Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Where I Offend Probably Everyone Without Meaning To

I was reading an online forum in the past week or two (BLARGH it escapes me which one) where some one articulated something I have been trying to say for quite sometime. The discussion revolved around some one who was a having a baby and she is not Jewish but her partner is and they want to raise their child as a Jew. There was this whole round about discussion about what they needed to do to convert the child (since the mother is not Jewish some branches of Judaism don't recognize descent via the father) and how the laws work and some one (who was Christian but meant this sincerely and I think in a placating way) came in and said, "But where is God in all of this?"

I think she meant this as a call to what is important and to remind everyone that the law is not important but God is important.

And GOD that pissed off every Jew in there.

Because in Christianity your personal relationship with God is the important thing. But it isn't in Judaism. I remember just wanting to scream at my sister last year when she tried to tell me that some one who didn't believe in God was missing "the important part" of Judaism.

As some one who has been both, if you don't believe in God you can't be Christian. But you can be Jewish. And be a good Jew.

This is just an example, but it really is part of something that I think is very pervasive in this discussions. People want religions to be the same. Very accepting and tolerant Christians look at Judaism and what to know the Jewish equivalent to Christmas is or Easter or the Benediction. Let me say this so clearly:

There isn't one.

Jews see the world through a Jewish lens. How the religion functions is not a reaction to Christianity (I cannot tell you how many Christians have asked me what Jews think of Jesus--Jews don't actual care at all about Jesus, he isn't a blip on our radar). It is it's own religion and culture. It is a community with traditions and laws. And none of them have the slightest fucking thing to do with any other religions. J and I became Jewish because we wanted to live by a certain ethical code, by a certain attitude towards the world. We shared the values with Judaism that are very important to us. And it might surprise people how little our conversion has to do with God. In my case (I can't and won't speak for him on this one) it has NOTHING to do with God.

There is a rather common attitude that Judaism and Christianity are the same. That Jesus is the only difference. There is no such thing as a Judeo-Christian value system. They may be based in the same beginning source material (the Hebrew Bible) but they have branched into two very different views of the world.

Do I mean this as a way of saying that these groups cannot and should not get along? Absolutely not. I admire the way that Christians have faith in God. It is a relationship that I cannot have but it is one that I see a lot of value in. I just wish that people could understand that my faith looks and feels and IS very different from theirs and not feel threatened by it.

Right now there is a lot of anti-Semitism floating around. Especially in the media with the situation with Israel (that is not to say that all anti-Israel sentiment has anti-Semitic motivations). I can't help being enraged by it all. And frustrated too. Because sometimes different is just different, not better or worse. And trying to push us all into looking at the world the same way just is not working.

I hope that no one will read this and think it is a slam on Christianity. For all my talk about how that conversation helped me articulate something I don't think this actual post is very articulate. It is natural to try to draw parallels with your own situation and beliefs with ones that you do not understand. I just wish that people would recognize that those parallels are not always actually there.

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