Hi, I’m Beth! Welcome to my corner of the Internet.
I grew up in a Reform Jewish home, in a small suburb outside of Cleveland, Ohio. From a young age, I had an interest in saints (Joan of Arc in particular) and church history. In time, I became attracted to the idea of God in the flesh, and the overall “scandalous” delivery of the gospel: that an all-powerful king would choose to be born into poverty (to a woman stigmatized by out-of-wedlock pregnancy, no less), and turn the world’s ideas of power and justice upside down by offending all the wrong people.
It wasn’t until sophomore year of college that I “officially” became a Christian. Following graduation, I attended a conservative seminary in Denver, Colorado for a master’s in divinity, which later got changed to biblical counseling. A subsequent faith crisis caused me to drop out after a year. That crisis only worsened when my father learned he was dying of cancer, and some of my Christian friends pressured me into making sure he was “saved” before he died.
As you can expect, this caused a great deal of anxiety. I started dealing with hard questions I never let myself contemplate before: what kind of God punishes people forever? How can that God still be considered “loving”? Is having “correct” theology more important than how you live your life?
The evangelical church groups I was involved in at the time did not respond well to these questions and doubts. I didn’t need answers, so much as a safe place to ask these questions without judgment or condemnation.
At the same time, my Jewish identity would come up in unexpected situations, such as at the doctor’s office filling out new patient forms that asked if I had any Ashkenazi heritage. I started wondering, what is Judaism, anyway? Is it a religion, ethnicity…or both? More specifically, what is Judaism to me? It may not be my chosen faith, yet it’s still part of me…somehow.
Following my departure from seminary, I moved back to Ohio to help care for my father, who had entered at-home hospice care. During that time, I sporadically attended synagogue with my mother, and realized that Judaism still had much to offer me – particularly when it comes to dealing with doubt.
Unlike many strands of Christianity, Judaism encourages questions and wrestling with challenging biblical texts. Jesus did the same thing; I believe that Christians shouldn’t be afraid to do it, either (“wrestling” with a difficult text, and not being afraid to admit “I don’t know,” is much different from a “pick and choose” approach to the Bible!). It is my belief that God requires humility and sincerity over certainty.
A few years after my husband and I settled permanently in Colorado, I discovered the Episcopal church: a denomination that calls itself “a church for thinking people” because it does not tell you what to believe about politics, social issues, or anything outside of the Nicene Creed (so long as one uses sound exegesis in forming their views). Episcopalians not only mirror the Jewish tradition of asking hard questions, but the liturgical patterns are similar to what I experienced in synagogue. I knew after a few Sunday visits that this was my new spiritual home.
For more information on why I did not end up within Messianic Judaism, and why MJ theology is more compatible with evangelicalism than Judaism, please see these posts.
You can read more about this journey in my memoir, Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter.