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"Religious Proselytizing" A Smear Term to Silence Christianity

by Rev. Ted Pike

The term "religious proselytizing" is being used to prejudice the public against Christian evangelism. It conjures up images of Moonies in airports or religious fanatics ranting on street corners. The very sound of the term (similar to "parasitizing") is threatening. Most people don't know what the word means, but of one thing they are sure: they are against it.

Where has the phrase come from?

It is used most frequently in Israel, becoming common with the passage on December 25, 1977, of Israel's infamous "anti-missionary" law.1 This is a statute that decrees a prison term of up to five years for any gentile attempting to proselytize a Jew away from his faith.2 Proponents say this is vital to the survival of Israel because so many young Jews are being seduced away from the fold, largely by Christianity. The severity of the sentence, they argue, is warranted because such theft of Jewish souls can lead to genocide, or the extinction of a race.

Yet Judaism resents the encroachment of Christianity not just in Israel, but also throughout the world. With 40% of the American Jewish boys marrying gentile girls, and the Jewish birthrate not keeping up with the rest of humanity, Jewish leaders are desperate that the physical and spiritual unity of the Jewish race be preserved.

Christianity: Keep Out

Considering such a mindset against Christianity, we may understand why Billy Graham and other Christian evangelists have never held a crusade in Israel. Graham has held many meetings throughout the Soviet bloc and Russia. Yet not in Israel. Despite the friendliness of the Israel tourist industry, the fact remains that all religious affairs of the state of Israel are controlled by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem, who enforces the strictly orthodox point of view. The result is that, although Israel proclaims itself the only real democracy in the Middle East, in matters of religious liberty it is more inflexibly anti-Christian than even hardened Communist countries.

Since American Jewry reflects Israeli attitudes, it is not surprising that official Jewish groups in the United States should oppose the public advancement of Christianity. This is nothing new. The New Testament church began amid withering harassment from the Jewish establishment.

Since modern, or "rabbinic" Judaism is directly descended from the ancient Sanhedrin, it is not strange that Judaism's underlying antagonism remains. Thus we see Jewish dominated "civil liberties" organizations invariably opposing the proliferation of Christian symbols and traditions. Such traditions include the right to read the Bible or pray in the classroom, at commencement, swearing-in ceremonies, or at the beginning of court sessions. Invariably, the American Civil Liberties Union, led by Jewish national director, Ira Glasser, comes out to do battle with public Christianity. Although not entirely Jewish (an ACLU poll found 21.4% of its members and 27.3% of ACLU's leaders to be Jews3), the ACLU is emphatically anti-Christian. As a direct result of ACLU harassment, prayer and Bible reading in the schools of America have been largely outlawed, as well as official prayers on tax-supported properties. The ACLU will take even a Christian judge to court if he opens his court with prayer.

Another Christian right under attack is the privilege of school children to hear the creationist point of view, as well as that of the evolutionist. The most visible opponent to creation science is "People for the American Way," founded and controlled by Jewish television producer, Norman Lear. "Paw, "like the ACLU, stands ever vigilant, not just to protest the spread of Christian ideas and values, but to resist Christians all the way to the Supreme Court.

Vanishing Christianity

One would think certain Christian customs so harmless, so benign, that even Jewish watchdog groups would look the other way. Don't count on it!  Should a local Christmas or Easter committee be so bold as to put up a cross in the town square or a manger scene on public property, or sing hymns or Christmas carols in public, they are in for a rude awakening.

The very powerful "Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith" (ADL) and the "American Jewish Congress" (AJC) will not permit it. These Jewish groups shout, "This is in violation of separation between church and state! This is discrimination by the Christian religion over others!" The result is that crosses and nativity scenes are disappearing across the nation during the holidays. Curiously, while the cross of Christ is effectively banned on public property, federal courts have upheld the right of the menorah, symbol of Judaism, to be displayed in public. The menorah, they argue, is not as specific a symbol as the cross.

In Israel, it is easy to enact and enforce anti-missionary legislation. In America, it is necessary for Jewish groups to veil their true motivation as they work to establish an American equivalent of Israel's anti-missionary law. Rather than give the impression that they oppose Christianity, they say it is "racism," "prejudice," "intolerance," which they are against. Yet, they have one target, as they have in Israel: Christianity. To weaken its influence over Jews, Jewish leadership continues an aggressive, many-faceted program to discourage its outward expression, especially in public places. For it is in the public arena, in higher education, in government, that Christian missionaries, such as "Jews for Jesus," find lonely, searching young Jewish men and women, and move them to belief in Israel's rejected Messiah.

Outlawing Christ

The message is clear. Jewish anti-Christian groups envision a world in which it will be not just impolite, but actually illegal for Christians to publicly "proselytize" or reprove. With this objective, such groups are working feverishly on both federal and state levels to establish "anti-hate" legislation, laws which could eventually make it illegal to condemn homosexuality, or to say that the Jews are lost without faith in Christ. Such traditional attitudes they label as "hate" - a form of "prejudice," "religious harassment," or "verbal violence." So far, Jewish groups have been successful in passing "anti-hate" legislation because of one reason: Christian leaders are terrified of being labeled "anti-Semitic" or "racist" should they resist a "civil liberties" program which the Jews are promoting.

Such fear of the Jews must subside if our basic liberty to preach the whole gospel is to be preserved.


1.The Knesset passed Israel's anti-missionary law in 1977 on Christmas day so it would be perfectly clear against whom it was directed.

2. Anti-missionary law 5738-1977. Strictly speaking, "proselytizing" under this law involves a gift, no matter how small (such as a tract) given to a Jew by a Christian. Under Israeli law it is a crime to "give or promise money, the equivalent of money or any other material benefit in order to entice a person to change his religion." Yet, realistically, the word "proselytizing" is much more loosely interpreted. As a case in point, evangelical Christians showed a film about the second coming of Christ in Jerusalem's largest hotel, the Shalom. This outraged Israel's chief rabbi, Yitzhak Kolitz, who forbade them to further "proselytize." However, the manager reassured the Christians that "they are welcome if they do not violate the law." (Jesus Film Stirs Hotel Row, "Jerusalem Post, International Edition, Oct. 16-22, 1983, p.5)

Such ambiguity keeps Christians in Israel on edge, vulnerable to accusations that they "violate the law." Speaking in defense of evangelicals, Charles Kopp, chairman of the "United Christian Council in Israel," says such Christians "do not engage in proselytizing." ..."We do not give out leaflets in the streets or witness at our jobs." ("Friendly Strangers in our Midst," Jerusalem Post, International Edition, May 25, 1991, p.2)

The government remains suspicious - and anti-Christian. Daniel Rossing, head of the Department of Christian Churches for the Israel Ministry of Religious Affairs, summarized his government's position: "The government, by all available means, discourages missionary activity." (Christian Missionary Activity in Israel Under Fire," L. A. Times, Part I, March 8, 1984, p.8)

3. Civil Liberties and Nazis: The Skokie Free Speech Controversy, James L. Gibson and Richard D. Bingham, page 53, Praeger, New York, 1985.

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