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A rabbi, a Mormon and a black Christian mayor walk into a room...
The worlds of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, left, Michael Benson, center, and Mayor Cory Booker collided 20 years ago. The unlikely trio has maintained a friendship ever since.
June 23rd, 2012
10:00 PM ET

A rabbi, a Mormon and a black Christian mayor walk into a room...

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Newark, New Jersey (CNN) – Mayor Cory Booker waits in his wood-paneled city hall office for his next visitors. His life, even on a Sunday, is tightly scheduled. He checks the time on his cell phone and lets the ribbing of his two friends, who are now late, begin.

“Jewish time is even worse than black time,” he says, “although I should never drag all the Jewish people down with Shmuley.” And then, about the other guy: “I thought Mormons were always 15 minutes early?”

If the friendship between these men – a black Christian mayor, a rabbi running for Congress and a Mormon university president – wasn't so real, this would sound like a bad joke. Instead, it’s a reflection of how three men from profoundly different backgrounds met 20 years ago, connected and changed one another.

So when this unusual trio got together for a rare meeting this spring, we jumped at the chance to join them.

But before the others arrive, let’s introduce the players.

There’s Booker, the 43-year-old Democratic mayor of Newark, a rising political star and headline grabber, a man who was recently lauded for saving a neighbor from a burning building and grilled for his perceived off-message remarks on a Sunday talk show. He was raised by parents who fought in the courts to integrate the northern New Jersey suburbs where he grew up.

Mayor Cory Booker takes a break on a Sunday from running Newark to dish about his old friends – two men from profoundly different backgrounds. (Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images for CNN)

The two men he’s waiting for are no schlubs themselves.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, 45, is a TV personality, former radio host, prolific author - his books include “Kosher Sex” and “Kosher Jesus” - and now Republican congressional candidate in New Jersey. He was also an unofficial spiritual adviser to Michael Jackson. He was raised by a single mom in Miami.

And Michael Benson, a 47-year-old political scientist and president of Southern Utah University, comes from Mormon and Utah royalty, of sorts. His grandfather is the late Ezra Taft Benson, secretary of agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the 13th prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

With his wife and two young children in tow, the Mormon shows up first.

“Brother Benson,” Booker booms, addressing his friend in Mormon-speak as he stands to give him a big hug.

The last time these two had seen each other was five years ago, when they both helped celebrate the rabbi’s 40th birthday in New York. The massive party, as described by the mayor, was “a mosh pit of yarmulkes and sweat.”

CNN's Belief Blog: the faith angles behind the big stories

Boteach, who lives in New Jersey and sees the mayor often, rushes into the room on this Sunday a half-hour late.

“Let the record reflect, the Mormon got me lost,” he says by way of hello. The rabbi then glances down at Benson’s two little ones, who sweetly peer up at him.

“They’re a little too Mormon perfect,” he quips. “When Mormons walk into a hurricane, does their hair move?”

Booker, whose nearby desk features a stack of religious texts including the Bhagavad Gita and the Quran, watches as a crowd streams in behind Boteach. The mayor has box seats for this afternoon’s Cirque du Soleil performance of “Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour,” and he wants his friends and their families to join him. But first he demands to know of the rabbi, “How many people are with you? … They just multiply.”

“Are you kidding?” Boteach shoots back. “We have 30 kids.” Actually, he only has nine.

Long before he became an author, TV personality and now congressional candidate, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach ran a popular student organization at Oxford University, which is where he met Benson and Booker. (Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images for CNN)

The three men and their very different worlds collided in the early 1990s at Oxford University in England, where they overlapped for two years. Booker was there on a Rhodes scholarship; Benson on a Rotary scholarship - "but if I slurred, it sounded like Rhodes,” he says. Boteach was there as an emissary for Chabad Lubavitch, a Hasidic movement in Orthodox Judaism.

The first one to arrive at Oxford was Boteach, in 1988. His official mission was to serve as a rabbi to the students, but by 1990 he’d broadened his outreach by establishing the all-inclusive L’Chaim Society, a campus organization to promote the universal values of Judaism while celebrating differences. The society, whose Hebrew name means “To Life,” became the second largest student group on campus, surging to 5,000 members – no more than 800 of them Jewish.

