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09 February 2008 @ 03:18 pm
Just a last word before I leave  
I was raised Jewish and Catholic, until my Jewish father converted to Catholicism and expected me to abandon the Jewish part of my identity along with him. I was forced to attend Catholic services and to be confirmed in the Church, even though I was starting to find the Church politically and religiously stifling. After leaving home, I settled on Quakerism as a religion I could deal with, but have always felt a connection to Judaism as well, because it became part of my identity early in life. Since then, I have felt out of place in both Christian and Jewish circles because I can't feel "completely" one or the other. I've even been quite harshly rejected, often by Jewish groups, because I can't be "part Jewish" and because traditional approaches to Judaism say that 1) I'm not Jewish because my mother wasn't, and 2) Judaism is the One Way and is incompatible with following any other religion, especially not Christianity.

When I saw the last post, my first response was to agree that praying for Jewish conversion is antisemitic, and that we should assume no group is inherently more whiny than the other, so when Jews say they're bothered by something, it should be taken seriously. I later also said that I didn't think ANY ethnic or religious group, including Christianity, was inherently special or kind, and explained that I didn't consider myself "special" as an ethnic Jew or as a Christian. This was in response to someone saying that the Jews he knew were nice to him; I wanted to point out that out-group members are often a lot nicer to you than in-group members, it's not something special about that group but in fact a result of the fact that NO group is special. It bothers me almost as much when someone says "Jews are nice" as when someone says "Jews are mean." Apparently this was enough for a moderator to accuse me of being a Dominionist in disguise, even though my profile suggests otherwise, even though I said that I didn't think Christianity was special, even though I explicitly denied it. Apparently only Dominionists think that no group is special.

How ironic is it that a comment, originally motivated by someone acting surprised that "outsiders" like Jews would be kinder to them than Christians, would lead to this. I learned from my life that my "own people," whatever they are, are not likely to be particularly kind to me. This includes Jews, Christians, and, apparently, even others who are recovering from religious abuse. There are Dominionists that have been kinder to me than this community.

Considering my original comment that people should take it seriously when a group gets offended by your behavior, it's also ironic that, when I complained that I (and most Jews) considered the concept of "essential Jewishness," when employed by non-Jews, antisemitic, I was ignored. And "schooled" on what it meant to be Jewish, by someone with only second-hand knowledge of the religion. Because apparently members of the Jewish community have no right to say what they consider offensive without being labeled the Enemy.

I have no safe spaces. I have no home. The conservative Jewish community ensured that, the Roman Catholic community ensured that, my own family ensured that, and now this community is as well.
 
 
 
SwissCeltswisscelt on February 10th, 2008 08:00 pm (UTC)
Ah, that explains it, thank you.

I just don't think that mainstream Judaism is as compatible with this person's attitude towards ancestral gods as he thinks it is

I think there was a miscommunication there. My point was not that Jews would recognize any other gods... of course not! That's well documented in the Torah, that one does not follow any other gods.

But I've found the general attitude among Jews in my acquaintance is the same as Pagans toward those who either don't believe in any gods, or follow other gods. Many Christians view such people with some amount of alarm, thinking that it's their divine commandment to correct that fatal flaw in the atheist or polytheist immediately. The Jews and Pagans in my acquaintance, however, view such people with considerably more tolerance; at worst thinking that they simply lack the experiences that would lead them to the "correct path".

Messianic Jews are the exception to this. Messianic Jews approach atheists and polytheists with the same alarm as Dominionists. Some Messianics will work to convert non-Christians. Others will only try to convert (non-Messianic) Jews, and treat non-Christian Gentiles as human scum... again, just as Dominionists do.
one of those feathery maniacssammka on February 10th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
You're right, although I'd expand it to say that most Jews not only don't follow other gods, they also don't even believe in other gods. So it's not just an "I have mine, you have yours" kind of attitude. Having been a minority religion for so long, it's just not expedient to act alarmed by people who believe otherwise, though, so the religion has learned to be pretty non-aggressive about imposing such beliefs on others.

The main reason I cared about this is because Jews who, say, decide to follow paganism, are, from what I can tell, denying their "essential Jewishness" just as much as Jews who convert to Christianity while still trying to preserve some sense of Jewish identity for themselves. I might have misunderstood what you meant by "essential Jewishness," and there are different political overtones accompanying conversion to Christianity as opposed to conversion to paganism. But the same people who said they'd have felt really uncomfortable at my sister's ceremony, wouldn't have felt as uncomfortable at a baptism.

So when you attacked Messianic Jews as antisemitic for "denying their essential Judaism," I was upset because 1) I don't believe in "essential Jewishness," above and beyond, you know, just-plain-being-Jewish, 2) I certainly don't believe in "essential Jewishness" if you're using it to impose a moral requirement on Jews to stay Jewish, especially if you're not Jewish yourself, and 3) it's particularly strange to imply that people are morally required to adhere to a religion that more or less condemns your own. Like I said earlier, there are a lot of really good reasons to call Messianic Jews antisemitic, and it distressed me that you'd ignore those in favor of a reason that I consider a pretty bad reason.

