There’s a strange irony in being a Jewish convert to Christianity. The former community no longer considers me a member, yet the Nazis would. And now, more recently, so would the terrorist group Hamas.
I struggled for years with needing external validation for who I am and where I belong. Though accepting it from hate groups is like a woman who tells herself after being cat-called, “Well, I guess I must still be attractive.” Not the healthiest source of affirmation.
Events like what is happening at the Israeli-Gaza border will always affect me in a weird way. There’s the obvious horror in response to bloodshed, as well as uncomfortable thoughts about where, exactly, I fit into this. An attack on the Jewish community anywhere is, essentially, an attack on all of us; we’re just that small.
But I rejected that community, did I not? Walked away to embrace a carpenter who called himself God. I’m a permanent apostate.
And yet, I’m still affected in ways I can’t adequately explain. For the sake of my own need for clarity, I’ll try.
No place feels like home
Being a convert sometimes means you never perfectly fit in anywhere, and I feel that deeply once again. Christians may sympathize with antisemitism and rightly decry it, but they can’t understand it from a personal level. It’s like me, as a white person, condemning racism but having no concept of what it means to be black in America today.
Different paths, different experiences. Nothing wrong with that. It just means that my spiritual siblings can only do so much to help me right now. But there’s little comfort to be found with the Jewish community, when I embraced a faith that many antisemites claim as their own.
I regret nothing about my journey, and wouldn’t trade Jesus for anything. But that doesn’t mean I don’t grieve what was lost in the process. If a married couple divorces, it doesn’t mean they were never married.
Christianity’s ongoing antisemitism problem
There’s a great deal of infighting about whether or not antisemitic Christians are genuine (can you really love Jesus if you hate Jews?). But it’s a solid fact that many people who claim to follow Jesus say some of the most vile things about Jews and Judaism. It’s not coming from just anonymous social media trolls, either. It also comes from pastors; from Ivy League-educated professors; from “social justice warriors”; from people who sit in pews next to us, week after week.
I made the mistake of reading the comments on some social media posts asking Christians to stand against antisemitism when they see it. The general vibe is this: “Well the Jews rejected Jesus and are always rude to Christians! Maybe they are finally being held accountable!”
I’m not sure what “rude” looks like in this context, but really? From the Crusades, to the various European churches who turned a blind eye to pogroms and Nazis, to Christian neighbors who feign friendship in misguided attempts to convert them, it’s not really “rudeness” so much as defensiveness, most of the time. Or fear. That was the case for most of my childhood, anyway.
More common, I think, than blatant Jewish hate is the Christian who thinks he understands Judaism because he’s read the Old Testament. Or the Christian whose church hosts a Passover seder every year, thinking it’s honoring Judaism when most Jews find this practice offensive. In my experience, ignorance has been a bigger problem than hatred. The biggest reason I would hide my Star of David necklace under my shirt when passing by a missionary on my college campus was not because I feared being a target of prejudice, but because I didn’t want to be subjected to “goysplaining” my own religion to me.
What’s happening now is a new chapter in an ancient story. Christians cannot reverse the harmful actions of our spiritual ancestors. At the very least, we can acknowledge that the slaughter of image-bearers is in no way justifiable: not to anyone with a conscience, and certainly not to the Lord.
One foot in two worlds
Christians naturally hold tension between living “in the world, but not of it.” For me there is a constant tension between heaven and the Jewish world I was born into. My soul belongs to one world; my DNA and my earliest memories, to another. The latter did not vanish the first time I prayed to Jesus. And it will always be there.
And so I continue standing in between.