The Mormon arrived in 1991, having spent six months in Israel at the Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center. Benson, who earned a doctorate at Oxford, would write his dissertation on President Harry S. Truman and eventually write a book about the Jewish influences in Truman's life and his contributions to Israel’s founding. (The “Mormon perfect” son in the mayor’s office, it turns out, is named Truman.)

Shortly after Benson arrived at Oxford, a Jewish friend told him about Boteach, saying, “You have to meet this rabbi.”

Boteach admits his previous impressions of Mormons had been pretty negative. Then Benson walked into the L’Chaim Society – and the rabbi’s life – one Friday evening. “Not a hair was out of place,” a slightly disheveled and wild-bearded Boteach says, remembering when they met. “I was fascinated.”

Benson never budged from his own religious beliefs, but he became a devout member and officer of the L’Chaim Society, which held legendary Friday night dinners.

Michael Benson, a grandson of the 13th prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, helped change how his friends – and countless others – view Mormons. (Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images for CNN)

Booker arrived on campus a year later. He first met Benson through basketball - they both played for the Oxford Blues - then got to know Boteach with the help of a woman who stood him up for dinner. Booker was supposed to meet her outside the L’Chaim Society; when she never showed, he moseyed inside on his own to check out this mysterious place with a name he couldn’t pronounce.

Inside, hordes of people – many of them drunk – were dancing around with sacred scrolls containing the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. They were celebrating Simchat Torah, a holiday that marks the end of the annual Torah-reading cycle.

“I felt like I walked into a scene from ‘Yentl,’” Booker says.

Booker would go on to become president of the now-defunct organization, taking on tasks like lighting a Hanukkah menorah with Mikhail Gorbachev when the former Soviet leader visited Oxford.

Like Benson, Booker doesn’t drink; together they became allies as well as teammates. At the end of holidays like Simchat Torah or Purim – another raucous Jewish festival where celebrators often get drunk - they bonded as sober men in the room. They also led the Oxford Blues to win a British collegiate championship.

“I was their mascot,” boasts Boteach, whose friends tower above him.

The rabbi and Mormon say the mayor's humanity and heart inspire them. Booker says these two faithful men taught him to love and respect different religions, while helping him deepen his own beliefs and sense of awe. Likewise, both the mayor and Boteach say Benson changed how they and hundreds of others view Mormons.

Booker has been known to have his driver pull over when he spots young Mormon missionaries walking in pairs. He understands they’re often financially strapped, so he gives them some money for food and thanks them for being in his city.

“That’s something I never would have done if I hadn’t met Mike,” the mayor says.

And Booker certainly wouldn’t have pulled all-nighters studying Jewish texts before meeting Boteach. There’s a tradition, the rabbi explains, for a father to stay up and study the night before his son is circumcised. It was the middle of exams at Oxford when the rabbi first roped Booker in to join him the night before his first son Mendy's circumcision. Boteach came back again 11 years ago after the birth of Yosef, to which Booker responded, “Shmuley, you’re killing me” before he agreed to take part.

But the last time the rabbi issued his all-night study decree, Booker wasn’t having it.

“Forget it. Don’t even ask. I’m running for mayor,” the then-candidate told his friend six years ago, after Dovid Chaim was born. At 1 a.m., though, there was a knock on Boteach’s door. “You have 60 minutes. That’s it,” the mayor said as he rushed inside.

“Cory and I see each other whenever he needs advice,” the rabbi likes to say of Booker. And it's comments like this that prompt the mayor to retort, “He needs to get his head examined by a proctologist.”

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach rushes in for the reunion, and a hug from Booker, 30 minutes late. Michael Benson looks on, laughing as Boteach blames him, “the Mormon,” for making him late. (Shaul Schwarz/Getty Images for CNN)

All kidding aside, these three look out for each other's interests. After leaving Oxford for Yale Law School, Booker became a self-appointed kosher police officer, alerting the rabbi when he heard about Jewish L'Chaim Society members who had stopped keeping kosher. “You really need to do something,” he'd tell the rabbi.

Ever since Boteach learned that Benson’s older brother, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson of The Arizona Republic, had shrugged off religion, the rabbi has said he’s on a mission to bring the older Benson back to the LDS Church.

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The Mormon can’t help but marvel at the rabbi’s chutzpah, but he’s happy to let him give it his best shot. So far Boteach has only e-mailed with the older Benson, but he looks forward to a face-to-face meeting so he, the Jew, can give the ex-Mormon the proper Latter-day Saint sell.

