Why mainstream churches are shrinking

Glenn had a wide ranging conversation with Rabbi Lapin on radio today, covering everything from praying in the name of Jesus to why mainstream churches are shrinking and more. Lapin also recounts one of the more interesting interactions he had with atheist Penn Jillette.

GLENN: He's Orthodox Jew, and I'm telling you, he lives it. He's great. He just moved to New York City, which if we have time, I have to figure out how that is working out for you. An orthodox Jewish person --

RABBI: In New York City, the most recent study and survey showed something that most Jews in the country found profoundly disturbing. The majority of Jews in New York City at the moment are in fact orthodox. Never happened before in the history of America. That is really extraordinary. Our side is winning, as it is elsewhere as well. The seriously committed evangelical community is growing by leaps and bounds. The old mainstream denominations that lean left are shrinking. Their churches are empty.

GLENN: Because they don't stand for anything.

RABBI: Precisely.

GLENN: For instance, I have no problem -- someone says Happy Hanukkah to me, thank you. That's great.

RABBI: I think of Hanukkah as the let's use more fossil fuels holiday. Yes.

GLENN: That's what makes you more popular in New York.

RABBI: There you go.

But let's talk about the praying in the name of Jesus for a moment. You have a large proportion of American Jews -- a majority of American Jews that have -- that have -- I mean, let's be frank, have forsaken and abandoned the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and they've adopted something else. I call it the sacred sacrament of secular fundamentalism. It's a religion. And I can explain why.

But for the moment, the point is that, it's just fascinating, but I often pose this question to nonobservant Jews who are very remote from their faith. If an invisible private detective followed you around 24/7, how long would it take him to discover that you are Jewish as opposed to a loyal member of the Democrat party. It's a tough question to answer. Because if you don't live or do Jewish, then what is it exactly? And almost every Jew will tell you, I'm proud to be Jewish. Well, about what? Like you're proud of a racial accident? A genetic accident? What does that mean? What they'll usually answer, well, I am Jewish. I don't believe in Jesus. That's become the moral slogan.

STU: Penn Jillette doesn't believe in Jesus --

GLENN: The Dalai Lama doesn't believe in Jesus.

RABBI: He should be Jewish.

STU: I'll let him when he's around next time.

RABBI: By the way, you'll remember what a stunning display of intellectual integrity Penn Jillette did when we were together on the show. It was extraordinary.

GLENN: Yeah, Penn Jillette was on, along with Rabbi Lapin. And it was an experiment. I said to the rabbi and I said to Penn, let's get on. I'm Christian, he's a Jewish, you're an atheist. Let's model for the American people the three people who have wildly different points of view on theology, that they can actually have a conversation. And at one point, the rabbi said --

RABBI: I said if a billion -- what was happening, Penn was saying there's no difference between faiths. They're all the same. Suggesting they're all equally bad. I said if a billion Muslims became evangelical Christians tomorrow, would the world be a better place or worst place? He paused. That pause felt like a week.

GLENN: It was amazing. What went through my mind was, oh, my gosh, this guy might answer this question.

RABBI: What went through my mind, I said to myself, you know, I straight away, I can think of three ways to put me down, get a lot of the and move to the next topic. If I can think of three ways to put me away, Penn probably thought of five.

GLENN: What would you have said of that?

RABBI: I would like to think I would have said what he said, but I'm not sure. I know most people would have come back with something, oh, yeah, right, a million Muslims are going to turn into evangelical Christians. They might as well turn into Jews.

He thought about it and said, all things being equal, I have to say, yes, it would be a better place.

GLENN: That's extraordinary.

RABBI: He paid a price for that because many of his atheist followers were terribly upset.

So Jews who don't believe in Jesus, at that point, their entire identity is not I'm Jewish because I believe this, I'm Jewish because I don't believe in Jesus. And, therefore, Jesus becomes this cross to the vampire. This frightening thing which has to be kept out of my sight because if I allow it in my sight, it is violating my last lingering remnant of connection to the Jewish faith.

