A colleague of mine explained that a fundamental reality has changed in the missionary world. Once upon a time, the fear of the Jews were upon the missionaries, particularly Orthodox Jews. Missionaries conducted their activities in secret, their most open attempts at converting Jews being done by dropping leaflets, handing out material on the streets, and pulling people off to the side in school and at work.
Those days are long gone. Missionaries are no longer afraid to conduct their activities publicly and in audacious ways. They are joining Israel Day parades, holding huge public gatherings at hotels, and debating rabbis. Sometimes they are even winning the debates, to our dismay and disgrace. This action just takes the conversation to a whole ‘nother level:
It’s not just a matter of the publicity of the stunt. I don’t even know that the reason for doing it was that the Bible Society in Israel ever thought they’d inspire one knesset member to become Christian. Knesset members are too ideologically rigid to be told what to have for lunch. Rather, they accomplished two goals and they did them well, and it’s their successes that we need to learn from as a community.
The first accomplishment is that they got themselves attention, obviously. For fringe movements, there is very little that can be considered bad press. As long as they weren’t picketing funerals, they were going to come out on top of this. All of the newspapers are reporting on what the Bible Society of Israel did and so now everyone knows who they are. They also get the interviews and the opportunity to plug their agenda. Can’t beat the free advertising!
Even more than that is they were able to spin the argument in such a way as to make themselves the good guys and to demonize the Jewish establishment. Although we should all know better by now, there was that one guy, Michael Ben-Ari, who just had to make the statement to the world about how evil missionaries are by tearing up the New Testament. The headlines around the world are “Religious Israeli law maker tears up New Testament.” Not “Predatory missionaries send unwelcome religious solicitations to Israeli Parliament members.” We look like look like religious fanatics and they look like victims who were looking to spread the love. He fell right in like Brer Rabbi fell into the tar baby. How did he think that was going to get reported?
To advance the Jewish cause, we need to learn from their successes and our mistakes. It is all about PR, and the media is not on our side. Think about this: missionary activity in Israel is rampant, due to factors such as the fact that Zionist organizations and government officials take Christian Zionist money and therefore are beholden to their donors. To crack down on missionaries would be to alienate these people and end the gravy train. While secular Israelis aren’t necessarily sympathetic to religious causes, they don’t want to be lied to either. This was a perfect opportunity to point out what exactly is going on with missionary activity in Israel, and we blew it.
We need to take a close look at ourselves, on YouTube. We need to see about us what the world sees, and change that perception to fit the realities about the Jewish community: the charity, the kindness, the way we raise our families. We’re far from perfect, but it would blows many people’s minds to see how far we are along the path there. They would also see that the way we do it is honestly and sincerely for the love of G-d and the love of Man.