Freedom In Christ!

My favorite goy, Greg Leake, emails: “I thank G-d that my mother was not Jewish, and also for Jesus bin Joseph. Otherwise I probably would have fallen heir to all of these obligations and responsibilities and would have been a considerably less free human being.”

This got me to thinking about freedom in Judaism and Christianity. I spent my first 18 years as a Christian and my last 20 in Jewish life.

Here are some examples of Christian freedom in order of importance:

* You can have sex with your wife when she’s menstruating
* You can study Torah while doing your business on the toilet
* You can eat shellfish and pigs and anything you want any time you want any way you want with whomever you want wherever you want
* You can eat and defecate at the same time just like an animal
* You can wear anything you want (within the generous standards of Christian modesty)
* You don’t have to fear about your Heavenly Salvation
* You can rape and murder people and then get immediate forgiveness from Jesus
* You don’t have to study, you can just believe
* You can use French ticklers (if you are a Protestant)

Here are some examples of Jewish freedom in order of importance:

* You don’t have your co-religionists forgive your boneheaded behavior by saying, “You did what was in your heart.”
* You don’t have your co-religionists say, “Are you saved?”
* You don’t have your co-religionists say, “You need a closer walk with the L-rd”
* You can be more free to say what you are thinking and feeling
* You don’t have to traumatized when Jimmy Carter, a born-again Christian, says he lusts in his heart for other women
* You have shiksas for practice (strictly forbidden by Jewish law but some Jews do this anyway)
* You don’t lose sleep at night worrying about your own salvation or anyone else’s
* You don’t waste a minute thinking about the next life or who the Messiah is

Pastor Natalie posts to my FB:

Praise be to the most HIGH GOD, YES, GOD: THE GREAT I AM, THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA, ELOHIM, ADONAI, JEHOVAH ROPHE, JEHOVAH-JIREH, JEHOVAH-SABAOTH, JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH, YESHUA, EL SHADDAI.

Malachi calls Messiah “The Sun of Righteousness” (Malachi 4:2).

“Many of today’s Jews profess godliness but don’t embrace the Scriptures as we presume they do. Therefore, it is often difficult to reason with them about Jesus being the Messiah.

This is why it is imperative to ask a Jew if he has kept the Law of Moses–to use the Law and remove the spirit of self-righteousness. The Law will show him his need of a Savior, and become a “schoolmaster” to bring him to Christ, as happened to Paul, Nicodemus, Nathaniel and the Jews on the Day of Pentecost.

They had the advantage of the Law. It was the Law that brought 3,000 to the foot of the Cross on that day. It was a “schoolmaster” to bring them to Christ (Galatians 3:24). Without it they would not have known that they had sinned (Romans 7:7), and would not have therefore, seen their need of the Savior.”

Oh and I’m not proselytizing here, It’s merely dialogue.

M. responds: Wow, Natalie, looks like some great death metal band names you have there in capitals!

Your comments about “Jews” on the other hand are nasty and idiotic. I’m not flaming here, it’s merely dialogue.

My Orthodox friend calls: Two thousand years of going back and forth on this. That issue about freedom is an old line that Kant used. His argument against Judaism revolved around autonomy and heteronomy. Autonomy is freedom from within. Heteronomy are strictures put on people from the outside. The superiority of Protestant Christianity is a born again experience aka an autonomous experience. The individual making a decision for himself as opposed to Judaism where the strictures are forced upon people by the community or God or an external set of laws. That makes it inferior.

You’ll see over and over in Protestant writings about the freedom of the Christian versus the enslavement of the Jew. It’s so old. What’s with these goyim?

Franz Rosenzweig said that a commandment is not a heteronomous shackle placed on people, but a relational idea. We’re not doing something blindly. We are listening to the voice of G-d when we are doing a mitzvah.

You hardly hear this argument any more except from half-baked evangelicals in America.

You write like an anti-semite sometimes.

Reform Judaism is not a gradation of frumkeit. It is a different religion.

One of the things Conservative Jews do better than Orthodox Jews do now is to celebrate the holidays. They’re respectful. Orthodox Jews would react with cynicism. Everything is a snide remark.

Here are related essays.

Franz Roesenzweig wrote in On Jewish Learning (1955), 83–92, 109–24 in response to Kant: DUTY, an action that one is obligated to perform; a feeling, or sense, of obligation. In Judaism man’s duties are determined by God’s commandments. The entire biblical and rabbinic conception of man’s role in the world is subsumed under the notion of mitzvah (meaning simultaneously “law,” “commandment,” “duty,” and “merit”). The term ḥovah, meaning “obligation” or “duty,” which came into use later, is used interchangeably with mitzvah. To perform a divine commandment is to fulfill one’s duty, laẓet yedei ḥovah (Ber. 8b). The translator from the Arabic original into Hebrew of *Baḥya ibn Paquda’s major work Ḥovot ha-Levavot (“Duties of the Hearts”) used the term ḥovah as a synonym for commandment, and the term was taken up by other writers of *musar literature (for a discussion of the relationship between “mitzvah” and “ḥovah” see ET, vol. 12, S.V. ḥovah). Duty is the incentive to moral action, and a morality-based duty is evidently different from one that is based on pleasure. According to a talmudic dictum “Greater is he who performs an action because he is commanded than he who performs the same action without being commanded” (BK 38a). The pleasure derived from the performance of a commandment is irrelevant to its nature (cf. RH 28a “the commandments were not given to be enjoyed”), and conversely dislike of an action is no sufficient reason for abstention from it, cf. the saying of R. Eleazar b. Azariah: “Say not, ‘I do not like to eat pork’… but say, ‘I would like, but I will not for it is God’s prohibition'” (Sifra 20:26; cf. Mak. 3:15). One should not perform an action in order to gain a reward, but because it is a divine commandment, and hence one’s duty: “Be not like servants who work for the master on condition of receiving a reward…” (Avot 1:3).