STU: You see this in politics too. It's always a danger when you belong to something because you don't believe in something. I think that a lot of times has happened in politics and a lot of other things.

GLENN: I was sitting in the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem, sitting in the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. Gone to a couple of synagogues. They had the choir and everything. It was really amazing.

RABBI: We call that high church.

GLENN: Okay. And it was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. And my wife was sitting upstairs. I was sitting downstairs. And I'm just observing and I don't understand -- I don't understand anything he's saying. And I had just been over in Europe. So I had just been over at the Vatican. And I hear the music start. And I'm thinking to myself, this is Gregorian chant.

RABBI: All that music is derived indirectly from the music we have on tradition that was played by the Levites in the temple.

GLENN: Now, let me speak as somebody who is observant. I love going and observing other religions. And I love -- because I'm not -- I celebrate other religions. I really love it, and I love people who are really deeply into their traditions. And you can learn so much, and you can also -- my father taught me, he said, Glenn, you search everything, and you look for the intersection points. There's a line of theology and a line of theology, but where they intersect, that's where you know there's truth. There's something there that's truth. And so I love that.

And I'm sitting there in the Great Synagogue. And I'm hearing this music. Now I'm hearing Gregorian chant. I'm hearing the essence of it. Then I'm looking at the way they're dressed. I'm seeing, now that's a catechism. The Catholic's have taken the catechism. Now I'm starting to think, if I'm a Jew, and I put myself back in time, you know, declare your support for Jesus Christ or you're dead, and I would think to myself, my gosh, they have taken all of our rituals. They have taken away all our most sacred stuff. Back in the time they may have done it. But they perverted it and declared them theirs and said if you don't accept it now -- it's almost a mockery if you hold onto that anger. It becomes almost a mockery.

I thought to myself, if I was Jewish, I would have a hard time if I knew my culture, I loved my culture, and I loved my faith, I would have a very hard time letting go of the past, because most Christians don't know. Most Christians don't look at the history of what Christians did to Jews. And I don't -- past is past. We can't correct that. But we can recognize the strife that has been there and open up our hearts to one another. Wow, I see -- and maybe you don't see, where that rub comes from, you know.

RABBI: It's dangerous to drive with your eyes only in the rearview mirror. It's equally difficult to run affairs, whether it's society, a family with an eye only on the past and what happened back then.

The sad truth when we had our Sabbath table a couple of years ago, a judge sitting on the bench in New York. A very sophisticated and educated woman. And she said to me, she said, and she spat these words out with fury after eating my food, if you don't mind -- how can you be friends with Pat Robinson? If he has his way, the pope will be in charge of America.

GLENN: Pat Robinson, but he's not a Catholic.

RABBI: No. I said to her, what do the words Protestant Reformation mean to you? She had no idea. This is a woman who grew up as a college, went to college -- in New York. In New York, there are only two kinds of people: Jews and Catholic. You go to Brooklyn, you got Italians and Jews. She never knew anything else.

GLENN: Here's the amazing thing, and I didn't know this. So many -- just like Christians don't know about Judaism, so many Jews really don't know about the reformation. They really don't --

RABBI: Jews did not know that there has never been an instance of Protestants committing anything against Jews, never happened in history.

Now Martin Luther certainly wrote some unpleasant things about Jews. Nobody ever acted on that. There are no records of Protestant killing Jews. There have been fights between Protestant and Catholics. Most Jews are totally unaware that there's that enormous difference historically.

One of the things that brought about the reformation, of course, was the popularization of the Bible that came about because finally translating become acceptable. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1450. Fifty years later, you have a Protestant Reformation.

People are saying, you know what, we need to go back to the roots. We need to go back to the Bible.

GLENN: Let me jump off a bit. I'm listening to you say mistranslation, we got to get back to the Bible. I'm looking at you. Behind you it says peace on earth. To men of good will. Most time in the holiday people say peace on earth. Good will toward men. The actual phrase is peace on earth to men of good will. That's totally different.

RABBI: Oh, sure it is.