Boteach has fallen for the national parks of Utah, where the LDS Church is headquartered. He has lectured a handful of times at universities where Benson has been affiliated. Benson has led the way in scrambling to find kosher food for the rabbi before the two have headed out for weekend hikes.

Booker reflects on his old friends and says, “I love the fact that those two have kept such a good friendship. They’re very different. Mike is humble and soft-spoken; Shmuley is loud and bordering on obnoxious.”

Noticing the time, Booker rushes off to squeeze in a meeting before Cirque du Soleil.

The mayor's friends, at home in his office, take their time leaving. They stroll down the empty and echoing hallways toward the exit of Newark City Hall. The Mormon throws his arm around the rabbi's shoulder.

“I have to get back to Utah soon,” Boteach says. “It's been too long.”

“This time, we'll get you baptized,” Benson tells him.

The suggestion of a Mormon conversion, even in jest, might stop other rabbis in their tracks. But Boteach doesn’t skip a beat: “If it'll get me votes, fine.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Christianity • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Interfaith issues • Judaism • Politics • Race

soundoff (941 Responses)
  1. anna

    1 John 5

    Wycliffe Bible (WYC)

    5 Each man that believeth that Jesus is Christ, is born of God; and each man that loveth him that engendered [and each that loveth him that gendereth], loveth him that is born of him.

    2 In this thing we know, that we love the children of God, when we love God, and do his commandments.

    3 For this is the charity of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments be not heavy [and his commandments be not grievous].

    4 For all thing that is born of God, overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, our faith.

    5 And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

    6 This is Jesus Christ, that came by water and blood; not in water only, but in water and blood. And the Spirit is he that witnesseth, that Christ is [the] truth.

    7 For three be, that give witnessing in heaven, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost [For three be, that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, or Son, and the Holy Ghost]; and these three be one.

    8 And three be, that give witnessing in earth, the Spirit, water, and blood; and these three be one.

    9 If we receive the witnessing of men, the witnessing of God is more; for this is the witnessing of God, that is more, for he witnessed of his Son.

    10 He that believeth in the Son of God, hath the witnessing of God in him. He that believeth not to the Son, maketh him a liar; for he believeth not in the witnessing, that God witnessed of his Son.

    11 And this is the witnessing, for God gave to you everlasting life [for God gave to us everlasting life], and this life is in his Son.

    12 He that hath the Son of God, hath also life [He that hath the Son, hath life]; he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.

    13 I write to you these things, that ye know, that ye have everlasting life, which believe in the name of God's Son.

    14 And this is the trust which we have to God [And this is the trust that we have in God], that whatever thing we ask after his will, he shall hear us.

    15 And we know, that he heareth us, whatever thing we ask; we know, that we have the askings, that we ask of him [which we ask of him].

    16 He that knoweth that his brother sinneth a sin not to death [He that knoweth his brother to sin a sin not to death], ask he, and life shall be given to him that sinneth not to death. There is a sin to death; not for it I say, that any man pray.

    17 Each wickedness is sin, and there is [a] sin to death.

    18 We know, that each man that is born of God, sinneth not; but the generation of God keepeth him, and the wicked toucheth him not.

    19 We know, that we be of God, and all the world is set in evil [and all the world is put in wicked].

    20 And we know, that the Son of God came in flesh, and gave to us wit, that we know him very God, and be in the very Son [Jesus] of him [and be in the very Son Jesus of him]. This is very God, and everlasting life.

    21 My little sons, keep ye you from maumets. [Amen.] [Little sons, keep ye you from simulacra, or covetousness. Amen.]

    June 25, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  2. kindness

    I Follow Christ . I never wanted proof. I just had faith.

    HE WHO follows Me, walks not in darkness,” says the Lord (John 8:12). By these words
    of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and
    free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus
    Christ.
    The teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and he who
    has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often
    but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand
    fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.

    What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you
    displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous
    life makes him pleasing to God. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it.
    For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the
    philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity,
    except to love God and serve Him alone.