The morality of an action is determined more by the motivation of the one who performs it than by its consequences: “You must do what is incumbent upon you; its success is up to God” (Ber. 10a). The notion of intention (kavvanah) is central in Jewish ethics: “Whether it be much or little, so long as the intention is pure” (Ber. 17a; Sif. Deut. 41); “God demands the heart” (Sanh. 106b). That is not to say that an action performed without the proper motivation is worthless. The fact that its results are beneficial does give it some worth. Moreover, through performing an action without the proper motivation, one may come to perform it with the proper motivation: “From doing [good] with an ulterior motive one may learn to do [good] for its own sake” (Pes. 50b; cf. Maim., Yad, Teshuvah, 10:5).

The major problem in modern Jewish thought in connection with the concept of duty is posed by the Kantian notion of autonomy, according to which an action to be moral must be motivated by a sense of duty, and must be autonomous (I. *Kant, Fundamental Principles of Ethics, trans. by T.K. Abbott (194610), 31ff.). This appears to conflict with the traditional Jewish notion that the law is given by God, that is, that it is the product of a heteronomous legislator. Moritz *Lazarus in his Ethik des Judentums (1898, 1911; The Ethics of Judaism, trans. by H. Szold, 1900) attempts to show that rabbinic ethics are based on the same principles as Kantian ethics, the basic underlying principle of both being the principle of autonomy (ibid., 1 (1898), no. 90–105). In so doing he somewhat distorts the Kantian notion of autonomy. Hermann *Cohen, in Die Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums, in his attempt to deal with the problem of heteronomy and autonomy, interprets mitzvah to mean both “law” and “duty,” the law originating in God and the sense of duty in man. Man, of his own free will, must take upon himself the “yoke of the commandments.” Franz *Rosenzweig approaches the question of the duties imposed by Jewish law from a somewhat different consideration. Distinguishing between “law” (Ger., Gesetz; Heb., ḥukkah) and “commandment” (Ger., Gebot; Heb., mitzvah), he holds that the individual is confronted by the body of Jewish law which is impersonal (Gesetz) and that he must make a serious effort to transform it into commandments (Gebot) by appropriating whatever is meaningful to him in the situation in which he finds himself (F. Rosenzweig, On Jewish Learning (1955), 83–92, 109–24)

Greg Leake emails: Hi Luke,

By Jove, I think you’ve got it.

The implications of your list suggest that Jews require divine pronouncement written in the Torah to realize that they shouldn’t read scriptures or eat while they’re sitting on the john.

In the Gentile world we figured this out without help.

I also think that you missed one on the Jewish freedom aspect. If a Jew decides to become a participant in the vampire lifestyle, he doesn’t need to buy a new wardrobe. They’re already decked out in black like Bella Lugosi. (Note to Luke: that could be your breakthrough fiction series. An Orthodox Jew is shambling along to shul, and he gets bitten by a vampire. He’s kept kosher all of his life, but now he has insatiable desire for human blood. What does he do? And after a lifetime of ignoring Gentiles as much as possible, does he bite them and suck their blood? Or does he suck the blood of other Jews who at least don’t contaminate him with some “goy bug”. Luke, with you knowledge of Judaism, you could really do this right and it might be your name up there in lights rather than the author of Twilight. Did you hear that Anne Rice had stopped being a Catholic even though she continues to profess a devotion to Jesus bin Joseph? Interesting.)

Incidentally, I associate myself with Protestantism because I believe in the Protestant Principle and I favor the theology of Paul Tillich. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Tillich ) My concern is theological rather than denominational.

Here are four paragraphs from Tillich when he’s not using theological language. (Tillich went through a socialist period, and I am completely in disagreement with that.)

“Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers even if the answers hurt. Such an idea of religion makes religion universally human, but it certainly differs from what is usually called religion. It does not describe religion as the belief in the existence of gods or the one God, and as a set of activities and instructions for the sake of relating oneself in thought, devotion, and obedience. No one can deny that the religions which have appeared in history are religions in this sense. Nevertheless, religion in its inmost nature is more than religion in this narrower sense. It is the state of being concerned about one’s own being and being universally.

“There are many people who are ultimately concerned in this way who feel far removed, however, from religion in the narrower sense, and therefore from every historical religion. It often happens that such people take the question of the meaning of their life infinitely seriously and reject any historical religion just for this reason. They feel that the concrete religions fail to express their profound concern adequately. They are religious while rejecting the religions. It is this experience which forces us to distinguish the meaning of religion as living in a dimension of depth from particular expressions of one’s ultimate concern in the symbols and institutions of a concrete religion. If we now turn to the concrete analysis of the religious situation of our time, it is obvious that our key must be the basic meaning of religion and not any particular religion. Not even Christianity. What does this key disclose about the predicament of man in our period?

“If we define religion as the state of being grasped by an infinite concern, we must say: man in our time has lost such infinite concern. And the resurgence of religion is nothing but a desperate and mostly futile attempt to regain what has been lost.

“How did the dimension of depth become lost? Like any important event, it has many causes, but certainly not the one which one hears often mentioned from ministers’ pulpits and evangelists’ platforms, namely that a widespread impiety of modern man is responsible. Modern man is neither more pious nor more impious than man in any other period. The loss of the dimension of depth is caused by the relation of man to his world and to himself in our period, the period in which nature is being subjected scientifically and technically to the control of man. In this period, life in the dimension of depth is replaced by life in the horizontal dimension…”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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