In my blogs, I frequently plead for Jews to stop imitating Christians and resume our supposed leading role in the area of morality. This must have led one of my faithful readers to comment publicly: “Mr. [V]an Zuiden, when people make so much of their worldview a response to and criticism of another group, I begin suspecting they actually wish they belonged to that group deep down in their hearts. I have seen multiple cases of people who could rant about Christians for years before, out of the blue, becoming Christians themselves.” I know the pheromone and I like to please my readers but there is only so far I will go.
Christianity as I See it
No, I’m not criticizing Christianity. It’s a wonderful religion that, like all real religions, aims to inspire its faithful to be moral, happy, and hopeful — wonderful for Gentiles. Like a peanut butter whole-wheat sandwich is a superb meal — but not for someone who just ate an Indonesian rice table.
A lot of criticism is possible of Christianity but that’s true of any lifestyle. It is the responsibility of their adherents to upgrade it, not of outsiders.
However, since Christianity borrowed a lot from Judaism, whereby some of the original message got distorted, I often inform Christians that they would do well to recheck what the Jewish message actually was and is.
How fitting that Jews received G^d’s Word not for our own glory only, but also to pass it on to all people (without trying to convert them). Learned Jews are waiting for Gentiles who very much want to learn from them.
Two more subjects allow me to criticize Christians.
Christianity has been a major instigator of hatred or disdain for Jews and mass murder of us. After the State of Israel turned out more than a fad and survived a shocking lack of support, even after WW II, many Christians now take pride to stand with the Jews and Israel, especially in the US. Yet, important sections of Christianity are still blatantly anti-Jewish and anti-Israel. I will regularly call upon Christians to clean up these blots of shame.
There are still Jews who converted to Christianity whereby the Churches make no attempt to return them to their true calling. And there are still Christians who try to convert Jews, often through cunning and guile. This attempt to finish Hitler’s work, to make the Jews disappear, should be an embarrassment to every honest Christian. I repeatedly call upon Christians to do the honorable things here. As a Jew, I must; as a friend, you should. And arrogance toward and proselytizing of the Jews can be disavowed, as the Anglican Church of Canada now shows.
Judaism as I See it
Why would I leave Orthodox Judaism? It fits me like a glove. As a Jew, I’m invited to implement the Bible (Jewish Law) so that it won’t be a dead letter. I’m invited to study it in-depth, together with the greatest moral and intellectual geniuses of millennia (the Oral Law: Mishnah, Talmud, Commentators, etc.). It is complex and rich and challenges me every moment of the day to do the almost impossible a little more, right now.
But I write regularly against rabbinic sexism and homophobia — how can I say that Judaism fits me like a glove? How can I pledge alliance to a system that is so oppressive? Well, it’s not Judaism that is wrong — it’s people. I credit our holy ancestors and Judaism and a whole when so many rabbis are meticulously honest — not the few who are liars and fakers. I tribute Judaism when Jews are deep thinkers and hard workers. And when Jews are not brave, bold or happy enough, that doesn’t tell us anything about Judaism but rather about the scars of centuries of anti-Semitism. The fight against sexism sprang from Judaism. The Sages and Rabbis never trashed homosexuals until 60 years ago. In its core, Judaism is the best of the best.
When I pray, I don’t just ‘give my heart to Jesus’ or ‘submit myself to G^d,’ like most Monotheist religions advocate. I have an ancient text to guide and teach me what to thank, ask and hope for. Prophets helped to create it. When I listen to the weekly Torah portion, G^d talks to me. And when I learn our Inheritance, We are in a live dialogue.
Don’t I want an easier life, to have a break? Don’t forget that I grew up secular. I had plenty of that if it was ever good. To reduce my life would give fewer challenges, fewer moral and intellectual accomplishments, less satisfaction, more boredom, and less direction. Would I need that?
You could say: Keep all you have and add loving Jesus. For me, that would add nothing useful. And it would betray my ancestors and contaminate my Judaism. The only thing I could long for is Jesus-followers for Jews.
So, I won’t become a Christian but you could become a trusted friend.
But now that we’re at it, you’re so critical of Jews and Israel. And you are so naive about the problems we face and so hyper-sensitive about the plight of others. Are you perhaps a Jew in the closet? Check your family tree. You could join us. We’re a critical but nice People. But we’re invited to use that to try perfect ourselves — not to attack each other. Shalom.