What religious converts don’t always tell you

For Dorothy Gale, a literal whirlwind trip to a place called Oz was enough for her to appreciate the value of Kansas.

A less windy excursion into Christianity was enough for me to appreciate the things I took for granted in Judaism–mainly, the freedom to doubt and ask questions. Christianity isn’t anti-doubt and anti-questions, but Judaism, I’ve discovered, has a more accepting attitude to living with doubts and questions. There’s less pressure to have it all figured out, just in case you find someone holding a gun to your head (or threatening to burn you alive), pre­paring to make you martyr by asking what you believe.

You should only convert once in your lifetime, if you can help it. A person’s religion is more than a building to worship in–more than a social gathering, club, or community of like-minded people. Religion influences the way you vote, how you spend your money, how you devote your time, how you view your fellow man, the purpose of life altogether, and the most productive way to live it.

Religion, simply put, is a lifestyle. Ask any con­vert and I’m quite confident they will tell you: you lose a piece of yourself when you change religions, even if the identity you gain feels like a better fit. Changing religions is like sharing custody of children with your ex-spouse: the interaction may be stiff and uncomfortable, but there is still a bond that can never be severed because of what you shared.

Christians still like to encourage me that I can have it both ways: they tell me I’m a “completed Jew.” Such terminology shows how completely uninformed the evangelical culture is at large about Judaism: maybe Christianity should have been the fulfillment of the Jewish religion, but that’s not how the history plays out. It’s irrelevant to me that Jesus didn’t intend to create another religion when he started his ministry. Judaism and Christianity evolved in separate directions anyway, and that is the reality we must work with.

It’s not enough to convince a Jewish person that Jesus is the real Messiah: the doctrinal differences are so deep, having been developed hundreds of years before the Immaculate Conception. From the begin­ning, Judaism has viewed the origin of sin, the nature of good and evil, and the importance of the afterlife differently than its brother-from-another-mother, Christianity. Jewish and Christian biblical scholars still battle over how to correctly interpret the original Hebrew manuscripts.

As for me, the former rabbi wannabe, I’m still struggling to interpret the Sermon on the Mount, much less the correct implications of yom, meaning “day,” and whether it constitutes twenty-four literal hours in the creation story of Genesis, or if Isaiah 53 is prophetically referring to the suffering of Jesus or the suffering of Israel on its beaten path to statehood.

Theology–any theology–is messy, but combining two religions as one is even messier.

I don’t claim to be a scholar or an expert in any­thing. I’m only a pilgrim looking to marry my past to my present in a peaceful way so they don’t bicker; a sojourner searching for middle ground between two profoundly different—and profoundly similar—faiths without ending up so infuriated by the follow­ers of both that I toss them both out.

Excerpted from Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter

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4 thoughts on “What religious converts don’t always tell you

  1. Nina Kaytel says:

    I had a friend that changed to a very woman unfriendly religion. When I asked her how she was going to coupe with the rules restricting her of her new faith with the freedom she once had as what-ever religion she had before. She shrugged and told
    me that ‘being black; it is expected of her. The whole thing lasted a month and led to a nasty break-up with her then boyfriend who did want her to follow the traditional rules. I wondered was she converting to be trendy, because her boyfriend wanted or was there just something missing in her life.

    Like

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