Conversion Rules or Freedom From Evangelization?

Wildhunt Blog has a good article on traditional religions and their coming together to form a set of “conversion rules” so that religions won’t step on the toes of other religions when fighting over the souls of those in other countries. In fact, Jason writes,

One should also consider the fact that a growing number of Christian groups are discussing (and implementing) a “re-evangelization” of Europe and America. This isn’t merely a struggle against secularism, but against modern Paganism and other new religious movements. Will these guidelines apply to those in the West as well as the East?

This “re-evangelization” idea is a gross violation of personal freedom. If religion and its purveyors truly respected the individual’s ability to reason for herself and the inherent right to believe in whatever she wanted to believe in without categorizing her spiritual choice as “wrong,” these “rules” wouldn’t be necessary. They would be moot points. In fact, to protect the individual’s right to learn and choose for himself, I believe every country should protect its citizenry by formulating its own set of “no evangelizing” rules and refrain from calling itself a “Christian” nation or a “Muslim” nation or even a “Hindu” nation if the majority of its citizens object. In other words, I think evangelization should be outlawed, categorized as a crime against individual intellectual autonomy, and I also think missionaries should be taxed as merchants selling a product. Radical? Perhaps, but someone has to protect the individual’s right NOT to be evangelized if they don’t want to be. Especially in need of protecting are those who don’t have access to other means of informing themselves, such as those in third world or the poorest countries. How else can they compare what certain missionaries with an agenda tell them to reality?

Of course all of this is predicated on the Utopian notion that religion does not already have a stranglehold on a country or that said country is a democracy where its citizens are allowed to vote and choose its representatives and where citizens are free to dissent from popular opinion without being thrown in jail. Hey, I can dream can’t I?

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39 thoughts on “Conversion Rules or Freedom From Evangelization?

  1. Christianity is the religion I know best, and I’ve always felt that if it worked as it should, evangelizing shouldn’t be necessary. People should be drawn to it based on the behavior alone, or the changes they see in a Christian’s life. And yet, it doesn’t work this way.

    Plus, it puts the concept of “free will” in a tricky situation. God loves you so much that S/He gives you the choice to follow or not … and yet certain followers of Him/Her go out there and do everything in their power to get your free will to match theirs, so that you don’t suffer an eternity of torment.

  2. Heather,

    Yes, you would think that the “Love of God” would be soooo evident in the Christian’s life, like you said. But it’s not. So there’s something wrong here. Christians will say there’s something wrong with Christians and would NEVER blame anyone else, yet I don’t see improvement at all.

    The free will idea is also tricky. If God did love us so much, He (sic) only loved us enough to put us on a “level playing field” and made salvation “available” so that “He” wouldn’t violate free will, but hey, weren’t we on that “level playing field” before Jesus died? What changed? Before God didn’t forgive and now God does? Before Jesus all people went to hell but now only a few less do? It doesn’t make much sense.

    Jesus said make disciples, but he also said, if they do not hear you, move on!

  3. Here is the kind of Evangelism (or Re-Evangelism) I would suggest:

    http://seminarianblog.com/2007/08/15/what-in-the-world-does-missional-even-mean/

    And here’s the thing… If we are to love all people (who could argue with that?) and still hold to the exclusive truth claims of scripture (heaven, hell, and all that jazz), how can evangelism (as I define it in the above post) NOT be necessary?

    Again, I do not advocate beating people over the head with leather bound bibles, nor guilt tripping the broken, nor forcing any worldview or faith on a person. Only loving them as Jesus would,a ffirming truth wherever it is found, and giving truth when it is needed.

    Truth without love is abuse.
    Love without truth is neglect.

    Both equally suck, and banning evangelism would be erring on the side of love.

  4. Brad,

    It all depends on what you mean by “love.” I’m loving my fellow humans enough to wish them free from spiritual abuse. Obviously our views on love and truth claims differ.

  5. “I’m loving my fellow humans enough to wish them free from spiritual abuse.”

    As am I! Assuming Christ is the way, truth, and life (the Biblical Christian perspective), a way that is not Christ (or a-Christ) would also be a-way, a-truth, and a-life (or fundamentally, “wrong, false, and death”). This is the nature of the exclusive truth claims of the gospel, and we simply cannot get around that. Jesus used very indicative-driven, non-symbolic language in saying this very strongly.

    Assuming the above, not being able to actively present Christianity as a viable option (the best one), would be neglect. Abuse and neglect are two sides of the same coin.

    “Obviously our views on love and truth claims differ.”

    Hmmm…. possibly. I acknowledge that there is fuzziness and lack of clarity to some questions of scripture, but would never go so far as to say I am an agnostic Christian. In that sense, we probably differ. In regards to love, I believe that there is a cultural tendency to equate absolute tolerance with love, and that is not biblically accurate at all (in the sense that Jesus, nor God, nor any of the prophets tolerated sin, yet they all spoke out against from a heart of love for those who sinned).

    This is an excellent topic of conversation, though, as it is one that is very needed. As you have pointed out, South Korea is sending many thousands of missionaries to the U.S. and they are just the first. Thank you for introducing it!

  6. Hey Brad,

    I don’t believe I’m advocating “absolute” tolerance because I don’t believe in absolutes. Evangelical Christians believe in absolues and insist that others believe them also. Evangelical Christians don’t have an innate right to impose their beliefs on others and atheists don’t have that right either. Reasonable atheists, however, don’t evangelize on the scale that christianity does. Reasonable atheists don’t send out missionaries to other countries in order to get other cultures to adopt an alien culture. Reasonable atheists respect the right of human beings to inform themselves and to know their own minds before making decisions. Progressive and Liberal Christians respect this right as well.

    I agree, the bible does not believe in absolute tolerance, that’s what’s wrong with it. I don’t equate love and sin as you do. To me love is not a “remedy” for or the result of someone’s attitude about “sin.” Love is a right that every human being is entitled to, but rarely gets from others or even from the biblical “God.”