GLENN: What do you think the most mistranslated or misunderstood phrase in the scriptures or the Torah that jumps out at you, if people understood -- maybe not mistranslated --

STU: What is the most misunderstood scripture? We have one minute. Go ahead.

RABBI: If I'm put on the spot -- I wish we did more rehearsal or something.

GLENN: I tell you what --

RABBI: It's very simple. Something called "Tikkun olam". I don't know if you've heard that phrase. It's improving the world. I wish people wouldn't improve the world. Just don't wreck it. That's all. Stop improving it. That's all. And it's interesting, that's the spirit of the socialist revolution. We're improving it. Just stop improving it. That phrase doesn't appear in that way. The correct Hebrew phrase is to improve the world in accordance with God's blueprint.

Ryan: Bernie at the disco

Photo by Sean Ryan

Saturday at El Malecón, we waited for the Democratic socialist. He had the wild white hair like a monk and the thick glasses and the booming voice full of hacks and no niceties.

Photo by Sean Ryan

The venue had been redecorated since we visited a few nights before when we chatted with Castro. It didn't even feel like the same place. No bouncy castle this time.

Photo by Sean Ryan

A black curtain blocked the stage, giving the room a much-needed depth.

Behind the podium, two rows of mostly young people, all holding Bernie signs, all so diverse and picturesque and strategic.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Lots of empty seats. Poor showing of Bernie fans for a Saturday afternoon. At one point, someone from Bernie's staff offered us seats in the audience, as if eager to fill up those seats however possible.

There were about 75 people in the dancehall, a place built for reunions and weddings and all those other festivities. But for a few hours on Saturday, August 10, 2019, it turned serious and wild for "Unidos Con Bernie."

Photo by Sean Ryan

People had been murmuring about Sanders' speech from the night before at Wing Ding. By all appearances, he had developed a raving lust to overthrow Trump. He had even promised, with his wife just out of view, that, were he elected, he'd end white nationalism in America. For good.

El Malecón lacked its previous air of celebration. It had undertaken a brooding yet defiant spirit. Media were sparse. Four cameras faced the podium. Three photographers, one of whom had been at nearly all the same events as us. A few of the staffers frowned at an empty row of chairs, because there weren't that many chairs to begin with.

At the entrance, Bernie staff handed out headsets that translated English to Spanish or Spanish to English, depending on who the speaker was. The translators stood behind the bar, 20 feet from the podium, and spoke into a lip-ribbon microphone.

Bernie's staff was probably the coolest, by far. As in, they looked cool and acted stylishly. Jeans. Sandals. Careworn blazers. Tattoos. One lad had a black Levi's shirt with lush crimson roses even though he wasn't a cowboy or a ranch-hand. Mustaches. Quirky hats. A plain green sundress. Some of them wore glasses, big clunking frames.

Photo by Sean Ryan

The outfits were distinctly Bernie. As Bernie as the tie-dyed "BERNIE" shirts for sale outside the club. Or later, at the Hilton, like a Grateful Dead cassette stand.

Immigration was the theme, and everyone in the audience bore some proof of a journey. Because America offers life, freedom, and hope.

Sanders' own father emigrated from Poland to America at 17, a high school dropout who could barely speak English. As a Jew, he'd faced religious persecution.

Within one generation, Bernie Sanders' father contributed to the highest stratum of American society. In one generation, near hopelessness had transformed into Democracy, his son a congressman with a serious chance at the presidency.

Photo by Sean Ryan

That's the beauty of America. Come here broken and empty and gutted and voiceless. And, within your lifetime, you can mend yourself then become a pillar of society. Then, your son can become the President of the United States of America!

Four people gave speeches before Sanders. They took their time, excited and nervous. They putzed. Because how often do you get to introduce a presidential frontrunner?

All the native English speakers jammed their earpieces when the woman with the kind and dark energy took the stage.

Photo by Sean Ryan

She mumbled in Spanish and did not look up and said that, when her parents died, she couldn't go home for the funeral. She fought back tears. She swallowed hard to shock herself calm. And the room engulfed each silence between every word.

