Over the weekend, a great outcry from the Jewish community was heard over this:
TL;DR: Ralph Messer, a man claiming to be a Messianic rabbi, wraps a mega-church preacher in a Torah scroll, parades him around in a chair, crowning him as a king.
The Jewish world’s reaction can be summed up as:
“O! Look at this nonsense and religious sacrilege! This ‘rabbi’ is one of those ugly Messianic Jews – no wonder!
The Messianic Jewish world then punted it back:
“O! What a circus! Good thing he’s not one of us. He’s not ordained as a rabbi or recognized as such in any mainstream Messianic Jewish organization. In fact, he’s one of those ugly fake Jews, a Hebrew Roots/Two House gentile meshuggener!
As someone involved with the Hebrew Roots and Two House communities for some twenty years, with connections to people who know Messer, attended his congregation, or know about his dealings in the Hebrew Roots world, I have some unique insight into this matter.
But first, was it wrong for Messer to do what he did?
Here’s my take:
- It's a misuse of the Torah scroll to wrap a person in it. Treating God's holy books with reverence is important, for the sake of honoring the Lord and for the sake of avoiding a stumbling block for others.
- Calling the Torah covering a ‘foreskin’, claiming to speak on behalf of all of Israel and Jewry, saying 90% of Jews have never seen a Torah scroll, and calling yourself a rabbi when you have no ordination or formal training suggests flippant, uninformed speech at best, deception at worst.
- The reverend Long is currently accused of financial impropriety with church funds. He was also accused by several church boys of pedophilia, with whom he is now trying to settle privately. Associating with, uniting with, and crowning as king a person under investigation for being a swindler and a sexual deviant is unwise for biblical eldership.
- Messer's whip-up-the-crowd antics was inauthentic, insincere, and TV preacher-esque, using the Torah as a gimmick and the appearance of authenticity to give him credibility in front of a mega-church audience.
- Messer made about 20 false statements in the video, some of them serious. The whole video showed a load of misinformation combined with emotion manipulation.
Overall, Ralph Messer came across as a religious showman. And I think that's shaming the name of Messiah. It’s an embarrassment to Yeshua faith.
I’m not the only Hebrew Roots guy to speak out against Messer. Keith Johnson, the author, touring speaker, and African-American Hebrew Roots believer offered the following insider’s view into his first-hand experience with “Rabbi” Ralph Messer:
Ralph Messer has been exploiting African Americans and making a mockery of the Hebrew roots of the faith for years. I first encountered Messer eleven years ago when my friend the late Football Hall-of-Famer Reggie White paid him an inordinate amount of money to learn Hebrew under his tutelage as a "rabbi." A year went by and Reggie never received even a single Hebrew lesson. I decided to confront Messer with Reggie and Pro-Bowler Hardy Nickerson as witnesses. In their presence "Rabbi Ralph" admitted he had never formally been ordained as a real rabbi. I then challenged Messer to read from my Hebrew Bible and he responded by making excuses for an hour about why it was "dangerous" to learn the language. I continued to insist he read from my Bible in Hebrew and with great effort Messer managed to slowly sound out the first verse of the Bible one syllable at a time. It was obvious to everyone present that Messer did not possess the knowledge to read the Hebrew language let alone to teach it. For the past ten years, I have seen Messer continue to throw around Hebrew terms he does not fully understand and misuse holy objects such as Torah Scrolls to manipulate people and bring them under his authority as a "rabbi" and a supposed "representative of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel." As a United Methodist pastor who believes in the importance of the Hebrew roots of our faith I am deeply offended by what he did this past week at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. It is my sincere hope and prayer that by speaking out others will be spared from falling prey to his manipulative practices that offend both Jew and Gentile alike.
It seems as though a good number of people have come recognize Messer as a religious shyster.
Finally, I would like to offer some insight that you haven’t heard yet either through the news articles or the Messianic Jewish blogs.
I spoke with several folks over the last week, including some people who attended Messer’s Colorado congregation, folks who knew Messer when he was affiliated with Hebrew Roots and Two House organizations, and leaders within the Hebrew Roots communities. Here’s what they have had to say about Ralph Messer:
- He and his wife both have a Jewish parent.
- He claims to have dual Israeli citizenship.
- He was involved with Messianic Israel Alliance, the large Two House organization for a time.
- He attempted a takeover of that organization some years ago, and was shown the door.
- He went rogue roughly 10 years ago.
- After his leaving the Two House organization, he began to speak at black mega-churches.
That’s all second-hand information, so take it with a grain of salt.
Objectively, there’s almost no background information about Messer on his own website. That’s a red flag in itself. On the Messianic Israel Alliance site, the only reference to Messer is some citations of Torah commentaries. I see nothing authored by him on that site. I can’t find him elsewhere on the web. Keith Johnson, the Hebrew Roots speaker, claims to have a first-hand experience with Messer, in which it was shown Messer was deceiving a man – Reggie White – while accepting a large sum of money from him. Red flag.
Here’s the bottom line, folks, things we can say with certainty:
- Ralph Messer does not represent Jews for Jesus.
- Ralph Messer does not represent Messianic Judaism.
- Ralph Messer does not represent Hebrew Roots or the Two House sub-movement.
- Ralph Messer is not a Hebrew speaker.
- Ralph Messer is not a rabbi.
- Ralph Messer deceived a famous person and took his money. (According to Keith Johnson, a first-hand witness, Messer accepted money to teach the late Reggie White the Hebrew language, only later to prove he hardly could read Hebrew himself.)
I extrapolate based on the evidence that his interest in black mega-churches may be for money’s sake. I think this guy’s a religious shyster and a con-man.
Maybe I’m just jaded, but when I see people jumping around stage, throwing around “facts” at an unverifiable pace, and whipping up the crowd in emotional fervor, I’m deeply concerned. It’s not that emotion cannot be present in religious services, God forbid, it’s that emotion is so often used as a manipulation tool. It suggests the one doing the manipulation is, well, a manipulator. Shepherds don’t need to manipulate emotions. When combined with false titles, false statements, misinformation, and when in association with shady individuals who have succumbed to temptations of money and sex, all at the cost of Messiah’s sheep, I suggest to you that Messer may be a religious con-man.
I’d love to see Ralph Messer respond to all this. If I’m wrong about him, I’d gladly retract publicly anything proven to be false, and say that he only made a mistake in mistreating the Torah. But until then, I’d suggest Yeshua’s disciples stay away from this guy. Red flags abound.
Yes, Messer may be Jewish, may follow Jesus, and share beliefs with Hebrew Roots and Two House organizations, but that does not mean he represents those groups. He’s a rogue guy, apparently accountable to no one, a fiery, whip-up-the-crowd preacher with questionable ties to unsavory individuals, including the Reverend Long, and a track record that involves deception.
He doesn’t represent us, the Hebrew Roots movement, the Two House movement, Messianic Judaism, or Jews for Jesus.
His antics shame Messiah’s name and are an embarrassment to our faith.