My Response to Forward Op-Ed on “Conversion”

I just sent the following letter to the editor of the Forward, in response to  Friday’s op-ed on the recent Catholic statement on relations with the Jewish people.

In “What New Vatican Memo Really Means for Jews for Jesus — and Us,” J.J. Goldberg corrects the notion that the Vatican has announced that “Catholics should not try to convert Jews.” He notes that the memo rejects “specific institutional mission work” aimed at Jews, but advocates witnessing faith in Jesus to all people, including Jews. Still, Goldberg writes, “If this thing spreads, it could put [Jewish missions] out of business.”

But the whole discussion of conversion here is skewed. There are Jews who honor Jesus as Messiah, the Jewish Messiah, and do so as Jews. We don’t “convert” and we’re not in the conversion business. Just as the Post-WWII Catholic Church renounced centuries of error about the Jewish people without losing its core identity, so we are freeing ourselves from centuries of Jewish denial about Jesus as Messiah without losing our Jewish identity.

The traditional mindset of both church and synagogue has a hard time accommodating this new paradigm. The Catholic statement speaks of the “highly complex theological question of how Christian belief in the universal salvific significance of Jesus Christ can be combined in a coherent way with the equally clear statement of faith in the never-revoked covenant of God with Israel.” For the Catholics, it’s a mystery that God will resolve in his time.

Messianic Jews agree that there is a deep mystery in God’s abiding relationship with our people, but we take a different tack on reconciling the “never-revoked” Jewish covenant and the salvation that comes only through Jesus. We believe that these two great truths of Scripture are not incompatible, but deeply harmonious, and we’re seeking to reconcile them not just in theory, but within our own lives and practice.



4 thoughts on “My Response to Forward Op-Ed on “Conversion””

  1. I was born ‘into’ the Roman Catholic faith, with all that that entails, education, training, and mind setting. When I became an adult, I left it all behind and went my own way of sin. In my middle thirties, Jesus called me back, and I entered into His saving Grace. I attended a Messianic Synagogue for over twenty-three years because I wanted to understand what I felt was the ‘Jesus Way’ of living. Knowing and understanding that I was not a Jew, I kept my Irish Catholic identity and continue to do so to this day.

    When people ask me, as they often do, “What religion do you belong to?” I always reply, “I do not belong to a religion, I belong to God.” And I do.

    I have an affinity to, identity with, and appreciation for Roman Catholics. It hurts me when I encounter ‘believing’ people that hate Catholicism. I am always surprised that it continues to badmouthed by Christians of other streams. Hatred lasts a long time.

    I am at home in any church I attend because I am the Church. I carry the Church of Jesus within me. No matter what our background, training or belief system we were raised in, as Believers in Yeshua, we are ‘co-heirs with Christ’ Romans 8:17.

    Yeshua was born of a Jewish mom, so that is His lineage. But His Papa? Well, now, that’s another matter. 🙂

    Marynell Mallon Callahan-Hirsch

  2. “so we are freeing ourselves from centuries of Jewish denial about Jesus as Messiah without losing our Jewish identity.”

    I think that what’s important here is not the “messiahship of Jesus”, but rather the explicit but seldom publicly promoted (in front of “unbelieving Jews”) belief (in common with the rest of Christendom) of Messianic Jews that Yeshua is divine, or G-d, worthy of worship due to G-d alone. How can Jews be wrong for refusing to worship a man-god instead of G-d alone? How can they be in “denial” that such a thing is wrong? The issue of messiahship of this or that candidate pales in comparison to the issue of idolatry.

    As far as MJs not losing their “Jewish identities” – how many MJs, including their rabbis, are married to Gentile Christians? How many have children who are not considered Jewish by any Jewish denomination? How many of their own children and grandchildren marry Gentiles? And how can this failure to transmit Jewish identity (which is the most basic of ways to do so) be compared to intermarriage among secular / Reform Jews who are often far removed from religion and Jewish community, when Messianic Jews supposedly know “the ultimate truth” even better than the Orthodox Jews?

  3. “I have an affinity to, identity with, and appreciation for Roman Catholics. ”

    Many people dislike Catholics because they have force their kingdom of god of so many people. They persecuted the Jews and anybody that did not bow to their pope. Rome used religion to have unity and power. It was just a tool for them. Anybody that believe in the New Testament should despise that belief because it goes against what Jesus thought.

    That’s my 2 cents worth of opinion.

  4. “the salvation that comes only through Jesus”

    Please show me that Jesus is not a new arrival (Deuteronomy 32).

    Please show me also that worshipping Jesus is not putting another god in the face of G-d, breaking thus the first commandment.

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