California church’s message ignites hatred, anti-Semitism

Baptist church sign“Justice Mocked by the Jews. Pt. 1.” That is the Berean Baptist Church’s disturbing message posted on its billboard facing traffic on one of the busiest corners in my town. If you visit their website, you will see this is the topic of two Sundays’ sermons (Feb. 8 and 15, 2015). They have also posted the following excerpt ( from Pastor V. Mark Smith’s sermon:

 “There is not a whole lot more that can be deduced from the Jews’ determination to murder Christ other than the Bible’s clear declaration of the wicked state of the heart of man. The heart is deceitfully wicked. It lies, it fabricates, it hates, it wants to destroy, it is incensed and forever inclined to evil—the Bible calls it being at enmity with God—hostility towards God and so we do everything we can to resist Him. And that wickedness and the rejection of God was demonstrated in the arrest, the trial, and the execution of Jesus. God let man see a spiritual principle in a real visual picture. He did it by showing what all of us would do if the Son of God came to live among us.

   The principle has not changed. The heart has not changed. We are still against God even though God gives us life and health and our very existence. Crimes against God are everywhere and the depravity of our heart will not change. We can never be lifted out of this morass of depravity by our own design.

   To receive Christ cannot be an act of the unregenerate. Human nature does not allow us to come to Christ. It cannot happen because we will always do what was done to Jesus.”
–Excerpted from Pastor V. Mark Smith’s sermon,
“Justice Mocked by the Jews”

My Jewish family lives a few blocks from this incredibly conservative church, and I find this sermon title and excerpt to be provocative and antagonistic. This message appears to equate Jews to murderers and those who hate and lie; people who are wicked and evil.

I called my parents and read them the excerpt, and my mother’s response was, “It sounds like they are getting ready for a medieval crusade or to set out on a pogrom.” I followed her suggestion to contact the Anti-Defamation League. My parents moved from Marin County to retire in South Carolina. They are members of a synagogue in their area, but they also enjoy attending the local Baptist church to hear the gospel singers. When I was a child, it was nothing unusual for my parents to bring us to different houses of religion so we could learn about the diversity of beliefs. The church knows they are Jewish and the people have been inviting and kind. Moreover, she told me, their sermons and songs are always filled with uplifting, positive messages.”They don’t preach messages of hate,” she added.

We have lived in Rohnert Park since the 1990s and have driven past this sign most every day. We’ve seen the leadership of that (increasingly conservative) church change hands. Their billboard messages (especially under Pastor Dan) mostly had been benign in nature. In fact, I looked forward to reading Pastor Dan’s nuggets of wisdom. But now…

Never before have I seen such an overtly antagonistic announcement on their church billboard. And while I haven’t visited their website more than a handful of times, this particular sermon excerpt appears as an anti-Semitic call to action within their church community; an invitation to crusade against we “evil” Jews.

With so many recent atrocities being carried out by religious zealots—e.g. the Charlie Hebdo murders, the attacks on Jewish businesses/people in Europe and a growing negative sentiment toward Jews (yet again being used as a scapegoat)—it seems this church considers this the opportune time to reveal its true nature. Instead of promoting paths to cooperation, understanding and peace, their online sermon and sign teasers show they have chosen to ignite hatred and discrimination by publicizing their antagonistic message to the thousands of cars that pass by their sign on a daily basis. Does this church really want to attract the kind of people who agree with religious messages tainted by malicious intent?

(Click here to read Pt. 2)