Bernie Madoff finally gave a public interview of sorts recently. Basically, he argued that bankers and others in the financial world were complicit in his crimes. I have nothing interesting to say on that subject, but the very occasion of his speaking out raised an important question for me: Who is talking these days to Bernie Madoff about the state of his soul?
My Jewish friends—especially rabbis and others who are serious about their faith—resent the way evangelicals go about “Jewish evangelism.” This is a big subject, and one we don’t often address calmly in our interfaith dialogues. And while I have my own criticisms of the way we evangelicals have sometimes gone about our witnessing about Christ to the Jewish community, I also have serious questions for my Jewish friends about their own views about “Jewish evangelism.” To put it bluntly, I wonder why they are not showing a deeper concern for the souls of those folks in their own community who by any Jewish standard are clearly wandering from the paths of righteousness.
Bernie Madoff is a case in point. He has done horrible things, engaging in a long-term deceptive project that has brought misery to many Jewish lives. It seems to me to be clear from a Jewish perspective that Bernie Madoff should repent of his sins and make a public confession. And—even if he cannot do the Zacchaeus thing, making restitution by repaying his victims fourfold—he can at least let them know that he is profoundly sorry for his sins and is praying for his victims’ well being.
Is anyone in the Jewish community talking to him about such things? Am I wrong in thinking that this kind of “prison ministry” is as much a Jewish obligation as it is a Christian one?
Or take another kind of case. Who in the Jewish community is urging the comedienne Sarah Silverman to turn from her wicked ways? She is by her own admission a sexually promiscuous person. Worse yet, she clearly is a blasphemer, even injecting into her comedy routines horrible jokes about God and sex. I can’t imagine how any Jewish teacher (including Sarah’s sister, who is a rabbi) could help but be horrified by the things that she says on the stage. Is any rabbi pleading with her to repent of her sins and to begin walking in the paths of righteousness?
Here is my challenge to the Jewish community: If they don’t go after the likes of Bernie Madoff and Sarah Silverman, do they have any objection to our doing so? Can’t we agree on at least this minimal attempt at “Jewish evangelism”?