Mikey Weinstein Says Chaplain’s Christianity is Antisemitic

[Update: The WHS has pulled the article down.]

In a raging letter to senior DoD officials yesterday, Michael “Mikey” Weinstein launched a withering attack on an Easter message written by US Navy Chaplain (LT) Aristotle Rivera, claiming his mainstream Christian message is “anti-Semitic.”

Chaplain Rivera — a West Point grad who spent six years in the Army before another six years in the Air Force and is now in the Navy — wrote an article for the Washington Headquarters Services of the DoD, which is essentially the part of the DoD that encompasses the DC area. The article asked, “What did the people talk about at the first Easter?” The short article describes events about two months after Jesus died:

Peter is saying that a man named Jesus lived, did miracles and, according to God’s plan, was crucified and killed at the hands of men… The crowds where so shocked that they were “cut to the heart” and began responding to Peter and the rest of the apostles by asking “brothers what shall we do?”

How did Peter reply?…

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:37)

A way to summarize the early Easter message was this: “Jesus lived. You killed him. God raised him. We saw him. Say Sorry.”

Happy Easter. Jesus Christ is risen today. The Lord is risen indeed.

Weinstein and his acolyte, Chris Rodda, took gymnastic leaps and used linguistic contortions with Chaplain Rivera’s words to claim the article was antisemitic, with Rodda titling her blog:

Message from the Department of Defense: ‘You Jews Killed Jesus. Now, Say You’re Sorry.’

and then paraphrasing – not quoting – Rivera by saying [emphasis added]

Mikey Weinstein has…demand[ed] that, rather than an apology from the Jews for killing Jesus, the Washington Headquarters Service apologize for condoning and spreading Chaplain Rivera’s anti-Semitic poison.

For his part, Weinstein spared no thesaurus in his attack on the chaplain:

Please see this despicable article…

this defamatory outrage…

stunningly antisemitic article…

This putrid filth, spewing and egging on the basic foundations of the ancient hated [sic] of the Jewish people as “Christ Killers,” is simply one of the most antisemitic, Old School Jew-baiting pieces of defamatory trash…

this wretched screed is absolutely base, evil, vile, hateful bigotry and rapacious racism being vomited out of the mouth of this U.S. military officer…

And on and on he goes.

Of course, Mikey Weinstein isn’t telling the truth. Even some of Weinstein’s supporters granted that the chaplain didn’t actually say what Rodda and Weinstein claimed.

To be clear: At no point did Chaplain Rivera accuse “the Jews” of killing Jesus and then demand an apology. The short, 350-word article is written in an easy-to-read manner, and anyone with an 8th grade education should be able to see it clearly makes no such statement.

Rivera absolutely quoted Acts 2, in which Peter tells the “men of Israel” that they “crucified and killed [Jesus] by the hands of lawless men.” It is not antisemitic for Peter (who was Jewish, by the way) to say his audience was responsible for the death of Jesus “by the hands of lawless men” (the Romans). Quoting that Scripture is also not Chaplain Rivera accusing “the Jews” of anything, nor is it demanding an apology.

Rivera quoting the Bible in a passage relevant to an Easter message isn’t antisemitic, no matter how many synonyms Weinstein finds.

At the end of the article, Rivera quoted Acts 2:37, which calls those same men to repentance.

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…”

It is not antisemitic for Peter to call his audience to repentance. Chaplain Rivera quoting that verse no more demands an apology from “the Jews” for killing Jesus than it does demand that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. That Rodda and Weinstein were verklempt over the first word but not the rest of the sentence is further evidence of their reckless but calculated handling of Rivera’s words.

Chaplain Rivera summarizes that “Easter message” in simple terms, as pastors are wont to do:

A way to summarize the early Easter message was this: “Jesus lived. You killed him. God raised him. We saw him. Say Sorry.”

That phrasing will be familiar to most Christians. The Gospel message is that Jesus Christ died for your sins – you killed Him. He rose from the dead, and you are called to repentance (which means more than apologize, but that’s for another sermon). There is nothing antisemitic about that.

Note, too, that the article is a month old – it had an Easter message and was published before Easter. Weinstein claims “32 Washington D.C.-area military and civilian DoD members” were offended. So it took them a month to collect their wits and complain? Or, more likely, were they blissfully ignorant until someone brought the article to them and asked them what they thought about the dastardly diatribe against “the Jews”? Weinstein has been known to “shop” for offense among his supporters; this case was likely little different.

Ironically, while Weinstein claims he reserves his vitriol for “fundamentalist Christian nationalists,” Chaplain Rivera (pictured above, far right, with his fellow denominational chaplains) seems to hail from a liberal Episcopal denomination. Yale Divinity School, where Rivera received his M.Div., is hardly a bastion of “fundamentalist” thought. And despite Weinstein’s awkward attempt to connect Rivera’s article to the Capitol riot on January 6th, Rivera doesn’t exactly fit the stereotypical description of a MAGA-hat wearing white supremacist.

None of that matters to Chris Rodda and Mikey Weinstein, however. This was simply an opportunity for a clickbait headline that would attempt to garner outrage and attention – even if it wasn’t true. As most of the comments on Rodda’s blog attest, most people don’t bother to read the actual article. They’re simply outraged at her characterization of it, loose as it is with the truth. (A few who did read the article were the ones to speak up and question Rodda’s portrayal.) They are dragging a US military veteran through the mud and publicly defaming his character, but those appear to be the intended outcome of Weinstein laying down his “withering field of fire.”

Even as a uniformed member of the US military, Chaplain Rivera retains his right to express his religious beliefs. Similarly, his congregants – DoD or not, civilian or not – retain their right to hear him express those beliefs, even in a public forum. Should Chaplain Rivera express a Christian tenet that some find offensive, he has the right to do so – notwithstanding the evangelical wisdom of doing so.

But this was not one of those times. Chaplain Rivera said nothing remotely offensive, much less antisemitic. Rather, a hate-filled activist organization has twisted and mischaracterized what he said for their own personal gain. Thankfully, the article remains posted so that the public can see that Rodda and Weinstein aren’t being truthful in their portrayal of the chaplain. Hopefully, the US military will stand firm against Weinstein’s false accusations and the article will remain as a visible defense against their claims. (On that note, while Chaplain Rivera is in the military, much of the WHS is civilian, including all of its leadership.)

Religious freedom means there may be times you are exposed to religious beliefs that are different than your own – even, potentially, offensive ones. But religious freedom does not give you a protected right to falsely characterize a US servicemember’s words, actions, or beliefs — just because you don’t like them.

The actions of Mikey Weinstein and Chris Rodda are reprehensible.

And yet, not unexpected.

A note on style: While Chris Rodda and Mikey Weinstein used opposing forms in their writing, most organizations now prefer the spelling “antisemitism” over “anti-Semitism,” with the AP making this change only in the past few days.



  • It is truly amazing that Mike and friends continue to find anyone who could be interested in their absurd claims. I have wondered many times if he has suffered a mental breakdown.