Reflections on Michael Freund's article on Christians and Repentance

"When Christians Repent", is an article by Michael Freund, currently featured on Aish HaTorah’s website. The article also appeared in the Jerusalem Post. With all due respect to Mr. Freund and the extraordinary work that he does, Jewishisrael has repeatedly taken issue with his unreserved approach to embracing evangelical Christians time and time and time again. 

In this particular article of Freund’s, he praises the group Christians for Israel for having "sincere and unequivocal" goals with "no agenda".

Christians for Israel (C4I) is certainly concerned about Israel and has exerted notable efforts to assist the Jewish state. They approach their Christian mission with more care and "respect", so to speak, than many other evangelical groups. However, they do have an openly christ-centered agenda which longs for the day when Jews will embrace jesus as their lord. In fact C4I's literature makes it clear that those hopes largely motivate their efforts to promote aliyah. That leaves a lot of Jews feeling uncomfortable. In addition, C4I partners with groups like the Ebenezer Fund, which directly works with messianic groups and congregations and has a history of targeting new immigrants to Israel for conversion.

Mr. Freund drives home the point that, "not all Christians are out to get us, and to suggest otherwise is simply fatuous and misleading". 

Very few Jews are suggesting that, and one has to wonder just who is doing the misleading here? A Torah observant Jew, like Mr. Freund, surely understands that it is neither anti -Semitism, replacement theology, or missionary activity which is the primary reason for Jews maintaining a respectful and necessary distance from zealous Christians and are therefore reserved in their dealings with them.

The foundations and principles of the Jewish faith call for that separation. We are obligated to remain a unique nation, while actively participating with Gentiles in the world at large. To suggest otherwise is simply disingenuous or out-of touch on the part of Mr. Freund. It is not fair for Freund to try and pull the wool over the eyes of his own people, nor is truthful to perpetuate that myth to our Christian supporters.

It is absolutely staggering that many of our fellow Jews, including rabbinic and community leaders, are either blind or have forgotten the fundamental principles of our faith and have swept the avodah zarah issue under the rug. It is confounding that an Orthodox Jew, like Michael Freund, can turn a blind eye to the foundations of our faith, whereas a secular left-wing Jewish journalist can shine some light on this issue.

Generations of the Jewish people have been born who have been fortunate enough not to experience severe ant-Semitism and who have been privileged to live among wonderful Gentile neighbors and friends. And yet even when effectively stating the case for Israel or lobbying support among G-d fearing Gentiles, theological discussions and endeavors have remained off limits.

Yes, Mr. Freund, despite what you allude to in your article, twenty and thirty years ago Christians from various denominations were taking a moral stand with Israel, lobbying for Israel in U.S. Congress and contributing to Israel's healthy tourism industry. However, the discussions about the "Jewishness of Jesus", "God's plan for the Jewish people" and" being grafted into the covenant" were not a part of the conversation and would have left a lot of Jews uneasy and out in the cold. So while in recent years Israeli activists may have gained myriads of Christian lovers of Zion, they have lost the strong Zionist base among their own people who are feeling alienated and don't necessarily wear their religious devotion on their sleeves.

Freund's bottom line is:

"…when Christians nowadays take responsibility for the actions of their forefathers, seek atonement and extend a hand of friendship, it behooves us to respond in kind".

The process of repentance is indeed remarkable. That so many Gentiles, both secular and religious, have gone through the painful process of profoundly reflecting, asking forgiveness, and taking action to ensure that such an episode as the Holocaust never happens again, is certainly worthy of admiration and praise.

And yet a number of Jewish leaders and activists continue to perpetuate a myth and identify the cause of the age-old gap between Judaism and Christianity as stemming from historic anti-Semitism, missionary activity, or replacement theology. And Jews – even Torah Observant ones –feel that if those issues were eliminated, it will pave the road to a grand Judeo-Christian reconciliation, and together we can march to defeat Islam.

As Efrat’s Rabbi Shlomo Riskin recently told Fox News Radio:

“In this war, Jews and Christians stand together.  We represent one religious platform.” 

Perhaps the Jewish people in their "aloneness" yearn for a loving, comforting embrace over appropriate and professional strategic alliances. Perhaps we are afraid to lay down limits and say "no", lest we lose good Christian friends.

“Now, why do you seek friends? Is the King not among you? Has your Counselor perished, that pangs have seized you like a woman in confinement?” -Micha 4:9

Despite Mr. Freund's emphasis on the conversionary platform as being the problem, we Jews need to understand that even those Christians who have abandoned proselytizing and replacement theology and have repented for anti-Semitism, are seeking a highly theological and forbidden union with the Jewish people. At this time, many of thes Christians are claiming to be covenantal partners (grafted in) with us and equal inheritors –both spiritually and physically - of the Land of Israel.  There are calls for Christian aliyah and a number of evangelical leaders have become aware of the problem and have raised the alarm.

The crux of the matter with our devout Christian Zionist friends is that they are in the midst of a profound theological struggle. Although we can empathize with this difficult process, and see that they are doing all they can to accommodate Jewish sensitivities without abandoning their Christian mission, we must not negotiate or sacrifice the principles and foundations of our own faith in order to lend them a hand. In the past, Mr. Freund has called for Christian Birthright programs.  Is that a precursor to Christain aliyah? Are millions of people who believe in god incarnate a lost tribe?

Whereas Diaspora Jewry has focused primarily on attempting to keep anti-Semitism in check and on nurturing healthy interfaith relations with Christians, Israeli Jewry is absolutely obligated to keep extreme "Christian Zionist philo-Semitism" at bay. We cannot compromise the integrity of the Jewish State, undercut Jewish foundations or trample halachic fences in our quest for friends and partners.

JewishIsrael believes that our true Gentile friends can understand this and will stick by us even if we need to draw necessary lines in the relationship.

Wishing our readership a profoundly meaningful Yom HaShoah. May all good people in this world never see or experience such tragedy, suffering, and sorrow again.

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