    This is the greatest wisdom—to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the
    world. It is vanity, therefore, to seek and trust in riches that perish. It is vanity also to court
    honor and to be puffed up with pride. It is vanity to follow the lusts of the body and to desire
    things for which severe punishment later must come. It is vanity to wish for long life and
    to care little about a well-spent life. It is vanity to be concerned with the present only and
    not to make provision for things to come. It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not
    to look ahead where eternal joy abides.
    Often recall the proverb: “The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with
    hearing.”1 Try, moreover, to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring
    yourself to things invisible. For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences
    and lose the grace of God.

    See for yourself.

    June 25, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  3. Leucadia Bob

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duR2LCks6r4&w=640&h=390]

    June 25, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  4. E B

    What a lot of strange comments. As far as I know, most religions' doctrines are of tolerance towards other people. What is strange about people actually following their religion? I'm a Mormon, and I know we're taught to be respectful and friendly and participating members of our communities no matter the people or faiths in them. The core of Mormonism is to follow Jesus Christ. All else is peripheral to that. Thanks for listening.
    http://www.conservativemormonmom.blogspot.com

    June 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  5. ja

    people are people and mutual respect is the highest level the evolution, and intelligence

    June 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  6. SHAWN

    THE MORMONS AND LDS ARE JUST MASONIC PLANTS....LOOK AT THE FOUNDERS AND THEIR BACKGROUND. HAHHAHA THE WEB IS GOING TO BUST THEIR PLANS TO 1000 POINTS OF LIGHT. HAHAHHAAH I'M TEASING THOSE MORONS. JESUS CHRIST WOULD BE SICK TO SEE WHAT THEY'RE ATTEMPTING. I SAY ATTEMPTING. THEY KILLED JESUS BODY BUT HIS SPIRIT IS IN US. HIS KIND WORDS WOULD NOT BE TOLERATED BECAUSE IT INTERFERED WITH THE MONEYCHANGERS, SAME AS TODAY. THE MEDIA MAKES YOU THINK CHRISTIANITY AND ALL RELIGIONS ARE DUMB. NO, THEY ARE OWNED BY THE JUDEO MASONICS OWNED BY THE BANKERS IN LONDON WHO ARE ROBBING THIS PLANET. REV 2:9. HE CALLS THEM BY NAME...GOOD GRIEF. THEN PEOPLE SAY, WHO KILLED JESUS, THE ROMANS? NO NO NO, DID HE TUSSLE WITH THE ROMANS? NO, RENDER TO CAESAR WHAT IS HIS, AND TO GOD WHAT IS GODS. YOUR PREACHERS ARE PAID TO GET YOU AWAY FROM JESUS. I'M NOT LYING. I WAS NOT RELIGIOUS...I ALWAYS LOVED THE KIND WORDS OF JESUS, BUT AFTER 8 YEARS OF INTERVIEWS AND HARD DEEP RESEARCH, VERY DANGEROUS I STRUCK GOLD...OR DARKNESS....THEN I STRUCK LIGHT...OF JESUS..NOT THEIR DAMN CON GAME. THE REAL MAN WITH THE REAL WORDS TO LIVE BY. IT'S THE FAKE CHRISTIANS AND FAKE JEWS WHO ARE SCREWING US. GOOGLE, ALBERT PIKES 3 WORLD WARS LETTER....AFTER YOU READ IT....CONTACT ME AND I'LL TELL YOU MORE THAT WILL SHOW YOU WHAT'S HAPPENING. MY GRANDPA 12 GENS BACK WAS MAJOR GENERAL ISRAEL PUTNAM. 1776 BUNKER HILL SAID, "DON'T FIRE UNTIL YOU SEE THE WHITES OF THEIR EYES."

    June 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Announcement!

      Nurse Ratched, patient Shawn last seen fleeing into a Walmart and putting on a bikini. Not pretty. Deploy additional teams.

      June 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • max3333444555

      How come the nut-cases always want to use caps?

      June 25, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • The Horrific Assault of the Four Fluffly Kittens of the Apocalypse (after a nice light snack and a nap)

      They use all-caps as a courtesy to let us know instantly that we don't have to bother reading their stuff. They are just being kind as they scream. Quite thoughtful, actually.

      June 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Concerned Democrat

      Get a grip SHAWN!

      June 25, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Tom

      LMAO! In many places, Mormon's are not even allowed to be Masons. You don't know what you are talking about Shawn. Stop pretending you got everything you ever learned from watching movies.

