My biological family is flush with various dimensions of Christianity; my father grew up in a Baptist household, his father descended from German Catholics that settled in western Iowa to farm and raise sheep. On my mothers side are Dutch reform and more German Catholics can be found, the German Catholics trace their roots back to Hungary and on to Germany. A whole lot of Christianity happening here. So what happens when the offspring of German, Irish and Native American forebears take a path of her own and become Jewish? Well you have me...in this article I want to discuss the lessons learned from our foundations and why one shouldn't despise them.
In the first few yesars of my time as a Jew, alot of time was spent steering as far away from Christians as I could. Whenever the interfaith book club met at our synagogue, I'd politely decline to attend because I felt it was useless for two religions diabolically opposed to one another to pretend they see the validity in one another. Why dance this senseless tango of false respect, this I wondered from a much different place than I am now. But it required some forgiveness and understanding that not all Christians are fundamentally anti-Jewish or anti-Judaism. I remember the people in that group as being passionate about their beliefs of which included bridging the historic divides between the two groups. And so they studied together in order to better understand the "other".
It's all about seeing people as individuals - doing this requires us to see how intricate one person is with all their passions, contradictions and other facets of individuality. This serves to break down our stereotypes about others because we all have them. I count myself as being a fair-minded individual but I have sterotypes in my head too that need to be changed.
When I was still lived in Iowa City, I worked for a group called Elder Services as a house cleaner. I also ran errands such as shopping for elderly people in our area. I loved this job, such a wonderful departure from staring at a computer screen all day. One of my clients was easily identifiable as a member of the Baby Boomers - a flower power child indeed. On various occasions we discussed our religious beliefs - he grew up Christian also but became a Buddhist years ago because the traditions were more compatible with his spirit. He asked me how being Jewish worked for me. I told him of my resentment toward the Christians who force fed and imposed their views on me. I told him that I've left Christianity behind me and he said "I don't think you have, people never forget their foundational years and what made them who they are".
His words have stuck with me ever since and have struck me upside the head from time to time. He's right. If it weren't for exposure to Christianity, I wouldn't have known of the beautiful traditions of Judaism. Thanks to my foundations I am a more well rounded person who brings a greater understanding to the Jewish people and it's tapestry. I have forgiven the intolerance of those from my past that used religion as a weapon rather than a mechanism for love and humanitarinism in the world. It's helped me identify my own inconsistencies. There are times that life proves religion is actually beneficial to humanity rather than a weapon it uses against one another to effect dominance.