Truths You Can Use

Truths You Can Use


Do Christians Need to Learn More About Judaism? A Rabbi Responds to the Pope

In the 1970s Alex Haley wrote the best-seller Roots. He sought to find the roots of his life as an African-American. Where did he come from? What experiences shaped who he was?

pope rabbi 1

 
We all ask these questions. We seek not only geographic roots and ethnic roots. We look for spiritual roots. Where do we come from? Why do we believe what we believe? 
 
For Christians much of the answer lies in Judaism. Pope Francis recently put it bluntly when he said, “I believe that inter-religious dialogue must investigate the Jewish roots of Christianity and the Christian flowering of Judaism… Inside every Christian is a Jew.”

The Past is Never Past 

 The Pope acknowledged this statement will upset many people. Some Jews will feel the statement does not acknowledge the tragic history of anti-semitism in the Church. Some might also say in referring to the Christian “flowering” of Judaism, his statement minimizes the legitimacy of Judaism on its own.

 The Pope is not denigrating any of us. His statement is an invitation to dig deeper into who we are. Finding our roots does not delegitimize who we have become. It helps us understand ourselves better. We all know this in our personal lives.
 
As an example, I live in Chicago. I love this city to the depths of my soul. Yet, I also grew up in Houston, Texas. I love visiting there and and am grateful for the slight southern twang it gave me. I also attended high school in Milwaukee, and living there can me an appreciation for the lakefront.

We Don’t Have to Agree in order to Learn

Appreciating the beauties of Houston and Milwaukee does not diminish my love for Chicago. Similarly, knowing more about Judaism need not diminish a Christian’s love and appreciation of Christianity. As a rabbi, I have seen the sparks ignited when some of the treasures of Judaism are opened up to people who have never experienced them.  

Yes, we will disagree on practices and interpretations. Yet, disagreement does not imply illegitimacy. To live in a time when Christians can find meaning in Jewish practices, and Jews can work and learn with Christians as partners is a blessing we should celebrate.

How We Grow Through Each Other

This lesson really hit home when I dialogued on Lent and Passover with my friend Reverend Lillian Daniel. We were moved by the questions members of our congregations asked us and one another. Jews can learn more about major aspects of Christianity like the Resurrection, and Christians can learn more about Jewish texts like the Talmud.

All of us discovered a new religious truth for the 21st century: Learning about and exploring other faiths does threaten our uniqueness. It brings us closer to the God who created us all.



  • http://endtimechaverim.wordpress.com Princess

    Thank you Rabbi for mentioning that it needs to go both ways. Jews also need to understand other Jews that hold different religious viewpoints as well as that of other religious groups, resisting the temptation to a polemical, me up, you down, divide. Perhaps one aspect of communication and understanding might be caution in making statements that can be misinterpreted and seen as threatening or denigrating by different audiences.

    I believe the statement, “Inside every Christian is a Jew,” could be seen as offensive and misused by many, even if that was not the speaker’s intention. One could assume this supports replacement theology encroaching upon even more territory, eliminating the uniqueness of the Jewish people, and one could construe a meaning of, “Inside every Christian is a (better) Jew. Imagine making a statement like, “Inside every white person is a black person.” Better to say, “Inside every Christian is a debt to the Jews.” I guess this is an example of chutzpuh, setting myself up as the Pope’s copy editor. :) It might be seen as comical if I said, “Inside every Jew is a rabbi.” So, I am as qualified at rabbinic pronouncements as you are, even though I never set foot inside a Yeshiva and my Hebrew is minimal. The same wouldn’t go over so well with the Pope, I can imagine.

  • BIGFOOT

    “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” Wao, and all along I did not know I was Jewish!!

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