Gentiles explain things to me

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Source: Classical Art Memes

This post was recently shared in a Facebook group I’m part of: “No ‘Christian Seders,’ Please!”

Having grown up Jewish before discovering Christianity in college, this piece did a great job explaining all the reasons I feel squicky about this trend in churches. I always thought that the best way to “observe” Passover as a Christian would be to coordinate a seder with a local synagogue and turn it into an educational, interfaith experience. But if Christians want to observe Passover with the backdrop of the Last Supper, perhaps it should be called something else.

Which leads me to a concept I’ve been mulling over for a while, and finally have a name for: goy-splaining.

Like man-splaining, in which men explain things to women in a condescending, patronizing manner that they would never use when addressing other men, goy-splaining is an all-too-common occurrence in which gentiles attempt to explain the Old Testament to Jews. It is often the case that the Christians who do this have never personally studied Judaism for themselves, but rather learned about Judaism or Jewish concepts in church, from their pastor(s).

Needless to say, the inherent bias here is problematic. And as a Jewish-born Christian, I struggled for many years with how to reconcile the Christian take on Old Testament stories and prophecies with the Jewish ones I’d been taught. Which were the “true” teachings? Which was the “correct” way to read Scripture?

I still don’t have solid answers for this, but I do have a few reflections:

If you believe that God divinely orchestrated the writing and binding together of what would eventually be called “The Bible,” then it’s understandable to read Old Testament stories and find parallels in the New Testament. The sacrifice of Isaac, for example, is a parallel to the sacrifice of Christ. And the Passover story, in which the Jews were delivered from slavery in Egypt, can be read as foreshadowing the eventual deliverance from “slavery” to sin, since Easter is just around the corner.

At the same time, the Bible writers – whoever they were – didn’t know about any of this. They were Jews writing hundreds of years before the coming of Jesus Christ, who would eventually be called the Son of God. So their perspectives, circumstances, and the historical context of their writings are not to be ignored.

I’ve reached a somewhat peaceful place of acceptance that two different religions can read the same Scripture differently, and still be valid in their own right. I definitely believe it’s possible for two groups to have differing interpretations without abusing the text for their own purposes. If that weren’t possible, then Judaism as we know it would not exist. Rabbis have debated and disagreed for centuries about context, about exegesis, and hermeneutic, and the Jewish religion as a result is totally cool with agreeing to disagree about many things. You won’t find many No True Scotsman fallacies being used in Jewish circles, which is quite refreshing (unless, perhaps, you are ultra-Orthodox, or a Jew who believes in Jesus, in which case that’s a whole different can of worms).

Skeptic teaser

Christianity, on the other hand, doesn’t have nearly as stellar a reputation of agreeing to disagree. Far too many Christians are completely closed off to understanding interpretations they disagree with. The concept of understanding, mind you, is quite different from having to agree with it.

The attitude of “Those poor Jews, they missed their own Messiah, we should help them out” is extremely disrespectful. “Goy-splaining,” then, is probably one of the most toxic things to happen to Judeo-Christian relations. In the interest of keeping the peace, it needs to stop.

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11 thoughts on “Gentiles explain things to me

  1. PrayThroughHistory says:

    I think the motives of most Christian practitioners of Seder is a desire to participate in what Jesus, the Disciples, and most of the original Church found so important. Granted, the religious know it all judging happens, and for that Im sorry on behalf of my overzealous Church family. Please forgive the errors of excitement.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hannah out loud says:

    Hi Beth,

    To my great and good friend, Shalom and Shalom be with you.

    Unfortunately I’ve had a minor relapse of my illness (bipolar and agoraphobia ) and I’m like a battery with the lithium, but safe in my garden outbuilding, no I’m not crazy and my civil partner , she has been an absolute rock . I’ve just “come out” as a someone with a ‘mental illness ‘ and it is like coming out as gay all over. I’m on orders from the psychiatrist only to post social media on friendly blogs , which I think this is one. 🔯😃

    Anyways :

    I get this post as this week I had a silly argument with a devout Evangelical Christian over the names months of the Jewish calendar. For those who don’t know the Jewish calendar uses the old Babylonian (Iraqi or Mesopotamian ) names, but even worse we have a month called Tammuz , named after a Babylonian fertility godess! (Mentioned in Ezekiel) .

    Apparently we Jews are under “judgment” because of Exodus 23:13. I tried my best to explain the exegesis (is that the right word?) as to why Jews did this and as to why it was nonsensical to use Exodus 23:13 to attack us and after a long exchange – I kinda gave up- was told :

    “Exodus 23:13 is saying forget those false gods utterly, let them be gone from your mind, let all recollection and thought of them be completely absent from you. That includes the context of idolatry but is far, far more comprehensive.

    As other scriptures confirm, the mouth is a sure indicator of the mind and heart. And if all thought of pagan gods and their names is gone from you, then you simply cannot speak their names.

    There is a danger in the names of false gods. This is the flipside of “Blessed be the name of the Lord” and of the righteous power in the name of God. (That is why I think it is a shame Jews didn’t use the sacred name in the years after the Babylonian exile ended.) Whether for evil, in the names of pagan gods, or for good in the name of the Creator, such power-in-the-name works supernaturally and mystically in the human mind. I acknowledge the good motive of the Jews who named the month Tammuz, but I also assert their arrogance in thinking they knew better than God what was good for them. They broke God’s law. That is never OK.”

    I feel frustrated as there are many thoughtful Christians who are different in their approach to these discussions , whom Jews may ignore in the need to build ecumenical bridges , e.g. my paternal first cousins once removed are Catholic, Anglican Catholic and Anglican Evangelical and my best friend Sophie – a fellow American who is from Tennessee , but lives in Britain – is a liberal Anglican (Episcopalian I think is the American term or Church of England) .

    Like

    • Beth Caplin says:

      Hi Hannah! Long time no see! Sorry to hear you haven’t been feeling well. I always appreciate your thoughtful comments, and I apologize for the delayed response. I moved to a new place without wifi (yet), and WordPress on my phone is always a bit wonky.

      Like

    • oneforjesus says:

      Hannah, thanks for this comment; I never cease to be amazed by the lengths people will go to in looking for ways to condemn one another. Out of curiosity, I would love to know what word this “devout Evangelical Christian” uses, in order to achieve his own personal compliance with Exodus 23:13, to refer to the day of the week that the rest of us call “Saturday”? And also what he calls the various planets in our solar system?

      Like

  3. socalkdl says:

    “Christianity, on the other hand, doesn’t have nearly as stellar a reputation of agreeing to disagree. Far too many Christians are completely closed off to understanding interpretations they disagree with. The concept of understanding, mind you, is quite different from having to agree with it.”
    Couldn’t agree more. Excellent post!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Natacha Guyot says:

    Great post! This reminds me of something I have been annoyed with regarding different views of reading Scripture. I have seen Evangelist Christian explain how Eastern Orthodox were primitive and that thankfully they saved Christianity from Catholicism. Having studied both Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christian faiths, this irritates me a lot, and it also tends to come with an “American get it better than old Europe” which adds to my annoyance.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. bobcabkings says:

    Goy-splaining makes about as much sense as white-splaining of blackness to black people would (or, sadly, does). Actually, there are many variants that can be equally irritating. Wrestling with any text, scriptural or secular, is vastly more interesting and growth oriented than any prepackaged interpretation that must not be questioned.

    Liked by 1 person

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