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Interfaith Unity in a Clickbait Reality

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Jews. Christians. Muslims. These three religious demographics are colloquially known as the monotheistic religions - the notion of whether they are the only truly monotheistic religions is certainly less relevant than their being the three most impactful monotheistic religions in the history of the world. Islam bolstered the framework for much of Eastern society and Christianity did the same for much of Western civilization, and without them countless countries would not exist the way they do today. Judaism created the framework for Christianity and Islam, and without it, those religions would not exist. Period.
 
Okay, okay. Let’s leave Jewish superiority aside for the moment and focus on the Tachlis, the brass tacks. I bring up these religions together because they truly do share more in common with each other than they do with any other religions, given that they are all based on the same book - The Torah. Despite the myriad additions to each religion over time, the theologians of both Christianity and Islam readily admit that the “Law of Moses” represents the first recorded expression of God’s Divine Word in this Universe. And despite the myriad occasions on which each of these religions have seen fit to disparage and/or persecute one another, the values at the core of these religions are virtually the same. Treat people well. Have an active relationship with One God. Live a productive life. Work on your character development and be a shining example of a “good ____________.” There are even less abstract similarities. Islam and Judaism share scores of the exact same anecdotes – swap a Moshe here for a Mohammad there, but the stories are the same.
 

What’s my point? There’s something to be said for the potential for unity across these “Abrahamic” religions. Obviously we won’t see eye to eye on issues of theology. But each of our theologies certainly makes room for acceptance of others who don’t directly ascribe to every statute of our respective religions. Where we think they go after this world, depends. But the fact that we are meant to live with them, is indisputable. Laws and principles regarding the parameters of dealings with “non-believers” make up a large chunk of the Torah, the New Testament, and the Quran. In the heart and mind of a truly balanced and devout Jew, Christian, or Muslim, there is certainly a space for engaging with members of other Abrahamic faiths on matters of spiritual consciousness and religious life outlook, if not specific theological beliefs.
 
It was this belief that drove me to join a Facebook group titled, “Judaism, Messianics and Christians.” My enthusiastic optimism towards interfaith unity drove me to believe that such a group would show the best of both worlds spiritually. In my prophetic vision, the group would be a meeting ground for religiously engaged Christians and Jews to exchange ideas and relate to one another on issues of Divinity, exposing the common threads at the core of our monotheistic convictions and coming closer as a result.
 
Boy, was I wrong. Yes, joining this group has been an endless source of entertainment for me - however, it has been anything but the wholesome, inspirational, and thought provoking entertainment I had expected. Instead, I have essentially subscribed to a newsfeed update that comically and continually reveals the glaring intolerance running rampant among devout adherents of both religions. Rather than finding common ground and relating to one another on the basis of having a spiritual connection period, the Jews and Christians in this group are absolutely committed to “proving each other wrong” through a series of increasingly embarrassing attempts to poke holes in each others’ theology.
 
For example: A Jew will post a question like, “why do people believe a perverted greek New Testament over the Hebrew original Tanakh,” and get responses like “just something God opened my eyes to. He just revealed that Yeshua is Jewish and the law is good.” A loaded question, followed up by a complete non-sequitur of an answer. A non-Christian will say something like “Christianity has perverted the Torah.  Rabbinical Judaism has made too many fences and is no light to the goy!!! Reject both!” and get responses like “REVELATION 22 V12 behold JESUS is coming soon and the rewards are with him to give to every one according to what he has done. Let’s repent from our sins, accept JESUS as our lord & saviour, live a pure, holy and right life before God so that we get qualified to the eternal life after the judgment day. BEWARE OF HELL FIRE.” - I’ll let that one speak for itself.
 
The level of disconnect between the people interacting on this post is comically outrageous, especially considering that they are all part of what purports to be an interfaith group. Its like they aren’t even hearing each other. I wish I was making this stuff up, but those were all copied and pasted quotes, all from posts within the last week.
 
Clearly, using the Internet as a forum through which to bridge the gaps between religious Christians and Jews is a better idea in theory than it is in practice. The trend in the group I joined was clear – the Jews thought they were right about every little detail, the Christians thought they were right about every little detail, and instead of looking for the things they both agreed about, each group devoted their efforts to disproving the other and/or threatening them with eternal damnation. What does it say about monotheistic religions when modern society increasingly moves to render religion a relic of the past, and the adherents of these religions are squabbling over who’s got the details right? For all of our talk about how our religions promote peace and togetherness, we sure seem to be giving a display of intolerance to match the ever-growing “religion is the root of all conflict” rhetoric.
 
I have a vision for a world where people of all monotheistic faiths stop obsessing over the details and start coming together to worship One God. It’s a vision that has been held dear by many great spiritual leaders over the course of human history. It’s also a vision that has never come to fruition. I had thought that the Internet, the great unifier, would be the forum through which this unity finally shines its light upon creation – but alas, social media seems to divide just as much as it connects. Will we ever overcome the maddening urge to “be right” that has always dominated religious discourse, and which is compounded rather than alleviated by the advent of online interaction? Or will we continue to find increasingly “basic” ways of informing “the non-believers” that we have exclusive claim to the authentic truth?
 
Something tells me we won’t have the answer for a while yet to come. In the meanwhile, I’ll take Facebook interfaith unity groups like “Judaism, Messianics and Christians” with as many salt grains as I do the wittily titled Facebook pages I once liked as an angsty teenager and which now function exclusively to deliver tasteless memes.  For now, I’m more likely to find camaraderie with a religious Christian in the comments section of an “In My Feelings” challenge than in a group with random Hebrew letters in the title and an ambiguous cover photo of a robed and bearded shepherd, raising his staff against the desert wind.
 
. Jacob Schwartz regularly writes blog postings for Jewish Values Online.
 
Please note: All opinions expressed in Blog Postings and comments on the Jewish Values Online site and through Jewish Values Online are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, beliefs, or position of Jewish Values Online, or those associated with it.
 

Is there a value in continued interfaith dialogue with Christian institutions that organize boycotts of Israeli products and divestment from Israel? This seems to be a blatant act to try to deny Israel the right to defend against threats by terrorist organizations that seek Israel’s destruction.  

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