Commentary

Christians have been trying to convert me for years. I don’t need to be saved.

The pride flag with a Star of David on it
Jewish Pride rainbow flage at Tel Aviv Gay Pride parade.Photo: Shutterstock

Hey Tom Cantor,

If Jesus were so wonderful, you wouldn’t have to promote him through the mail like a free sample of toothpaste or garbage bags. Instead, people would come flocking to him on their own by attraction. I’m a proud Queer Jew, unlike you, and I don’t need your Christian hegemonic propaganda in the form of your unsolicited book Changed. It’s too bad that your rabbi father was so abusive to you and to all five of his wives. But that was not because of his Judaism as you imply.

Warren (proud Queer Jew) Blumenfeld

This was my response to the author who shipped his book three days ago unsolicited to my home based on my supposed Jewish last name. I assert this because when polling numerous neighbors on my street, no one else received the book.

Related: Jewish gay activist slashed with razor blades by Neo-Nazis in shocking attack

This was certainly not the first time I have been targeted for Christian proselytizing for being Jewish. Yes, we all have Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormon missionaries ring our doorbells (and figuratively push our buttons), but many of us have been consciously targeted based on our secular or religious “otherness” outside the confines of Christianity.

In fact, I received a brochure in the mail sent to my home from a group calling itself “Messiah Today” insisting that I must “see the truth,” in their terms.

The brochure went on to argue that, “If you reject Jesus, you do so not because the facts are lacking, but out of a choice not to believe the valid evidence. It is not so much that you cannot believe, but that you will not believe. Whether you will admit it or not, Jesus is the Messiah on whom your eternal destiny rests.”

This claim comprises the central thesis for the apparently oxymoronic “Jews for Jesus” or “Messianic Jewish” movement. Also calling themselves “completed Jews,” they claim that Jesus is the Messiah, which the remainder of us uninformed Jews need to understand, and that by accepting Jesus as THE true Messiah and as our savior, we too can attain completion and salvation.

And yes, I was the only house on my street to have received this brochure.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

The leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) came under intense scrutiny in 2012 when Elie Wiesel, the renowned author and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize who survived the German Holocaust, publicly requested that Republican presidential candidate and member of the Mormon Church Mitt Romney advise his denomination to abandon its practice of posthumously baptizing Jews, many of whom the Nazis ruthlessly tortured and killed during World War II.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Wiesel said that Romney “should speak to his own church and say they should stop” the practice. “I think it’s scandalous,” he continued. “Not only objectionable, but it’s also scandalous.”

The LDS Church often performs these baptisms by proxy for the supposed purpose of “saving” Mormon ancestors and members of other faith communities who did not receive baptism while alive. The Church does so without the authority of the deceased’s family members.

An Israeli genealogist discovered the practice back in 1994. While researching her family, she uncovered records in the LDS database that the Mormons had posthumously baptized her grandfather, a religiously devout Jew whom the Nazis murdered. She went on to discover that other prominent Jews suffered similar humiliation, including Anne Frank, Albert Einstein, the parents of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, and Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion.

Her discovery at the time provoked justifiable indignation within the Jewish community, and following arbitrations between Mormon and Jewish leaders led to an agreement in 1995 in which the Mormon Church committed to stopping all posthumous baptisms of Jews, excluding those who were direct ancestors of Mormons.

When the agreement ultimately collapsed, the two sides negotiated another settlement in 2010 that explicitly banned proxy baptisms of Holocaust survivors.

Elie Wiesel and other Jewish people claim, however, that Mormons circumvented all past agreements, a claim supported by Salt Lake City researcher and former LDS member, Helen Radkey, who discovered Wiesel’s name and other Holocaust survivors in the LDS database for proxy baptisms. Radkey reportedly found this information on a database open only to Mormons.

But what the Mormons have done, and the twisted reasoning behind it, is nothing new.

Darwin, Baptists, and Perfection

Some Christians have represented the Jewish religion — and by implication, the Jewish people — as an immature or intermediate developmental religious stage on the way to Christianity, the so-called advanced, mature faith, and the Jewish Bible as only a prelude to the eventual coming of Jesus and the Christian testaments.

Charles Darwin, in his pioneering book The Origin of Species, published in 1859, posited an evolutionary theory of plant and animal development. Though Darwin himself did not assert this, some of Darwin’s successors known as “Social Darwinists” extended his ideas to theorize that Jews and the Jewish religion were throwbacks to earlier stages of religious and human development, and even that Jews were not fully human.

Delegates to the annual Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans in 1996 passed a resolution (“Resolution on Jewish Evangelism”) committing to putting more energy and resources into converting Jews to Christianity.

The resolution read, in part: “WHEREAS, There has been an organized effort on the part of some either to deny that Jewish people need to come to their Messiah, Jesus, to be saved;…BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That we direct our energies and resources toward the proclamation of the gospel [of Jesus] to the Jewish people.” Many Southern Baptists continue to believe, as do members of some other denominations, that Judaism remains an inadequate religion without Jesus as its central figure.

According to Ashkenazi Jewish tradition, a newborn infant is named after a deceased relative. I had the good fortune of being named after my maternal great-grandfather, Wolf Mahler, an observant Jew, a good man whom the Nazis murdered along with many of my other family members in my ancestral village of Krosno, Poland.

The thought of anyone posthumously baptizing any member of my family against their will brings up a sense of righteous outrage that knows no bounds. I find it unfathomable that any individual or denomination would manifest the unfettered audacity and chutzpah to engage in such cynical, offensive, and yes, oppressive practices and utterances in defense of their worldview and understanding of the Divine.

For me, this is no simple disagreement, but rather, a fight against oppression, and a fight for social justice. I will not permit any religious group to define me and other Jews, to deny us our right of self-definition and self-determination, and to deny us our integrity and our humanity by attempting to prevent us from maintaining our subjectivity, our agency, and our voice.

To Mormons and others I say, while you may find the practice of baptism well and fine for yourselves, keep it to yourselves. We neither want nor need your so-called “saving.” Jews have already been “perfected,” and we are “complete” as we are.

Though some religious denominations and individuals may continue in their attempts to define us, they will not succeed, for they are fighting a religious and cultural war they will ultimately lose. In the final analysis, their actions only bring disgrace upon themselves and upon their denominations.

 

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