      June 25, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  7. Mac

    Oh look. Another puff piece about Cory Booker by his mainstream lackeys.

    STOP NO AND DONT DEMOCRATS. This is a wall street corporatist wrapped up in sheep's clothing. Ditch this clown.

    June 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • The Horrific Assault of the Four Fluffly Kittens of the Apocalypse (after a nice light snack and a nap)

      "STOP NO AND DONT DEMOCRATS."

      Way to tell 'em, Mac! You hit the nail right between the eyes on that one!

      June 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
  8. SHAWN

    PEOPLE, WE ARE BEING ROBBED. LOOK UP AT THE ARTICLE: WHAT SHOULD BE IN THE AMERICAN BIBLE? THE JUDEO MASONIC MAFIA WILL FAIL. THE ARE JUST BOYS IN MENS SUITS WHO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TRUSTING PEOPLE. ABUSE THE WEAK IS THE NAME OF THEIR GAME. ALL WILL BE SETTLED EY?. HAHHAHAHA

    June 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Annoouncement!

      Nurse Ratched, we have a runner from ward 4. We have a runner from ward 4. Patient's name is Shawn. Release the men in white.

      June 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Stephanie

      SHAWN (of the dead fame obviously) we can tell you are crazy also by the hysterical laughter in your postings. Glad you are not an emissary to The Maker or we'd all be in trouble.

      June 25, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Tom

      It's really amazing how much some people are effected by bizarre fictional stories. In a month, Shawn will be convinced that Abraham Lincoln is still alive, is a vampire, and was a vampire slayer before becoming President of the United States.

      All that stuff you learned, Shawn, are just stories. Stop taking that nonsense so seriously.

      June 25, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  9. wrong side of the bed

    ?? So being from different faiths makes them natural enemies?They have to ignore this fact to be friends?How can the god believers read this and not see the inherent and harmful divisiveness of religion.Just brush this point to the side I guess..Sheesh!

    June 25, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      We have to many false religions on earth, whicha are indeed bigoted.

      Yet, Jesus was never bigoted, which can be proved by the story of the "Woman at the well" of John 4.

      The Woman was a Samaritan (the Samaritans and the Jews were enemies). When Jesus came thirsty to the well, the woman gave him no water, because he was a Jew. The woman was bigoted like a fanatic Muslim or the like.

      How reacted Jesus?

      He did not badmouth, but offered Water of Eternal Life to here and showed here that she had a spiritual thirst (she was a wh-ore, which was always seeking a new lover).

      Jesus forgave her and she became a Saint, which is still venerated by the Greek Church.

      June 25, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • The Horrific Assault of the Four Fluffly Kittens of the Apocalypse (after a nice light snack and a nap)

      Mr. Worng Side, your message got severely garbled on its way to the dark side of Uranus where Rainer lives. That's why his response has no connection at all to your post . . . or reality . . . or sanity . . . or grammar . . . or intelligence.

      June 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • LinSea

      wrong side, why are you so freaked out? People from different religions can be friends. From your comment it sounds like you are furious that religious people can be friends and respectful and care for others, even if they have differences in their beliefs. Are you mad because it shatters one of your (mis)perceptions?

      June 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  10. PBUH- U NEED TO READ THIS

    This is great news. The fact is, if you got Moses (Jewish) , Jesus (Loved by Christians but Also Jewish), Mohammad (Muslim, but textually the same as Judaism), and Siddhartha Guatama (Buddhist) put them all in the same room and lock the door. These enlightened men would not only get along but they would have a great time together. NOW, take their first disciples and put them in the next room and lock the door. They would argue, and make war. So to learn that these men are humble enough to accept each other as human beings without separating each other by race, religion or any other trivial description is GREAT NEWS. Even the atheist has his right of opinion as long as it does not bring harm to another. When a human being is genetically 99% the same as a chimpanzee you begin to see just how insignificant the differences are between you and me. To oppress another is to oppress yourself. The central theme of all the great religions love others as you love yourself. Learn it, Live it, Love it. May Peace be upon you all.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      You err. The only religion, which knows unbiased love, is Christianity. All other religions are bigoted.

      June 25, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • smell the coffee

      @Rainer – Too bad most self proclaimed Christians don't practice Christianity.

