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Part 1: Thoughts on Jews converting to Christianity

March 12, 2014

baptist_messianic1Living in this “land of liberty”, I am thankful to G-d that today I, though a Jew, can speak my mind freely about all matters of religion. I am also thankful that information, from all sides, is freely available for everyone to examine. People can now judge for themselves the merits and faults of all faiths, a development to which I fully credit my returning to the faith of my fathers after my near 20-year sojourn in Christendom. Because of the unprecedented freedom of expression in this country I can enter into an occasional depute about validity of either Christianity or Judaism, all without fear of grave repercussions. However, this has not always been the case for my people and certainly not anywhere else they lived. Most of the time my ancestors avoided such conflicts with devotees of Judaism’s zealous daughter religions, since risks to life and limb were all too real – always invariably for Jews. My forefathers simply wished to be left alone and in peace, unmolested by the missionizing efforts of Christians (and to a lesser degree, Muslims). I fully realize, of course, that millions of pious and well-meaning souls only followed the dictates of their respective religions in their efforts to make us “stubborn” Jews like themselves, to save us from eternal flames of hell their scriptures reserved for unbelievers. Looking back, I am thankful to the G-d of Israel that most of their efforts have failed, except for not a few lost souls deceived to pursue gods their forefathers knew not, gods which are merely products of human minds or hands.

Today, unlike during the turbulent counter-culture 60’s, very few Jews embrace Christianity and many young Jews hunger for Torah and re-embrace observant Jewish life. Not only that, but many Gentiles, most of them former Christians, have either embraced a “Noahide” lifestyle or converted to Judaism in the past 30 years, probably more than at any other point of Jewish history.

Reaching out to “unsaved Jews”

Jewish converts to Christianity always were and still to this day are at the forefront of confronting their former coreligionists, although their success in that endeavor has always been and still is quite limited (most Jews come to Christianity through Gentile Christians). Their desired audience is almost invariably those like themselves, that is those Jews whose connection to Judaism has been weakened by generations marked by assimilation and indifference. How can these “lost sheep of Israel” be reached for the gospel? They tell these Jews about their “desperate need” to embrace the truths of Christianity/Messianic Judaism and especially about the eternal life that is to be gained through Jesus. That most of these Jews knew little of their heritage when they “came to Christ” is very telling in and of itself. And while it’s very disturbing for Jewish people that the spiritually and educationally weakest of their nation are targeted for conversion, for many Christians this can be a point of pride and demonstration of G-d’s power. As many of them see it, the Jewishly illiterate, those “rejected by the self-righteous establishment elite”, the sinners, the fishermen and the tax-collectors, they “get it”, while the learned, the rabbis, the “Pharisees”, were and are blind to the truth! I used to believe this myself at one point and would thank Jesus for opening my eyes.

“But Yeshua made me more Jewish!”

Few of these Jewish converts to Christianity had a Jewish education that extended beyond their bar or bat-mitzvah (and many didn’t have even that), usually in a liberal congregation that functioned more as a social club than a synagogue. Lacking any solid Torah and Judaism foundation and isolated from a Jewish community, these lost souls were easy pickings for their Christian friends, classmates, co-workers, televangelists, missionaries to the Jews, or already converted family members. And no wonder – these Jews grew up in an environment where G-d and Torah mattered very little. Who can blame them for making this choice? Once they met someone “on fire” for their faith or were confronted with the Evangelical turn-or-burn preaching about the horrors of the unquenchable fires of the Christian hell, their spirituality was set alight. With a church on every corner, teachers and new like-minded friends were in ample supply. While probably many more Jews became Buddhists (bujews), a good number joined various Christian denominations. 99% of the time they became Protestant Evangelicals, eschewing Catholic rigidity, rules and ritual as they reminded them too much of the Judaism they knew little about. They hungered for a simple relationship with a divine power that understands them and accepts them, and Christianity pointed them to its god, lord and savior – Jesus. Christianity told these Jews that this man was the very same G-d that their Jewish ancestors worshiped, the same pillar of cloud that led them out of Egypt (only clothed in human flesh instead of mist), the long-promised savior. That Christians called this man-god Christ or “messiah” mattered very little to these Jews who grew up without any concept of the real Jewish messiah.

Building a shaky home on a foreign soil

While most Jewish converts to Christianity found permanent home in an Evangelical church, some eventually found their way into the Messianic Movement. This movement of Jews who believed in Jesus but wanted to retain their Jewish identity grew out of the Hebrew Christianity, a Christian Protestant movement that had it roots in the 19th and 20th century Britain and America. Hebrew Christians worshiped in mainstream churches, and while thoroughly Protestant in their theology and practice, most imagined themselves as direct spiritual descendants of the “first Jerusalem church”. Sometime in the 70’s, some Jewish pastors of these congregations began calling themselves rabbis and their congregations “synagogues”. Most of these new rabbis, as already noted, had virtually no Jewish education, but were ordained at a Christian seminary. In some cases, some of them would go on to augment their general Jewish knowledge through online degrees received at a Jewish secular institution. A few were educated at mainstream (secular) universities, some majoring in Jewish or middle-eastern studies. I remember one messianic leader once asked me if I thought it was proper if he started referring to himself as “rabbi”. I answered him, why not, was he somehow inferior to the “unbelieving rabbis”!? Not a small number of Messianic rabbis were never Jewish to begin with, but that’s a whole different story. But they all had something in common – the belief that worshiping Jesus, to them, was the ultimate expression of Jewishness and the absolute pinnacle and goal of “true” Judaism. They all beckoned to “unsaved” Jews, through missions, literature, messianic organizations, children’s camps, conferences, charities, websites, Jewish-style congregations, with public and internet debates. They implored Jews to take the step they once took themselves – to become “completed Jews”. But what did being such a Jew mean to them?

Click here for Part 2

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 13, 2014 2:49 pm

    Here’s something related. A visitor to this blog, a former Christian, asked me about an Israeli Christian (formerly secular) who claims to be an Orthodox Jew but tries prove that Jesus is the Messiah (and part of the Trinity), New Testament is G-d’s word, and that Christianity and Judaism should be one. This man’s wisdom is actively sought by Hebrew Roots/Two-House/and some Israeli Messianics. See the question and my reply.

    https://dailyminyan.com/about/#comment-3461

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