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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Letter to the Editor on a Misguided Critique of Messianic Judaism

The following is a Letter to the Editor sent in response to
Please read that first.

To the Editor,

I was saddened to read the recent article by Joe Katz which, while well-intentioned, was full of half truths, untruths and boogey-men. It reminds me of what children might say about a big, dark, and somewhat gothic looking house, frightening one another away with “cross my heart and hope to die ‘true to life stories’’ about how the house is certainly haunted.

Mr Katz would tell everyone in the neighborhood that Messianic Judaism is a haunted house, he would warn your readers away. However, just as when one actually meets the people in the gothic gabled house, and discovers they are warm, human, even if a bit quirky, so with Messianic Judaism.

Mr Katz appears well-intentioned. He really believes what he is saying, but, as one long involved in Messianic Judaism, as one who knows the people in Messianic Judaism’s great gothic gabled house, and as one who lives there, I want to tell your readers—we are not haunted nor are we people to be avoided.

What sorts of half truths does Mr. Katz express? First, he forecloses his argument by terminological sleight of hand: he simply alleges that we are a form of Christianity, and in no way, and in no case, to be considered a Judaism. He also tars with a broad brush leveling the many varieties and eccentricities of Messianic Judaism as if everyone in the Messianic Jewish house were the same. Not so! For example, anyone familiar at all with Messianic Judaism will know that wide swaths of the movement take sharp issue with Jews for Jesus on a number of matters. My point is not to discredit Jews for Jesus, but to say loud and clear: there is a wider variance in what the public broadly calls Messianic Judaism, which variance Mr. Katz ignores or seeks to dismiss. Instead, he seeks to scare people away from the Messianic Jewish house saying that we are all the same and divisive masquerading charlatans, to boot.

Painting with a broad brush dipped in bile, he attributes to us the most despicable of motives saying that our Jewish masquerade is simply an attempt to lure Jews to Christianity--and away from Judaism. He considers us to be nothing but soul-snatchers. Were you to visit our congregations you would instead find people struggling to work out their lives with God and man in Jewish space, normal people, trying make sense of the world while attempting to make it a better place.

His alarmist rhetoric may go over well with the kinds of uninformed people who enjoy being frightened, just as some people love riding roller coasters, or hearing ghost stories. But Mr Katz is telling a tall tale. Don’t believe him. Just because he believes it does not make it true.

Again, Messianic Judaism is a diverse and new phenomenon. While some Messianic Jews are very happy being called a Christian sect, others reject the label and insist they are Jews who regard the wider Jewish community as their primary community of reference, and themselves that part of the Remnant of Israel who believe in Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. Mr Katz is entitled to dispute the veracity of those who make such claims, but he is not free to paper over these differences in an article which purports to set people straight. You cannot set people straight with crooked lines, and Mr. Katz’s article is full of crooked lines.

I don’t believe he is telling lies: I don’t think him to be willfully deceitful, which flaw he attributes to myself and people like me. But the facts demonstrate his article to be little more than a catalogue of stigmatizing untruths, misconceptions, and manipulative scare tactics, unworthy of him and of your paper.

I encourage people to re-read Mr. Katz’s article and note the consistently alarmist tone and the monolithic portrayal of all Messianic Jews as little more than religious con-men.The last three paragraphs are a good case in point. If what he says is true, that Messianic Judaism has a history as “a controversial, anti-Jewish, Christian organization,” that uses “destructive tactics [which] only lead to bickering between Jews and Christians, thus making it “more difficult for people of both faiths to work together to reach out to the nonreligious [being] harmful to the spirit of inter-religious respect and tolerance,” then, by all means everyone should avoid us. Fortunately, he is telling what we Jews call “bubbe-meises—old wives tales,” more appropriate for scaring children than informing anyone.

Mr.Katz means well: he cares about Jewish continuity—so do I. He cares about Christian-Jewish relations—so do I. In fact, this week I will be beginning a series at a local Church on “The Jewish Connection.” My first session speaks of why Christians have low credibility with most Jews, and provides eight reasons why the Jews are not a has-been people, contrary to the theme of some Christian theological constructs. But just because he means well, does not mean he is doing any service in what he says.

Instead of actually coming in and meeting the people in our great gothic gabled house, he is but standing outside our gate, warning people that the house is haunted. Would it not be better if you, he, and all your readers would instead muster courage and come inside to meet the sometimes quirky, but genuine people who live inside?

As one of them, I welcome you all, and wish you Shalom.

Stuart Dauermann, PhD
Rabbi of Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, Beverly Hills, CA
Professor of Jewish Spirituality, Messianic Jewish Theological Institute of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations

At 4/15/2007 8:59 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Interesting post. I tried to use the link to the first article, but was unsuccessful. Could you give me the link?

At 4/15/2007 11:36 PM, Blogger yochanan said...

well said Rabbenu!

there were way too many problems to address in his article, but you did a good job addressing the tenor and scare tactics well.


At 4/16/2007 7:15 AM, Blogger Kefael said...

Hello from Idaho, this beautiful, April morning. Reading a few of your blogs and am quite impressed. Love your insight. I was looking at Shavuot commentaries and found yours. Good Stuff. Then I decided to lok a little further and like what I read. I'll keep your Blog site close at hand, for further reading. Thanks. MessianicTrucker

At 4/16/2007 8:29 AM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

I have fixed the URL in the article. Try cutting, pasting, and finding it now!

Stuart Dauermann


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