This is the second part of a two-part series from Paul Baxter on what to do when someone defames your character and the gospel publicly.
Dear Mickey Weinstein,
I first learned of you and your Military Religious Freedom Foundation when I saw you were successful in orchestrating the cancellation of a prayer meeting featuring Lt. General Jerry Boykin. Being a rather curious sort, I wanted to know more. And being an ex-intercollegiate debater, I wanted to look at both sides of the issue. I even went back to The Philadelphia Jewish Voice interview where you explained why you do what you do (inflamed by perceived anti-Semitic comments to your sons and the promotion of the movie The Passion of the Christ at the Air Force Academy) and how you do what you do (waging war against a subset of evangelical Christians).
Being a member of this subset of Christianity, I felt led to write this letter to voice an evangelical Christian’s response. May I say at the outset that I am not a defender of any anti-Semitism! One of the darkest days in the history of Christianity is when Crusaders slaughtered Jews and Muslims after capturing Jerusalem. On the other hand, it was a bright day when St. Francis travelled to North Africa to share his faith with the Sultan, and do it in his humble and respectful way.
Yale historian Kenneth Scott Latourette wrote how St. Francis “was deeply grieved by the lack of discipline and the vicious lives of many of these champions of the cross (Crusaders).” Latourrette also noted that although St. Francis did not succeed in converting the Sultan, “he seems to have gained the latter’s respect.”
As a Bible-believing Christian I take I Peter 3:15-16 as most authoritative and challenging/correcting: “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. HOWEVER, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear …” Biblical Baptists firmly believe in “sharing,” not “imposing,” our faith in Christ!
As I read your article in the Jewish Voice I remembered how years ago I wrote a letter to The Southern Israelite critiquing a Christian who misspoke about Jewish People and mis-applied the Bible. This led to an invitation for me and the church I served to attend an informative and inspiring joint meeting in the Atlanta Temple.
I had the opportunity to talk about how as a Christian I could not understand nor defend anti-Semitism of any and every form, given the fact a Christian is by definition one who adheres to and follows Jesus the Christ, the Messiah. We may disagree on the Messiah, but we can agree that Jesus was Jewish. History confirms the First Church, our Mother Church, was Jewish. Almost every book among the 66 books in the Bible was authored by a Jew.
It is the most horrible tragedy that Jewish People have suffered so much anti-Semitism throughout history stretching back to their sojourn/slavery in Egypt. And, what is inexcusable and indefensible is it also occurred in Christian countries (even in my native England).
Not surprisingly, you and many other Jewish People were on the defensive when The Passion of the Christ movie came out, especially since Medieval “Passion Plays” like Oberammergau often embodied anti-Semitism. The Medieval Period was a “Dark Age” for Jewish People, particularly with the outrageous “blood libel” myth and other lies that were circulated, and are still, within much of the Islamic Middle East.
What saddens me is you have allowed some particular encounters with a few “subset” Christians to enrage you to the point of wanting to engage in “knocking the **** out of a chaplain while waging war against 38 million Christians you “assume” are like the ones you or your family found arrogant and condescending! That assumption has led you to over-generalize and mis-characterize millions of Christians like myself, and do so in an “anti-Evangelical” way which can be just as ugly, unfair, and untrue as “anti-Semitism.”
How many of today’s Evangelical Christians have tortured and murdered people like the Taliban, al-Qaida, and ISIS? To compare us to them is at the very least foolish and ludicrous, and at the worst hateful and spiteful! To say Evangelical Christians caused the Holocaust is an outright lie, and ignores Albert Einstein’s praise for the Confessing Church’s Christians who stood up against Hitler and his godless Nazism, Christians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller!
If, as you say, you have friends and clients who are Evangelical Christians, I would hope they have as friends confronted you with your anger-infused exaggerations and mis-charecterizations. Please listen to them.
Recently, I quoted these challenging and correcting words of a Jewish Christian named Saul/Paul who wrote: “All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another …”
Yes, you may argue you are at war with us, but let’s be honest and forthright. Our war, first and foremost, is against our own sinful pride and prejudice which often overrides fair-mindedness and divides us from each other when we need to be united against a rising tide of anti-Jewishness in Europe and even America fed in part by Radical Islamic thought. I am not Islamophobic, but I am fearful of Radical Islamic Terrorism!
May I also add a further word about your many references to the Constitution to justify the “de-Christianization” of America in the public square, schools, government, and the military (your personal crusade). It is gross hypocrisy for people like you to cite freedom of speech and tolerance while denying that same right to those who respectfully disagree with you and are denigrated as “whatever-phobic” or “fascist,” and given no quarter, or even a hint of tolerance!
If the Constitution means as you interpret it to mean, how on earth were there so many religious (though not sectarian) expressions of faith in the public square, schools, government, and military without protest for centuries?
Paul R. Baxter