    The God I worship believes in absolute LOVE regardless of “sin.” If this doesn’t jibe with the “God” of the bible, then yes, we differ considerably.

  7. *deep breath*

    OK…. I’ll try to be a little more specific…

    “I don’t believe I’m advocating “absolute” tolerance because I don’t believe in absolutes.”

    I should probably not have used the term “absolute.” You have a good point. Instead, let me use “overemphasis on.” We should be tolerant of people, cultures, and faiths, but we should not be tolerant of sin. Do we chuck the whole person out because they sin? No, not at all. This is key in having both truth and love.

    “Evangelical Christians don’t have an innate right to impose their beliefs on others and atheists don’t have that right either.”

    When I argue for evangelism, I seek to redefine it as I did in my post I linked above. So I would agree with you that we do not have the right to “impose” it. It should always be a choice, and would never force it on anyone.

    “Reasonable atheists don’t send out missionaries to other countries in order to get other cultures to adopt an alien culture.”

    You are correct. However, the idea is not to get other cultures to adopt an alien culture, but to adopt a cross-cultural faith. If a missionary tries to westernize an asian community while preaching the gospel, he is wrong. He should contextualize the gospel to their culture, and not seek to change them in that regard (except where sin is part of the culture… i.e. abusing women, murder, violence, etc.).

    “Reasonable atheists respect the right of human beings to inform themselves and to know their own minds before making decisions.”

    Evangelism, ideally, would do this as well. Noone should be “forced” to believe anything. It is always a choice for which Christians should love their neighbor regardless of which way they choose. This is balancing truth with love. Please see the following for a more detailed explanation of this:
    http://seminarianblog.com/2007/08/15/what-in-the-world-does-missional-even-mean/

    “The God I worship believes in absolute LOVE regardless of “sin.” If this doesn’t jibe with the “God” of the bible, then yes, we differ considerably.”

    Absolutely. We are in 100% agreement. But in God loving us, He does not love our sin. Period. Sin is not a part of our identity, and when we make it part of our identity, it can often feel like God or people are judging you.

    For example:

    God loves Homosexuals.
    God does not love that they are homosexuals.

    I try to love all people (admitting that I am not perfect), including my homosexual friends, and am “tolerant” of them as people. However, I do not approve of their sin, and they know that, but they also know that I will love them regardless.

    Does this clarify my position somewhat?

  8. **Assuming the above, not being able to actively present Christianity as a viable option (the best one), would be neglect. **

    The problem I would have with this, though, is that it’s assuming that if a person is not a Christian as we define it, that person has something “wrong” with him/her. We are, in effect, casting a judgement on that person, based on our own standards. And that can be incredibly insulting, because how can we speak to someone else’s connection to the divine? (Naturally, I’m not speaking of someone who approves of killing children as a connection to the divine). But take a pagan, who holds a pantheistic view, and yet the fruits of this are the same as the fruits of the Spirit, and nothing about it is the fruit of the flesh. That’s where it gets tricky, because to tell that person she is wrong is basically discounting everything about that person, and we come off looking insensitive and arrogant.

    **. Noone should be “forced” to believe anything. **

    This becomes a problem as soon as the concept of “hell” is introduced. Now, if one defines “hell” as someone who consistently lives a life of hating another person, then I can see how they’d end up isolated in the afterlife. And if an agnostic sees the divine in everything and lives a life of repentence, then s/he is following God. However, if “hell” is termed along the lines of someone didn’t hold the correct belief, or a person doesn’t believe in Jesus the right way … then that is a method of forcing, because you’re telling someone that if they don’t believe the correct way, they’re punished for it. That is a method of imposing upon another person.

  9. Brad,

    Yes, it clarifies. You agree with my points.

    You and I disagree on the definitions of “sin” and “love.” Christians insist on labeling people by their “sin.” I do no such thing. I don’t go around saying, “That person is a murderer. That person is a thief. That person is an adulterer.” But Christians insist on labeling people by their sexual preferences, by their gender, by their past, by anything but the fact that they are a human beings who make mistakes that we learn from. Christians see only the “sin” and only a divine remedy, whereas humanists see a human being who reasons and learns and needs no divine remedy to change themselves if they want to. I believe in moral consequentialism tempered with utilitarianism. If it hurts no one, it’s not wrong. I don’t believe in “sins’ against self, or a divine “order,” or “sins” against a transcendent God. By definition a material being cannot “sin” against an immaterial being beyond our space/time continuum.

    So, we agree that no one should impose beliefs. We agree that no one should change another’s culture. We disagree only that the bible is the definer of terms and of the debate, that’s pretty much it.

  10. Heather makes a good point. There is a certain paternalism in the idea of “neglect” as the excuse to evangelize. Who’s to say we have the right to assume someone is not on a correct spiritual path? To assume that all are spiritually dying and going to hell unless we step in is paternalism of the worst order. It says, I know about the state of your soul and YOU don’t.

  11. Heather,

    Here is my problem with religious relativism and pluralism (from which I detect a strong influence from your comment):

    Do you believe that your faith/beliefs/whatever is true?

    If yes, then is not someone who believes something else, by
    definition, wrong?

    And if your belief is that all beliefs are equally true, how does that reconcile that many claim exclusive truth? If each claim exclusive truth, yet do not in any way agree, how can they all be equally true?

    “Christians insist on labeling people by their “sin.””

    Sadly, you are correct. They are tragically wrong and I agree n this. But non-Christians do as well (the only example I can think of right now are “gay-pride” parades… but we often take pride in sin and identify ourselves with it outside of the homosexual culture.).

    “… then that is a method of forcing”

    Why? if Christians hold their beliefs to be true, it is certainly a choice! Hell is a choice, and noone is forcing them there. This aspect of the Christian faith cannot be avoided. If Hell were not an option, then it would NOT be choice at all!

