Our Freedom to Ignore Missionaries

In what appears to be a reversal of a 2,000-year-old policy of attempting to proselytize us in order to “save” us, the Vatican on Thursday released a report that said that Jews can be saved without converting to Christianity. We really don’t have to go to hell? Can it be true that inquisitions, persecutions, crusades, pogroms, and forced conversions are finally over?
How Jews can be saved without converting to Christianity remains an “unfathomable mystery,” according to the Vatican report. Finally, we seem to have a pope who knows a little bit about what he doesn’t know? The rationale behind the Vatican’s new position is that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”
So HaShem really knew what he was saying in Genesis 17:7-8 when he told Abraham, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant... And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession…”
Genesis 22:17-18 says, “Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”
Rabbi Shmuel Lifschitz of Yad L’Achim correctly points out that Protestants and so-called Messianic Jews do not feel any responsibility to honor papal policy. So Rabbi Lifschitz suspects that conversion attempts will continue more or less the same. Apparently, converting others gives missionaries a feeling of religious superiority that is hard to resist.
Replacement theology, or the belief that Christians replaced Jews in the plan of God, never made sense to me. After choosing us for an everlasting covenant, if God is infinite in knowledge, He would have known all of our potential shortcomings from the very beginning and would have provided us with the inner strength and faith to see our part of the divine plan through to its conclusion.
Malachi 3:6 says, "Because I am HaShem, I change not. Therefore, you sons of Jacob are not consumed." He has been faithful to keep his promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and us.
Many Muslims and Christians believe that we were rejected by God and subsequently thrown on the dust heap of history because we were not a perfect people and could not fully live up to every law handed down from Mt. Sinai or every instruction uttered by every prophet. Are Muslims and Christians so perfect that they have succeeded in all the ways that we failed?
It seemed to me that Christians believed that God somehow woke up one day and realized there was a better way. That better way, in the Christian view, was Christianity. Is a God infinite in knowledge really capable of discovering a better way or learning something “new”?
Of course, it goes without saying that Muslims will not feel any obligation to listen to the Vatican and stop trying to get us to acknowledge that there is “no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet.” Muslims sometimes do not have a good track record for tolerating other people’s free exercise of religion, especially under their rule. We Jews will always have a problem with a religion whose adherents for centuries killed, taxed, or banished people for not accepting their prophet.
Muslims believe that infidels must accept Islam, the perfection of religion by their prophet Muhammad, either willingly through a change of heart or unwillingly by the means of jihad. In the seventh century, they perfected an ancient version of Ullman and Wade’s “rapid dominance” even before Germans engaged in blitzkrieg and long before Americans used shock and awe during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
After Mohammad’s death in 632 CE, Arabia was conquered by 634. Syria’s defeat followed in 636 and then Egypt fell by 641. Mesopotamia and the Persian Empire were conquered by 650. The lands of central Asia and India to the east and north Africa and Spain to the west were then conquered by the early eighth century. So much for allowing other nations to determine their own destiny.
Muslims of the seventh century tried to be more creative in their version of forced conversion. Compared to the Nazi genocide of Jews or the murder of unbelievers by the Crusaders, the early Muslims provided more options than just conversion or death. Two other options were second-class dhimmitude or expulsion. It was a kind of Muslim freedom of choice. There is nothing quite as fair as being given multiple choices.
Unfortunately, just being left alone was never one of the choices. I’d take leaving anytime over death, conversion, or even dhimmitude. Banishment in that context would be considered escape, in my opinion.
More recently, forced conversion of Christians, Shiites, Yazidis, and even other Sunnis to the Islamic State’s version of Sunni Islamism might be considered by some a preferred alternative to having one’s head removed. Yet millions of refugees have rejected forced conversion and have fled for their lives. What Jews suffered by the hands of Christians and Muslims for centuries is now being perpetrated by Muslims on Christians and other Muslims.
People with missionary zeal may be Christians, Muslims, outspoken advocates for secularism, or atheists. I’ve known atheists, for example, who were so pushy in their attempts to spread atheism that I was curious why they were not already out on the street corner passing out tracts like any other missionary. Regardless of what they may be pushing, all missionaries share one basic attitude. They feel more comfortable when other people are like them.
So my request to all would be missionaries is “lighten up” and allow God to do His own thing with each of His children. How dare you take it upon yourself to do God’s business for Him? How about letting God be in charge of any soul saving? Does he really need your help?
Attempts at converting Jews come in various flavors. Missionary activities may be financed by religious organizations. Or an individual may believe in a personal vision from God that causes him to want to make others into religious clones of himself. Or a co-worker may innocently just want to share what they find most precious in their lives. Shouldn’t they have freedom of speech? Shouldn’t we likewise have the right to ignore?
Should missionaries be free to share their faith with those who have expressed a desire to hear it? Of course. How else can we have freedom of speech and religion? The problem comes when people continue to share their faith after someone has asked them to cease and desist. Equally upsetting is being accosted on the street, or at the front door of one’s home, or through the mail by printed material that has not been requested.
The freedom to ignore what one finds distasteful should be a basic human right just as important as freedom of speech. So what can we do to exercise our freedom to ignore? Just say “no” in a way that is easily understood. Anyone continuing to push his religion after being told “no” obviously is a fool and shouldn’t be listened to anyway.
Let me be clear. There is a big difference between providing information for other people's education so they can make informed choices and trying to change them. Attempting to convert another person is an insult. It is the missionary's way of saying that the potential convert is not as good as he is. What arrogance! Let us respect other people and their right to believe as they choose and demand that they support our right to believe as we choose. If HaShem did not like variety, there wouldn't be so much of it in the world.
Yoeli’s Mandate: Leave your mark, make a difference for the good, and do your part to make sure that they never again devour Jacob or make his habitation waste.
You may write to Yoeli Kaufman at [email protected]