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US News Anchor Has “Never Met Poor Jewish Person”

Attempt to expound Prosperity Gospel causes controversy

The Sacramento State Hornet carries a story under the headline “Anchor talks religion, baffles group, students”:

Adrienne Bankert, television anchor for KCRA 3, visited Sacramento State today to speak about her religious views at a discussion hosted by members of the International Students Christian Fellowship…

As part of her presentation, Bankert asked: “Have you ever met a poor Jewish person?”

“I have never met a poor Jewish person ever in my life! Every Jewish person I went to school with had money, and if they didn’t have money literally…they knew how to get some. The Jewish people founded Hollywood, Jewish people were in banking, lawyers.”

Bankert said she, herself, is a Jew in Jesus’ name.

“I’m a Jewish person, because I’m saved by the blood of Jesus. He is Jewish, and I want what he’s got for me.”

The comment about the supposed scarcity of poor Jewish people has got Bankert into some predicable trouble:

Michal Kohane…executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region, says her organization considered issuing a press release denouncing Bankert and asking for sanctions.

“But the feeling was, it was a little disproportionate to what happened,” Kohane says. “What we’re going to try to do is have a personal meeting.”

…However, at least one Sacramento-area rabbi, David Wechsler-Azen at Beth Shalom, says he was personally offended.

“As somebody who has been a poor Jew, as someone regularly approached by poor Jews for help, it’s just so factually inaccurate,” Wechsler says. “It’s just really offensive for someone to portray Jews that way.

The rest of the Hornet article puts Bankert’s comments in a bit more context:

“I know God wants us to be rich and successful and prosperous, and to know our call and our purpose,” Bankert said. “He doesn’t want it to be a strain. He doesn’t want you to have to fight for it.”

This Prosperity Gospel theology sees God as offering material blessings to believers; mix that in with the philo-semitism of much modern conservative evangelicalism and you can see how the idea could form that Jews are naturally prosperous, not because of any negative personality traits, but because they enjoy the blessings of God. Of course, it’s still a lazy stereotype and fails to grasp that ascribing “essential” characteristics to any group of people is a bad idea.

But what of Bankert’s “I’m a Jewish person” claim? The intention is again doubtless laudable: here’s a Christian rejecting past Christian anti-semitism and acknowledging the Jewish origins of Christianity. However, there is also a wider context here of cultural appropriation. A few months ago I blogged on the trend by American conservative evangelicals to purchase prayer shawls, mezuzahs, and other Jewish artefacts from specialist evangelical companies. It seems to me that this is could be problematic; as I wrote then, it wasn’t just Christianity that split from Judaism – Judaism also decided that Christianity was not Jewish.

For Christians of non-Jewish heritage to declare themselves to be Jewish is surely akin to New Agers taking the bits of Native American religion that they like, such as Dream Catchers, for their own purposes; this has caused some annoyance among Native Americans.

One Response

  1. Isn’t that just how culture and human society works? There is always a giveing and taking when cultures live alongside eachother. This is as true for religions. When I consider the pagan influence on the christian calendar or the very origin of religions themselves, constantly interacting with earlier or parallell beliefs, it seems weird to think that our time should be different.
    The alternative, segregation and othering, seems much worse.

    I could, however, do without the idea that wealth is a sign of God’s favour. People (rich people) are apparently doing their best to forget about the parable of the camel and the eye of a needle. It just goes to show that greed is our new religion these days.

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