18 Aug Beyond Jewish Identity
My shocking, radical turn towards Christianity proved to be the single most practical decision of my life. In discerning the sacred meaning of sorrow, in its struggle and redemption, I learned that no world-weariness, desolation of spirit, or grievous remorse is ever wasted in God’s economy.
Though as a practical matter I have left theological Judaism, I have immense pride in my background. It is not disingenuous for me to state what surprised even me: In contemplating parting with a civilization always on the edge of survival, my identity became strengthened–honed and chiseled as if on a rough-edged stone.
In detaching from the only reality known to me, the collective conversation of which I was a part, I had to let go of expectation, ego, and the conventional wisdom of a lifetime. For years, I held a precarious balance between faith, identity, family dynamics, and the elusive desire for fellowship. Despite the uniqueness of my situation, I attained a vibrant devotional life, enjoying what the mystics call “joy,” a contentment richer and more profound that anything the world could offer.
Through reading, meditation and prayer, I forged a faith of my own, apart from cultural war stereotypes. Not relating to the conservative mindset of such groups as the Christian Coalition or Messianic Judaism, I assumed the label, “a congregation of one.” In my search for a moderate path in in theology, I discovered that devout faith can cohere with a nuanced interpretation of Scripture.
Though my story occupies the space between Judaism and Christianity, it will, no doubt, resonate with the growing number who have switched religions or simply disaffiliated. In his study of emerging adults, Jenson Arnett found that while these individuals are not averse to rejoining the church, for now, they worship in the privacy of their own hearts.
Thomas Merton observed that culture is nourished when each remains true to his calling achieved through solitude. Ironically, in responding to this inner voice, I found a third way–one that led to authentic community. For better or for worse, each of us is a congregation of one–all alone together.