Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On the heels of the last part, some article addressing...

Let the Vatican pray for my soul - The Jewish Chronicle

A few decades ago, if you wanted to play music, you would have bought a record player. Then came cassettes, then CDs. By the turn of the millennium, lots of people had all three formats happily sharing shelf space.

But today, you go for Third Generation (3G) technology, the iPod. Why is it Third Generation? Because it does not sit alongside what came before, but rather replaces it. The whole point about an iPod is that you load on all your music, hold your entire collection in the palm of your hand, and never need your records, cassettes or CDs again.

But the first to come up with the 3G concept was not Apple, but early Christians. As the Preaching of Peter puts it, “The ways of the Greeks and Jews are old, but we are they that worship Him in a new way, in a third generation.”

I am jumping ahead to this bit because I cannot overstate my general instinctive disgust with relating religion to digital audio technology. I don't want anyone anywhere ever again to use "3G" and anything religious in the same article. Not ever. I mean that.

Okay, that stone in my sandal dealt with, I'll back up to:

The fact is that the desire to convert the Jews is basic to Christianity, and it is only the Church’s efforts to reach out to the Jews in recent years to make up for centuries of persecution that has somehow convinced us otherwise. That, and that fact the Jews, en masse, have come to accept in recent decades to a fiction called the “shared Judeo-Christian heritage”.

I am not sure where to start with this. Did the writer even talk to a Catholic, or any Christian at all? If they had, they might know that no, the Christians aren't looking to convert anyone. They simple treat the world as if everyone already was a Christian and any time reality deviates... ignore it and forge ahead. This is why I can wear a kippah at work and have a translated Torah on my desk and STILL people treat me no differently than them. Other ways of thinking simply don't exist and they don't care.

We Jews do (caveat: as a specific group consciousness thing and the Catholic Church hierarchy does as well), and it shows. We get steamed whenever things like this papal idiocy crops up, we often think that if no one will react to our dressing and doing things differently, well, we have to find a new way to make non-Jews react. Won't work the way you want. Not ever. The Christians dominate because of this detachment from reality, much like British royalty's, where the world is always assumed to be whatever they assume it is, and reality not be damned, but doesn't exist. Reality simply is what they believe it to be. No one and nothing can change that. They live it 24x7.

I know, I'm a former Christian and former Catholic to boot. The church cares. The ones who wrangle the official released theology. The rank and file? No. Not at all. Look out upon the masses of reform and other Jews, largely irreligious. They don't care. We care in official religious capacities. In our ordinary life, the world is what we decide it is.

For instance, I notice kosher symbols on food as I go shopping. To me, the world is cognizant of Jews and their dietary requirements. There is kosher food everywhere. To a Christian, they see the exact same supermarket and the exact same food packages, but those kosher symbols just do not register. They don't occur to them because they are not part of their world.

I treat the world as if everyone was a Jew. I am friendly, outgoing (to a point, I am a nerd and introvert), and polite. I'm down home, familiar, like a piece of the scenery that people expect there like a convenient bench to sit on. They perceive me as just another might-be-Christian. I don't wear a big star of David, and if I did wear a tallit katan and tzitzit out and flapping, they'd notice nothing of it and think nothing of it, and out in public I wear a baseball cap or bandana or winter hat depending on time of year and they don't know why my head is more often than not covered. It never occurs to them to ask, I never ask them why their dress choices.

That secular side is something important. It spackles over things like that no one goes through the father but through Jesus nonsense. It pares away the extraneous and superfluous. What do you get down to? Well, for most Christians not concerned with official stamped and registered with theology, Christ becomes a man by the side of the road pointing the way to G-d.


Yeah, surprise surprise, the Catholic Church spends more time on G-d the creator than it does Jesus of Nazareth. The Jesus obsessed are largely Protestant johnny-come-lately types. Especially the Christian equivalent of a Baal Teshuva, the Born Again Christian. BACs are big on Jesus because as with most of the new testament they can spin it any way they want.

The historical picture of Jesus is that of a good and loyal Jew who wanted an end to corruption, wanted an end to the Roman domination, and wanted people to heed the sages, to follow the ways he followed all his life but to do it with love and honesty. Without hypocrisy and deception and double-talk. If anything, I see that very same mindset on the part of Skeptidox bloggers constantly.

Of course, Paul never met Jesus during his life and his conversion was after the fact. He had issues to be sure. And he and his fellows were trying to sell the word they had to Romans. ROMANS EXECUTED JESUS. Does any sane rational person think that the Romans would say "mea culpa" and bow before the memory of he who they nailed to a cross? Of course not.

So Bar-Abba became Barabbas, and that entire story got concocted. The Romans were made to seem the tools of a far more corrupt than they ever were Sanhedrin. Pontious Pilate is made to look like a reluctant bad guy, and to show a glimmer of future Roman redemption but without the Romans ever acknowledging any wrongdoing. The inference at the center becomes that Jews killed Jesus.

Rome is made to look like they were always and forever faithful to this newly concocted religion that Jesus himself never tried to create, never tried to build, but realistically had no way to combat before his death. The believers who listen to your message never really do. They hear what they want to hear and they fill in the blanks themselves. Unless you're a control freak psycho like Jim Jones, that kind of thing can never be better than a sorry side-effect of getting people to supposedly agree with you. There's the part they agree to, then there's the loads of baggage they toss on after it and no amount of setting them straight can change it.

Look at the dead-end quandry that Chabad finds themselves in. Do you really think that Schneerson didn't know how he was adored? Or that he wanted people to think him moshiach? Everything I've ever read on Schneerson tells me he wasn't stupid enough to think himself even a piece of G-d, nor stupid enough to not know what was going on with the adulation and raising up of his name all the time. I think like anyone else in that position he came up against the no-escape briar patch of knowing that no matter what he said, the adoring followers cared more about reading into him and his work what they wanted, than about any Torah teaching he gave.

Today though is not the heady time of the Second Temple Period as it is called. Today is a cynical mass market time where even Mennonites from Pennsylvania eventually have to go to WalMart. Everyone is banging up against everyone else. And everyone is like normal, making up their own personal theology for themselves.

I tell you this honestly and truly... do not look for trouble where there is none, or you will lose friends and make enemies and G-d does not want that. Many many Christians don't think about Jesus as much as they think about G-d. They heard the bible part about "no other other gods before Me". They heard the iffy insubstantial and colliding and contradicting later books about Jesus. When you pare away in Christianity the parts that contradict, you can come to no other picture than that the Romans killed a man who seemed to be a threat to their nice and relatively peaceful stability of rule which was nothing new, he was a good and righteous Jew, and the father, the one uncreated creator G-d was the one we should all revere, and it all got rewritten and revamped and retconned mercilessly on the altar of marketing and reselling it to people.

THAT was the image presented to me, by nuns, in Catholic school.

You can stop worrying what the new pope cares about. It's not about what the alleged leaders say, it's about the what the rank and file believes. Politicians know that. Why don't religious people notice? Probably because like with everyone else, we assume the world to be what we assume it to be. The Vatican, your local rabbi, that ayatollah on TV, everyone... Everyone sees the world the way they want to. Time to see what's really there and make use of those openings to bridge gaps. Whether or not moshiach has come, will come, etc. matters not. What matters is, who do we all believe is ultimately in charge? Who alone needs to accept us? Who alone judges us?

That is our shared heritage. The retcon by Paul and his successors and most especially the Roman Empire  notwithstanding, G-d is above all else, and that is what we all believe when you pare everything else away, we are naked and in the mud, the Torah or bible not there, when it is down to that last breath and we're headed for learning what no living person can know, that we have in common.

Let's start working from that.

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