Persuasion versus Education
– Response to Dr. Brown
The winds of controversy that swirl around Rabbi S. Boteach’s new book; “Kosher Jesus” have managed to bring Dr. M. Brown into the Jewish melee. In a Huffington Post response to Boteach, Rabbi Y. Schochet intimated that Brown had been defeated in a public debate. Brown was quick to respond with two articles; one in the Townhall online magazine (http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelbrown/2012/01/27/the_huffington_post_three_rabbis_and_me) and one on his Line of Fire blog (http://lineoffireblog.blogspot.com/). In these articles Brown takes issue with Schocet’s description of the debate. Brown then goes on to offer some of his own opinions about the intra-Jewish dispute over Boteach’s book.
In the process of correcting a false impression that someone may have picked up from Shochet’s article, Brown engages in his own dissemination of misinformation – unintentional to be sure, but misinformation nonetheless.
Brown presents the controversy surrounding Boteach’s book as if the rabbis who oppose the dissemination of the book are attempting to withhold information from their respective flocks. Brown writes: “I fully understand religious believers wanting to preserve the integrity of their own communities, and they certainly have no obligation to give exposure to dissenting views. On the other hand, it is healthiest when our beliefs can withstand scrutiny and criticism and challenge”.
The fact is that those who oppose Boteach’s book are not motivated by a desire to prevent “exposure to dissenting views”. Those who oppose the book do so on different grounds entirely, and it goes to the very soul of the ongoing conflict between Christian missionaries (such as Brown) and those in the Jewish community who oppose their efforts.
The core issue is: persuasion versus education. Both of these methods can be used to affect a change in the world-view of a target audience. But these are two different methods of going about the work of affecting this change.
Education puts facts on the table, facts and logical arguments. Education encourages the target audience to think for themselves, to sift through the relevant information and to arrive at their own conclusions.
Persuasion relies on the sad fact that most people will probably not go through the tedious process of sifting through all of the relevant information. Persuasion encourages people to bypass the process of education. By highlighting a piece of information, be it truth or fiction, or by emphasizing a specific argument, the persuader attempts to bring the target audience to a decision that is not based on all of the relevant information.
The venue of a public debate is a venue for persuasion. There is no way that the two participants in a debate can present all of the relevant information to their audience in the venue of a public debate. Furthermore, the style and demeanor of the contestants plays a role that often overshadows the logical arguments and the facts that were presented in the course of the debate. It is for this reason that counter-missionary organizations discourage public debates with missionaries. And for this same reason that it comes as no surprise that Christian missionaries favor the venue of the public debate.
The Jewish counter-missionary effort focuses on education. We encourage people to look beyond the superficial persuasions of the missionary and to consider the relevant facts so that they can arrive at their own educated decision.
In short, the conflict between the missionary and the Jewish community is a conflict between the method of persuasion favored by the missionary and the method of education favored by the Jewish community.
Boteach’s book plays right into the missionary strategy of using persuasion to obstruct education.
Allow me to explain.
The word “Jesus” represents the deification of a man – a concept that stands as the very antithesis of the covenant that the Jewish people share with God. For 2000 years Jews have insisted that the Christian exaltation of a man who walked God’s earth and breathed God’s air represents the very opposite of what it means to be a Jew. Jews were so convinced that this belief is wrong that they were proud to accept the position as the outcasts of society in order to maintain this belief – no matter the cost.
The Jewish understanding that acceptance of Jesus violates the essence of what it means to be a Jew has always been a serious impediment in the age-old missionary effort to convert the Jew. During the last century Christian missionaries developed a program of persuasion to overcome this impediment. They began redefining what it means to be a Jew. These missionaries began a propaganda campaign that attempts to persuade people that being a Jew and accepting Jesus is not the inherent contradiction that it actually is. Brown’s words in his Townhall article serve as a perfect example of this method of persuasion: “If Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, believing in him does not constitute converting to another religion”.
Brown is attempting to redefine Judaism – not through education but through persuasion. Instead of looking to the Bible where God defines His unbreakable bond with the Jewish people with the words: “Unto you it was shown so that you know that the Lord is God – there is no other beside Him” (Deuteronomy 4:35 – a verse that Brown did not find space for in his 1500 page missionary work) – Brown provides his own, unscriptural definition to Judaism. According to Brown, Judaism means following the “Jewish Messiah”. According to the Bible, Judaism is a marriage-bond to the God who took our ancestors out of Egypt. Deifying the man who Brown refers to as the “Jewish Messiah” is the deepest violation of that marriage-bond imaginable.
A book written by an Orthodox rabbi, with the title; “Kosher Jesus”, plays right into the hands of the missionary effort to redefine Judaism. Although the contents of the book make a pathetic attempt to redefine “Jesus”, the name of the book, the cover of the book and the hoopla surrounding the book all serve to redefine Judaism.
Those who read the book will find that Boteach actually does dispense his duty as a member of God’s witness nation. In the 25th chapter of his book Boteach writes: “Jews, including Jesus, have always found the deification of human beings to be utterly anathema to Judaism”. If Boteach would have put that sentence on the cover of his book and the words: “kosher Jesus” in chapter 25, he would have spared the Jewish community much heart-ache and at the same time would have spared the missionary community some undeserved joy. However, since Boteach chose to entitle the book with the words: “Kosher Jesus” the masters of persuasion will thank Boteach for doing their work for them.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal