Sunday, June 21, 2009

Choosing the Chosen

In 1986 Pope John Paul II insisted that God’s covenant with the Jews (hereafter referred to as “the Only People on the Entire Planet God Chose to be His Special Bud”s) was “irrevocable.” In other words, just because a few of us helped the Romans knock off God’s son doesn’t mean that all of us are for all time on the Almighty’s Shit List.

In 2002 U.S. Catholic bishops issued a statement claiming that while it was true that the Only People on the Entire Planet God Chose to be His Special Buds (hereafter referred to as “the Jews”) had their own eternal relationship with God and would not be the target of Catholic conversion efforts, the Church would still welcome Jews who wished to become Catholics.

Seven years later, in response to challenges that earlier statements implied that there was a separate way to salvation outside the Church, i.e. Judaism, the Bishops issued yet another statement claiming that while God doesn’t “regret” His having chosen the Jews, He does want to make clear that this covenant is, in the words of Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, CT, “fulfilled in Jesus.”

This is an outrage! Catholics affirming that Jesus trumps the Chosen? How dare they! I mean what if we Jews insisted that God chose us exclusively? What if we said that all those books that Catholics claim are the word of God are just the delusional rants of Jewish authors capitalizing on a first century trend in messianic fiction? What if we claimed that God had no son, and that virgins don’t get pregnant? Wouldn’t Catholics be outraged? Wait, hold on a minute…. Well I’ll be damned, we DO claim those things!

OK, then, forget that. It’s not as if the Church is singling out the Jews. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Pagans, Indigenous Religions, not to mention those pesky Protestants all have to become Catholic to win salvation. Why? Because there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church! At least according to the Catholic Church.

Personally, I have no problem with this. Being Catholic is tough, and if convincing yourself that only Catholics get saved helps keep you on track, then go for it. I know lots of Jews who, if they no longer believed Jews are God’s Chosen, would have opted out long ago. And I’m no different. If I thought my butt looked better in Lucky jeans I’d switch brands in a heartbeat.

I don’t worry about Catholics, Southern Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witness trying to convert Jews or anyone else. Nor does it bother me if some Jews choose not to be chosen and join a rival faith. And when I hear rabbis complain about this I cannot help but think that if they shifted their efforts from protecting Jews from hearing the claims of rival religions into making Judaism more compelling they wouldn’t have to worry so much.

After all what Jew would want to convert to a faith where only the senior honchos get to wear yarmulkas, and then are limited to wearing only those red or white satin ones that probably have the words “I Survived Benny Kravitz’ Bar Mitzvah” printed inside them?


dtedac said...

Rabbi Rami,

Here is your resident "progressive" Catholic with my opinion on your comment.

For most of the history of the Catholic Church, unfortunately, the idea of "extra Ecclesia nullus salvus" (nobody saved outside the church) was believed by the majority. This does indeed exclude everyone who is not a "good" member of the Church, whatever that means. Then that pesky John XXIII and the Vatican Council 2 came out and said that all people of all faiths may come to salvation. Some more conservative types want that statement to be an aberration rather than an inspired tenet of faith. I, for one, believe that he was right on and no one will dissuade me from that.

I think your final point can be applied to any faith community; if we spend more time making a welcoming and encouraging community, we won't need to worry about losing anyone. Also, the world would be much better for it.



Mano said...

Vegetarian tefillin

Here is my contribution to making Jewdaism more compelling: vegetarian tefillin (phylacteries for the bGreek speakers out there)

For those of us who are uncomfortable with induced dying (as opposed to death) and don't like the idea of an animal being slaughtered to make a holy object (although some might say this is the best death the animal could hope for) how about tefiillin made from wood, with parchment made from sisal or hemp, and straps made from some kind of non -animal material. Alternatively how about an old aged home for cows and when an animal naturally hits the bucket so to speak, then its skin is used for the tefillin.

Mano said...

vearastich li bemuna
vearastich li betzedek uvmishpat
veyarastich li bchesed uvrachamim
veyarastich li...veyodaat et zeh