Praying Against Antisemitism with Randy Newman

by | Mar 12, 2024

Praying Against Antisemitism

Dr. Randy Newman joins Austin to discuss the disturbing increase in antisemitism happening in the world right now. Randy shares his own experience with antisemitism, shares some of his family history, and provides a theological perspective on why history keeps repeating itself. We hope you will join us in praying for our Jewish neighbors.

Episode Captions

Austin (00:01.769) Grace and peace, friends. Welcome back to United We Pray. I’m Austin Suter joined today by Randy Newman. How you doing, Randy? Randy Newman (00:08.514) Great, great, great to see you again, great to be with you. Austin (00:12.281) I’m going to read your bio here so I get everything. Dr. Randy Newman is Senior Fellow for Apologetics and Evangelism at the C.S. Lewis Institute. He has taught at several evangelical seminaries after serving 30 years with Campus Crusade for Christ. He established Connection Points, a ministry to help Christians engage people’s hearts in the way Jesus does. He’s written six books, seven books now. Randy Newman (00:34.526) Yes, the seventh is coming out at the end of February. Austin (00:38.281) So questioning evangelism, corner conversations, bringing the gospel home, engaging with Jewish people, unlikely converts and probable stories of faith and what they teach us about evangelism, mere evangelism and the forthcoming questioning faith published by Crossway. Randy has also written numerous articles about evangelism and other ways our lives intertwine with God’s creation and he earned his MDiv and PhD both from Trinity International University. That’s a lot, man, did I stick the landing? Randy Newman (01:07.978) You did, you did. There was nothing in there that was a lie. And I’m very grateful for all of it, actually. Austin (01:16.785) Well, we’ll try to keep it that way. It’s really a pleasure to have you on today. I only wish we were doing this in person. Randy Newman (01:22.47) Amen, that would be nice. Yes, I think your listeners should know, I mean, we’ve been friends for a long time and you used to work at the C.S. Lewis Institute, that’s where we met. And I think we just really hit it off right away, although we come from very different backgrounds. And so it’s been fun to develop that friendship over a long time. Austin (01:44.465) Yeah, I miss being able to hit the, I haven’t found a good Jewish deli yet in Birmingham. And I miss being able to have these conversations over a Reuben. Randy Newman (01:50.832) Mmm. Randy Newman (01:55.378) Oh man, yeah, we had a couple of very, very fine lunches there at Hutzpah’s Deli in Northern Virginia. Well, so I’ve moved now to Austin, Texas to be close to family and grandchildren and I haven’t found a good deli here yet either. So, we need to prioritize that. Austin (02:03.669) Shout out to you, it’s good. Austin (02:17.721) Yeah, yeah, it’s important. So the reason we’re having you on the show today is to record an episode I really wish we didn’t have to do. But given some of the things we’re seeing, we realized we don’t have an episode on antisemitism and antisemitism is back in the news as reports of antisemitic activity on college campuses and society at large are on the rise. Brandy, it’s the year of our Lord 2024 and we’re talking about antisemitism. Randy Newman (02:26.196) Hmm. Austin (02:47.261) Does that surprise you? Randy Newman (02:51.911) Yes and no. Well, so your listeners should know I’ve come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah coming from a Jewish background. I was born and raised in the suburbs of New York, in a very Jewish area of the country, a very Jewish area of the world, and yet the neighborhood that I grew up in was not Jewish. But so I had a whole lot of things working against conversion coming to faith in Jesus because from the way I was raised, Christians were the persecutors of the Jews. So it was a pretty traumatic thing for me to come to faith, which I did when I was a 20 years old in the university. But I grew up in a certain sense in the shadow of the Holocaust. My father fought in World War II. His generation was the one that first learned of the Holocaust. And I learned a whole ton about it growing up. And there’s a certain element about anti-Semitism that I think, oh, that’s always going to be with us, because I think God always has had and still does have a plan for the Jewish people. And so since the Jewish people are a special precious part of God’s plan, the Jewish people are a special part of the devil’s plan, and he wants to destroy the Jewish people. So on the one hand, I’m not surprised about the continuance of anti-Semitism. On the other hand, I am horrified of how this recent outbreak after October 7th is being greeted. positively by some people as an opportunity to