Christianity Today: Jews for Jesus Director Defends Remarks
This article originally appeard in ChristianityToday.com
by Sarah Pulliam
Jews for Jesus came under scrutiny after Politico published remarks made at Sarah Palin’s church before she was chosen as John McCain’s vice presidential candidate.
Politico reported that Jews for Jesus executive director, David Brickner described terrorist attacks on Israelis as God’s “judgment of unbelief” of Jews who haven’t embraced Christianity.
A spokesman for the McCain campaign said that Palin did not know Brickner would be speaking that day and did not share his views. “Governor Palin does not share the views he expressed, and she and her family would not have been sitting in the pews of this church for the last seven years if his remarks were even remotely typical,” Michael Goldfarb wrote in an e-mail to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Brickner gives the same message at churches across the country for Jews for Jesus, group composed of Christians with Jewish lineage. I spoke with Brickner earlier this week, who also defended his message on the Jews for Jesus website.
Did you expect your comments to emerge later?
When I went to Wasilla, I had only briefly heard that Sarah Palin was being considered as a possible running mate, but by then, people were saying, ‘No no, it’s Pawlenty. It’s Romney.’ When the pastor told me she was going to have her baby dedicated that Sunday, I just thought, ‘Wow that’s cool.’
I didn’t expect the kind of scrutiny and misappropriation of my sermon for the ends of attacking her. We’ve been trying to scramble to cover the misunderstandings over the last few days.
When did you think you were being misrepresented?
The comments that were made were taken out of context. They were trying to make it sound like I believed God was sending the terrorists attacks on Israel for not believing Jesus.
Any evangelical would say that the whole world is under the effects of sin, the judgment of God for unbelief. So many things happen in the world, broken families, terrible things that happen in the world. When I was talking about Israel, I was talking about the things that have gone over there, and that this world is broken and Jesus is the only hope.
Do you think Jews find you offensive?
We should think that Jewish people should believe in Jesus, just like everybody else. That often gets criticized, but I had never been criticized for this before.
Obviously Sarah Palin is the real target in all of this and I happened to be fodder in the whole process. I’m sure the story will blow over for Jews for Jesus but I doubt that Sarah Palin will be out of the line of attack until the election.
Sarah Palin naturally had to say ‘I don’t hold those views’ and I would say ‘I don’t hold them either.’
People are reading and listening to sermon. They’re going to hear a message of love, of the message of Jesus.” The Jerusalem dilemma is the Wasilla dilemma, which is the dilemma of the heart.
If you had known that people would hear what you said, would you have changed it?
It’s hard to say. I might’ve been a little more thorough in using the illustrations I used. Having just been in Israel, the terrible conflict that is raging in the middle east is symptomatic of all of the problems humans face, being estranged from God. I don’t think I would want to be in a place where I would diminish the impact of sin, but I spent more time focusing on the love that God has. When you take one sentence out of a 6 and ½ page manuscript you can pretty much distort anything you want.
Did you pay attention to when reporters broadcasted comments Jeremiah Wright and John Hagee had made, and if so, how did you feel then compared to what you are experiencing now?
I think the comparison, which was attempted, is a stretch. One thing is sure. The old adage that you can’t believe what you read in the press has been driven home to me. I don’t feel any responsibility to try to defend Rev. Wright’s comments, that I can assure you.
John Hagee’s comment that the Holocaust was God’s judgment is a comment that’s also been made by many religious leaders, including rabbis. I believe you have to be able to distinguish between Satan’s efforts to destroy people, which was the Holocaust and God’s judgment. God often used judgment to bring about repentance. I believe there’s a huge difference between judgment, which is God’s redemptive plan, and the diabolical efforts of the enemy to destroy God’s people. I believe the Holocaust is an example of Satan’s efforts to destroy God’s work and his people. I would never say the Holocaust was God’s judgment.
The quotes that were attributed to me were cast in such a way that was the opposite of what I was saying.
You give this message to several churches across the country. Have you tailored your message any differently?
No. I think that maybe I will be more careful to give a context and a caveat when I talk about sin and judgment, but I will never stop talking about it because the Bible talks about it. As Christians, we need to continue to articulate the fact that sin has its consequence and that God does judge sin.
How do you know the difference between God’s judgment and Satan’s attempts?
I’m sure there are evangelical theologians who won’t agree with me on that point. In terms of scope, when the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem and took the people captive, God warned the people that this was going to happen and the results of their sin would lead to judgment, but the judgment was never one of extent of what the Holocaust was.
The intent was never on the part of others to annihilate all of the people. God when he judges, he allows things to happen. God’s intent was always to call people back to himself.
What do you think about Palin’s candidacy?
Jews for Jesus is not a political organization. My personal view was that she is somebody who is an evangelical Christian who loves the Lord and believes in life and lives that out. As for her pastor, I know he’s a godly man and he has a genuine evangelical conviction. I would stake my confidence in the messages he’s preaching.