Rabbi David Saperstein Says Falwell Remarks on Anti-Christ Give 'New Fodder to Anti-Semites'
WASHINGTON, January 20, 1999 - Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today chastised the Rev. Jerry Falwell for his recent prediction that the anti-Christ is alive today as a Jewish male. Saperstein said that by "casting a cloud of suspicion over Jewish men" Falwell has "given new fodder to anti-Semites around the world." Falwell made his remarks last Thursday at a conference on evangelism that was held in Kingsport, Tenn.
Rabbi Saperstein's full statement follows:
"Rev. Jerry Falwell's claim that the Second Coming of Christ will likely be within the next ten years and that the anti-Christ is alive today and is a Jewish man is rightfully evoking a range of responses from Christians and Jews. There are some who will poke fun at an idea that manages to combine the prophecies of Chicken Little and Father Coughlin. Others will take it seriously as indicative of the dangers posed by Christian leaders who, rather than framing their millennial beliefs in ways that can bring people together, will do so in manner that fans the flames of divisiveness and distrust.
"Indeed, given Rev. Falwell's sizeable following, and the public attention to his remarks, we can neither let them pass unchallenged nor treat them lightly. And this much must be said: in singling out Jews and Jewish men in particular, and thus casting a cloud of suspicion over Jewish men, Rev. Falwell has, perhaps unwittingly, given new fodder to anti-Semites around the world.
"We are not, of course, experts in Christian theology. But Rev. Falwell's comments this weekend were, at a minimum, irresponsible. He plays into the hands of the apocalyptic doomsayers whose voices are becoming louder and louder as the millennium approaches. He ignores the great diversity of views on the millennium within the Christian community.
"For example, the respected Prof. Bernard McGinn in his 1994 book, Anti-Christ points to an enormous range of views, many rejecting the idea of the anti-Christ coming from the Jews. Martin Luther, noted for his anti-Jewish views, believed that the anti-Christ would be a Pope.
"To promulgate such accusations today is particularly alarming. The approaching millennium can be an opportunity for religious groups to bring peoples together or to inflame ancient prejudices and tear societies apart. Sadly, Rev. Falwell seems to have weighed in on the latter side."
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.