Tuesday, May 23, 2006

More on Missionaries

To my previous post on the topic, I would like to add the following thoughts:

Many, probably most, missionaries advocate many values that Jews believe in strongly. Judaism's morality isn't identical to that of the "Christian Right," but there are a lot of similarities. Overall, if Christians have success proselytizing to other non-Jews, most of whom are probably not very religious at all to begin with, I think that's terrific, because they are thereby increasing the average level of morality in our society. Therefore, unless they are targeting Jews, I hope that they meet with success.

If they're targeting secular Jews, I really don't know what to think. Is it better for a Jew to be an atheistic secular humanist or a devout Southern Baptist? I'm inclined to think the latter, but I'm not sure whether there are other considerations I'm missing.

In the broad picture, I think that groups that promote religion are almost always good to have around. Our society is predominantly secular, and although that's generally a pretty comfortable setting for orthodox Jews, it's not really what we believe. I figure the more people there are who publicly declare that God exists and that there are absolute standards of morality, the closer society as a whole will be to the real truth, and the closer non-religious Jews will be to Judaism. I also think there's less danger of losing Jews to Catholicism, or Mormonism, or Islam, etc., than there is of losing them to secularism. Thus I don't mind if the Pope gains influence on society; I do mind if atheism becomes more entrenched.

On a different but related point: I don't have all that much sympathy for the outrage some orthodox Jews feel toward proselytizers. This is mainly for the reason I described in my last post. I'll just add to it that what missionaries do is really just their form of kiruv, which we support when it's done by Jews. It's not an inherently objectionable or offensive act. We happen to know that it's wrong when the kiruv is to an incorrect religion, but the motivation is clearly noble and admirable.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

What is your email address?

He Who Must Not Be Named said...

I'd rather not put it on the internet for all to see, but if you give me yours, I'll email you, if you're the anonymous from hirhurim.

He Who Must Not Be Named said...

Or if you're somebody else to whom I don't object to giving my address.

Larry Lennhoff said...

I personally am much happier seeing a secular atheist Jew than a Jew who has, chas v'shalom, converted to Xtianity. Among other things, the chance of them ultimately returning to Yiddishkeit is, INH, higher. A sad memior of a Jewish woman who converted to Episcopalianism is Girl Meets God. It is a warning to us about how we treat our own.

He Who Must Not Be Named said...

Among other things, the chance of them ultimately returning to Yiddishkeit is, INH, higher.

Is that true? If so, I may have to reconsider. Can you provide statistics?

Larry Lennhoff said...

I can't provide statistics, I'm afraid, just a gut feel and a smidgen of anectodal evidence. INH was supposed to be IMO (in my opinion).

Adam said...

"what missionaries do is really just their form of kiruv, which we support when it's done by Jews. It's not an inherently objectionable or offensive act. We happen to know that it's wrong when the kiruv is to an incorrect religion, but the motivation is clearly noble and admirable."
My Rabbi said that certain missionaries anyway are able to know better if they're really sincere and that they're often not so genuinely concerned with the truth. This was in response to a case I discussed with him in which I tried to lend a book to the missionary about how he was wrong. He gave it back saying he "didn't have time for the book." Meanwhile he was devoting plenty of time to other books like "Tanya" so he could prove to ignorant Jews how much he knew about Judaism. Adam
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