NEW YORK (JTA)—Vice presidential pick Sarah Palin says she doesn’t share the views of a Jews for Jesus leader who in a speech at her church suggested that violence against Israelis resulted from God’s judgment against Jews who have failed to embrace Jesus.
David Brickner, the executive director of Jews for Jesus, suggested in his Aug. 17 sermon at Wasilla Bible Church that the refusal to accept Jesus was responsible for the long history of devastation visited upon Jerusalem. He also described his group’s successful targeting of Israeli Jews, both in Israel and elsewhere.
“Judgment is very real, and we see it played out on the pages of the newspapers and on the television,” said Brickner, according to a transcript posted on the church’s Web site. “It’s very real. When [my son] Isaac was in Jerusalem he was there to witness some of that judgment—some of that conflict—when a Palestinian from East Jerusalem took a bulldozer and went plowing through a score of cars, killing numbers of people. Judgment—you can’t miss it.”
Audio and transcript here
A spokesman for the McCain campaign, Michael Goldfarb, said Palin did not know Brickner would be speaking that day and did not share his views.
Church pastor Larry Kroon confirmed that Palin, the governor of Alaska who was chosen last week by U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to join his GOP presidential ticket, would have had no way of knowing that Brickner was slated to speak.
“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,” Goldfarb wrote in an e-mail.
Following Brickner’s sermon, Kroon took up an offering for Jews for Jesus and prayed that Jews would come to accept Jesus.
“There is not a one here in this room who would know Jesus and serve him if there had not been a Jew, generations ago, that spoke Jesus’ name to our people,” Kroon said. “Father, that comes full circle and we wish to extend your grace back to your people. And we pray and we ask that as a result of this time here, and as a result of this offering, there will be people among the Jews today who come to say the name ‘Jesus’ with faith.”
Much attention has been focused on Palin’s religious views since McCain made her his surprise pick as running mate, a selection the campaign hoped would shore up his standing among social conservatives. But while many religious Republicans have embraced Palin, some liberal commentators are suggesting that her hard-line position on abortion, her evangelical roots and lack of record on Israel may turn off Jewish voters who otherwise might be open to McCain’s more moderate image and hawkish foreign policy stance.
The Anti-Defamation League, which has been deeply critical of Jews for Jesus and was among the organizations calling for Democratic nominee Barack Obama to distance himself from his controversial pastor during the primaries, said it had no problem with Palin’s membership in a church that supported efforts to convert Jews.
The ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, told JTA that Protestant evangelizing to Jews was entirely different from Catholics praying for Jewish conversion, which the ADL has sharply criticized.
“They did not have the Inquisition. They did not go on a Crusade. They did not kill Jews for 2,000 years,” Foxman said. “They have a belief; they’re entitled to their belief.”
Besides, he said, there is no evidence that Palin shares Brickner’s views.
“If you could tell me that she approves of this guy, she invited him, I’m not aware of any of that,” Foxman said. “The fact that she belongs to a church that believes in it, I don’t have a problem.”
The ADL has accused Jews for Jesus of “aggressive proselytizing with a deceptive message.”
Kroon took issue with that assessment, saying there was no difference between Jewish believers and believers of other backgrounds.
“I don’t feel it’s deceptive,” Kroon told JTA. “Look at Paul and Peter and the others—they were Jews and believed in Jesus as the messiah. There’s gentile believers and there’s Jewish believers that acknowledge Jesus as messiah. There’s Swedish believers.”