Americans like to mix things even though we try to separate things when discussion gets too dicey. Politics and religion have a tendency to be discussed at the same time and in settings that aren’t conducive to healthy discussion.
And many of us are a mixture of cultures, also known as being a Heinz 57 American mutt. I’m German, Irish, Native American, English, Danish, French, and who knows what else. So I have many cultural perspectives I could glean inspiration from, although the one I take most of my obvious cues from is that of being an American.
We do this with religion and spirit beliefs also. There are aspects of my everyday life that are touched with Native American spirituality I have learned over the past few years. I wouldn’t change this for anything. It’s become a part of who I am. Some people would consider this a conflict with Judaism, but I don’t.
At the convenience store where I work, I get to see people from many walks of life. This makes the job a lot of fun because I like diversity. I’m old enough to realize that no two people are the same and I’m tolerant enough to not try to remake someone into my image with the expectation that they should view life as I do. That’s unrealistic and more than a little conceited.
But one person came into my store who caught my interest and raised questions in my mind.
She was wearing a Star of David necklace. Of course I was excited because you don’t see many practicing or non-practicing Jews in the Hill Country. So I asked, “Are you Jewish?” She replied, “I’m not of Jewish heritage but of covenant.” I nodded and pressed on, “Are you Jewish, Jewish?” Meaning, do you practice Judaism?
”No” came the response and out the door she darted.
I was stumped. So she wasn’t born to a Jewish mother, didn’t convert, and she didn’t practice Judaism, yet she claimed a link to the Jewish people that was fuzzy to the logical mind. I couldn’t identify with whom she identified.
The only conclusion I could infer was that she was a Christian who was a “Messianic Jew,” meaning she was a Christian but emphasized the Jewish origins of Christianity rather than diluting them down as much of Christianity has done over the centuries.
Another lady came into the store a few months back and she saw my Star of David necklace and said she had one also. Once again, I was excited and asked her if she was Jewish. She said, “No, I wear it with my cross and they make sense together.”
Before I could help myself, I responded, “That’s just a bit of a contradiction, isn’t it?”
She said no and sauntered off and went about her day.
My job at the store and in the rest of my life isn’t to insult people who possess genuine beliefs. As a Jewish person, a part of me is honored that these two women identified with the Star of David at all to the extent they wore it on their bodies. After all, the Star of David has been a method to mark Jews, to distinguish them from the rest of European society (for example) and easier to separate out for persecution. It happened. One only has to read about the use of the Star of David in Medieval Europe and Nazi Germany.
But yet, there is a difference between Judaism and Christianity. Huge differences that are important to remember and I’m comfortable with saying we will always disagree on some points but see, we don’t have to agree. What happens to a society that tries to make separate religions or ways of life into some kind of relativistic gunk that basically says one thing but lacks the deeper meaning that bound different peoples though the centuries? There is beauty within each tradition but, as for me, Judaism is my way of life and I don’t want it to mimic Christianity any more than Christians want crosses stripped from their church walls or Easter removed as a major observance each year.
It’s okay to be different, to hold different beliefs. And it’s okay to keep some things separated, provided we all continue on the path of respecting one another, even when we don’t understand and take the high road of agreeing to disagree when there’s no other way to do things.