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I seriously like Jews.
I mean, I'll pass on the Manishewitz, but in general, wow, I love those people. Yeshua, of course, is my favorite. He did die for me after all and indwells me by his Spirit. But, he is in good company.
As a goy-boy growing up in rural Oklahoma I was not afforded many opportunities for, well, schmoozing with the Chosen People, but as my world gloriously expands God is giving me more and more encounters with Jews of many backgrounds. I'm getting opportunities for cultural learning, friendship and partnership. Yiddish words and phrases in sitcoms are starting to make sense and I'm secretly (not so secret now, I guess) hoping for an invite to a pakka Purim celebration (okay, "pakka" is Hindi lingo rather than Yiddish, but old habits die hard. Would the Yiddish be echt?)
But what is going on today? Is it just me or is the mood changing? Though I grew up with very little global exposure, I somehow imbibed a rather undiluted message about the Jews -- i.e. antisemitism is evil.
So why does it suddenly seem more okay to be antisemitic? Consider the following short video taken of a man simply walking the streets of Paris as a Jew:
Are you kidding me?
Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg with a seemingly growing number of terrorist threats and attacks directed towards Jews, consider:
The recent desecration of Jewish graves in France
The shooting at a synagogue in Denmark
The conspiracy and cover up regarding the massacre of Jews in Argentina
To mention just a few high-profile incidents.
It's enough to prompt Israel's PM, Benjamin Netanyahu to call for Jews to come "home" en masse to the Promised Land. A fact that's sure to tempt a few of you to dust off some of your old Jenkins-Lahaye novels (you know exactly where they are, don't you?).
Of course, it get's even more meshuggah. On the one hand, you have Hollywood legend Shirley MacLaine writing some really stupid stuff about karma and the holocaust. Her speculation that the millions of Jews slaughtered by the Nazis may have had it coming to them due to bad deeds committed in a previous life was newsworthy for about five minutes. But, hey, Vanilla Ice is trending on Twitter so ... at least our priorities are in order.
Swing the pendulum from the famous to the obscure and you find this bizarre story of a Iowa woman who was apparently trying to convert a Jewish neighbor to Christianity through the old beat-them-till-they-convert method.
And then there are my own evangelical tribesmen (and tribeswomen) who in their zeal to always be attacking everything that U.S. President Barak Obama says, rushed to defend the Crusades in response to the President's suggestion that they might have been kind of a bad thing. The standard defense posted and re-posted especially in the Facebook-sphere went something like this:
"Silly Obama, don't you know that the Crusades were essentially defensive struggles against extremist Islamic powers bent on the conquest of Europe? Gosh, you really are a Muslim aren't you?"
And before you go about comfortably dismissing me to some ideological camp that you've taught yourself to ignore, let me say that I begrudgingly voted for McCain and No One in the past two presidential elections, respectively. Not that it's any of your business.
But look here. Putting aside whatever defensive motives may or may not have been at play in the various Crusades (and to what extent those motives were shared by the actual Crusaders) for a moment, I must ask. Have we really forgotten how many Jews were killed by Christians during the Crusades? I blogged a bit about this recently (Here is the link in case you missed it). I don't understand how this isn't a no-brainer for my fellow Jesus-followers. The Crusades resulted in the massacre of thousands of Jews. They don't get to be defended. Why isn't that the end of the story?
So, here I am, scratching my head. Praying. And wondering what good a little voice like mine can do in this context. Should I start a #Jewishlivesmatter or #JesuisHebreu? But leveraging trendiness doesn't go very far.
For now, I feel that I want to say without qualification that I genuinely love and admire the Jews. As a follower of Jesus, I know that they are a people greatly honored by the God I worship. I owe my spiritual heritage to their stewardship of faith and the Scriptures. As a student of people and culture, I am intrigued by the festivals, the language, the religion, the history, the music and pretty much all things Jewish. As a human, I rejoice in our shared humanity and know that I'm richer in relationship to Jews and poorer when separated.
Those who know me well, will know how sincere I am when I say that I would love for more Jews to move into my neighborhood. If the man in the video above came walking by my house -- or up to my door -- he would find a warm welcome.
Join me in praying for peace for the Jewish diaspora wherever they live in the world.