Rich Nichol, the Director of the Rabbinical Ordination Institute at MJTI (mjti.com) says, “For final redemption to occur, the Church and the Jewish people must come together as never before.”
Stuart Dauermann, the Senior Scholar at MJTI just released a booklet this year called Christians and Jews Together.
Of course, what they are both talking about is the happy realization by Jews that Christians practice an essentially Jewish faith and by Christians that Judaism is not a foreign religion, but the faith practice of Jesus himself. Dauermann, like Nichol, writes about the coming together of Jews and Christians that must and will occur for Geulah Shlemah, full redemption to arrive (a.k.a. consummation, the perfection and completion of creation).
Just to be clear, no one is talking about Christians compromising on faith in Yeshua as Messiah. There is no reason for compromise. The old idea that one cannot be centered on Messiah and living a Jewish life at the same time is narrow and prejudicial.
With all of this talk of togetherness, we should not overlook the most tangible way that Jews and Christians are coming together, which is to say that we should consider the reality of intermarriage between Jews and Christians in America.
In 1970, surveys revealed that intermarriage in the Jewish community occurred about 17 percent of the time. By 2001, the figure was about 50 percent (American Jewish Identity Survey, 2001, see Arnold Dashefsky with Zachary I. Heller, Intermarriage and Jewish Journeys, The National Center for Jewish Policy Studies at Hebrew College, Newton Centre, MA, 2008).
What makes intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews triple in 30 years? The answer: pluralism.
There was a time when Methodists did not marry Presbyterians. Seriously. And Jews and Christians had more limited interaction. The social worldview of Americans was anything but pluralistic. Jews were “the other” to Catholics and Protestants and Christians were “the oppressors to be watched carefully and not trusted.”
I am no expert in pluralism and sociological trends. I am speaking out of my depth. But I am guessing that media (movies, television, global news, etc.) has a lot to do with bringing disparate people groups closer together. It is more difficult to regard a Muslim, Hindu, or Orthodox Jew as a non-person when you see these people and families in the media. Lack of knowledge and insularism formerly kept people groups separate.
I do my own little experiment in regard to intermarriage. I live in Georgia, in the deep south, the Bible belt. Granted, I am in Atlanta, a city largely made up of transplants from the northeast and upper midwest. Yet I try my experiment not only in Atlanta, but in small towns in south Georgia, in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama.
When speaking in churches, I almost always ask for a show of hands, “How many of you have a Jewish relative (niece, nephew, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, etc.)?” Mind you, these are usually Southern Baptist churches. Always I get a show of hands, and never just one. This month, for example, I spoke in a small, contemporary church. With 80-90 people present, a good 6-8 raised their hand.
Baptists and Jews getting married? You bet. One of my closest friends is a Goldberg who married a Baptist.
There are now over one million intermarried couples in the United States. That’s in a Jewish population of 5-7 million (there is debate about the exact boundaries of who is considered Jewish). In many cases, these intermarrieds and their adult children are not included in the “official” numbers in Jewish population surveys. Part of the reason is that many, especially adult children of intermarriage, are uncertain of their identity. Am I Jewish? I don’t know.
All of this has tremendous implications for Messianic Judaism.
The Jewish world, both in books and synagogue programs, offers one solution: the Christian spouse and the children must become Jewish and renounce Jesus.
It’s interesting, because Christianity gets a bad rap, often deservedly so, for being intolerant and conversionist. Well, how do you like the idea that a synagogue community welcomes a non-Jewish spouse primarily through conversion? And what of children of such intermarriges, 35 percent of whom are raised Christian? Rabbi Arthur Blecher says the following:
Currently American Judaism employs a coercive response regarding Jews and Christian faith: This is not what Jews believe; if you believe this, you are no longer a Jew. (Arthur Blecher, The New American Judaism: The Way Forward on Challenging Issues from Intermarriage to Jewish Identity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).
What can Messianic Judaism do about all of this?
First of all, we need our own media campaign. We need to promote the idea that the Jewish and Christian sides of intermarriage are equally viable and valuable.
We know a place where a Jew who does not believe traditional doctrines about Jesus and the Christian spouse who seeks to integrate Jewish life and Jesus into the family are more than welcome. In case I am being obtuse here, I mean a Messianic Jewish synagogue.
We now have a major media effort underway, one which I believe is winsome and helpful for intermarried families and adult children of intermarriage.
It is a project of MJTI and you can find in at intermarrieds.com.
Intermarrieds.com features the writing of David Rudolph, author of Growing Your Olive Tree Marriage, and Ellen Quarry, a marriage and family counselor who was married to a Christian, Mike Quarry, until his death in 2006.
Intermarrieds.com will feature blog posts, articles, books with practical help, and a potential for some conversation and dialogue. If you are intermarried, I hope you will visit it often. If you are no intermarried, I hope you understand the importance of this issue and will visit the site and recommend it to friends who are intermarried.
Jews and Christians are together more than ever. And Messianic Judaism is an option explored by too few who would benefit from our environment of Jesus-faith and Jewish life.