More context, maybe: I was told that I was Catholic, regardless of what I believed, and this was used as a reason I couldn't leave the Church, and why I was forced to be confirmed. There are also marginal Jewish groups that openly criticize other Jews who decide that they're atheists and stop following tradition, marry non-Jews, convert away to any other religion, or even follow Reform tradition, and they also often claim that those people are "denying their essential Jewishness." I have friends that have experienced this, and it wasn't too fun. Luckily those groups really are pretty marginal, but even semi-mainstream groups have been known to reach out to relatively secular, non-practicing Jews and then sort of "bring them back into the fold" by encouraging them to be more and more traditionally observant. There needs to be a balance between cultural preservation and infringing on people's rights to follow their own beliefs, and going after people who break from tradition and condemning them seems to me to fall on the wrong side of that line.

Edited at 2008-02-10 11:06 pm (UTC)
SwissCeltswisscelt on February 10th, 2008 11:25 pm (UTC)
You're right, although I'd expand it to say that most Jews not only don't follow other gods, they also don't even believe in other gods.

Very true. They make no real distinction between polytheists and atheists. Those in my acquaintance, though, have treated both with the same kindness.

Having been a minority religion for so long, it's just not expedient to act alarmed by people who believe otherwise, though, so the religion has learned to be pretty non-aggressive about imposing such beliefs on others.

Is it because Judaism is a minority religion, though? I've known a number of American Muslims as well, and their attitude toward dhimmis (Jews and Christians) is quite different than their attitude toward khafir (everyone else). Some can still tolerate khafir, but there is still the distinction in Islam in America that I don't sense among Jews.

The main reason I cared about this is because Jews who, say, decide to follow paganism, are, from what I can tell, denying their "essential Jewishness" just as much as Jews who convert to Christianity while still trying to preserve some sense of Jewish identity for themselves.

That may be. But I'm a Gentile, thus I have no Jewish identity. Moreover, the Jewish Pagans I know do not view themselves as having any privilege or responsibility before G_d. It's that aspect of Jewish identity that Messianics turn on and off where it's convenient.

Which really lies at the base of my complaint here. If someone chooses another religion, that's fine. It's when one demands that their religion be viewed as the only way to be fully human that I have a problem. What makes Messianic Judaism so "vile", in my estimation, is that they do that twice: Once, by proclaiming Jesus as the only way to heaven; and again by proclaiming their Jewish identity as the only culture "God" recognizes.

Having several relatives in the United Church of God, which differs from Messianic Judaism only in that members do not need to show Jewish lineage (well, so long as they're white, anyway :-/ ), the subject is a hot button with me. And for that, I do apologize.
one of those feathery maniacssammka on February 10th, 2008 11:45 pm (UTC)
Is it because Judaism is a minority religion, though? I've known a number of American Muslims as well, and their attitude toward dhimmis (Jews and Christians) is quite different than their attitude toward khafir (everyone else). Some can still tolerate khafir, but there is still the distinction in Islam in America that I don't sense among Jews.

I think for a really long time, Christianity was the main other religion that most Jews had to deal with, and it was an oppressive majority. So Jews adopted a different attitude toward other religions that maybe got extended to polytheists they encountered later on. If you look at their behavior in scriptures, though, when they were just one of a lot of warring tribes, they were pretty aggressive, so this is clearly an artifact of evolution in the religion.

Some Jews do make religious distinctions between Christians/Muslims and "everyone else." For instance, Orthodox and Conservative Jews are not permitted to drink wine that has been touched, at any point in the process, by "idolators." Many interpreting rabbis will say that Christians are not idolators, but polytheists clearly are. Note that they probably are ignoring Muslims here only because Muslims are less likely to be manufacturing wine in the first place. Anyway, it's a diverse religion, some are more tolerant than others. Which was sort of my original point. It's not a "better" or "worse" religion than Christianity. There are tolerant Christians and intolerant Christians, there are tolerant Jews and intolerant Jews, it's just that intolerant Jews generally leave outsiders alone.

Anyway, I'm not really arguing with you here about whether or not Messianic Judaism is a good religion. I know some of them, some are awful, and some are really kind and haven't tried to convert me in any way. Remember also that my father converted to Christianity, had a Jews-For-Jesus phase that was really really awful for me, but is now a pretty normal and sane person and I am touchy about people criticizing him merely for his conversion.

What I still don't get though, is why you said that it was "antisemitic" to deny one's "essential Jewishness." All the reasons you gave here for why Messianic Judaism is bad, I am fine with. But that argument really set me off.
SwissCeltswisscelt on February 11th, 2008 12:01 am (UTC)
What I still don't get though, is why you said that it was "antisemitic" to deny one's "essential Jewishness."

Well, because it would be very antisemitic to suggest, as Messianics do, that one cannot have the promise of Judaism fulfilled without accepting Christ.
one of those feathery maniacssammka on February 11th, 2008 12:36 am (UTC)
That to me sounds a lot different from "denying one's essential Jewishness," but I agree that that's antisemitic.
SwissCeltswisscelt on February 11th, 2008 01:43 am (UTC)
I see the relationship between G-d and man as essential to Judaism. Believe it or not, that's not necessarily a religious thing... and being a Gentile, it's difficult for me to describe. Something about recognizing that man is imperfect, but perfectable.

It's something I see in some Christian sects, but not Dominionism nor Messianic Judaism.
one of those feathery maniacssammka on February 11th, 2008 01:46 am (UTC)
Saying something is essential to Judaism is, to me, different from saying that people have some sort of "essential Jewishness" that they can then deny.
SwissCeltswisscelt on February 11th, 2008 02:11 am (UTC)
I'm not explaining it very well...