On Medium, writer Paul Spinrad writes about Messianic Judaism as a modern movement with historical connections to the early church, when there were people of Jewish background who followed Jesus without leaving behind the Jewish rites, rituals, or culture.
It’s an interesting long-form piece exploring a controversial topic; many Jewish leaders have dismissed Messianic Judaism not just as an affront to orthodox Judaism but as an attempt to destroy the faith. Spinrad quotes and paraphrases Rabbi David Wolpe in his article, a prominent critic of Messianic Judaism.
From the Medium:
“’Messianic Jew’ is a terrible misnomer that owes more to marketing savvy than any theological truth.” Because you cannot be a Jew if you’re a Christian, the project of converting Jews to Christianity is equivalent to destroying Judaism. Throughout history, the argument continues, countless foes have attempted to wipe out the Jewish people, by converting them through violence and torture, or just killing them outright. Messianic Judaism is an insidious new threat that seeks the same end through gentler means.
Spinrad notes that some Jewish theologians have found sincere, devout believers in Christ who simply wish to maintain their Jewish identity and heritage. Professor Daniel Boyarin of UC Berkeley, who is orthodox Jewish, is quoted speaking in favor of members he has met of the Messianic Judaism faith.
“The ones I’ve met have been sincere, very well-educated, and are working with the best of scholarship. They are not working out of ignorance or talking nonsense. I like to engage in respectful conversations with such people, and I learn from them too.”
While I enjoyed the in-depth look into a faith I’d never heard of, I was dismayed by some rough spots in the article; in one passage, Spinrad made a statement I thought clearly offensive:
Although Jews may see themselves as a center of attention, the Messianic Judaism movement isn’t all about them.
I thought this was interestingly myopic. Spinrad seems to admit here that he doesn’t see how a movement which seeks to re-interpret one of the central tenets of Judaism, in a faith which is practiced by many non-Jewish members, while claiming the title of ‘Judaism’, could legitimately upset Rabbis and other traditional Jewish leaders.
Despite the sloppy attempt at rebutting a legitimate argument, Spinrad has written an in-depth piece on a growing movement, and brought context to something I’d been unaware of. The movement itself seems potentially problematic in encouraging an exotization of Jewish ethnicity and culture; the large number of mainline, non-Jewish, American members suggests that cultural appropriation may be a problem within the movement.
Have you encountered this movement? Do you see it as appropriative? Do you think it represents a threat to Jewish culture and faith?