    MOI,
    I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. Sin is a rebellion from God. Adam and Eve eating the apple did not hurt any “person,” but it certainly hurt God. Utilitarianism is simply not biblical, and extremely limited. How can we call Jesus “Lord,” if he does not hold authority over us? If we call him “Lord,” and sin is defined as a rebellion from him, then there are many sins that do not hurt a person, but do rebel from Him (pride, self-reliance, adultery before or during marriage, etc.).

    “Who’s to say we have the right to assume someone is not on a correct spiritual path?”
    In a word? Jesus. If noone reaches the Father except through him, then “correctness” is certainly an issue. If someone does not believe in Christ, then it is very safe to assume scripturally that they are “spiritually dying and going to hell.” Loving with truth and deed in the hope that they turn to Jesus is not paternalism, it is humanitarianism!

    “It says, I know about the state of your soul and YOU don’t.”

    I want to emphasize that ONLY God knows the state of one’s soul more specifically than “sinful.” We all are sinful, Christians and non-Christians alike. As to “which Jesus” is the right way, that is ultimately God’s call. The best we can do is at least TRY and get it right. Agnosticism is just not a good enough excuse for a lack of effort in doing so. The “Great Commission” is commanded by Christ before his ascension to heaven. Are we to ignore this? As Christians, are we to ignore he who is God?

  12. Brad,

    **Do you believe that your faith/beliefs/whatever is true?

    If yes, then is not someone who believes something else, by
    definition, wrong?**

    I believe that I hold a piece of something greater, but that I don’t hold the whole truth and never will. Anything I determine to be truth is from a subjective viewpoint. Same with anyone who determines the truth from an exclusive viewpoint.

    **Why? if Christians hold their beliefs to be true, it is certainly a choice! Hell is a choice, and noone is forcing them there. **

    To say that you must choose this way or suffer eternally is not a choice, that’s a threat. Plus, no rational person chooses to suffer eternally. And again, it’s telling a person to believe correctly, or be punished for it. That’s too similar to the Mafia demanding protection money from store owners.

    **If noone reaches the Father except through him, then “correctness” is certainly an issue. If someone does not believe in Christ, then it is very safe to assume scripturally that they are “spiritually dying and going to hell.”**

    But this is still saying that you know the person better than s/he knows themselves, and you know their spiritual status better. The Synoptic Gospels alone are full of examples of people who were considered blessed based on actions, not belief in any one thing. The Samaritain, the Sheep/Goats parable, just to name a few. Or even Jesus attacking the religious elite, who were following a rigid belief system at the expense of their neighbor.

  13. “I believe that I hold a piece of something greater, but that I don’t hold the whole truth and never will. Anything I determine to be truth is from a subjective viewpoint. Same with anyone who determines the truth from an exclusive viewpoint.”

    Very much agreed. But if the truth we do hold claims exclusivity (which, if you believe scripture, it does), how is this reconciled?

    “That’s too similar to the Mafia demanding protection money from store owners.”

    And sin is too much like a toddler throwing a tantrum not being happy with our father’s parenting skills. Contrary to how many Christians package, hell is not PRIMARILY punishment, but rather God allowing us to follow our choices to their conclusion. Much the same way that someone driving to a destination arrives at the place that the road they chose leads to.

    “But this is still saying that you know the person better than s/he knows themselves,”

    If this person says “I do not believe in Jesus,” how can we still not claim to know them enough to make a judgment on that basis? I agree that they know themselves better, but we can know others to some degree. If agnosticism is how one views all knowledge, how can we be assured of knowing ANYTHING?

    “The Synoptic Gospels alone are full of examples of people who were considered blessed based on actions…”

    Absolutely. Said blessing is based on those actions alone, though. If we lived a life of those actions, and not of sin, we would be truly blessed and in no need of a Christ. That is not the reality of the situation however, and I for one am VERY glad that God’s love for me is based on the loving actions of Jesus and not my own (which would hardly qualify as “loving” in many situations)!!!

    “… not belief in any one thing.”

    Jesus in John 14: 6 and 12
    “Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”

    Actually, every action and every resulting blessing, absolutely hinges on the fact that one believes in Jesus. It is central, unmistakable, and inseparable.

    Again:

    “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
    (Mark 16:16)

    It clearly does not matter what actions a person takes if it is not rooted and grounded in “believing in” Jesus.

  14. Brad,

    **But if the truth we do hold claims exclusivity (which, if you believe scripture, it does), how is this reconciled?**

    I can’t speak for MOI, but I don’t hold the Bible as the exclusive way of knowing God, or even an exclusive hold on truth. Nor do I view it as inerrant or infallible. So I have no difficulty reconciling it.

    I don’t hold the view that one can do whatever s/he wants with no consequences. But I don’t think it’s just up to the right belief structure, either. Actions do matter, because who you are, and what you want, is in part determined by your actions and reactions to events. I believe there are exclusive truths in the Bible in terms of what it says about love and justice.

    **Contrary to how many Christians package, hell is not PRIMARILY punishment, but rather God allowing us to follow our choices to their conclusion. **

    Except again: how many people, in general, would choose a life of isolation? Or darkness? I know lots of people who are full of life/love, and yet don’t properly belief in the Christian structure — yet I would say their life is full of grace, and they have a connection to the divine.

    ** That is not the reality of the situation however, and I for one am VERY glad that God’s love for me is based on the loving actions of Jesus **

    The complication I have with this view is that it comes across as the only reason why God doesn’t punish you/unleash wrath and basically loves you know is because Jesus was sacrificed. That puts God’s love dependent upon something, and thus appeasing God’s wrath. It’s hard for many people to relate to a God of that nature because they don’t see anything loving or just about that.

    **If this person says “I do not believe in Jesus,” how can we still not claim to know them enough to make a judgment on that basis?**

    Because I don’t know the reasons behind that lack of belief. I wouldn’t even know if that person and I are referring to the same type of Jesus.

