The investigative journalists over at the Daily Beast report that Madison Cawthorn, the North Carolina Republican who will soon become the youngest member of Congress in American history, “has admitted he tried to convert Jews and Muslims to Christianity.”
As a Jew, I’ve had several Christian friends try to turn me toward Jesus — Lutherans, Catholics and Evangelicals. Though denominations seem to adopt different philosophies on how best to proselytize in a secular world, they have all been exceptionally polite about it.
I assume that they wouldn’t be very good Christians if they weren’t spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is, from what I gather, one of the central premises of the enterprise. To be honest, I’m often surprised at how shy Christians are at this task.
As a heathen, though, I am flattered by the attention. And as a person in possession of free will, I am also unconcerned. Never once have I found such efforts to be “anti-Semitic.” The very universality of the endeavor tells me it is not. I simply assume that my friends are troubled that I have forsaken salvation. Maybe they’re right. I’ll find out soon enough.
Fortunately, I do not live in the Holy Roman Empire or medieval Portugal or a shtetl in the Pale. The notion that Jews should be offended by Christians approaching us with theological ideas is un-American. Trust me, Jews are not helpless in the face of arguments. And Christians do not have the power to compel us to believe. Unlike progressives — who try to force nuns to fund abortions or Evangelicals to participate in same-sex weddings — no Christian has ever endeavored to coerce me to perform any of their rites.
Cawthorn, I assume, does not possess any special power, either. In an interview with Jewish Insider, the newly elected congressman claims to have converted “several Muslims to Christ.” When asked if he had ever tried to convert Jews, he answered: “I have. I have, unsuccessfully. I have switched a lot of, uh, you know, I guess, culturally Jewish people. But being a practicing Jew, like, people who are religious about it, they are very difficult. I’ve had a hard time connecting with them in that way.”
Indeed, religious Jews are notoriously difficult to convert, since the entire notion of a Second Coming is incompatible with their beliefs. Jews have spent a few thousand years stubbornly resisting this sort of pressure. Proselytism is somewhat of a foreign concept to Orthodox Jews, as they are commanded to push away newcomers.
But all the feigned anger directed at Cawthorn is, as is usually the case when the topic arises, about smearing Evangelical Christians — and little to do with anti-Semitism. I know this because many of the very people who pretend to be insulted for Jewish people are constantly excusing genuine anti-Semitism.