Proselytizing and Inter-faith Dialogue

Inter-faith dialogue. I’m not sure if the expression is an oxymoron or just an example of dissonance.

How is it possible to sit at the table with people of other faiths and talk about problems when some at the table know that their faith is the only true faith?  When they  “affirm that other religions and ideologies are not alternative paths to God, and that human spirituality, if unredeemed by Christ, leads not to God but to judgment, for Christ is the only way.”

They also  “affirm that whereas the Jewish people were not strangers to the covenants and promises of God, in the way that Paul describes the Gentiles, they still stand in need of reconciliation to God through the Messiah Jesus. There is no difference, said Paul, between Jew and Gentile in sin; neither is there any difference in salvation. Only in and through the cross can both have access to God the Father through the one Spirit.”

And “We continue, therefore, strongly to affirm the need for the whole Church to share the good news of Jesus as Messiah, Lord and Saviour with Jewish people. And in the spirit of Romans 14-15, we urge Gentile believers to accept, encourage and pray for Messianic Jewish believers, in their witness among their own people.”

Israel is a glorious country: accepting proselytizing by those who want to annihilate the Jews by word.

In the year 2000, I had minor surgery that went very badly. I required emergency surgery that left me with a colostomy bag. I was able to leave the hospital but a few days later I was rushed back. I’d developed a life-threatening infection. I had been put into one of the small curtained cubicles in the emergency room. I was in severe pain. I asked the nurse to call a social worker as I knew I was in no position to handle all of this.

If you have never experienced severe pain accompanied by paralyzing fear, I can tell you that every second that passes is one too many. Pain throbs and I think sometimes it throbs to the beat of the heart and then pounds its way through the brain. It takes all of one’s energy to hold on. I was screaming as the pain escalated.  A woman entered. She was wearing street clothes, a dress with a floral print. She had dark shoulder length hair and she was tiny, at least from my perspective lying flat on the gurney. I thought she was the hospital social worker.

She wasn’t the social worker. Without introducing herself, she started talking to me about Jesus, telling me to accept Jesus in my heart and all would be well. I have no doubt that she was sincere in her beliefs, but they are not my beliefs. Her appearance in my cubicle wasn’t helpful. I could barely speak because of the pain. I was a captive audience. I’m sure in her heart she thought she was saving me, but her need to convert me was so powerful that she paid no attention to me as a human being in pain. She assumed that her way to God was the only way and that somehow she had an obligation to take me with her.

I was once visiting a gentleman who had been in the hospital for quite some time. We were talking about his family and his illness when he asked me about my religion. I always shared my religious background when asked or if I felt there might be some discomfort for my patient if I were not of their religion. When I told him that I was Jewish, he leaned in toward me, very concerned. He told me that he feared that if I didn’t accept Jesus as my saviour, I wouldn’t get into Heaven. I thought he was very kind and I was flattered that he cared about me.

At the same time, I don’t quite know how to convey to those who wish to convert me, the pain that it causes. I have listened to well respected Pastors declare that it is okay to be Jewish, but Jews won’t go to heaven unless we accept Jesus as our Saviour. There is also the belief that Christ will not return until all the Jews are converted.

“Jesus isn’t coming back until Israel accepts him as lord. According to Isaiah they will be in the rapture and resurrection of the Church as well, so we have our work cut out for us to do. So let’s begin by praying and praying, sharing and sharing that God has a plan for Israel that is not being told.Many have already received Christ in America and across the world as well as in Israel itself. But we still have a long ways to go before Christ will come back. The salvation of Israel must be in large enough numbers that he concludes Israel saved. Then he will return, but not until.”(emphasis mine)

Think about that statement. Christ will not return until all the Jews are converted-until all the Jews are gone. A new kind of Auschwitz for a post-modern world.

How do we sit with others when we are not accepted a priori as Jews?



About the Author
Diane Weber Bederman is a multi-faith, hospital trained chaplain who lives in Ontario, Canada, just outside Toronto; She has a background in science and the humanities and writes about religion in the public square and mental illness on her blog: The Middle Ground:The Agora of the 21st Century. She is a regular contributor to Convivium: Faith in our Community. "