      June 25, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @smell the coffee

      It is indeed a problem that a lot of so-called Christians don't practice Christianity (nominal Christians).

      Responsible for that are false leaders, bishops and pastors, which don't pronounce the true doctrine, but a false doctrine.

      The true doctrine is the foundation of successful Christianity.

      There is only one true doctrine, which is teached by the Christian Church for 2000 years according to the Bible, the Ecu-menical Councils and the Fathers of the Church, the Confessional Docu-ments of the Churches. The most authoritative docu-ment is the Bible.

      It is not good that today any cleaner, taylor, etc. or so can take the Bible and interpret it and found his own sect, which he would designate as true church. There is high probability that he interprets it false. The interpretation of the Bible must be always consistent with the tradition of the whole Church. Luther, for example, had a profound knowledge of ecclesiastical history and the Father's of the Church. Luther's interpretation of the Bible was founded on that deep knowledge.

      June 25, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • SHAWN

      YOU SAY JESUS IS LOVE BY JEWISH. HAHHAHAHAH BOY YOU HAVE BEEN BRAINWASHED. GO READ THE TALMUD. THE TALMUD IS THEIR HOLY OF HOLYS. YOU DON'T KNOW THIS? HIGH TIME YOU DID WOULDN'T YOU SAY? DON'T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT OR A MEDIA OUTLET OF THEIRS. THEY HATE JESUS. WITH A PURPLE PASSION.

      June 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
  11. Greg

    I really liked this story....I think in todays society, both right AND left are far to dogmatic in their personal political views and religious beliefs. and don't allow themselves for forge any type of relationships outside of those views. Even though I'm a fairly staunch Christian Conservative, some of my best friends are Atheist Liberals. Yea, we'll bust each other's chops about stuff, but it doesn't change the fact they are my closest friends, and have been for years. We're spread across the midwest, but usually try to get together at least once a year to have some beer, swap stories, catch up on our familes and jobs...it's something we all look forward to.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      That is fine (your friendship with the atheists). It is only that they should never assume that it doesn't mattter, if someone is a Christian or an atheist.

      The problem of today is that we think that love to someone means also to fully accept his opionions, as if a man, who has a Muslim friend had to fully accpet Islam as a legitimate religion.

      Regretably, I have no Muslim friend (not yet), but if I had one, he had to accept that I would tell him that Islam is a heresy, even the worst one. Despite all, I could take a walk with him, talk with him, invite him for dinner. I guess, it would be easier for me to be the friend of a Muslim than for him to be a friend of mine.

      Love to Muslims, atheists, Catholics, yes, but no love for their false att-itudes.

      June 25, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • KJ

      @ RAINER, As a born again Christian, I'm appalled at your comment that you don't have any Muslim friends and if you did that you'd tell him/her that Islam is a heresy??? The reason I'm appalled is that you are publicly giving out your opinion on something you know nothing about, and you admit it... The Jewish bible, Christian bible, and the Quran all derived from Judaism. Jesus is mentioned in the Quran in over 40% of the text as a prophet, just like Muhammad. They consider Christians "brothers in faith".. How do I know this? I have a great Muslim friend that is from Syria here in the states. Its amazing to me that almost all of Christians know nothing about other religions, but quick to give an opinion on one. I learned a lot about Islam, and it only made my faith stronger in Christianity. Most Muslims are very well educated on Christianity.. You should find a Muslim friend, they are good people with good hearts and their religious discipline is something that should be admired. They believe they worship the same God as Christians, just that their savior was Muhammad.

      June 25, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @KJ

      Apocalyptical nonsense!!!

      June 25, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  12. Rainer Braendlein

    "Kosher Jesus is a project of more than six years research and writing. The book seeks to offer to Jews and Christians the real story of Jesus, a wholly observant, Pharisaic Rabbi who fought Roman paganism and oppression and was killed for it.",
    Rabbi Shmuley writes on his website.

    This statement of Mr. Shmuely is objectively wrong.

    First, Jesus did not fight Roman paganism and opression, but preached the gospel of Himself to his people, the Jews (see Gospel of John, where Jesus repeatedly depicts Himself as Saviour or Redeemer).