It felt more like a therapy session than a political rally. A grueling therapy session at that. Was that what drew people to Bernie Sanders, that deep anguish? That brisk hope? Or, rather, the cessation of it, through Sanders? And, of course, the resultant freedom? Was it what gave Sanders a saintlike ability to lead people into the realm of the confessional? Did he have enough strength to lead a revolution?

Photo by Sean Ryan

While other frontrunners hocked out money for appearances, like the studio lights, Sanders spent money on translators and ear-pieces. The impression I got was that he would gladly speak anywhere. To anyone. He had the transitory energy you can capture in the writings of Gandhi.

Photo by Sean Ryan

I'm not saying he's right or wrong — I will never make that claim, about any of the candidates, because that's not the point of this, not the point of journalism, amen — what I'm saying is he has the brutal energy of someone who can take the subway after a soiree or rant about life by a tractor or chuck it up with Sarah Silverman, surrounded wherever he goes.

Without the slightest fanfare, Sanders emerged from behind the black curtain. The woman at the podium gasped a little. The room suctioned forward when he entered. In part because he was so nonchalant. And, again. That magnetism to a room when a famous or powerful or charming person enters. Not many people have it. Not many can keep it. Even fewer know how to brace it, to cull it on demand. But several of the candidates did. One or two even had something greater.

Photo by Sean Ryan

I'll only say that Bernie had it with a bohemian fervor, like he was a monk stranded in a big city that he slowly brings to God.

"We have a President who, for the first time in my lifetime, who is a President who is a racist," he shouted. "Who is a xenophobe and anti-immigrant. Who is a sexist. Who is a religious bigot. And who, is a homophobe. And, what is very disappointing is that, when we have a President, we do not necessarily expect to agree with him, or her, on every issue. But we do believe that one of the obligations is to bring people to-geth-ah. As Americans."

Photo by Sean Ryan

After listening silently for several minutes, the audience clapped. Their sweet response felt cultish. But, then again, what doesn't feel cultish these days? So this was cultish like memes are cultish, in a striving-to-understand kind of way.

"The essence of our campaign is in fact to bring people together," he said. "Whether they're black, or white, or latino, or Native American, or Asian-American. We understand that we are Americans."

At times, this meant sharing a common humanity. Others, it had a slightly more disruptive feel. Which worked. Sometimes all we want is revolution. To be wild without recourse. To overthrow. To pass through the constraints of each day. To survive. The kind of rowdy stuff that makes for good poetry but destroys credit lines. Sanders radiated with this intensity, like a reclusive philosopher returning to society, from his cave to homes and beds and fences and maybe electricity.

Photo by Sean Ryan

But, as he says, his revolution would involve healthcare and wages and tuition, not beheadings and purges and starvation.

Seeing the Presidential candidates improvise was amazing. They did it constantly. They would turn any of their beliefs into a universal statement. And Sanders did this without trying. So he avoided doing the unbearably arrogant thing of pretending to speak like a native Guatemalan, and he looked at the group of people, and he mumbled in his cloudy accent:

"My Spanish — is not so good."

Photo by Sean Ryan

This is the same and the opposite of President Trump's Everyman way of speaking English like an American. Of speaking American.

Often, you know what Sanders will say next. You can feel it. And, anytime this happened, it brought comfort to the room.

Like, it surprised no one when he said that he would reinstate DACA on his first day in office. It still drew applause.

But other times, he expressed wild ideas with poetic clarity. And his conclusions arrived at unusual junctures. Not just in comparison to Republicans. To all of them. Bernie was the Tupac of the 2020 election. And, to him, President Trump was Suge Knight, the evil force behind it all.

"Donald Trump is an idiot," he shouted.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Everybody loved that. Everybody clapped and whooped and some even whistled like they were outside and not in a linoleum-floor dancehall.

"Go get 'em, Bernie," someone in the back shouted.

This was the only Sanders appearance with no protestors.

