Jewish people, was Covenant 1.0 -- the beta version.
The covenant made through the blood of Jesus on Calvary was Covenant 2.0 -- and it "overwrote" the original covenant.
Rabbi James Rudin, one of American Judaism's foremost experts on Jewish-Christian relations, has said: "The Jews for Jesus and other Hebrew Christian groups are not Jews, but converts to Christianity. That is their right, but they do not have the right to distort and twist authentic Judaism...there are 'truth in labeling' laws in the United States. Hebrew Christians need to obey a religious version of such legislation."
Why do I say that this invitation to Jacobs was the second act of anti-semitism in the past week? Isn't that a little harsh?
Perhaps -- because certainly it could not have been intended that way.
But let us be clear.
The message of Jacob' congregation is anti-Jewish. It believes that rabbinic Judaism is wrong. It believes that the Judaism as practiced by world Jewry is wrong.
They are free to believe this, of course.
But, such beliefs are anti-Judaism -- even though those who proclaim those beliefs might love Jews, both individually and collectively.
As the New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine has written: "Anti-Judaism...is the rejection of specific Jewish teachings and practices and/or of Judaism as a 'way of life' or means of salvation."
That is what Loren Jacobs believes. That was the man deemed worthy of representing the Jewish community. Nothing could be less Jewishly-authentic.
None of my Christian colleagues would agree with this distortion of both Judaism and Christianity.
To get back to the modern metaphor: they believe that Covenant 1.0 (Sinai) sits on the same desktop of Covenant 2.0 (Calvary). They rejoice in Judaism. They believe that it is essential to Jews.
So, too, many modern Jews rejoice in Christianity. Read the proclamation of Dabru Emet to see what many Jews think about Christianity and its promise. I was proud to have been one of its signatories.
Here is the good news (and I don't mean that in a gospel kind of way).
Mike Pence's religious faux pas will soon pass into history.
We will still be working with sincere Christians, Muslims, and others to make this world whole, and to make this world ready for God.
It is a noble project.
Let's get to it.