Now that Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Courage" extravaganza is behind us, Jewish activists and journalists in the national camp are busy assessing the success or failure of what was supposed to be a history-making mega-event.
While many are fingering the press for negative publicity, resulting in a lack of interest among Israelis, others are raving about the speeches and content. While the jury is still out as to whether or not Glenn Beck and this happening was good for the Jews, what is clear is that the national religious camp did not flock in their masses to the multi-million dollar faith based extravaganza.
Typically, Jewish Israel is taking a different, more introspective route. We wonder if examining the nature of the "Restoring Courage" events and the personalities involved wouldn't serve as a better litmus test in determining whether or not Beck-type rallies are of benefit to the Jewish people and if they should be encouraged in Eretz Yisrael.
A Christian Revivalist Road Show
"Restoring Courage" was largely a Christian faith-inspired happening. It was made clear from the outset that the happening in Israel was but an extension of Beck's mass "Restoring Honor" event which was held in Washington D.C. last year.
While all Israelis appreciate upstanding, moral Gentiles, the Christian message does not reverberate in the Jewish heart and soul. Despite an enormous helping of pro-Israel rhetoric, some Israelis may have felt like invited guests to a Christian revival meeting taking place in their backyard.
Over several broadcasts in a two month period, it was Glenn Beck himself who generated a lot of Christian hype about his faith-based venture in Israel, “Restoring Courage”. He initiated the idea on air at a Christian holy site, featured the "empty tomb" of Jesus in "Restoring Courage" promos, and spoke excitedly about his events taking place where Jesus taught, overturned tables, and where Pontius Pilate stood. He introduced the term "uber-Christian" to describe the opening "Restoring Courage" event, which he admitted could make some people "uncomfortable", but encouraged Jews to attend.
No one is questioning Beck’s sincerity in going to bat for the Jewish people and in trying to promote a secure Israel. His oratory, energy, and commitment are impressive. Yet he comes to Israel as an outsider - a product of a foreign culture. Consequently, it is no fault of Beck’s that he fails to understand the unique character, obligations, and commitments of the Jewish people and of a nation that is decidedly not "Judeo-Christian".
What is unfortunate is that the Torah observant leaders and activists who continue touting Beck and his evangelical partners around as Israel’s saviors fail to effectively communicate Jewish sensitivities and limitations to those parties reaching out to Jews.
"Nail-scarred hands" in Caesarea
While Beck's Christian event in Caesarea was "geared specifically for Christians" , Jews were invited. Jewish Israel notes that the evening was notably reserved when compared with other mega-Christian events that have been held in Israel in recent years. Nevertheless, it's disturbing that those Jews in attendance were not unsettled by evangelist Mike Evans' theatrical testimony of how he as a Jewish boy came to Jesus.
One Jewish leader of Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI), who was present in Caesarea, called Evans' testimony about his Jewish mother and his anti-Semitic father, "amazing". Not every Jew would describe the story of a Jewish boy who accepted the "nail-scarred hands" of Jesus as "amazing".
Although Evans inferred to the audience that this was the first time he had relayed the story publicly, just two months earlier he gave over the same account to an audience at Concord First Assembly Church in North Carolina. Evangelist Evans has also used the story of his conversion and abusive father in email fundraisers and has a bestselling book on the subject: "The Light" - Strangled by his own father, dying, he cried out.
Yisrael Medad reported in a blog post, which covered the Caesarea event, that "fears of sneak proselytizing or missionary work were not only unfounded but dashed". But Evans was obviously "witnessing" his faith, and that activity is missionary by nature and definition.
In their Media comment in the Jerusalem Post, Yisrael Medad and Eli Pollak refer to "Dr. Michael Evans" as “a well-known writer and journalist in the United States as well as one of the founders of the Christian Zionist movement". Medad and Pollak chose to disregard, or simply overlook, the fact that Evans gained notoriety by serving as an effective founder and leader of the messianic (Hebrew-Christian) missionary movement, and that "Dr. Evans" the "political journalist" is an equally famous evangelist with a colorful and known history of playing prophet, healer and of targeting Jews:
Evans' style hasn't changed through the years. While he spoke so movingly in Caesarea about Corrie Ten Boom as having taught Jews about Judaism, Evans neglected to mention that in addition to the Boom family risking their lives to save hundreds of physical Jewish lives in the Holocaust, the Boom family also incessantly preached that Jews were "completed" when they became Christian. The Booms would reassure condemned and terrified Jews in the camps that they would become “even more Jewish” if they accepted Jesus. The evangelism continued even as Righteous Gentile Corrie Ten Boom planted a tree at Yad Vashem.
Mike Evans has used the podium at Ariel University in Samaria to speak on behalf of "messianic Jewish rights" in Israel and maintains a close affiliation through his Jerusalem Prayer Team, with Bill McCartney of Promise Keepers who targets Jews for conversion, as well as with Jay Sekulow, the messianic Chief Counsel of the ACLJ, who gained fame as a defender of Jews for Jesus.
And speaking of Sekulow
There are reports of numerous "viewing parties" and rallies in America that took place concurrently with the "Restoring Courage" event.
The rally in Gainesville Georgia featured messianic “rabbi" and missionary Scott Sekulow. While the video is clear enough, we note that the article on the rally makes no mention that "rabbi" Sekulow is a Christian.
Scott Sekulow is a proud missionary and he used the opportunity to tell the crowd, who was assembled in support of the Beck rally, about his proselytizing exploits in Israel. He also spoke repeatedly of his brother Jay's connections with the Israeli government. Jay Sekulow is the messianic Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice who gained notoriety defending Jews for Jesus in a series of battles in the US supreme Court.
