Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Converting Jews

“Where are you going when you die?” asked a well-meaning Christian hoping to engage me in a conversation about Jesus and my personal salvation. “Where am I going when I die?” I parroted, “Florida.” It was the not the answer he expected. “I’m Jewish,” I added as if to explain my answer. He didn’t get it.

Clearly this fellow hadn’t read the USA TODAY article, “How to sell Christianity? Ask an atheist” (Monday, June 28, 2010). According to the article Christians are turning to atheists for advice on speaking to nonChristians about Christ. Cool. In fact, cooler than cool—it gives me an idea. I am now announcing to any would-be evangelist to Jews that I am available to consult on how best to convert Jews to Christianity. It will cost you, of course, but what is a saved soul worth these days? You gotta spend money to save souls.

But let me offer some free advice to whet your appetite for my services.

First, while believing Jews are closest in their world view to believing Christians, essentially differing on only a couple of issues: diet, which day is the Sabbath, and is Jesus the only begotten Son of God who died for our sins, don’t bother trying to convert believing Jews. They can match you chapter and verse in the “Old Testament,” and reject the “New Testament” out of hand. If you’re not careful, they might convert you to Judaism.

Second, don’t waste your breath on secular Jews. They don’t believe in a supernatural god, don’t think in terms of sin and salvation, have no worries regarding heaven and hell, and are no more inclined to believe Jesus is the Son of YHVH than Apollo is the Son of Zeus. They believe people wrote the Bible and did so to support their own beliefs, so when Jesus says he is the way, the truth and the life, this is not convincing. What else would John have him say? Quoting this passage and asking, “Is Jesus lying or insane” you might find yourself facing the answer, “He is neither. He is a figment of John’s imagination, which is why the Jesus imagined by Matthew, Mark, and Luke never says this.”

This leaves you with middle of the road Jews who believe enough supernatural stuff to allow God to have a Son, and who might be worried about going to Florida (or parts further south) when they die. I won’t reveal the secret to converting these Jews here. That is why you have to hire me as a consultant, but I will say that I am not opposed to converting Jews. If a Jew in search of religious certainty can find it in Christianity, who am I to say “no”? If a Jew finds Judaism meaningless, but finds meaning in Jesus, go for it. Who knows? Maybe Jesus is God. Should I deny this Jew eternal life because I reject it myself?

The fact is I don’t believe in any of this, so if you are going to believe in something supernatural all I care about is whether or not it will make you more or less just and kind. Which is how Christians should go about converting people: by demonstrating that Christianity, and their brand of Christianity in particular, is the religion that makes people the most just and kind. If you can make that case, and back it up with facts not Bible quotes, then you have something serious to offer. Just don’t offer it to me. I’ve got my heart set on Florida.


G. Rabanon said...

Oh, I think I found a good potential path for at least loosening up our death grip on outright rejection of the Jesus concept:

Jesus as Midrash.

Of course, you have to explain that to the Christians first. And then... yeah, there is potentially just as much danger of them coming over to our dark side.

Or we might all end up Buddhists and/or Taoists. I'm cool with that. :)

Barry said...

Haven't you already lived in Florida, Rabbi?

I live in a small town (Crescent City, California) with a micro-synagogue (Friday night average attendance:5) and a Nazarene Church that runs a "Messianic Synagogue" on Saturday mornings which is more successful. Several friendly people in town, on learning that I am Jewish, have suggested I attend the Nazarene's service. "You would like it," is what they usually say. I patiently explain that Judaism and Christianity are separate religions and should remain so. When all else fails, I say "I'm in a same-gender marriage with an ordained rabbi. I don't think the Nazarene church is for us." Then they say "I'll pray for you" and walk away.

spiritedcrone said...

Love it! Thanks

Kineret WillowGreene said...

Entertaining, as always! And, although I would disagree about how close Judaism is the Christianity, you make some great points. And you are spot on about being kind and just. If only that were the goal of religion!

בְּשֵם יְהוָֹה וְיֵשׁוּעַ וְרוחַ מִרְיָם said...

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Unknown said...

I'm moving to brookings and looking for a place of fellowship. How can I get in touch with your small group?

Barry Wendell said...

Jake Zaremba - We moved away in 2012 (to West Virginia-long story). Beth Shalom is still meeting in Brookings and Crescent City. Look up the blog at templebethshalom.blogspot.com