say, we’re opposed to Israel, we’re opposed to the Jewish people. I mean, I, that, that just, I, I didn’t, I didn’t expect to see American college students marching behind banners that say, from the river to the sea. I just, I, I was dumbfounded and still am. Austin (05:06.097) When were you first made aware? I mean, given your parents’ background, I’m guessing you were sort of aware anti-semitism was a thing starting from a pretty young age, right? Randy Newman (05:16.918) Yeah, yeah, I mean, but you know, it’s, it was, and it always will be horrifying. So, I mean, when you first learn, I mean, I don’t know how old it was, but, you know, I went to public school. But in addition to that, three afternoons a week, I went to what we called Hebrew school. It was learning about participating in Jewish worship and learning Hebrew and learning the the Hebrew scriptures. So, you know, that started when I was eight or nine years old, I think. That’s probably right. It was a five-year course leading up to my bar mitzvah when I was 13. So 13 minus five is eight. I guess it was about eight or nine years old that I started going. And pretty early on, we learned about the Holocaust. We saw these horrible, horrible pictures. that are horrifying for anyone, an adult, but I mean, they were especially traumatizing for a nine-year-old boy to see piles and piles of dead bodies and pictures of concentration camps and stories about ovens. And so, yes, it was a very early age on. I also remember from a pretty young age, I don’t know how old, but pretty young, of… hearing Gentile kids call me names that like what is what is the word kike mean what like Christ killer what like where did like what is this you know you’d come home and you’d ask your ask my parents and it would be oh yeah we need to explain this and I imagined it’s got to be parallel to African-American children growing up and being told at a fairly young age, you know, um, our grea was a slave. What? Wait, wait, what, like, what, wait, what did you just say? I mean, and um, I guess as we, we as adults, we, we get to this point where, oh yes, we, we know this concept, we’ve heard it, but it’s good to tell children. Randy Newman (07:36.53) and watch how horrified they are, because it should be horrifying. Yeah, I have a seven-year-old and a five-year-old granddaughter. I have two other kids that are younger, but the seven-year-old and the five-year-old have watched the movie, The Sound of Music, and they love it. They sing and it’s, you know, so, you know. But there’s this like, okay, there are these Nazis. Who are the Nazis and what was going on? And… They did what? And I remember hearing my daughter-in-law talking about, oh, yeah, we explained to the girls the other night about concentration camps. And and their faces were just like, oh, and it should horrify us. I I’m hoping that I never outgrow the horror. Austin (08:33.842) Yeah. Randy Newman (08:34.887) I want to be able to see God’s goodness and his grace in the midst of all of this, but there are certain things that should be terribly, terribly upsetting, and I don’t want to become callous to that. Austin (08:52.177) Yeah, amen. Let me just ask this so that we have our categories sort of where they need to be. When we’re talking about Jewish people, are we talking about an ethnicity or a religion or both? How do we help a Gentile think about that? Randy Newman (09:03.978) I’m gonna go. Randy Newman (09:08.458) All right, do we have 14 hours to settle this? No, how about 140 hours? That’s how long we’ll need. This is the age old debate that’s, let’s see. So I think the most concise way to say it is being Jewish doesn’t exactly fit completely in the ethnicity category, and it doesn’t completely fit in the religion category. Austin (09:12.128) No. Randy Newman (09:38.194) It is a religion, it is an ethnicity, it’s both, they overlap, they mix, where the border is drawn, I don’t know if a border can be drawn. So, I mean, the simple answer is, well, Jewish people are the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There, that was easy. But Jewish people in the world today are on a… Austin (09:59.786) There you go. Randy Newman (10:06.862) It’s not even a spectrum. I don’t know how to draw the chart, but you’ve got Jewish people who, they know they’re Jewish, they identify as Jewish, and you ask them religious questions, and they may not even believe in God. Or you have people who, they’re Jewish in their religion, and they say it’s only a religion, it’s not an ethnicity. So it’s a headache. But I tend to think of it as it has to be. It is both an ethnicity and a religion, and they overlap in ways that other religions and other ethnicities don’t quite overlap. The diagrams would look differently. There would be Venn diagrams of some overlapping, but they would be different