    **It clearly does not matter what actions a person takes if it is not rooted and grounded in “believing in” Jesus.**

    Even the good actions? Because that still goes against the Synoptic Gospels example. It even goes against the Sermon on the Mount, with Jesus telling the crowd that they are the light of the world — that wasn’t dependent on their belief in him. He said blessed are the peacemakers. I don’t see how you can say it clearly does not matter when there are Biblical verses, both old and new, that show belief isn’t always of primary importance. And this reduces everything about the person, their life, their dreams, their very core, to a set of beliefs as primary importance. It’s essentially saying that it doesn’t matter who you are if you don’t believe correctly.

    And even if you want to pull from the John example — there’s a complication there in the sense that Jesus states people will do greater works than he if they believe in him, and he later references “works” he does in his father’s name, such as miracles. But people today do not perform those same miracles.

  15. I agree 100% with Heather on this one, and she can explain it better. Thanks Heather!

    Like Heather, I don’t believe in the bible’s inerrancy, only that the biblical writers expressed their faith and described their journeys with God. Therefore there’s nothing to reconcile for me. Look at my Beliefs page for an outline of what I believe generally. I believe the bible is inspired. I believe Jesus came to point us to a better way and provide us an example. But beyond that, I’m not venturing to go.

    Like Heather, I believe in part and “seeing through a glass darkly” can never, ever be sure that what I believe is true, nor do I believe anything to be exclusively true, hence why I call myself an agnostic. I would never, ever claim that someone must believe a certain way or go to hell. That’s not for me to decide or make judgments about and its unbelievably cruel and unmerciful to put such words in “God’s” mouth as some of the biblical writers were wont to do.

    Anyway, I’m tired and am going to bed. Carry on…

  16. I’m a Jew who wandered through your blog this morning. I’ve enjoyed reading the posts here but will admit I haven’t read all the comments on this particular post in full because I can only stomach so much of Christian claims, as expressed by Brad, to being the only way to God; obviously a belief to which I do not hold.

    My rabbi once taught about why there can be multiple paths to God. In Tanach a man could have many wives but the wife was only allowed one husband. We Jews are the first wife, Christianity was a subsequent wife. The problem is that the second wife doesn’t like being second. She wants to kick out the first and be the one and only. In Torah, however, the first wife is protected; she never loses her status and her children can not be disinherited in favor of the children of the later wife. I see Christian writings as just a second wife’s attempt to despose the first. If one holds that all of these writings are inerrent than I guess there will always be a drive to get everyone else to believe the same since everything will be taken literally. If one holds that all of this writing is merely a human attempt to understand God then perhaps it can be used to glean wisdom for living one’s life instead.

    To me what Rabbi taught makes sense. Torah was given to teach us how to live so that we can repair the world as a result of our actions. If we can all take the view that our sacred books are for us but not necessarily for everyone else in the world, certainly that would repair much of the damage done to the world by intolerant religious people insisting on ‘saving’ people who already have a perfectly valid relationship with God.

    I wrote about a passage in Micah awhile back on my own blog which seems to express this same tolerance for other gods or perhaps other paths to God.

    I figure if I’m wrong, oh well. If Chrisianity is right and God will send me to hell because I find no basis for belief in Jesus but instead live a religious Jewish live where I often experience the wonder of God in my life, then hell will be the perfect place for me since I would want nothing to do with such a psychotic God.

    No one should be trying to convert another religious person to anything. God contains both light and dark. God is said to hide in darkness. Why does God hide in darkness? Perhaps to teach us our view that God must be only light is deficient, that just because we think something cannot contain God does not mean we are correct. If we can get over trying to think we know what is holy and what is not then perhaps like Jacob we would find ourselves saying, “Wow. God was in this place? And I didn’t know it? How could I have been so blind?” (Just my take on Torah.)

    Yael

    Raised fundamentalist Christian
    Attended evangelical seminary
    Converted to liberal Judaism
    Fascinated with all things Torah

  17. Yael,
    Welcome to the blog and Shalom!! I loved your very thoughtful and gracious post.

    You wrote: “Torah was given to teach us how to live so that we can repair the world as a result of our actions. If we can all take the view that our sacred books are for us but not necessarily for everyone else in the world, certainly that would repair much of the damage done to the world by intolerant religious people insisting on ’saving’ people who already have a perfectly valid relationship with God.”

    Amen to that. I loved your comparison about the wives. It makes sense. To me, the one thing that keeps people from choosing freely what religion in which they would like to experience the holiness of G*d is the doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. By making this doctrine chief among doctrines in their creeds, Christianity automatically excludes all who would disagree with this doctrine, all who would disagree with another’s interpretation of said scriptures, and all who do not confine G*d to a set of writings meant for our enlightenment, not for our spiritual binding.

    I’ll stop by your blog for a visit. Peace and blessings to you!

  18. Yael,

    Considering your history, I know that I am not saying anything new on this. But considering the covenant God made with our forefather, Abraham, is there any doubt that it is God who does the saving? As a “liberal Jew,” are you waiting for a coming messiah? Because that is a massive foundation in 2nd Temple Judaic writings, and a central part of your faith.

    I say this not because I expect you to believe that messiah is Jesus (although, this is what I do believe), but to see that it does in fact matter what one believes. Pluralism is not in the Torah or any other Hebrew text. The one and only “Most High God,” and the exclusiveness of faith in Him (in that there are not multiple paths to the same God) seeps from the pages of the Hebrew texts.

    And for the record, Christianity does not see itself as the “second wife” jealous of the first. Paul makes it quite clear in texts such as 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 that we share the same spiritual ancestry of Moses and Abraham. The difference is in who we acknowledge to be the promised covenant messiah.

