I need to start this post with a confession, because it might (partially) enlighten everyone–about me.
My father was adopted. One summer I was at his mother’s house for an afternoon and she took it upon herself to tell me about my natural birth grandparents. The tricky part is that what I remember her saying isn’t the actual truth. She either told me incorrect information OR I ‘misheard’ her. Either way, I left her house that weekend thinking I was half Jewish.
I laboured under that misunderstanding well into my twenties. After her death my father and his (both genetic and adopted) brother decided to find their birth family. Once we were up against a large group of people–all of whom swore they were of Welsh decent, some of whom were Presbyterian ministers–I realised I was wrong.
There went years of study into Judaica. There went my Hebrew lessons, the classes I had with a Rabbi in college. All of it.
Except for one thing. I remain stubbornly close to Judaism and Judaic causes. Even though I had no blood ties to the faith, I’m still enamoured of its traditions and practices. There’s a stubborn and elegant beauty about Judaism which no other religion can claim. Threads of bright meaning are woven into every action–small and large. The poetry inside even the most simple ritual can break your heart. It’s a religion worth dying for. And many have.
To this day I am fiercely protective of Judaism, even though I’ve stayed with my original Christian faith.
It angers me how much anti-Semetic anti-Judaic attitude is pervasive in the Christian church. I know what we believe and how we believe it fits historically into the Jewish religion.
That doesn’t mean we need to go around saying things that imply that the Jews are dullards who just haven’t cottoned on yet.
That’s what I took from large portions of this post over at Slarti’s place. He’s talking about having a Bar Mitzvah for his 13-year-old son. (How that would be accomplished without the boy being called to the front of the congregation to read a portion of Torah in perfect Hebrew I do not know.) I think, basically, he wants a coming-of-age ceremony and doesn’t like some of the others out there. Hey, I read Roots and I wouldn’t want my son to go through that particular right of passage. Of all of the male “today you are a man” ceremonies, the Judaic one is certainly the best. Possibly because it involves a test of wits and devotion–things I personally prize more than brawn and athleticism.
But Slarti, in his attempt to describe what he wants for his son does something I see over and over again in the Church.
OK, not a Bar Mitzvah, exactly; we aren’t Jewish, and a central tenet of our religion holds that he will not be a “Son of the Law” – he will instead one day be freed from the law. Yet, as with so many things, we can find the roots of “right” ways to do things in the Jewish religious traditions.
I told him several days ago at his blog that I found that startlingly anti-Semetic. He asked me to explain further so here we are.
[In reviewing this post in the context of his anger, I’m henceforth changing “anti-Semetic” to “anti-Judaic” as it is a more accurate descriptor. ]
It’s anti-Semetic anti-Judaic because it holds Judaism up as the lesser faith. The faith from which his son is “freed”. In fact, in so saying that his son will be “freed” from the Law, Slarti misinterprets (or omits entirely) Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
I’ve heard countless teachers in the Christian church make the same interpretation Slarti made. The assumption that we are “free” from the law. I maintain that if Jesus is the fulfillment of the law (as Christians believe) than we are doubly enmeshed in the law. Yes, there are observances which our belief in Jesus casts into a different meaning. That doesn’t meant that observance of the law or the rituals arising from the law are wrong or unnecessary.
And it doesn’t mean that Christianity can continually characterise Judaism as it’s half-witted younger brother who just doesn’t get the truth, man.
Obviously there are key differences between Christianity and Judaism which would give anyone pause. They are not the same religion at all; even though Christianity in its early days was a breakaway Jewish sect it certainly has enough miles on it to be fully separate at this point. But I still maintain that Judaism is a faith with true beauty and integrity and cannot be dismissed so lightly as though it were the worn-out husk of the fruit of Christianity.