than the Jewish diagrams. Austin (10:59.734) Yeah, so multiple categories at play. I mean, you mentioned early on how the Jewish people have been a part of God’s plan since the beginning. And so it would stand to reason then that we would see antisemitism showing up in the Bible. Is that the case? Randy Newman (11:15.946) Yeah, although it’s not necessarily labeled as such, but… Randy Newman (11:23.69) Well, you know, I think the most graphic display is the Book of Esther. And it was, I mean, on one level, it’s displayed in the Egyptian slave, enslaving of the Jewish people in the Book of Exodus. But you could read that as, well, that was purely an economic thing or a sort of a kind of a racist thing. it’s we’re going to enslave them and use them. But the book of Esther is this display of, no, we want to wipe them off the face of the earth. And so Haman says, no, we don’t want to just use them for our economic gain. We want to kill them. And so that’s where I think anti-Semitism sort of kicks it into a very, very high gear beyond racism. I want to be really careful. I’m not trying to say that anti-Semitism is worse than other racisms. I’m not saying that, but it is different. And it is, I think all racism has its roots in demonic roots. But there is something distinct about, no, we… We don’t want to just suppress them or we feel like we’re better than them is no, we want to wipe them off the face of the earth. The world would be better. Anti-Semitism says if there just weren’t any Jews at all. So let’s, let’s build ovens and, and kill them. Austin (13:09.181) Yeah, I listeners behind the curtain here a little bit, I sent Randy a piece I wrote and we can link to that piece in the show notes about sort of causes of anti-Semitism and influences towards it. And you just encouraged me not to discount the demonic influence within anti-Semitism. And as soon as you said it, I went, oh yeah, that’s true. You know, that I should have had that category at the forefront of my mind a lot earlier. Randy Newman (13:39.222) Well, um… Well, so, you know, we live in a world that is dominated by a secular worldview, even if people don’t acknowledge it, it just is. And so there’s this feeling of, well, we need to understand things in secular terms. And so we have to study World War II, historically, politically, militarily. And we understand how Hitler rose to power in light of the economics, in light of, you know, the military defeat in World War I. And, you know, and yes, all of those factors are a part of it. But then you start hearing about the. It’s hard to find a word. Whatever, if there’s a word where you take insanity and ramp it up a thousand notches to the irrational, crazy, insane, let’s get rid of all of the Jews. They’re the cause of the world’s problems. Let’s construct camps where basically we’re trying to kill them. And by the way, people need to know the numbers. People I think do know. the number six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Well, there were only 18 million Jews in the world in the 1930s. So that’s one third of the entire world’s Jewish population. But half of them, nine million, lived in Europe, which means the Nazis killed two thirds of Europe’s Jewish population. Two thirds. Randy Newman (15:25.19) And the fact that people participated in it, people just accepted it, and they went along with it, and Nazi soldiers carried out. It’s just insane. It’s crazy. It’s it’s lunacy. And yet. There it is. And so I don’t know if I’m answering your question, there is a demonic, insane. aspect of this that I think it’s not just another factor, it’s the dominant factor. And the fact that, so now we have people today who deny that the Holocaust ever happened and you go, how could they deny that? Like, wait a minute, like, I mean, we have places you can go see, you can see the trains, you can see that, like, well no, they deny that it ever happened. So it’s just this, I’m sorry, I’m… Well, actually, I want to say I’m sorry that I can’t find words for it, but I’m not sorry, because there are no words. They’re just it’s beyond comprehension. By the way, just to go on a little further. Isn’t it isn’t it in the category of insane? In the in the very, very early on. Austin (16:32.338) It is. That’s right. Randy Newman (16:49.986) part of the scriptures, Genesis 3, the serpent comes and deceives the woman. And the first thing he says, the first line is, did God really say you must not eat of any tree from the garden? Well, not only is that wrong, not only is that a misquoting, it’s crazy. Like, what do you mean? Did God really say that we must not eat of any tree? Like, like, that’s just It’s beyond stupid. The fact that the woman entertained the thought for a nanosecond, and the fact that Adam, and the text tells us who was with her, didn’t jump in and go, wait a