Looking for Validation

Concerning Jonathan Rosenblum’s post this morning on the topic of non-Jews wearing Yarmulkes, I think the brouhaha over the Turkish Prime Minister not wearing one is a symptom of a larger issue. I think it’s less a matter of Jewish pride than Jewish insecurity.

We see the same thing when Jews get very, very exercised over the Mormon penchant for post-mortem baptism, which they have reportedly done on behalf of Albert Einstein and a host of Holocaust victims, among others. The Mormons believe that if they do a baptism ceremony on someone long buried, then that individual will get into Heaven (whereas otherwise they would not). We (news flash, here) do not share this belief.

The Mormons, the Jews indignantly announce, are continuing to conduct these baptisms despite previous agreements to stop. And I have a simple question: why should we care? The Mormons believe this is an act of love. They express their love for Jews by baptizing them. On a 0-10 scale of harmful things Christians have done to Jews in the past two millenia, I would have a tough time imagining this offense rising to 0.2. And, on the other hand, I very much doubt that coverage of this dispute in the Salt Lake Tribune is likely to generate greater love and respect for our people.

But the fact is that these of our co-religionists do care — they care about non-Jewish validation of who they are. They want to see non-Jews demonstrate respect for our traditions by wearing yarmulkes, and they want non-Jews to say the Jews are just fine as they are, rather than requiring post-mortem baptism to make it upstairs.

It’s interesting — a few weeks ago several commenters were apoplectic over the idea that both Rabbi Adlerstein and I had positive things to say about observant Christians. While I don’t mean to imply that the two groups — those who object to Mormon baptisms, and those who object to finding positive qualities in Popes — are the same, there is a certain commonality there.

On the one side you have people insisting that non-Jews say good things about us, and on the other side people who cannot bear to find something good to say about them. It’s as if we were so lacking in self-esteem that we need all the endorsements we can get, and can’t afford to give any away. Far better that we be sufficiently secure with who we are, with our uniqueness in G-d’s eyes, and with our unique mission, that we are genuinely unconcerned when non-Jews use our names (or those of deceased relations) in religious ceremonies that generate no hatred or animosity towards us — and that we can see the positive qualities in all of G-d’s creations, even clerics of other faiths.

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3 Responses

  1. mb says:

    Rav Menken,

    Excellent. 100% agreement.

  2. Barefoot Jewess says:

    Speaking as a former Christian, I can tell you there is no such thing as an “observant” Christian. Observance is a purely Jewish concept driven by halacha. Christians just have to follow the 10 commandments and have faith. Rituals include going to services and partaking of the sacraments. Apart from that nothing is demanded of the Christian except to believe and perhaps bear witness. There is no religious law, per se. The Christian religion is not informed by the principle of observance and Christians are unfamiliar with the concept.

    To suggest an “observant Christian” is to do try to force a syncretism of religions. We already have that attempt, a la “Messian Jews”, the closest thing to “observant” Christianity there is. Which makes anyone who suggests this as valid, a heretic and an apostate.

    If I were to say something good about Christians, “observant” would not be it. Their religion is not remotely like ours, and I think that idea of “observant Christians” dilutes and cheapens Judaism nevermind being intellectually dishonest. They are NOT like us, religiously!

  3. Yaakov Menken says:

    Touché. The use of “observant” was projection on my part. Obviously a word like “sincere” would impugn the sincerity of liberal Christians, while “orthodox” is preceded by Greek or Russian in those circles. “Conservative” implies a political orientation which I did not mean, either.

    Is there any appropriate word that is less “blah” than “traditional”?

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