Once again I’d like to point you to Rachel’s excellent blog, Velveteen Rabbi. Some time ago, I asked a question about modern Judaism, one that she promised to answer in a future post. She did so, and wow has she given me a lot to think about.
My question was essentially this: Since modern Judaism seems to be quite comfortable welcoming atheists, Buddhists, and all sorts of folks whose aim is to flavor their world view with a bit of Judaism sprinkled over something else, why is Judaism still so firmly opposed to accepting Jesus Christ?
Rachel admits that the modern definition of Judaism (which, remember, is broad in part because it is both a cultural and a religious descriptor) could be summarized as anyone who wants to identify with Judaism, so long as he/she doesn’t believe in Jesus.
In a lengthy and excellent post that Rachel calls Wrangling with J4J, she sheds a lot of light on the thinking of many in the modern Jewish community and the distinctions they see between Christianity and Judaism. Rachel is the first to admit that she represents the more liberal wing of Judaism—she doesn’t attempt to speak for everyone. But she makes many interesting points, and sheds much light on Jewish perceptions about the Messianic ministry known as Jews for Jesus.
Go read her post and the comments she has garnered. If you are interested in better understanding modern Judaism, let me suggest that you make Velveteen Rabbi a regular read.
Thanks for the plug, Charlie. As I’ve said before, I enjoy our conversations, and your questions have sparked some really interesting trains of thought over here. Blessings!
“Rachel admits that the modern definition of Judaism…could be summarized as anyone who wants to identify with Judaism, so long as he/she doesn’t believe in Jesus.”
Hmm…I’m not sure that’s the way I read Rachel’s original post or her responses to our comments. It sounds like you’re implying that an acceptance of Jesus as Messiah is a unique criteria for judging Jewishness in Rachel’s mind, which I don’t think it is. I’m sure their are other beliefs which she would say are in contravention of the principles of Judaism (for example, perhaps, belief in Sun Myung Moon as the son of God and savior of mankind). Of course, only Rachel could say for certain. =)
Just adding a different perspective on the same conversation.
Daniel – well, ok, I said that with tongue in cheek. It’s actually a reference to an earlier conversation with Rachel about a study done by the United Jewish Communities attempting to determine how many American Jews there are. Their definition of a Jew was quite inclusive:
A Jew is someone whose “religion is Jewish, OR, whose religion is Jewish and something else, OR, who has no religion and has at least one Jewish parent or a Jewish upbringing, OR, who has a non-monotheistic religion, and has at least one Jewish parent or a Jewish upbringing.”
“We included people who said they were both Jewish and Catholic or Jewish and something else,” he said. “But if they identified themselves as Jewish Christians or we found some evidence that they were Messianic Jews, then we excluded them from the study. We had to draw that line.”
See the original article at: “Test question: Define ‘Jewish’ and give three examples” on GetReligion.
This study mixed both the cultural and religious identies, which is partly the reason why “Jewish non-monotheists” are included.
Rachel, in fact, has expressed doubts about whether Messianic Jews can believe in Jesus and Judaism at the same time, but you’re right to say that she does actually consider other criteria as well.
My original point was that the net for Judaism is cast quite widely, but those who believe in Jesus are often thrown back. I think her post makes it clear that “Messianic Jews” do not find it easy to find a home in Judaism.