And speaking of advocates for religious freedom…
Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, presented the "Restoring Courage" awards at Beck's main event on August 24th. Liberty Counsel is a Christian organization which defends religious freedom in America and around the world. In an ongoing case, Staver has effectively defended the rights of Jews for Jesus and he defends the rights of students to proselytize on public school campuses (in America).
Staver's organization has an office in Jerusalem. While Jewish Israel has no information at this time of Staver initiating or supporting any efforts to ease or change proselytizing laws in Israel, the fact that Staver has established a foothold in Israel should raise Jewish concerns about the ongoing U.S. government criticism of Israel's stance on religious freedoms.
A Jewish Blessing goes interfaith
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, delivered the Priestly Blessing to the interfaith crowd. Rabbi Riskin, a maverick on interfaith issues, can be seen delivering the same blessing to viewers as part of an evangelical church television program. Both instances can be seen here. That certain Orthodox rabbis and activists are regularly, and quite publicly, bestowing the Birkat Kohanim blessing upon evangelical and messianic congregations is the subject of our next report.
Arab Pastor Stephen Khouri asked the crowd to stand and concluded the event by blessing Israel, the Palestinian people, and America. Khouri is a missionary, who has a thing about church persecution, which can be seen from his bio:
"Growing up on the Mission field for twenty years has not only taught me the life of a missionary but also the struggles and battles of every believer.
God has burdened my heart in a great way. He has shown me that Arabs can come to salvation; He has shown me that Jews can come to the MESSIAH, and that the people in Israel are losing hope in life. Seeing people bleed every day, and seeing a person one day and gone the next because of violence has made me appreciate life.”
Throughout the entire country of Israel there is only 15,000 born again Christians who are daily persecuted by the other two dominating religions..."
Missionary TBN broadcasts Beck events
Jewish Israel expressed concerns that the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) was given rights to broadcast "Restoring Courage" events.
TBN regularly televises shows targeting Jews for conversion in Israel. According to the promotions, TBN executives and broadcasters Matthew and Laurie Crouch televised a special pre-show event from Caesarea and were joined by Glenn Beck, John Hagee and others.
See these recent video excerpts of the Crouch clan who have been busy broadcasting in Israel. Rick Ridding, a nephew to TBN's founder Paul Crouch, is responsible for the annual Elav messianic events for Israeli youth.
A bit of nostalgia
In the days before interfaith mega happenings on behalf of Israel, there was a dignified breed of righteous Gentile defenders of the Jewish state who were likely equally devout and "biblically" inspired, but who had enough sense, sensitivity and respect for the Jewish people to keep their personal religious expression to themselves. Their approach won them the love and respect from Jews across the political spectrum and this consequently served to unify the Jewish nation when it was most needed. We refer to members of the US government and diplomats, such as the late Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick.
Jon Voight, whom Jewish Israel feels has righteous intentions, was in Israel and visible throughout the events associated with "Restoring Courage". Although obviously a deeply religious man, Voight has remained consistently respectful and humble and weighs his words carefully when in Israel. Note his speech at the "Restoring Courage Recap".
Who voiced opposition to the rally or didn't show.
While it's easy for evangelicals and certain right-wing activists to blame the failure of Jews to embrace Christians on years of anti-Semitism and paranoia, this really isn't the case. This was an English-speaking event and the Jews who would most likely attend Beck's rally come from western counties where they enjoyed a sense of security among good Christian neighbors. Concern over assimilation is the issue for those who place a high priority on Jewish spiritual continuity, and interfaith events hold little interest for those who prefer to maintain clean, clear lines between faiths.
From an evangelical perspective, breaking the theological barriers between Jew and Gentile culminating in "one new man under Jesus" is the ultimate goal as stated in the new testament (see Ephesians 2:14, Ephesians 2:15, Ephesians 3:6, Galatians 3:28).
To recap, the following are a sampling of the reasons that observant Jews may have opted out of the "Restoring Courage"events:
A word to the wise
Numerous Torah observant academics, community leaders and rabbis feel knowledgeable and secure enough in their faith to dismiss or belittle the above-mentioned concerns over interfaith matters. Jewish Israel would like to leave them with a thought expressed by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in reference to King Solomon:
"To a man as wise as Solomon, the pagan cults were almost on par with the games of children; and because he belittled them thus, he permitted his wives …to perform their inconsequential ceremonies. In this sense his wives "deflected" his heart – not because he was tempted by them or their cults, but because he underestimated the impact these cults had on others. This was the trap of his cleverness, and he was unable to evaluate the tenacity of minds simpler than his own…"
"…Solomon's failure can be traced back to his greatness, to his broader view of things, and his inability to discern the significance of the petty and trivial. He could not apprehend the long-range effect of his tolerance of minor religious malpractices, nor the attraction these held for the unlettered." (Biblical Images, page 135)
Some Jews are comfortable crowning Glenn Beck as Israel's globetrotting prophet, grabbing on to his hem and saying "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." They should keep in mind that Beck is first and foremost an American Christian media personality spearheading a "Judeo-Christian" movement.
The rest of us, who are not beholden to Beck, will remain free to express our opinions. We will credit Beck when he's right, criticize him when we feel he's wrong, and stay a comfortable and respectful distance away when he plays the role of Christian prophet and preacher. We also won't be seduced by the the ‘my people are your people’ siren song which twists the meaning of Ruth’s original words and intentions, and which has become the "Christian Zionist" motto.
Jewish activists who pledge their allegiance to Beck and his Christian faith-based movement, may very well find themselves drifting in a direction they never intended to go, and we hope and pray that they don't take the national camp with them.
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