  19. Thanks. It seems blogger is down at this time so you’ll just get an error, but….I have hopes they will soon resolve whatever is the issue.

    I see many times in Tanach the admonishment that we are to search for wisdom. I don’t see any such emphasis on a search for truth, however. Wisdom helps us live better lives, but what does truth do for us? Enable us to look down on everyone who doesn’t hold to our ‘truth’? Cause us to lose all connections with God when we realize that in the end God is truly unknowable? No thanks. I’ll keep searching for wisdom.

    “Turn it over again and again, for everything is in it” – R. ben Bag Bag, Pirke Avot 5:22

    Yael

  20. **I see many times in Tanach the admonishment that we are to search for wisdom. I don’t see any such emphasis on a search for truth, however. Wisdom helps us live better lives, but what does truth do for us? **

    Those who hold to what would be considered a pluralistic view, at least the ones I know, don’t say that all paths lead to God. Because there are clearly some that don’t. They tend to hold a “one path, many branches” view, and that God/the divine is seen in facets, with each different viewpoint holding a piece.

    After all, considering that many religions hold God to be mysterious and almost a paradox, is it that unlikely that there are different branches leading to the same, one path? Even with Jesus saying that he is the way, the truth and the life: that depends on the interpretation. In Paul’s letters, Jesus is contrasted against Adam, which is the old verses the new. And then when the behavior of each is thrown in, Jesus is all of those things he lists, because of the model he presents.

  21. Brad,
    I have no interest in any messiah nor do I care what happens to me when I die. Since Torah speaks of neither of these things, I try to do the same. Torah speaks much about how to live our lives on this earth but says nothing about sitting around waiting for someone to come ‘save’ us.

    Judaism is centered around Talmud, Torah is merely our foundation document. Just as Christianity added to Tanach with their writings that teach Christians how to live a Christian life, so Talmud was added by our sages to teach us how to live our lives as Jews. Christian writings mean nothing to me, what they say is of no interest to me. That others find meaning in them is great, so long as their religion stops at my mezuzah.

    Look, Brad, I have no interest in debating you at all, not because I’m afraid you’ll show me some thing in Christianity that I’ve never considered before and not that I think I couldn’t refute your arguments, but because as I said before, religious people need to leave other religious people alone. You are happy with your life, I am happy with mine. Go in peace. I merely came by to add my comments in support of the views of MOI and Heather in order to interact with them.

    My father is a fundamentalist minister, my sister was a missionary with New Tribes Mission, and my brother is a Baptist deacon. I was weaned on Christian theology. Christianity claims Torah says many things. You take your scriptures as truth and read it back into Tanakh. You see what you choose to see. When I began studying from a Jewish viewpoint I was amazed at how differently the same texts can be read.

    No one will ever convince me to go back to this one plain Christian meaning of Torah. Truth to be told, it bores me. Give me the shades, the colors, the joy of discovering the wisdom of our sages. I have a connection with God most Christians could never imagine.

    You’ve done your duty, pointing out to the Jew the error of her ways, so let’s just agree to disagree.

    BTW, since Brad’s post came in between, my previous post was in response to MOI.

  22. Yael,

    **When I began studying from a Jewish viewpoint I was amazed at how differently the same texts can be read. **

    I can really relate to this, as this is exactly what I encountered when I started studying the Messianic prophecies from a Jewish viewpoint. And then I started the different prophecies, period, and what Judaism considered a prophecy compared to Christianity. It was fascinating.

  23. Nobody approaches a text as a blank slate, that is for sure, we all see things based on many things that have more to do with US than with the text. I like to have fun with Torah, turning it this way and that and seeing what I can see.

    I think God and religion have become too serious. I like to laugh and be irreverent. And yes, to those with the stern faces reading this, I know, I know, I won’t be laughing in hell one day…..Of course I don’t even believe in hell…Anyway, I’ve been kicked around enough in this life by religious people. I’ve already had my hell. But I digress.

    Yes, Jewish prophecy is quite different. I’ll admit it’s not something I study all that much, however. I just prefer the parshiyot and Talmud. There is much that is fascinating throughout Tanakh however, of that there is no doubt.

    It’s great to be alive isn’t it? All of this vastness, God, our texts, history, human nature, science, religion, ethics, law, it is all ours to explore!

  24. Brad,
    My previous post is a bit abrupt and could be taken as quite rude. That was not my intention so I must apologize. I just do not want to go the route of having to be bombarded with arguments against Judaism which serves no purpose whatsoever. If each of us do our best to follow the teachings of our respective religions the world will be a better place, so long as your following stops at my mezuzah… ;>)

    Yael

  25. Yael,

    Apology accepted!

    I was never intending to assault your faith or otherwise convince you of Christian claims. I saw in your comment that you were raised Christian, so I assumed you were quite aware.

    My reason for asking said questions were moreso because pluralism is not a stream that I have ever even heard of being in Hebrew literature, much less scriptures (indeed, they seem very focused on being singular in their belief and in viewing other religions).

    As a student at Covenant Seminary, I have gained a HUGE appreciation for the meta-narrative in scripture, from Torah to Revelation in the Christian Bible. Included in that meta-narrative are recurring themes of God’s covenant with His chosen people (Israel). Each time Israel comes close to regaining entrance into Eden (symbolically or otherwise), they botch it. Yet God made a covenant with His people through Abraham (Genesis 15:17), holding only Himself accountable for both ends of the traditional covenant.

    I say all this because it builds a tension throughout Israel’s history, and the only way out of this vicious cycle is the messiah promised to Israel through David’s bloodline.

    I know it sounds an awful lot like I’m trying to convince you again, but I am stating (the obvious, to you) this because it does not seem to reconcile with comments such as your “many wives” analogy. It seems that only God can come through with any certainty or success, and that it would come through a single belief.

    In short, I’m curious how you would explain this. Also, what do you mean by “liberal Judaism?”

    Thanks!

