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Oy Vey! From Progressive Christian To Jew To ... ?


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I was "born into" the Episcopal Church (TEC). I use quotes because I somewhat align with anabaptists in their understanding of the role of baptism in the Christian tradition. I sought out TEC in the early 90s (for the first time as an adult). I did so after reading some Spong - he alone brought me back to my then faith tradition. When I met with the rector he asked me about my life and where I thought I was along my journey. I mentioned Spong and ...

"Oh, we don't like him around here."

To seek out sanctuary and fellowship only to then be dismissed was a hurtful experience.

I then proceeded to move in and out of Christianity. (I'm currently out). I tried Buddhism; I tried Unitarian Universalism; I tried Judaism; I tried Islam; I tried the Religious Society of Friends; and I even explored neo-paganism related to my cultural identity (Celtic). I seemed to end up back at the UU more often than not. My issue with UU is that Christianity is a mere ghost haunting its halls. The UUCF (Christian Fellowship) has been shrinking in numbers and for all intents and purposes does not exist most anywhere.

Then I met my wife. We converted to Judaism in 2010. She was my kick in the pants. ;)

Here I am today, though, and I'm not content. I see God through the eyes of process theology although I may not understand this theology completely. A “coercive force” that is somewhat personal but most definitely relational. I find intellectual and "spiritual" comfort in process theology. Now I feel myself yearning for my previous tradition, though. There is no recognized equivalent to Jesus in Judaism. (Shocker!) There have been historical rabbis -those who came before and after, and those who were peers of the historical Jesus- that essentially taught the same message but none ever claimed to fully embrace or model "the way" such as Jesus. These rabbis taught the path, so to speak, but never lived as an example for all. In Judaism, one does not ask God to help "guide" or "nudge" oneself to live à la Rabbi Hillel or even Moses, the prophet par excellence in Judaism. (Moses was fully human and sometimes not a very nice one but he eventually did what God asked or ordered him. He also has the advantage of actually seeing God’s “face”).

 

As I understand process theology, there is this coercive force in the universe that nudges or guides us in a direction towards self-fulfillment (personal salvation). This process, I suppose, could be called that “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) inside us all that we can choose to follow or not. The fact that we can choose to listen (or not) is akin to freewill but since we are always “nudged” in a way towards betterment, the natural inclination is already “known” or “ordained” so there is some predetermined order of things. Not predestination per se but something darn close. I hope someone here can help me out with the particulars.

 

Back to my current predicament: without an example in Judaism of how to live in full harmony with the God of my understanding, what am I to do? Most sources for process theology are from a Christian worldview. More curiously, am I really asking Christians how to be a better Jew?

 

Oy vey. :P

 

Thanks for reading,
Daniel

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Doh. Two edits to the above:

 

1. "A “coercive persuasive force” that is somewhat personal but most definitely relational."

2. "[T]here is this coercive persuasive force in the universe that nudges or guides [...]"

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Thanks for sharing your story and thoughts Daniel. Spong is very popular here and respected for his contributions to the progressive movement. Many of us, as you have, have 'made the rounds' and come full circle. We have a number of members here that are strong in Judiasm. Username --- "Norm" comes to mind and he has many interesting and enlightening posts to his credit within the threads of this forum. There are numerous threads on the forum here that compare the commonalities or similarities between Christianity and Buddhism , Taoism and other religions that only come to light when one has studied them closely for oneself. Again thanks for the interesting post and your theological perceptions.

 

Peace,

Joseph

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HI,

 

I would say that "God" is an "attractive" force, pulling us forward. Process theology applies to the Judaism also. Google if you want resources

 

If Jesus is your focus There's a 2000 yr tradition of considering Jesus as a rabbi in essence and substance. The sources for many of the sayings of Jesus were Hebrew texts. And these texts often are about being in harmony with God. The two great commandments, love your neighbor and love God are quotes from the Hebrew Testament. Jesus said that if you understand the ramifications of these you will understand all else about being in relationship with God and the world. I don't know if that makes Jesus acceptable in your household or to you.

 

You might think of it as being a better follower of Jesus. Being a Christian is something totally different in my mind but that is another topic.

 

Dutch

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Thanks for the replies, Joseph and Dutch.

 

Dutch - I like "attractive" as a description. Process theology resources for Judaism alone, not just to the relationship of an Abrahamic god's to Christianity, are scarce. I have only found one book to date on the matter. The Reconstructionist movement's founder, Mordecai Kaplan, had a naturalistic approach to Jewish theism but that's where the similarities end to other religious outlooks. Kaplan said that "all religious identity is formed from the three “B’s” of “Believing, Belonging, and Behaving.”[1] From a cultural standpoint in America most would (rightly) assume a religion to begin with a "belief". According to Kaplan, however, that doesn't apply to Judaism. He saw Judaism as en evolving religious civilization and reordered the three "B's" to "Belonging, Behaving, and Believing." Perhaps I can find more relevant resources through the Reconstructionist online bookstore.

 

Thanks again for the replies.

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To awaken to greater realities, I don't think we can limit the search to a specific area. I am glad you are searching everywhere even the wrong places are right.

I agree that exploring many traditions could be nothing but beneficial, even if in the "wrong" areas. I also believe that one should have a stable foundation from which to explore. Coming from an unhealthy religious experience/tradition can make growth more difficult, IMO. I adopted Judaism and Judaism adopted me. Now I'm trying to figure out how to venture out and explore from my adopted faith in a respectful manner.

 

Does that make any sense? I pledged loyalty to my adopters and they pledged loyalty to their adopted. I want to push boundaries but only in a way that is not in violation of our mutual trust.

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Daniel, I am in the same boat. The tradition I speak from is Christianity, but from the Christian Mystic's point of view so I understand your predicament. Christians do not like my view of Christianity and most people are turned off to anyone that relates to a tradition with such annoying representatives. I feel this is my Dharma, my path and way to grow so I go on skating on the razor's edge.

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  • 1 month later...

An update. I found a book, "God of Becoming and Relationship: The Dynamic Nature of Process Theology". It was written by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson of the American Jewish University (AJU) where he is the vice president of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. The AJU happens to be where I sat before the bet din and immersed in the mikveh - a beautiful experience. I emailed him about my observations of Jesus being the penultimate example of "fully embracing and living the Lure" and how Judaism lacks that personality. He kindly disagreed and said the issue with Judaism is that there are too many examples of such people. For example, there are many Tzadikim (Hassidic, mystical Jews). I am looking to pick out one to examine more deeply. I'm leaning toward Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. He did not leave a dynasty of successors and was quite prolific in his oral tradition. His followers today are steeped in kabbalah and emphasize joy above all other expressions of God - that is, to use predicate theology, expressing how joy is godly. One can see these "Breslovers" dancing ecstatically in the streets of Jerusalem similar to the Hare Krṣna, complete with their own mantra (נַ נַחְ נַחְמָ נַחְמָן מְאוּמַן - Na Nach Nachma Nachman Meuman).

 

Lots to think about, study, and experience!

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