Monday, October 8, 2007

A Seeker

In order to make sense of where I'm going, it's important to know where I've been.  Since this blog is about my conversion to Judaism, let's start with my religious and relevant cultural background.  I'll try to keep this as interesting as possible.

I'm a 26 year old woman, born and raised in a small town in Alaska.  I started believing in God about 20 years ago, back in the day when vacation bible school was a welcome break for my mother.  She didn't start going to church services until I was about 10, a few years after I got involved with a youth group.  I think it's important to note that I chose faith, and that it wasn't something that was forced on me.  It was very much a choice, because believing in God just felt...right.

As I got older, I stayed involved.  I was a member of my church's drama troupe, and I always performed in Christmas programs.  That's not to say that I didn't question my faith; quite the opposite, actually.  
I grew up in a Bible-based, non-denominational Christian church.  They were a bit fundamentalist, but that was at a time when I really didn't know the difference.  We will call this church by its initials, LMBC.  I left that church at about 13 years old, when it divided into two churches.

Most of my youth group leaders went to the new church, and I followed them.  Its initials were CCC.  By this time, my mother had become a Christian, and we very involved in both the church and in supervising my life.  She was instrumental in ensuring that I went to church at least once a week, and she generally attended with me.  The pastor of CCC did not grow up in a Christian home.  This made him really interesting, because he had never planned to become a pastor.  Originally, he was a forester, a scientist.  Because of this background, he encouraged his congregation to ask questions and challenge their faiths.  He believed, and understood, that doing so would ultimately serve to strengthen convictions, rather than allow seeds of doubt to take hold.  I stayed with this church until I moved away from my parents' house and commuting to this church was no longer possible, even though I had disagreements with some of their philosophies.  My mother still attends this church, and is very devout.

I went to college in North Dakota.  Generally, I did not go to church alone, as a result, I usually didn't go to services.  My best friend and room mate at the time is Catholic.  I believe that the first time I attended STANC, it was for Easter vigil.  I discovered that I really liked the priest.  I think he was a Jesuit, but I could be remembering incorrectly.  What I do remember is that he speaks seven different languages, seemed to be well-versed in science, and was a very engaging speaker.  He always seemed more interested in teaching than in preaching, which was something that I appreciated, even if I didn't always agree with what he was saying.  I attended a Catechism class under him, and ended up not converting to Catholicism.    This was partly due to my disagreements with dogmatic law, and partly because I became involved with a different extra-curricular activity which prevented me from attending further classes.

After graduating from college and moving away from home, I haven't regularly attended church.  I have visited several, but I haven't gone to one for more than about two weeks in a row.  I just can't find one that doesn't offend me somehow.  It seems like every Christian church I go to is set completely against providing equal rights to all (generally manifested in their stance against gay marriage).  The biggest church in my area is incredibly commercial, and has recently built a sports arena.  Initially, this project was to be partially funded by the government, which I feel is too much of an encroachment of the separation between church and state.

Between the politicization of faith, the commercialization of charity, and the basic human rights violations being perpetuated in the name of Jesus...I'm seriously considering renouncing Christ and Christianity and believing in God in his more ancient incarnation.

This is partly how I found myself in a synagogue on Saturday morning, attending a Jewish service and beginning my studies in conversion class at CBS.

1 comment:

rationi said...

Which has the greater ring of truth, and greater historic antiquity: The Talmud? Or the New Testament?

We have the freedom before God, and under our present government, to either adopt and adhere to, or to deny and abstain from whichever religious faiths we choose.

If, however, the issue of the TRUTH of the claims made by (or the assumptions you're unconsciously making about) the religion of your choice are of interest to you, then you should be aware of the colossal (& widespread!) FALLACY of assuming that Judaism (in any of its currently extant manifestations, as opposed to the religion as practiced in the Old Testament, PREVIOUS to the time of Jesus and the Pharisees!) in fact either:

a) is still the original religion revealed by God in the Old Testament;

or b) is in fact older, purer, or more original than Christianity:

Rabbinic / Talmudic / Orthodox Judaism (essentially the continuation of Pharisaism, which Jesus strongly condemned!), AND Christianity BOTH emerged at the same time, although as the New Testament was written between ca. 45 A.D. and 90 A.D., and the Talmud didn't begin to be written down until ca. 200 A.D. and wasn't finished until ca. 600 A.D., Judaism is in fact the YOUNGER of the two religions (and many practices considered central to Jewish culture and ritual observance today, were not invented until much later, but rather, continued to develop, be borrowed from, influenced by (or developed as a reaction against!) the Catholic church during the Middle Ages -- Bar Mitzvah, for example first developed in Germany in approx. the 12th century...

Cf. Rabbi Michael Hilton's "The Christian Effect on Jewish Life" (1994, SCM Press Ltd, London, (ISBN: 0-334-02582-6), 309 pp. PB), as well as:
- Israel Jacob Yuval's "Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages" (2006, University of Calif Press, Berkeley ISBN:0-520-21766-7), 313 pp. HC)

NEITHER Jews NOR Christians believe in or accept the Old Testament as authoritative -- taken by itself! But rather, Christians insist you need the New Testament in order to correctly understand, interpret, and apply the Old Testament; and Jews insist you need the Talmud. (Sure, some Orthodox Jews insist that the Talmud, i.e., "oral law" was SIMULTANEOUSLY given to Moses at the same time as was the the written law, the Torah, and insist that the Talmud is equally part of the "Torah", and that you cannot distinguish between "Talmud" and "Torah", that it's ALL just as much, equally the "Torah" -- but if you want to believe that, why not believe Joseph Smith's stories about his supposed gold plates, and the angel Moroni; and Muhammed's claims that the angel Gabriel revealed the Qur'an as God's final and authoritative word to mankind through him?

But your choice is basically: The New Testament Gospel of Christ and the Apostles, or the Talmudic interpretations and traditions of the Rabbis: Which of the two are you more convinced is true, and bears the stamp of God's divine authority and inspiration?

Or are you just looking for a religion which accepts and promotes homosexuality, and which you can participate in with friends or companions, whereas the actual TRUTH or falsehood of its theological content is irrelevant to you?