    Secondly, it may be right that the Romans perceived Jesus as a revolutionist and finally executed him for that, but Jesus himself never wanted to be a revolutionist, but only The Pastor of His People Israel. Jesus was concerned about the souls of the Jews, but he did not want to rule over them. Jesus task was pastoral care. Jesus will first take over rule, when he comes second time as Lord of all Lords and King of all Kings (even using violence). When Jesus comes second time, he comes as Eternal God, revealing his full glory. There will be no doubt, who he is, and every eye will see him.

    Rather Jesus was killed, because he was too meek and too humble.

    The Jews expect and ever expected a proud, violent Messiah, which brings back the majestic rule of Isael. Jesus, the carpenter and real Messiah, did not fulfill the expectations of the Jews, because he was meek and humble and accepted to be crucified without resistance.

    For a long time many ordinary people of Israel loved Rabbi Jesus and were convinced that he is the foretold Messiah. Only the Scribes and the Pharisees, the leaders of Israel, always hated him, because he was about to destroy their business (envy).

    After a while Judas Iscariot found opportunity to deliver Jesus at a secret place (garden Gethsemane), where Jesus could be arrested furtively (if the Scribes and the Pharisees had arrested Jesus publically, the ordinary Jews had stoned them).

    Yet, when the ordinary people saw that Jesus did not fight back, they perceived that as a sign of weakness, which is understandable to some extent. St. Peter wanted to fight, when Jesus was arrested, but Jesus prohibited that. St. Peter had been ready to die in a struggle for Jesus, but he was not ready to die for a helpless Jesus and thus forsake Jesus (later Peter realized that it was God's plan that Jesus had to die).

    Jesus did not fight back, because a Christian (Christ was the first Christian) never fights back, but comments his cases to God, which is a mighty man of war and revenge.

    Furthermore and chiefly Jesus wanted to fulfill God's plan to die for the sins of the mankind and to be God's Holy Lamb.

    Dear Jews, you should finish your obstinacy at last and accept that Jesus from Nazareth is your Messiah.

    When a man comes, who claims to be the Messiah, but is proud and violent, this will be the Anti-Christ or the Wicked. Oh, poor Jews, Jesus said, that you will welcome the Beast, but it is your decision, which Jesus has only foreseen.

    http://confessingchurch.wordpress.com

    June 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • JMB3

      You are nearly certifiably nuts.. Nice story.. albeit, a bit crazy.. The Cat in the Hat is a great story too but you do not see 6' tall cats walking around.. ??? Its time to put the religious non-sense away.. There is no over powerful man that lives in the clouds.. Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds ??

      June 25, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  13. JJDLS

    Nice uplifting story! Wish I had friends like these.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  14. p41

    So three devils walk into a room...what, did they fight to the death to see who will rule hell?

    June 25, 2012 at 10:05 am |
  15. snapestinks

    Oh, look, Corey Booker hanging out with a socially conservative Rabbi running for congress and a former John Huntsman appointee Morman from Utah.
    Corey, are your republican stripes becoming a little too visible?
    Outside of the ultra-Christian right, these are two sides of the same anti-gay coin.
    Schmuley, as an Orthodox Rabbi, is against Gay Marriage and Benson is an active member of the most philonthropic group that gave to the Prop 8 fight in California to ban gay marriage.

    June 25, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • KJ

      Let me guess, you're gay?

      June 25, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  16. adam l

    How can two men walk together, unless the be agree'd?

    June 25, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  17. Reality

    Only for the eyes of the Three Amigos:

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    prob•a•bly
    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    June 25, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • basketcase

      "Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man."
      Sounds reasonable to me.

      June 25, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Good Ideas

      Good idea to leave all intellectual and spiritual decisions to a google search. You are so much smarter than all those religious nuts...

      June 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Reality

      Only for the eyes of Mayor Booker and Michael Benton:

      Saving Christians/Mormons from the Infamous Resurrection Con/

      From that famous passage: In 1 Corinthians 15 St. Paul reasoned, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."

      Even now Catholic/Christian professors of theology are questioning the bodily resurrection of the simple, preacher man aka Jesus.

      To wit;

      From a major Catholic university's theology professor’s grad school white-board notes:

      "Heaven is a Spirit state or spiritual reality of union with God in love, without earthly – earth bound distractions.
      Jesus and Mary's bodies are therefore not in Heaven.

      Most believe that it to mean that the personal spiritual self that survives death is in continuity with the self we were while living on earth as an embodied person.

