I bear in mind a dialog that I had, years in the past, with a loyal member of my synagogue. The subject turned to inter-religious affairs, and my congregant mentioned: “Jews don’t imagine in Jesus; Christians do. What’s the massive deal?”
I politely steered to him that this was a big over-simplification of an enormous theological and historic dialog — that there have been way more variations between Judaism and Christianity than the “Jesus factor.”
However, regardless of: he caught to his weapons.
Again then, I needed that I had a transparent, accessible ebook to supply him.
Now, I do. The ebook is You Should Know This: A Rabbi Explains Christianity to Jews. The creator is Rabbi Stephen M. Wylen, who’s an outdated pal and colleague, and he’s shepping nachas (deriving a substantial amount of pleasure) from the truth that his new ebook is likely one of the hottest faith titles on Amazon.
He deserves it, as a result of “You Ought to Know This” is an excellent useful resource for (forgive me) questioning Jews — Jews who need to know extra about Christianity.
You may need thought that by now the topic would have been just a bit vintage — that nearly seventy years of interfaith dialogue, relationships, joint providers — to not point out intermarriage — would have served as an efficient classroom on the that means of interfaith, and on the necessities of Christianity.
Sadly, you’d have been improper.
Stephen and I talked about this not too long ago.
Jeff: Why did you write this ebook? Who’s your viewers?
Stephen: I take pleasure in writing, however I solely write once I see a necessity that ought to be met. I write to advance the reason for Judaism and the Jewish individuals, to which I’ve devoted my life. An unpublished ebook begins with a good suggestion; a broadcast ebook begins with an outlined viewers.
On this case, my viewers is all American Jews, and a great portion of American Christians. Jews have so many questions on the faith of our neighbors, and they don’t have a dependable place to show for solutions. I’ve given them solutions.
Jeff: Although Jews dwell in an overwhelmingly Christian tradition, we don’t actually perceive Christianity in addition to we’d. Why is that the case?
Stephen: Jeff, you’ve gotten outlined the issue precisely. There are a variety of causes for our misunderstanding.
First, we get a number of our info from well-liked tradition – motion pictures, tv, well-liked Christmas songs -– and that info is commonly deceptive.
Second, we dwell in a secular age, and basic information about faith is missing. We are able to ask a Christian pal a query, however they may not know the fitting option to reply.
Third, there are nonetheless many individuals on the market who need to convert Jews to Christianity, typically utilizing misleading means to achieve out to us. This makes Jews defensive and suspicious, and rightly so. Jews want a trusted supply for info.
Lastly, Jews and Christians usually suppose we’re talking to 1 one other once we are actually talking previous each other. We use comparable phrases to imply various things, with out realizing it. Interfaith understanding is an act of translation. I’m serving as a translator. “That is what you suppose you heard, however that is what it actually means.”
American Jews want to grasp Christianity similar to a fish wants to grasp the ocean by which it swims. That is the environment.
Jeff: What are a number of the most typical Jewish misconceptions about Christianity?
Stephen: If Jews need to perceive Christianity and the way it differs from Judaism, first they should know extra about Judaism. That’s the reason this ebook that explains Christianity accommodates a number of Judaism. That was not a part of my authentic plan, however as I approached every matter I got here to appreciate that I wanted to show my Jewish viewers extra concerning the Jewish background, in order that they’ll stand on agency floor whereas striving to grasp the faith of our neighbors.
What’s the largest error that Jews and Christians share? The misunderstanding that Christianity and Judaism are opposites. Jews and Christians alike merely assume that if one thing is Jewish, it’s “not Christian” — and vice versa.
So, for instance: If Christians have a faith of affection, then it have to be that Jews simply have a faith of harsh judgment.
If Christians imagine in divine forgiveness, then it have to be that Jews don’t imagine in divine forgiveness.
If Christians imagine in an afterlife, then it have to be that Jews don’t.
If Christianity is all about believing in Jesus, then Judaism is all about not believing in Jesus.