  26. I’ll start with Liberal Judaism since that will explain it all. I’m not Orthodox; I am instead a Conservative Jew which is part of liberal Judaism! Conservative Judaism is not ‘conservative’, we merely try to conserve Jewish tradition as much as possible while allowing for changes as needed to keep Judaism alive and relevant to modern life.

    Pluralism is very common in Judaism, in fact I don’t know of many Jews who believe in anything but pluralism. We hold that the righteous of all the nations have a place in the world to come and we therefore see no need for anyone to convert to Judaism.

    As I said in my previous post, Torah is only our foundational document. No one can understand Judaism without Talmud since it is what tells us how to live our lives as Jews. Now, I understand that as a Christian you do not consider Talmud sacred at all, but if you could try to think of it in the same lines as your NT then perhaps it makes sense to you that the views we Jews hold are not the ones you read in your texts. Judaism is instead quite different.

    These days there are numerous internet sources, numerous library sources which could give you Jewish views of the covenant. To give you my view would require me to explain years of Jewish studies starting with the first word of Genesis. Our views on God are totally different, our views on people are totally different. According to your view of God, you need Jesus. Good. You have Jesus, so you’re fine. My relationship with God is also fine as is, in a bizarre kind of way that is quite suited to me.

    I see Torah as a story, our story of our people’s encounter with God. Back then they had some strange ideas of God. Everything bad happening was God’s punishment for something. Why would I still hold to such a view today? I don’t.

    And just to be clear, I only speak for myself. Judaism isn’t a belief based religion. My rabbi holds views quite different from mine on many things but we still daven together every morning at minyan. What we do matters, what we think doesn’t.

    Yael

  27. Yael, I really appreciate your fresh perspective on all of this stuff. You see, I am a Jew turned Christian! Granted, I am only one quarter Jewish (not too shabby, according to Adam Sandler), but nonetheless am extremely proud of that heritage. I find your comments regarding Christianity being the second wife a very interesting take on the situation.

    Brad commented on 1 Cor. 10:1-11 being a centrally unifying passage (from a Christian standpoint) between Jews and Gentiles. I certainly agree with that, but to say only that is a bit of a disservice to the attitudes reflected in modern day Christianity. There was this guy named Marcion who believed that the Old Testament and her people were completely divorced from the New Testament. Marcion was regarded as a heretic since he twisted scripture to make it say what he wanted, and there were a number of church fathers who even published works “against Marcion.” So while our Christian texts certainly validate a unity and kinship with our Jewish brothers and sisters, Marcion has left a legacy of anti-semetic attitude in the church.

    This deeply grieves me, and if there is one thing i would pray God would allow me in my ministry, it is that He would use me to heal this gap. As a result i have started reading Talmud, not the Jerusalem or Babylonian Talmud, but the systematic Everyman’s Talmud by Abraham Cohen. All he does is take the two Talmud and put them in a systematic order by topic (for anyone unfamiliar with the work).

    I have found this reading very enlightening to the current state of Judaism and Jewish thought in general. He explains very well the history behind why Judaism looks so very different today from Judaism 2000 years ago. This change began with the exile of Judaism by Babylon, and culminated in the Second Jewish revolt lead by Bar Cocchba. He was a man who claimed to be the Messiah, was backed by the Rabbi leadership, and led the second revolt that eventually led everyone on top of Mossad to be killed. The temple stones were scattered across the Roman empire and Judaism was illegal to practice.

    It is because of this crisis that Jews began to become pluralistic. The Messiah they had put their hope in lead them to death, the practice of their faith was now illegal, and the temple had been destroyed. This meant the promise they were hoping in (they thought) had not come and the system by which they worshipped the living God had been taken from them. So they slowly began to adapt their teaching to fit their situation.

    Christians believe that the promises God made to the Jews were fulfilled, and so see ourselves as being the first bride, not the second. Chronologically, we come second, but ultimately we retain the integrity of the Jewish scripture for better than modern day Judaism.

    Please dont read that as an insult, because it is not intended to be anything other than a statement of fact. For instance, your analysis of Micah finds the possibility for pluralism among the Jewish scriptures, rather than reading it as its audience would have, which is as a warning that people will hear the truth of the living God and turn right back to their idols made of silver and gold. Micah’s tone doesnt praise these people, he condemns them.

    If God were pluralistic in the Jewish scriptures, he would have answered the call of the prophets of Baal in addition to the call of Elijah. He didnt though. God wouldnt have bothered to detail acceptable worship to Himself in Leviticus if He didnt expect the Jews to worship Him in that way and only that way.

    Again, i dont mean to be rude in my presentation of this stuff, but my study of Judaism has lead me to these observations and questions, and i am curious how you might respond to them.

  28. Yael,

    Great conversation going. You wrote: “What we do matters, what we think doesn’t.”

    I think this line, more than anything, sums up how I view any religion really, whether you believe in one or many gods, one or no messiah. We can believe just about any bizarre thing we want, but if our actions don’t show it with love toward our fellow human beings, it’s all meaningless and basically worthless.

    Christianity is soooooo belief based and you could give all your money to the poor, love your neighbor as yourself, and “do” all the right things that Jesus enjoined us to do, but according to fundie Christianity, if you don’t believe certain doctrines, you’re going to hell. I think this more than anything convinces me something is off there. It matters not what we lowly humans believe. We are a very anthropomorphic species.

    On your blog you write this: “Fundie Christians annoy me, but they see me as a Jew, no different from any other Jew.” You have hit on a very important point here. To most Fundie Christians you are nothing more than a Jew and it matters not whether you are Orthodox or Liberal, it only matters that you reject Christianity’s messiah. To them that’s enough to garner the label.