minute, hold it, time out, hold it, wait a second. No, no. Your use of the word any. Now what God said was, you can eat from any tree except this one. It’s not just a reversal, it’s a crazy reversal. And so I think in order to try to grasp something about antisemitism, there has to be a certain element of, okay, let’s step into the realm of the crazy for a little bit, because you can’t make sense of it any other way. Austin (18:08.645) Yeah, it’s trying to understand something so irrational and yeah, that was well said. What are some of the different manifestations? We talked about the cause, the primary cause. I remember the most disturbing part about January 6th, a few years ago, was people walking around Washington, DC in the daylight, wearing some of the most awful anti-Semitic stuff in public. And I remember seeing that and thinking like, this is a, this is a unique problem of the ideological far right. But it’s localized and I don’t think that anymore, especially just given what we’re seeing coming out of the academy these days. So why, beyond what we’ve already said, what are the different ways it shows up? It manifests itself in different arenas. Randy Newman (19:06.307) Hmm. Randy Newman (19:09.658) Um, yeah, I’m really sorry. I may not be the best one to help with this. Uh, I did read this article yesterday. Uh, I believe it was in the Wall Street Journal and it was by Gary Saul Morrison, who’s a professor of Russian history and Russian literature at Northwestern. Brilliant mind. I really like him a lot. And he talked about different kinds of antisemitism and, um, I can’t recreate it. It was helpful and yet, so I’m really sorry, I may not be the best one. Some of the ways it manifests itself, it does have different manifestations. So, one manifestation is political. The nation of Israel shouldn’t exist. So, Randy Newman (20:06.482) let’s, you know, that land belongs to other people. It doesn’t belong to Jewish people. The decisions made by the United Nations in 1948 were wrong. Let’s go back to pre-1948. So some of it is political. And then that just accelerates into hatred of the people. Then there’s criticism about Jewish people have had an influence in the world far greater than just their numbers. I mean, they’re a small percentage of the population of the world, but they’ve had a tremendous influence on politics and education and entertainment or whatever. And so some people express the anti-Semitism like, well, they shouldn’t have as much influence in the world as they do. So that’s an expression of it. A whole lot of it. feeds on lies that have just no basis of truth. So, you know, there’s this historical, I mean, there’s this document that got… popular attention, what’s the full title? Something like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. And it’s this story of how there’s this leadership of Jews and they’re trying to take over the world. I mean, it’s just, there’s nothing factual about it, but people have read it and have believed that it is factual. I mean, you couldn’t have a more clear display of a conspiracy theory. because it’s based on nothing and yet people believe it and then they you know make conclusions from it. So that’s what’s so disturbing to me whenever I hear about people believing conspiracy theories about anything you know there’s I don’t know there’s this crazy cabal somewhere that is organizing abuse of children and you know people believe that. Randy Newman (22:10.134) Well, I just think, well, sooner or later, they’re going to believe the conspiracy about Jews because it’s all in the same closet. I don’t know where I know. You know, so I, you know, I get I, you know, when people say when people start talking about QAnon or whatever kind of conspiracy, usually people just sort of shrug their shoulders. That’s just crazy, isn’t it? Well, yeah, it is crazy. But wait a minute. This is going to lead to some really horrible stuff. Austin (22:20.285) Yeah. Randy Newman (22:41.01) When people just start believing stuff that has no factual basis, there’s going to be consequences and they’re going to be bad. They’re going to be bad for a lot of people, but it just seems like in history, almost always, the bad stuff turns on the Jews too. It’s just a pattern. Austin (23:02.493) Well, as I’m listening to you give all of those answers and all of that was helpful, I’m sort of realizing that the question was wrong headed because it’s asking you to explain the irrational, it’s asking you to, you know, why, why Randy, why they do it, uh, you know, you can’t answer that. Randy Newman (23:11.37) Hehehe Randy Newman (23:16.654) Hmm. Yeah. Um, okay. Austin (23:21.821) All right, let’s just pivot then. How would you encourage our listeners to love and support their Jewish neighbors right now? Randy Newman (23:28.89) Ah, there we go. Thank