Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Complex Ethical Decisions 1 - Proselytization

Wow, first day after I decide to do this thread and I have at least three topics.... I'll start with this.

As I said, people who think they found "the Truth" frequently decide that all other points of view are "Wrong".  Aggressive proselytization is a common manifestation of this attitude.  If you are "Right" and others are "Wrong", then you are doing them a huge favor by bringing them around to your point of view....

I saw some other bloggers linking to the Joshua Project.  This organization functions on an extremely offensive premise, namely that populations which are not Christian (by a very narrow definition, at that!) are "unreached".   If you don't think this is offensive, read this very well-written post on the subject.  The FAQ on their page addresses the question of "disagreement with the ministry" by arguing for the superiority of Christianity (by that same narrow definition).  No, all religions are not the same.  But people should be free to make their own decisions.  And if they decide not to become Christian, that does not make them unreached.

If you are a believing Christian who wants to promote your religion, can you try putting yourself in the other people's shoes?  Accept that G*d can have different relationships with different people, just like we have different relationships with each of our children.   We love all our children equally, but the relationship with the firstborn is different from the relationship with the baby.  The relationship with the child who looks like us is different than the relationship with the kid who takes after the other parent.  It's OK to be different!  We can share our perspectives without forcing them on each other.

The Jewish view on this is that "the righteous of all nations have a place in the World to Come."  You do not need to be Jewish to be good -- all people are made in the image of G*d.  The concept of Chosenness -- so often misunderstood! -- just means that Jews have a special mission in this world.  Other people may have other missions, and as long as they follow the 7 Noahide Laws, they are considered "righteous".   Going above and beyond that is great, and many gentiles do!  Righteous gentiles are very highly regarded by Jews.

How do you treat people who are good who do not worship your god?


  1. I think there's a couple assumptions behind the "unreached," one of which is problematic and one of which is not.
    1) "Christianity is a better path to God than Religion X." This is a belief that people should be allowed to hold, even if you disagree. One of the basic foundational tenets of Christianity is that God has revealed himself through Jesus His Son in a totally unique way, and that if you do not believe this, you're missing out on an important aspect of the truth. From this it does not follow that you have to be Christian to go to heaven, or to count as a good person. It also does not follow that being Christian guarantees your entry. (Some evangelicals would disagree with these last two claims, but I don't happen to be evangelical.) This doesn't give you the right to torture or otherwise coerce people into becoming Christian, but it does mean that praying for the conversion of non-Christians is a totally logical, non-crazy thing to do. Analogy: Say you believe that children should be raised by married parents, partly because you think it's right and partly because you think it has better results for the children. That doesn't mean you get to hate single parents, and it doesn't mean you get to run around tying people up and dragging them to the altar. It doesn't mean that you think that all children of married parents turn out perfect, and it doesn't mean you think that children of single parents turn out problematic. But it does mean that it would make sense to hope/pray that your daughter does not get pregnant out of wedlock.
    "Other religions are equally true" simply isn't part of Christian theology. You are of course welcome to disagree, but Christians see evangelization, in many cases, as a moral duty.
    2) "If you aren't Christian, it just means we haven't preached enough to you." This I think is not very intelligent, arrogant, and based on faulty theology. First of all, as you said, people have to make up their own minds ("you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink"). Secondly, to assume that we can convert without God's help is to rely too much on ourselves, and it reveals an underlying thought pattern that denies the role of God's grace in our lives.
    I'd love to hear your thoughts on this analysis.

  2. Thank you very much for your comments!

    I fully agree with your 2nd point. The first one, however, is not a good analogy, imo. Hoping/praying that your daughter does not get pregnant out of wedlock is like hoping/praying that she does not stray from the faith you raised her in. Praying that non-Christians abandon their faiths and embrace Jesus is more like praying that your pregnant neighbor give up her baby so you can adopt him/her. Proselytizing is like pressuring said neighbor to do so. Not cool!

    Does this make sense to you?

  3. ...and I was just windering why suddenly get hits on this post.

    The thing is, you can never make Evangelicals understand your point. They refuse to acknowledge that their brand of Christianity is not the only path to G-d and much much more superior than anything else. They also don't understand that from our POV converting our people is the same for us than a Christian becoming an atheist or Muslim or anything other than Christian...

    Anyway, thanks for the link!

  4. I wouldn't say "never". There are certainly those American Evangelicals who are true friends of Israel, who actually do make an exception for Jews in their proselytization because they accept that G*d hasn't actually cancelled His covenant with us. Of course being pushy with everyone else is still problematic, but there's hope (I think)...


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