Jews for Jesus and roadside signage

On the way into work today, in the intersectional series featuring SW 4th-6th, Barbur, Arthur, and I-405, was a group of Jews for Jesus.

I have no beef with them, or even Jews who aren’t for Jesus. I’m personally a Christian for Jesus (not sure if there are any other kinds), in the interest of full disclosure.

What drew my attention was the sign being held by the happy JesusJew at the corner of 4th and Arthur (I wish I’d had my camera…).

It said, “Jews for Jesus. Why not?”

Really, any religious group that had, as their slogan and chief arguing point “Why Not?” would get this post from me.

Of course, I could be reading it wrong. It could mean “why can’t a Jew be for Jesus?” If that’s the point, then it’s actually almost clever.

But since it’s designed to catch your attention and, I would think, interest you in looking into a religion in order to sway you towards that belief system, “Why Not?” falls short, to me, from making any argument that’s compelling enough to justify any sort of conversion.

At the same time, you can only say so much in a sign for a passing car. I often see very wordy signs held up by beggars, explaining something along the lines of they “I was in -insert war here-, I’m a disabled veteran, have -insert multiple of 3 here- kids, have no money for food, are willing to work, but I’m more inclined to sit here and look dejected and hold a sign hoping for generous handouts.” I only ever read those signs completely when I’m at a full stop. Otherwise I only ever see the ubiquitous “anything helps, God bless” that is at the bottom of all of them (except for on the always-growing-in-popularity “why lie? need beer” signs that were clever about 5 years ago).

“Why Not?” then might be a way to spark an interest. I wonder if it works, if someone has actually read the sign and said, “yeah, why not? What else have I got going on?” Doesn’t seem likely, but I suppose the underlying thought in any religious group I’ve ever talked to about sharing beliefs is that if even just one person sees the light, it was worth it.

So, what are your thoughts on the merits of “Why Not?” as a conversion message? What do you think about the ever-growing number of roadside sign holders (whether looking for money, converts, or shoppers at this week’s out-of-business sale)? And, if you are the “Why Not?” lady (or any of the other Jews for Jesus who may have used that particular sign or slogan), what does it actually mean (and does it work)?

11 Comments so far

  1. Spine (unregistered) on June 4th, 2007 @ 9:27 am

    It could mean “why can’t a Jew be for Jesus?”


  2. jen (unregistered) on June 4th, 2007 @ 10:19 am

    Next time they could try Just Do It.

    Why Not? is so much nicer than the folk that scream that I’m going to hell.

  3. atlas (unregistered) on June 4th, 2007 @ 10:30 am

    I like the idea of agnostics for jesus… or better yet agnostics for greek mythology

  4. Kevin (unregistered) on June 4th, 2007 @ 10:37 am

    The happy JesusJew was likely a fundamentalist Christian, since that’s what J4J is about, and that’s where it draws its funding, not from any Jewish organizations.

    They seem to come to Portland for the Rose Festival, for some reason. And if they get your contact info, they turn it over to local fundie churches before they leave town. There’s more info about their trips to Portland here:

    As for “Why not?” – it certainly fits with the group’s happy-happy Godspell approach to evangelism (real Jews don’t evangelize, btw), but I think the answer is “Because it makes about as much sense as Muslims for Jesus.”

    Anyway, if you give ’em money, you’re really giving it to fundie Christians, and if you give ’em your name, you might be getting calls from local fundie churches.

  5. Beulah Mae (unregistered) on June 4th, 2007 @ 10:38 am

    Can I be a Jew for Jesus, even though I’m not a Jew?

    Why not?

    Who is the “target audience” here?

  6. Himself (unregistered) on June 4th, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

    I wonder if they’d mind if I showed up with my “bong hits for Jesus” sign…

  7. Steve (unregistered) on June 4th, 2007 @ 4:25 pm

    Hey Spine,

    Wish I could continue our conversation but I have been censored by Russ… Another time perhaps.

    Rusty, I do like the thought process for these signs however. You came on here to do a blog about them, so obviously it stuck with you to a degree.

    I think these guys are just trying to find a voice in a world of war protesters and fur haters. I think they want a peaceful message to persist that there can be diversity not only within an religious group, but within a city. I think it’s nice and something we should see more of.

  8. Lady (unregistered) on June 4th, 2007 @ 5:31 pm

    Who cares & why?

  9. Russ (unregistered) on June 4th, 2007 @ 5:37 pm

    “Why Not,” sounds kind of like a “hey open your mind” type of invitation to consider or ponder an idea or concept.

    While I would not be open to pondering the concepts advocated to those who are the subject of this post, I embrace the concepts of our public streets as a marketplace of ideas.

    I think it would approach hypocrisy for those of us who believe in freedom of speech and thought to wish to deny others those rights.

  10. Redheaded Stepchild (unregistered) on June 5th, 2007 @ 1:15 am

    My favorite was on 82nd- this guy with a removable cast on his leg was holding a sign that said ‘Hungry and homeless- anything helps!”

    His hand was covering the ‘ry’ in hungry…

  11. Richard (unregistered) on June 5th, 2007 @ 5:05 am

    I was really happy to see this blog entry, and as you asked for a Jews for Jesus person response, I thought I’d oblige.

    Think about this, Rusty – it made you spend time to write a blog entry and for others to respond to it. So, yes it does work – it raises the image of Christ, and that there are Jews who believe in Him. Our goal is always to point out to our Jewish people that it is a very Jewish thing to believe in Jesus. They have dismissed it out of hand. That’s why the “why not”?

    BTW, if Jesus is not the Messiah of the Jewish people, how could he be the Messiah for anybody?

    Thanks for the blog entry. God bless!

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