you. That’s a good direction to go in. Well, first, I’d step back a little bit from that, and I would ask people to think carefully and clearly and biblically. So what do they think about Jewish people, and where do the Jewish people fit into their Bible, and what has God said about the nation of Israel? So, um, I think there’s an important examination people need to look at. They also need to examine, well, are there some things that I’ve heard that really aren’t true or I can’t support? Because as Christians, we’re to be people who love the truth and turn away from lies. So so that’s all kind of preparatory work. Randy Newman (24:25.458) I think this is a very good time for Gentile Christians to say to Jewish friends, co-workers, neighbors, and to be willing to sort of step into the very, very uncomfortable realm of saying things like, I just want you to know I’m deeply concerned and I’m very upset about what’s going on in the Middle East right now. And I just want you to know that I care deeply about it. And I want to be your friend. And I want to try to be as supportive of you as I can be. So identifying yourself as I’m not one of the people who are going to be marching in the protests, holding the signs from the river to the sea. I’m going to be on the side of I’m concerned about truth and goodness, and I’m deeply disturbed about the evil that was done on October 7th. So I think this is a good time to at least try to start those conversations. And the conversations may not go too many places. I don’t know if they need to in a lot of cases, but they just let people know you do care. I will say a whole lot of Jewish people are very, very suspicious of Christians, because in the past Christians or people who identified as Christians have done some terrible anti-Semitic things. And so a lot of Jewish people just think, oh, that’s, I can’t trust those people. And so to be able to come along and say, well, I… Randy Newman (26:20.459) I don’t connect with that part of Christian history. That’s not who I am. And that’s very, very difficult. But Gentile Christians need to know that, we can eliminate some of those like, oh, well those people really weren’t Christians. Okay, but there were some who, yeah, they really were Christians. And they really had some very, very unbiblical, hateful things to say about Jewish people. Martin Luther is the one that gets quoted the most. And unfortunately, those quotes are accurate. And no, they’re not yanked out of context. He really said some terrible things. So if people want to read, I’ll tell you, here’s something that you might want to put in show notes. There’s a book by Michael Brown, Our Hands Are Stained With Blood. It’s a very disturbing book, but it’s… Austin (26:48.669) Yeah. Randy Newman (27:16.534) historically well documented and it’s very upsetting but Christians need to know that part of history. Austin (27:25.893) Yeah, I let me just tell you a quick story. Our neighborhood where my family lives, the neighborhood goes pretty hard on Christmas decorations, lots of lots of lights, lots of statues, lots of the big inflatables. And it’s fun neighborhood gets into it. There’s a house at the end of our street. I don’t know the people that live there. They put out a great big dreidel in their front yard. And Randy Newman (27:40.354) Mm-hmm. Randy Newman (27:50.318) Hmm. Austin (27:52.869) I walked past it the first time and I had like several thoughts simultaneously. First thought is, Oh, that’s cool. Second thought is that’s great. And the third thought is how sad is it that takes courage? Randy Newman (28:02.848) In our current moment. Yeah. Randy Newman (28:10.33) Yeah, yeah, yep. Yeah, so I don’t want to tell you what to do, but it might be nice to go meet those neighbors and just let them know you’re at least one person in their neighborhood who thinks that took courage. I want to support you in it. I hope nothing bad happens. I’m concerned about these kinds of things, yeah. Yeah, isn’t that something? Yeah, putting out a big dreidel is an act of courage in our time. Austin (28:47.601) Yeah. Well, there’s more we can say. Randy Newman (28:51.146) By the way, by the way, I’m just, I’m thinking that the listeners might need a brief respite, a little bit of a breathing air. So I want to tell you, we have a neighbor that also has Christmas inflatables and stuff. And I’ve never seen this, but I mean, it covered almost every square inch of their lawn and it covered all the bases. Now, there wasn’t a dreidel, but so there were there were the religious things. There was the, you know, the baby in the manger and, you know, that. And then there was the Santa. And then there was the Frosty the Snowman and the Candy Canes and the Reindeer. I mean, it was. It was every image of it was a full service Christmas decoration. I so I hadn’t