Not that I have declared this a week of Messianic Judaism, but it seems to have become that. I am posting this first to show that there is a divide somewhere between Judeo and Christian. You cannot serve both without destroying the one of them. Jews see this; an ever increasing amount of professing Christians do not. Frankly, I agree with the over all thought of this article. We are commanded to believe, not simply be born into the Church (physically) or attach ourselves to it – which is the beauty of it in that the Church is open to all people.
Judaism, somewhat like Buddhism, is not firmly a religion — although it certainly has religious principles. Judaism is a civilization that has existed, remarkably and resiliently and stubbornly, for some 4000 years in a variety of places and incarnations – from Egypt to East Lansing, from Babylonia to Belgrade. If all this time we had just had been a liturgy, without social ascriptions, without our laughter and literature, we wouldn’t be here anymore. But we’re a “peoplehood”, not perfect, not united, not always right, but always able to break into society because Judaism is, somewhat like Buddhism in this sense, basically cultural.
Christianity is powerful, very masterful in some ways, and it has helped millions upon millions of people for a long time. But here’s the thing – Christianity is a faith community and Judaism is sociology. They both have had to be these two ways because they both have had different challenges and agendas. Christianity hasn’t had to survive; it has had to spread!
Christianity is about believing; Judaism is about belonging.
Judaism has had to verify the Hebrew Scripture (what Christians call “the Old Testament“) as it was; Christianity has had to improve and finish it. We’ve had different problems, different approaches, different luck, and certainly different relationships with heaven, death, God, and the greater society. Christians and Jews have mixed together better in America – the greatest experiment in religion-limiting government in the history of humankind – than say, in Italy or France or Argentina or even in Israel.
Christianity is faith; Judaism is sociology.
Look: Judaism is a civilization because it bursts into people’s lives with social structure, family relations, history, education, the life cycle, music, bagels – and then also with a prayer book. Christians certainly have all of these, but not in the same way that Jews do. I happen to admire Christianity’s ecclesiastic purity, its conquest of death, its ability to make every individual Christian a candidate for personal salvation. I happen to appreciate the notion of the tenderness of Jesus, even though it is not personally relevant to my God concept.
There is no such thing as the angst of Methodist survival. There is really no such thing as Episcopalian food. There is no such thing as Baptist dress. There is no such thing as Presbyterian language. But all of these sociological categories are part of Jewish life because we’re a group, and we have group dynamics, group guilt, and group crises – like right now, believe me. Shalom!