Revising Our Relationship With Judaism
Recently, I have been thinking more deeply about the relationship between Christianity, and Judaism. More and more, I concluded that we as Christians need a serious revision in our relationship with Judaism. Therefore we need more dialogue with Jewish rabbis, philosophers, and thinkers. My spiritual journey was immensely enriched when I met Rabbi Lody van de Kamp more than seven years ago. Our friendship and conversation continue today. At times I have been more blessed and inspired by my conversations with him than with some of my fellow Christian brothers and sisters. Here are some of my thoughts and observations:
Once hatred used to kill us, but now it's the extreme love that's suffocating us. -- Rabbi Lody van de Kamp
Once in my conversation with Lody, I said, "we are both theologians," and he jokingly replied, "I am only half a theologian." Then he said: "because I don't come further than the Old Testament, my theology ends there!" This small remark reveals a profound truth that we as Christians have ignored for centuries. Often as Christians, we give the impression that we are the original owners of the Old Testament which leads to the misconception in the western world that theology is only theology when it is Christian. I don't want to make my friends upset, but this seems a kind of "religious plagiarism."
We have separated Jesus from his Judaic heritage throughout centuries and universalized his message via Greek philosophy and imperialized Christianity after a Roman empire's political model. After doing so, Western Christianity turned its back to Judaism and Jews for centuries, resulting in the theology of anti-Semitism throughout Europe. Pretending that the Jews killed our Messiah, the Jews are the cause of all the pandemics, poverty, and other social miseries in Europe. In the 16th and 17th centuries, both humanists and reformers in Europe called Jews all sorts of names and accused them of all kinds of miseries Europe went through.
Often as Christians, we give the impression that we are the original owners of the Old Testament ... this seems a kind of "religious plagiarism."
And of course, the bucket of history got full of anti-Semitic drupels resulting in the nightmare of the holocaust. Even the churches worked as collaborators to hand over the Jews to the Nazis. Is this not ironically tragic? The church that worshipped the Jewish Jesus and read and preached from the Old Testament--persecuted the people of Jesus. They trampled on his very religious DNA, his very spiritual being. Now, we are doing the opposite. We have become extreme lovers of Jews that we now attach the word "Judeo" to the word "Christian." By doing so, we create a term called "Judeo-Christian" heritage and brag about it in Europe and America. Whereby we forget that until 1945, the Jews were simply excluded and discriminated against for centuries. This is double painful when the term "Judeo-Christian heritage" is used by right-wing politicians to exclude Muslims without even consent of the Jewish communities. We use Judaism and Christianity to create a culture of "Us" and "Them." I don't think my Jewish friends appreciate that the name of their religion is used to create exclusion. Just as much as I dislike when the name of my religion is misused in such a manner.
We must revise our relationship with Judaism. Some of us, who are totally not Jews, never born into a Jewish religion, pretend to be more Jewish than the Jews themselves. Our church sanctuaries look like Jewish temples; we make a replica of the ark of covenant etc. Now, we have become the extremes oppositely. If anyone criticizes, the state of Israel is immediately being described as anti-Semitic. My friend Rabbi Lody van Kamp once said to me, "Samuel, once hatred used to kill us, but now it's the extreme love that's suffocating us.”
Here is my suggestion, which I apply myself: let us as Christians humble ourselves and learn from our Jewish friends instead of teaching the Jews how to interpret and translate their own Tanakh, which we call Old Testament. Let us be inspired by the rich Judaic religious and cultural thoughts instead of converting the Jews to our Christian religious system or converting ourselves blindly to Judaism and neglecting Jewish traditions and our own traditions as well. Doing so allows us to begin a new conversation, a new dialogue. We then, as three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), become each other's neighbors and start all over again by loving one another without losing our own religious believes and practices.