      Again, the physical Resurrection (meaning a resuscitated corpse returning to life), Ascension (of Jesus' crucified corpse), and Assumption (Mary's corpse) into heaven did not take place.

      The Ascension symbolizes the end of Jesus' earthly ministry and the beginning of the Church.

      Only Luke records it. (Luke mentions it in his gospel and Acts, i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically untenable). The Ascension ties Jesus' mission to Pentecost and missionary activity of Jesus' followers.

      The Assumption has multiple layers of symbolism, some are related to Mary's special role as "Christ bearer" (theotokos). It does not seem fitting that Mary, the body of Jesus' Virgin-Mother (another biblically based symbol found in Luke 1) would be derived by worms upon her death. Mary's assumption also shows God's positive regard, not only for Christ's male body, but also for female bodies." "

      "In three controversial Wednesday Audiences, Pope John Paul II pointed out that the essential characteristic of heaven, hell or purgatory is that they are states of being of a spirit (angel/demon) or human soul, rather than places, as commonly perceived and represented in human language. This language of place is, according to the Pope, inadequate to describe the realities involved, since it is tied to the temporal order in which this world and we exist. In this he is applying the philosophical categories used by the Church in her theology and saying what St. Thomas Aquinas said long before him."

      http://eternal-word.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP2HEAVN.HTM

      The Vatican quickly embellished this story with a lot CYAP.

      With respect to rising from the dead, we also have this account:

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue,

      p.4

      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      p.168. by Ted Peters:

      Even so, asking historical questions is our responsibility. Did Jesus really rise from the tomb? Is it necessary to have been raised from the tomb and to appear to his disciples in order to explain the rise of early church and the transcription of the bible? Crossan answers no, Wright answers, yes. "

      So where are the bones"? As per Professor Crossan's analyses in his many books, the body of Jesus would have ended up in the mass graves of the crucified, eaten by wild dogs, covered with lime in a shallow grave, or under a pile of stones.

      June 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
  18. sanderfredman0909

    Inspiring!!! Especially the mayor's remark on the rabbi getting his head examined.

    June 25, 2012 at 6:37 am |
  19. Atheism is not healthy fot children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    June 25, 2012 at 4:32 am |
    • jasoncdanforth

      Yes, prayer changes things. It made me Atheist.

      June 25, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • J.R.

      I will agree with you that athiesm has nothing to do with "fot" children, healthy or not.

      June 25, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • JMB3

      "You can go to H3ll".. Prayers ?? Really.. do you honestly believe this nonsense. Do you have any clue how ridiculous you sound ? Its frightening how many fall for this crap..

      Believe in yourself people.. not a magic man who supposedly lives in the clouds.. Oh, and who watches and loves everyone.. what a joke...

      June 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm |
  20. Flamespeak

    I am a Taoist with several Atheist, Christian, and Jewish friends.

    Why is this news? It is the natural by product of living in a melting pot society.

    June 25, 2012 at 4:28 am |
    • Jimmy G.

      Since you do not share religions in common with your friends, the common thing that brings you together as friends must also overcome your personal religious views or there would be difficulties.
      Is yours a happy little group, Flamespeak? Do you ever argue politics or religion?
      Or is it kept to a friendly banter or at a distance?

      June 25, 2012 at 4:46 am |
    • Clark

      Why are Atheists so freeking angry? Try shutting up and going about your own business. Let the rest of us light our Menorah's and decorate our Christmas Trees. We're willing to let you have your way as long you don't continually try to stop us from having ours.

      June 25, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • The Horrific Assault of the Four Fluffly Kittens of the Apocalypse (after a nice light snack and a nap)

      They mostly talk about corn chips. They used to talk about religion and politics, but that is why their group no longer includes a muslim, a mormon, a hindu, a viking, and a scientologist. Terrible bloodbath, sad funerals.

      June 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm |
    • QS

      Why are Atheists angry?

      "Ever since Boteach learned that Benson’s older brother, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson of The Arizona Republic, had shrugged off religion, the rabbi has said he’s on a mission to bring the older Benson back to the LDS Church."

      Religious people just don't get it....you ask to be left alone to your "beliefs", but when others make a decision about their own personal views that happens to take them away from religion, the only response to a religious person is "we've got to get them back!"

      June 25, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.