    I see also though that sometimes we could say that Jews see a Fundie Christian as no different than any other Fundie Christian. Or that Progressive Christians see a Fundie Christian as no different than any other Fundie Christian or vice-versa. Atheists categorize believers and believers categorize atheists. We love to put people into groups because it’s easier to deal with them that way, but I find that people PUT THEMSELVES into groups just so they can identify their beliefs with them and feel safe about what they believe. It’s a natural thing, but keeps all of us from genuine dialogue with each other AND from realizing our own feelings, experiences, and beliefs which might be different from the herd. When one of us breaks out and says, “hey wait a minute, you guys may believe all that, but I certainly don’t!” It’s easier to push us out and close ranks again against us. Any other reaction would be threatening.

    I personally couldn’t care less what someone’s religion is if they have an attitude of respect and love toward anyone who believes differently.

  29. Mike,
    Interesting post. I just have to ask on what you base your assumption that I must know nothing about Judaism and therefore need to be educated about my own religion?

    I find that quite amusing in light of the various statements of MOI’s that I read in her tabs on the top. Always those pesky assumptions that people must disagree with me because they just don’t know what I know! If only I educate them, then they will come to see things just as I do!

    The reason I don’t hold your views is not that I’ve never heard what you’re saying. The reason I don’t hold to your views is that I don’t!

    How will I respond to your points? I won’t. You believe what you want to believe, what is it to me? You claim your way is right, I don’t. What is the point of trying to interact with me? Anything I would say, you would point out that I’m wrong and you’re right. OK. If that makes you feel better, I’m wrong and you’re right.

    I did not come here to argue points with Christians, I came here because I found the things MOI wrote to be of interest. I enjoy finding other religious women who refuse to toe any line.

    I’m not going to answer any more posts trying to get me to defend Judaism. Who cares? Believe what you want, it’s a free country. If you want to do the I’m right, you’re wrong thing, messiahtruth.com is a wonderful place to go. That’s all anyone does there.

    That’s not my style. Sorry to disappoint you.

    Yael

  30. “I personally couldn’t care less what someone’s religion is if they have an attitude of respect and love toward anyone who believes differently.”

    That’s why I find reading your blog quite interesting. I haven’t reached this point yet, however. I have little respect for the fundie side of the spectrum as you read on my blog. That’s the hard part. I haven’t figured that one out yet. My sister and I have made a tentative beginning of a relationship again, but we really have to be careful on the religious front! She’s pretty out of the box, too, in her world though and that is where we interact.

    What I think is neat is that I am seeing more and more women saying, hey, we refuse to be defined by what men tell us we should be. Look at this thread. Dogmatic men trying to first get you to accept their views and then me. What’s with that? Is that what religion is all about? Who needs it, this macho posturing, I’m the king, I know all, you foolish women let me educate you? (And if you read this, Rabbi, you can get on my case for being sexist when I see you next!)

    Sometimes I think all religion is just made by men for men and that maybe God is as well. What woman would think that killing animals and smearing blood all over the place is a good way to build a relationship with the divine? Sounds like a guy thing to me. Funny how we moved on from there to prayer, talking. We evolved into a way of interacting with God where women can feel a part of the whole deal.

    Just an observation, no insult intended to anyone, but one of many things that keeps me from having even the slightest interest in Christianity is all the emphasis on killing. Our Tanach is seen as nothing but Jews needing sacrifices when the reality is sacrifices were not a central part of our religion for long at all, Christian religion is centered around a sacrifice, never ending talk about Jesus’ sacrifice. Shouldn’t there be more to religion than just slaughtering? I surely think so.

    And on that note, have a good night.

    Yael

  31. Yael, I am rather baffled by your tactic here. While my post was addressed to you, you assume that you are the only one who can read it, whereas my only intention on spelling out the research I had done was to clue other readers in to the discussion. I dont know if you are posturing by this or you are really offended, thinking that I might be condescending in my attitude. I would hope that I have built enough of a reputation here with MOI and at De-Conversion to at least receive the benefit of the doubt.

    You didnt come to argue. That’s great. I didnt either. If you noticed, my post was written for the purpose of raising several questions. I gave a lot of background of the issue for those unfamiliar with the topic, but never once assumed you yourself were uneducated on the topic, especially since you clearly know more regarding Judaism than I do.

    The problem with the martyr complex, as I am sure MOI has seen many Christians take when they were clearly not under persecution, is that you imagine yourself to constantly be under attack when a good point or question is raised. So instead of answering it, you say that you are offended, suggest that I am posting simply to make myself feel superior, and then leave the discussion thinking that you “showed that proud Christian whats for!”

    I still genuinely wish to understand your position and the position of Judaism better, so if you feel safe enough to comment again, I would love to make myself your student. You said that Jews are the first wife and Christians are the second, why do you believe that? Is this widespread in Judaism or is this just you? Why is that, when many in the Jewish community would even concede that Christian readers maintain a much more literal reading of the scriptures, like Jews 2000 years ago did? As I read back through my post, I can see how these questions might have come across more as statements, and for that I am sorry, but the heart behind them is to see how you might reconcile the facts I mentioned in the first post with the beliefs of modern day Judaism.

    Again, I am just genuinely curious to learn more about your position on this and why you hold it. If it didnt come across clearly enough before, I have a huge desire to see Jews and Christians as partners in their work in the world, not enemies. So I would be honored if we could do that here.

  32. Mike,
    Well, I have gotten myself into a fine can of worms here. All because I was bored surfing the net last night, in the midst of a very busy life…. My apologies for becoming annoyed with your post. I just never expected such a response as I have gotten here. And no, I don’t see myself as any martyr, I came here freely, no one made me come here and post. I’m just surprised, that’s all. There are Jews all over the place, Jewish sites all over the place. Why would anyone ask me to teach about Judaism?

    Look, everyone who is reading here. I just stopped by because I saw someone who seemed like an interesting woman posting a different point of view than I have read elsewhere. I read the things she wrote in her tabs and thought this is a woman with whom I might be able to share a few general thoughts on Torah, religion, etc, someone who might spark a few new ideas in my brain.