"Let me say this about the border," he shouted. And everybody listened to every thunking syllable. He probably could have spoken without a mic. Booming voice. Loud and clear. Huddling into that heavy Vermont slug accent.

They'll say many many things about Bernie. One being, you never had to lean forward to hear him. In person, even more so. He's less frail. More dynamic.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Despite the shoddiness of the venue, there was a sign language interpreter. Most of the rallies had a designated interpreter.

"If you work 40 hours a week you shouldn't be living in poverty," he shouted, provoking chants and applause from the audience, as if he were talking about them. Maybe he was.

An anecdote about the people at an emergency food shelf blended into the livable wage of $15 an hour. He shifted into his spiel about tuition-free college and pointed at the audience, "You're not doing well," then at the kids behind him, "they are." He craned his head sideways and back. "Do your homework," he told said.

Laughter.

Half of the kids looked like they hadn't eaten in days. Maybe it was their unusual situation, a few feet from Bernie Sanders at a stucco community center.

Before the room could settle, Sanders wove through a plan for how to cancel debt.

Did he have a solution?

Tax Wall Street, he shouted.

Photo by Sean Ryan

And he made it sound easy. "Uno dos trey," he said. "That's my Spanish for today."

A serious man, he shoved through his speech like a tank hurtling into dense jungle. He avoided many of the typical politician gimmicks. Proof that he did not practice every expression in front of a mirror. That he did not hide his accent. That he did not preen his hair. That he did not smile for a precise amount of time, depending on the audience. That he did not pretend to laugh.

Photo by Sean Ryan

He laughed when humor overtook him. But it was genuine. With none of the throaty recoil you hear in forced laughter.

"I want everyone to take a deep breath," he said. And a palpable lightness spread through the room, because a deep breath can solve a lot of problems.

Photo by Sean Ryan

Then he roused some more. "Healthcare is a human right," he shouted. "A human privilege," he shouted. He told them that he lives 50 miles from the Canadian border in Burlington, Vermont, and healthcare works better up north.

Each candidate had a bad word, and Sanders' was "corporate."

Photo by Sean Ryan

At every speech, he mentioned "corporate media" with the same distrust and unpleasantness that conservatives derive from the term "mainstream media." Another would be "fake news," as popularized by Sanders' sworn enemy. Either way it's the same media. Just different motivations that irk different people.

But the discrepancies varied. Meaning two opposing political movements disliked the same thing, but for opposite reasons.
It sounded odd, Sanders' accusation that the media were against him. The media love Bernie. I can confirm this both anecdotally and judiciously. Yes, okay, in 2016, the media appeared to have sided with Hillary Clinton. As a result, Sanders was publicly humiliated. Because Clinton took a mafioso approach to dealing with opponents, and Sanders was her only roadblock.

Imagine if a major political organization devoted part of each day to agitating your downfall. And then you fail. And who's fault is it?

Sanders wanted to know: those negative ads targeting him, who paid for them?

Photo by Sean Ryan

Corporations, of course. Corporations that hated radicals like him. And really was he so radical? He listed off the possibilities: Big pharma, insurance companies, oil companies.

Because he had become a revolutionary, to them. To many.

He said it with certainty, although he often didn't have to say it at all. This spirit of rebellion had become his brand. He would lead the wild Americans into a utopia.

But just as quickly, he would attack. Trump, as always, was the target.

He called Trump the worst president in American history.

"The fates are Yuge," he shouted.

The speech ended as informally as it had begun. And Sanders' trance over the audience evaporated, replaced by that suction energy. Everyone rushed closer and closer to the man as Neil Young's "Keep on Rockin in the Free World" blared. Sanders leaned into the podium and said, "If anyone wants to form a line, we can do some selfies."

Photo by Sean Ryan

It was like meeting Jesus for some of the people.

There he was, at El Malecón. No stage lights, no makeup, no stylist behind the curtain. Just him and his ideas and his erratic hand commotion.