This well-liked view of Christianity and Judaism as opposites harms Jews and Judaism, and it additionally misrepresents Christianity. It will be way more correct to say that Christianity and Judaism provide totally different solutions to a number of the identical compelling questions.
Jeff: What do you consider the growing tendency to attempt to meld these two faiths collectively, and/or to reduce variations?
Stephen: Everybody desires to get alongside. And, many households have each Christian and Jewish members. So, individuals have a stake in minimizing variations.
However, the issue in doing that is that it does violence to each religions. Simply as you’ll be able to solely converse a selected language, you’ll be able to solely apply a selected faith. Judaism and Christianity are the “identical” — solely if you’re not working towards both faith in your day by day life. If we need to dwell our faith, it turns into obvious that Judaism and Christianity usually contradict one another. That’s the reason they’re, in the long run, totally different religions.
Some say that we should always all neglect our variations and simply come collectively. That sounds pleasant, however in actuality, it threatens the minority religion. It’s as if the ocean says to the pond: “Allow us to merge, and simply simply be one physique of water.” If the ocean and the pond merge, the top result’s that it’ll look similar to the ocean. However, the geese, trout and cattails will now not have a house.
There are good issues about staying separate and distinct. That requires Jews and Christians to each respect and perceive each other.
Jeff: An alarming proportion of Individuals appear to favor America changing into a “Christian nation” – no matter which means. What does it imply, and why is it harmful?
Stephen: Don’t get me into hassle – there aren’t any politics in my ebook apart from interfaith relations! Some individuals robotically embody Jews after they converse of Christian values, and others don’t. Some persons are placing up partitions towards a feared “Muslim invasion.” I discover this concept to be offensive. 1789 was a novel 12 months in historical past. It will be unimaginable to cross the Invoice of Rights at present.
Jeff: The late Swedish bishop and theologian, Krister Stendahl, as soon as wrote of “holy envy.” What do you envy in Christianity?
Stephen: Good query. Once I was a boy, I loved the Christmas carol, “The Little Drummer Boy.” My father validated my emotions. He informed me that it was OK to admire and envy the Christmas spirit. It didn’t imply I needed to turn into Christian. It was not disloyal to Judaism. That meant rather a lot to me.
In our instances, the interpersonal is extra vital than theology. In America, because of this many Christians don’t fear an excessive amount of about Christology, however they love having a relationship with their pal, Jesus. Judaism doesn’t lend itself simply to that sort of fascinated with God.
I envy that. I want we could possibly be like Tevye the Dairyman in “Fiddler on the Roof,” who chatted together with his buddy, God, as he rode his milk wagon.
Jeff: What do you want that Christians understood higher about Judaism?
Stephen: Many Christians imagine that in case you take Christianity and subtract Jesus, the half that’s left over is “Judaism.” No marvel they’re mystified that we don’t come to Jesus. I need Christians to grasp that Judaism is an entire faith.
When Christians ask Jews why we don’t imagine in Jesus, Jews – together with rabbis – normally reply with a totally irrelevant discourse on who we expect Jesus was. The right reply – and my ebook explains why that is so – is: “Judaism has the solutions to all of my non secular questions.”
It’s a peculiarity of American faith – and this can be a heresy from the historic Christian instructing – to divide God into an “Previous Testomony Father of Judgment” and a “New Testomony Son of Grace.” I need Christians to grasp that Jews worship a God who balances grace and judgment – chesed and mishpat. And naturally, I need Jews to grasp this about our personal faith.
My concluding remarks:
We’re blessed to dwell in a multi-cultural, multi-religious America. Simply take a look at the house web page of Faith Information Service, and see what number of non secular voices are included.
And but, with that, there may be nonetheless a lot that Jews and Christians — to not point out Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jain, Mormons, Wiccans, and many others. and many others. and many others. — merely have no idea about one another’s world views. In truth, as these world religions continue to grow in America, there might be a rising want for extra books like this.
So, who’s going to start out writing them?