Jews for Jesus leaflets always put me in an extremely bad mood

The evangelical movement, which singles out Jews rather than Muslims or Hindus for conversion, is just plain rude – I can’t help but think about the Spanish Inquisition


Vintage engraving of scene from the New Testament, Jesus speaking in the treasury. James Tissot

June 01, 2022 15:02

So we get a note through the door saying we should sign up to a neighbourhood online noticeboard, which is a first round here because I doubt that our road even came together to celebrate VE Day. We don’t do communal. And my wife says I should do it because we ought to know what’s going on although, actually, nothing is ever going on. We may not be communal but if something were to go on, we’d stop it.

I sign up as suggested and find myself somehow receiving alerts from an app called Nextdoor, which is quite funny because it soon becomes clear that no one next door to us, or next door to them, or indeed within half a mile, is posting on this thing. Those who do are mostly kvetch about aggressive dogs, bemoan stolen Mercs or screen videos of people taking a dump in their driveways. Even the stuff for sale all looks like it really ought to be thrown away (sorry, carefully recycled).

And then, between a post saying “cleaner wanted” and another saying “cleaner available”, is someone mentioning that they’ve just had a flyer through the door for a group called Jews for Jesus. What do we all think? Well team, what do we think?

My instinctive reaction — before giving it any thought at all — is hostile. Even if it is Jews supposedly doing the picking, why pick on us? Here’s a list of organisations I couldn’t find anywhere: Buddhists for Zoroaster, Muslims for Wotan, Christians for Kali, Hindus for Jesus. Or indeed anyone at all for Jesus — except Jews.

And where, after all this time, can we find Catholics or Lutherans for Judaism? So that singling out of Jews to be uniquely “for” someone else’s Messiah is suspicious in itself and I don’t like it. It just feels just rude. To me, getting someone to leave their religion and join someone else’s is bad manners. It’s rather like the vast hypermarket leafletting customers at the little corner shop, offering them fantastic discounts if they’ll just defect. The fact is that there are already too few Jews and more than enough Christians. Frankly we don’t need any more Christians. True, Jews make it as hard as possible to join and Christians make it almost insultingly easy (come along, strum a guitar, shake hands with the vicar, arrange some flowers and you’re in), but even so, this feels a bit like bullying. I went on the Jews for Jesus website and discovered, as you might expect, that it started in America, where beginning your own religious organisation is a national hobby.

Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Scientologists, Jim Jones and a zillion standalone evangelical outfits run by pastors who turn out to have strangely ungodly financial and sexual habits — all Americans.

So anyway, some Seventies Californian Jew, already part of a Christian mission to convert us, breaks away from the parent organisation and sets up JfJ. It’s headquartered in San Francisco, naturally (though its address in the UK is a PO Box in Harrow), employs 250 staff “worldwide” and sends children to a summer camp of the kind that I would have burned down if I’d been sent there.

There’s quite a lot on their site about Jesus being a Jew (who knew?) and nothing at all about past Jews for Jesus initiatives, such as the Spanish Inquisition.

Anyway, you get the point. I don’t like them. They’d better not come to my door, or I’ll regale them with neighbour’s videos depicting someone taking a dump in their driveways. You cannot be too careful round here, I’ll warn them. Hampstead can be savage.

But am I being fair? Am I being consistent? After all, for many Jews, there is no requirement to actually believe in a supreme being. Many of the Jews I know are either secular (ie atheists) or Masorti types, who love the language, the history and the rituals, but doesn’t really believe a word of the prayers. I see nothing wrong with that. You’re a Jew, you’re a Jew. You believe, you believe. You don’t, you don’t. What’s the tsimmis? So why not, equally, be a Jew for Jesus (or Mohammed or Wotan)?

Well, atheist Jews don’t employ 250 people worldwide and run toe-curling summer camps trying to persuade yeshiva bochers to give up the Almighty.

But on the other hand, I can’t help feeling that if Jesus were alive today and living in Pinner, the editor of the JC would sign him up as a columnist.

June 01, 2022 15:02

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