Then a man holding a baby leaned in for a photo. He and Sanders chatted. And, I kid you not, the whole time the baby is staring at Bernie Sanders like he's the image of God, looking right up at him, with this glow, this understanding.

Bernie, if you're reading this, I'd like to suggest that — if this election doesn't work for you — you could be the next Pope.

New installments come Mondays and Thursdays. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@blazemedia.com

On the "Glenn Beck Radio Program" Monday, Harvard Law professor and lawyer on President Donald Trump's impeachment defense team Alan Dershowitz explains the history of impeachment and its process, why the framers did not include abuse of power as criteria for a Constitutional impeachment, why the Democrats are framing their case the way they are, and what to look for in the upcoming Senate trial.

Dershowitz argued that "abuse of power" -- one of two articles of impeachment against Trump approved by House Democrats last month -- is not an impeachable act.

"There are two articles of impeachment. The second is 'obstruction of Congress.' That's just a false accusation," said Dershowitz. "But they also charge him, in the Ukraine matter, with abuse of power. But abuse of power was discussed by the framers (of the U.S. Constitution) ... the framers refused to include abuse of power because it was too broad, too open-ended.

"In the words of James Madison, the father of our Constitution, it would lead presidents to serve at the will of Congress. And that's exactly what the framers didn't want, which is why they were very specific and said a president can be impeached only for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors," he added.

"What's alleged against President Trump is not criminal," added Dershowitz. "If they had criminal issues to allege, you can be sure they would have done it. If they could establish bribery or treason, they would have done it already. But they didn't do it. They instead used this concept of abuse of power, which is so broad and general ... any president could be charged with it."

Watch the video below to hear more details:



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On Friday's radio program, Bill O'Reilly joins Glenn Beck discuss the possible outcomes for the Democrats in 2020.

Why are former President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama working overtime to convince Americans they're more moderate than most of the far-left Democratic presidential candidates? Is there a chance of a Michelle Obama vs. Donald Trump race this fall?

O'Reilly surmised that a post-primary nomination would probably be more of a "Bloomberg play." He said Michael Bloomberg might actually stand a chance at the Democratic nomination if there is a brokered convention, as many Democratic leaders are fearfully anticipating.

"Bloomberg knows he doesn't really have a chance to get enough delegates to win," O'Reilly said. "He's doing two things: If there's a brokered convention, there he is. And even if there is a nominee, it will probably be Biden, and Biden will give [him] Secretary of State or Secretary of Treasury. That's what Bloomberg wants."

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On the "Glenn Beck Radio Program" Friday, award-winning investigative reporter John Solomon, a central figure in the impeachment proceedings, explained his newly filed lawsuit, which seeks the records of contact between Ukraine prosecutors and the U.S. Embassy officials in Kiev during the 2016 election.

The records would provide valuable information on what really happened in Ukraine, including what then-Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter were doing with Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings, Solomon explained.

The documents, which the State Department has withheld thus far despite repeated requests for release by Solomon, would likely shed light on the alleged corruption that President Donald Trump requested to be investigated during his phone call with the president of Ukraine last year.

With the help of Southeastern Legal Foundation, Solomon's lawsuit seeks to compel the State Department to release the critical records. Once released, the records are expected to reveal, once and for all, exactly why President Trump wanted to investigate the dealings in Ukraine, and finally expose the side of the story that Democrats are trying to hide in their push for impeachment.

"It's been a one-sided story so far, just like the beginning of the Russia collusion story, right? Everybody was certain on Jan. 9 of 2017 that the Christopher Steele dossier was gospel. And our president was an agent of Russia. Three years later, we learned that all of that turned out to be bunk, " Solomon said.

"The most important thing about politics, and about investigations, is that there are two sides to a story. There are two pieces of evidence. And right now, we've only seen one side of it," he continued. "I think we'll learn a lot about what the intelligence community, what the economic and Treasury Department community was telling the president. And I bet the story was way more complicated than the narrative that [House Intelligence Committee Chairman] Adam Schiff [D-Calif.] has woven so far."

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