thought about it. Maybe I could go over there and say we could add a menorah. Just, you know, kind of let’s just do the full thing. Sorry. Anyway, you can edit that out if you need to. Austin (29:44.885) There you go. That’s great. No, we’re good. I was just thinking about how, like many of the topics we deal with, it’s so depressing and overwhelming that once you get into it, the only thing you can really do is take it to the Lord. So why don’t we close our time by praying for truth and for the Jewish people. Randy Newman (30:12.69) Yeah, yeah, yeah. But let me just jump in. So, yeah, it can be very, very discouraging and disturbing. There’s also the aspect of, isn’t it amazing that the Jewish people have survived? And we’re still on the earth. And there have been lots and lots of efforts to get rid of us. And like the devil’s efforts to thwart God, they’re always impossible. I mean, it was… I mean, there was a reason why Jesus said to Peter when Peter said, No, you’re not going to go to the cross. Get behind me, Satan. It’s as if Satan could say, no, if I could prevent you from going to the cross, I could thwart God’s plan. There’s not a chance in the world that he could thwart God’s plan. And there’s not a chance in the world that the devil can thwart God’s plan of having the nation of Israel as a light to the Gentiles, regardless of where you think they fit on the on the Austin (30:59.731) Amen. Randy Newman (31:13.45) eschatological charts, there is the truth that God said, I picked this people, they’re gonna be a light to the Gentiles. Why did you choose them? Because He chose them. Were they worthy to be chosen? No. Are any of us worthy to be an object of God’s grace? No. So, God has a plan and the devil can’t stop it, can’t thwart it. Austin (31:36.221) Amen. Thank you for throwing that in there to close it. Randy Newman (31:39.902) But let’s pray. Austin (31:41.673) All right, why don’t I open and you can close us? Great. Father, thank you for the hope Randy just articulated that we can trust that you are good and you do good and you take care of your people. And we pray for our Jewish friends and neighbors. We lament this recent uptick in anti-Semitic behavior and language. Randy Newman (31:44.279) Yes. Austin (32:08.905) So as Randy said, we’re not entirely surprised by it. And so we ask for your supernatural protection. We ask that believers would be faithful to stand against any kind of ethnic hatred like anti-Semitism that we would clearly contend for truth and that you would give us success in doing that. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen. Randy Newman (32:33.486) And God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we pray to you and ask, we pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We pray for your sovereign hand to bring about peace and revival to our world. May it be, Lord, that you would also open Jewish people’s eyes and hearts to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, that He’s the one who fulfilled those prophecies, that His death on the cross was that ultimate atonement, that the day of atonement and all those sacrifices pointed to. And may it be that with the trouble that we are experiencing now that you would use this to draw people to yourself. Help us to trust in you more than we trust in politics or policies or military power. Help us to trust that you alone can bring about peace. For we pray this in the name of the one who is called the Prince of Peace, Jesus our Messiah. Amen. Austin (33:34.972) Mm. Austin (33:52.5) Amen. Randy, thank you so much for being here, and thank you all for listening. Grace and peace.

LINKS & SHOW NOTES:

  • This UWP Podcast Episode was produced by Josh Deng with editing by Roshane Ricketts.
  • You can pre-order Randy’s new book here.
  • Here’s the book by Michael Brown that randy referenced in the episode.
  • Here’s Austin’s article on antisemitism that was referenced.

To learn more about United? We Pray, follow us on Twitter and keep exploring our website. Please consider rating the podcast on Apple Podcasts, and subscribe using your favorite podcast client to hear more!

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    United? We Pray is a ministry to help Christians pray and think about racial strife. We want to encourage Christians amid the strife to rely upon God in prayer. So our prayers can be informed, we strive to learn and write about race, racism and its effects, and theology. We aim to be biblical, beneficial, and clear in all our efforts. While we’re burdened for all racial strife, we focus on racial strife between Christians because of the unique privilege and stewardship God has given his people: to bear witness to Him and to love all people, especially one another (Gal. 6:10).

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