Saturday, December 20, 2014

Where we are going is where we have come from....

I don't disagree with James Carroll here extensively (his book sounds interesting, but it's written for lay people, not for someone who's been to seminary; just sayin'.....), although I disagree with his interpretation of the Good Samaritan.  Still, this struck a chord:

Here’s what I recommend for every Christian: bring your Jewish friend to church with you, and let your Jewish friend listen to the text, and then ask your Jewish friend how they felt. Jewish folks listening to these very common texts—the Good Samaritan parable, the attack on the Temple, any number of them—or the way that polemical phrase, “the Jews, the Jews, the Jews” keeps showing up …
I've had two experiences with Jews in church.  One was at a Catholic wedding, where I ended up next to a Brooklyn Jew (just to identify our vast cultural differences, as I grew up in Southern Baptist East Texas, in the only town around with both a synagogue and a Roman church), and had to explain what I could (I didn't understand much of it myself, this being before I went to seminary) about the Catholic mass.

The other was at a Thanksgiving service, supposedly ecumenical, which meant the only non-Christian participant was a rabbi.  In the meeting of pastors before the service, he had specifically asked that God be referenced in a particular way (I honestly don't remember what he asked, but I think that's what it had to do with).  I was at pains to afford him this accommodation, but the pastor of the church where the service was being held and who felt himself to be in charge, said it was in a Christian church and mostly Christians, so they'd do it the way he thought best.

I only remember that I had to lead a prayer (every pastor present bobbed up to the pulpit and did some part of the service) and I pointedly followed the Rabbi's request.  As I said down next to him, he whispered a sincere "Thank you."

As for that "the Jews, the Jews" stuff; oddly, that mostly comes up in John's gospel, which is one more reason that is my least favorite of the canonical four (come to think of it, John Lennon always bugged me, too.  Hmmmmm.....).  In the synoptics the favorite enemy is the Pharisees.  It took a report from a rabbi in Tyler whom I never met but a friend interviewed, to realize how slanted the gospels were toward the Jews; and it was my seminary education which pointed out (largely through the work of Dom Crossan) how anti-semitic the gospels were, especially since it was Rome who crucified Jesus, not the Sanhedrin.  Pilate couldn't have cared less what bothered the locals; he was determined to impose the Pax Romana.  But even in the 2nd century (likely date of John's gospel, the youngest of the four), criticizing Rome too sharply could get you the same as it got Jesus.

But Carroll is right, and we all (we=Christians, I mean) seem to be members of the Johannine community long after the fact, still distinguishing ourselves from Jews, especially whenever we decide they were Pecksniffs about "the law" (which most Christians don't understand, beyond blindly endorsing public displays of the Ten Commandments, without even knowing what all ten of them are, or why they are "commandments" while dietary and clothing laws are simply, well, irrelevant, actually).  We make sharp distinctions about "the Jews" without even thinking about why we do it.  I had a seminary professor who studied at Notre Dame University, and loved to tell the parents of visiting prospective students that the statute atop the main building was of "a nice Jewish girl."

It runs deep, our denials.

Still, I find the greatest challenge of ministry, and of simply living as a Christian, is learning to see through the eyes of the other, to literally be last of all and servant of all.  Interestingly, or maybe not so interestingly, Carroll doesn't give any attention to that, even when he discussed Dorothy Day.

Which may, or may not, be an important lacunae.....

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