    I didn’t come here to insult anyone, to argue with anyone, to teach anyone. We all have our own ways of looking at things. I’m not going to try to prove mine are better, nor am I interesting in explaining why my views are different. When I first left Christianity I took great delight in posting such things. It doesn’t interest me anymore. It’s not what being a Jew is all about. There are places on the net where Jews and Christians debate their prooftexts constantly. I find it kind of sad.

    I’m a writer. Sometimes I roam the net because I pick up ideas for writing. I have numerous blogs where I have written a couple thousand posts by now. If you are really, really interested in finding out more about me, my Jewish life, why I think the things I think, I’ll let you wade through some of that if you’d like. You would have to give me an email address though because most of these blogs aren’t open for public view at this time. Believe it or not, I’ve been trying to maintain a low profile with my own things because of the project I’m involved with at this time. Rabbi would strangle me if he could see me here…..

    And now I need to check out. If I ever get the desire to post somewhere unfamiliar again I’m going to remind myself….

    Take care.
    Yael

  33. Yael,

    I’m saddened by your departure but I totally understand. I, more than anyone, do not want my blog to become a debating ground between Christians and Jews, Christians and Muslims, or between Christians and Christians. PERIOD. It’s my space to do with what I want and what I want is to welcome EVERYONE here without rancor and without proselytizing (i.e. The Rules). Everyone needs to go to DeConversion blog for that.

    I apologize for the posts that have upset you and hope that you won’t give up reading and commenting on anything that you like here. My door is always open.

    I agree with you one hundred percent about men presuming to lecturing women on all things religious. You know and I know that men think they’ve got the answers for everything, religion supremely so. The attitude is one that we women have to deal with all the time on the internet (see my post on protecting anonymity). It doesn’t seem to matter how educated you are or how articulate you are, men still assume that you’re wrong and begin to tell you why, how, and how much you are wrong. Again, I’m sorry for that!! I get it all the time.

    I understand your reluctance to post again. I’ve done that on other blogs as well. The atmosphere becomes too stifling for discourse between men and women because frankly it’s all about men being right and women being wrong. Heather is the only really tough chick I know who can toss herself right in there and come out swinging AND hold her own doing it. I used to be, but really don’t have the interest in such debates anymore. They are fruitless and always degenerate into “my credentials are bigger than your credentials.” (Yes, Brad, I DO believe that!)

    Yael, I offer a sincere apology and hope to hear from you again. I DO have interest in your journey! Email me anytime at luv2rede@gmail.com.

  34. Mike and Brad,

    I know you don’t understand it when someone does NOT want to debate points of belief systems with you, but I honestly don’t feel it’s your place to chastise me or anyone who posts here for our methods of discussion. None of us have a “martyr complex” when we decide where our boundaries lie and refuse to cross them. Yael came in good faith to read and discuss. She was not open to debate and I respect that. You guys, however, seem to think it’s an invitation to challenge her belief systems. Again, this emphasizes the reason for my writing this post in the first place: I want more than anything FREEDOM FROM EVANGELIZATION!!!

    You have proven my point. Until fundie Christians can learn to have a discussion without turning everything into a debate about religion, then is it any wonder they are stereotyped? Please respect the rules! It is my blog after all and good grief, I’m old enough to be your mother! I’ve been around the block several times, and experience trumps knowledge any day. I never wanted this blog to be a playground for men’s debates, so please take it elsewhere!

  35. MOI,
    Please don’t worry that I was upset by the posts. I was annoyed, I was disappointed but upset I try to save for real life issues.

    I will continue to stop by and read; I like your style. You don’t have to worry about me debating here. I never will. I’m always telling the debaters that I meet in person that I don’t believe anything. When they ask why I do the things I do, I just say because it’s fun. It is almost comical to see them sputter not knowing where to go next.

    Thanks for the address. I’ll be sending a note your way.

  36. Yael,

    I appreciate your invitation to read your material, and I will take you up on it.

    MOI,

    Perhaps the difficulty we are having in our dialogue comes from a difference of definition regarding what it means to debate. I mention it now to clear up any confusion and hope to avoid this problem in the future. As far as I can tell, all I did was ask a couple questions seeking to understand Yael’s position. I didnt call her stupid or uninformed, I didnt tell her she was wrong, and I didnt ask her to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. So I dont think that I was in any way debating her or proselytizing her.

    Now if it came across that way, and others felt as though I was not respecting her, I apologize sincerely. But I am still left with a need to be able to engage you and others in such a way that doesnt feel “stifling.” I take deep offense to the position that because I am a man I am necessarily egotistical and closed-minded. I have the highest respect for women, and I understand that because there can often times be a difference of approach to issues, we misinterpret each others actions. So please just see this as an attempt for a man to learn how to better ask his questions.

  37. Mike,
    I’m glad you take deep offense at my statements because it shows you just what women have had to deal with for millenia. You won’t understand my position, and the position of many women here, and you probably never will. You see no offense in your attempts at “debate” but we women have seen it here and elsewhere. The privileged usually never “see” or understand how they are being offensive, it’s just part and parcel of being privileged in a class or societal sense.

    The point is, we don’t wish to be “engaged” or “challenged” about our views. We’ve come down a long, arduous road to come by those views. We have plenty of experience and horror stories to back up our views. We’ve had to explain to fathers, brothers, male pastors, and others endlessly about WHY we hold these views and are constantly put on the defensive about them as if it’s a crime to believe what we believe. It’s this tactic more than anything which if offensive to us. Men just don’t get that women don’t converse this way nor do we wish to converse this way. We have opinions regardless of how we come by them. Men should just deal with it and quit wondering HOW or with what “credentials” we come by them. None of our credentials will prove worthy anyway, so we don’t choose to waste time on it.

    Look, Mike, I know you don’t get it. Let’s just leave it at that.

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