On Mike Wallace (1918–2012) and Yeshua
Many were saddened at the passing on April 7 of Mike Wallace, veteran reporter for 60 Minutes. Jewish, outspoken, hard-hitting, and no stranger to personal tragedy — Mike Wallace epitomized the no-holds-barred style of journalism that stops at nothing to get at the often unsavory facts of a piece—and to get a television-worthy interview. Called by some a bully, he once used his trademark — and disingenuous — “forgive me” to ask the Ayatollah Khomeini if he was, as Anwar Sadat had said of him, “a lunatic.” The result was priceless television, jugular journalism.
One has only to imagine what might have happened if Mike Wallace had had an opportunity to interview Jesus. Two Jews in one room. And the scoop of a lifetime.
Mike Wallace: Rabbi — I believe you are a rabbi — you said more than once — and I quote — you have said that you will “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Forgive me, rabbi, but … come on! Isn’t that a little megalomanic? paranoid? You really think people are after you? And that they’re going to kill you? And that you’re going to come back to life? Society has a name for people like this. They’re called insane.
Y’shua: Mike, being Jewish, I know you won’t mind if I answer your question with another question or two. Do you believe in a God who can work miracles? Have you read the Bible for yourself?
MW: Parts of it… of course. Everyone has. But most people don’t use the Bible to excuse outrageous statements. And that’s what your statements are — they … are … outrageous. It’s not Mike Wallace who’s saying that. It’s people out there, people in the community, people, forgive me, who are in touch with reality. What makes you think you’re so special?
Y: I can see we need to start further back here. Mike, I know you’ve experienced your own share of personal hardship. Loss of a son. Attempted suicide. Depression. The world is a messy place because of, and I know you’re not going to like this, but I must say it — sin. You see, all people, Jews and Gentiles, have turned away from the Creator. I’m here to bring things back to the way they were supposed to be. This isn’t paranoia, Mike, this was my intention all along, to die so your sins and, I might add, the sins of everyone, even your colleagues at CBS News, can be forgiven. And yes, I will rise after death to give new life to everyone who follows me.
MW (Head raised back, eyebrows lifted): “The sins of everyone at CBS News.” That’s what you just said. I’m quoting you. And my response is … What sins? The sin of journalism? The sin of reporting? Come on! What you’re saying is, you think you’re better than anyone else. Now why would you expect anyone to give you more than one second of attention when there’s a lot more going on in this world than just you.
And so in my imagination that’s how it would go, Mike as always on the offensive, looking for the most newsworthy comments, the quarry backed into the corner, the editing room sharpening the confrontation. Mike Wallace as attack dog. Mike Wallace the Alpha Reporter.
It’s hard to know what Mike Wallace would have said about God, Jesus, the Bible, in private conversation. He was once asked if he would retire in order to reflect. Wallace brushed the idea off with an impatient, “Reflect? Reflect on what?” Perhaps by nature he was simply not the self-reflective sort. Perhaps his own losses and struggles would have lent too painful a cast to any looking back on his life.
What I would have said to Mike Wallace, in a private moment, is that God exists, that He cares, that very obviously the world is not a pretty place, and that Jesus is key for correcting what’s wrong in this world, a process known in Judaism as tikkun olam. I would have wanted to sit down with him, hear from him, talk about some passages of Scripture, let him process it all.
I didn’t have that opportunity. Perhaps someone else did. Meantime, jugular and all, we miss you, Mike. May you rest in peace.
Scholar in Residence, Missionary
Rich Robinson is a veteran missionary and senior researcher at the San Francisco headquarters of Jews for Jesus. Rich has written several books on Jewishness and Jesus, and he received his Ph.D. in biblical studies and hermeneutics from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1993.