My purpose in cataloguing some of the types of people and labeling them in groups is not to demean any group or point of view. I am listing these because I think readers might find it interesting and a good lead-in to talk about better ways to converse on blogs this new year (new decade, for that matter).
I will, as best I possibly can, rank these groups and points of view from the furthest to the nearest to myself in terms of theology and practice. The following people, based on emails and comments I receive, read this blog:
–Neo-Nazi and Aryan Christian types. There have been a few comments (quickly deleted by me) over the years and a few emails.
–Angry Muslims and sometimes more respectful Muslims, usually reacting to something about the state of Israel.
–Atheists who are sometimes hostile and sometimes simply interested in friendly debate.
–Sabbath-keeping Christian groups, Seventh Day Adventists, United Church of God, former Worldwide Church of God, and so on.
–Various non-Jewish Torah movements, Hebrew Roots, Two House, and the like, sometimes belonging to Messianic congregations but in various ways against Judaism and usually seeing no unique calling for Jewish people.
–Christians who are not necessarily positive about Israel and definitely against Torah-keeping for Messianic Jews.
–Jewish Christians, Jews in churches, and those affiliated with Christian missions to the Jews, also sometimes belonging to Messianic congregations and usually not enthusiastic about rabbinic tradition or the idea that Jews should remain in Jewish communities. Yet I put these in a closer category to myself than the non-Jewish Torah movements because usually these groups show more love in communication and are less apt to speak judgmentally.
–Israel-loving Christians who want to read the Bible in a Jewish-sensitive way and yet who do not think of themselves as Jews or that “grafted in” means total identification.
–Messianic Jews and non-Jews who love Israel, keep Torah, and yet believe that Torah is either required or preferable even for non-Jews. Some One Law, Two House, and Hebrew Roots people fit into this category.
–Messianic Jews who believe in the unique calling of the Jewish people, in the redemption of Israel in Yeshua, and in building a traditional, Yeshua-centered Judaism. As one in the process of converting, this is the category into which I would like to place myself.
The Ethics of Discussions
With all these groups reading and sometimes commenting, there are arguments here, just as there are on many blogs and public forums. I have been guilty of belligerence and unkind speech myself more than once. Isn’t 2010 a good time for all of us to grow in our ethic of treating one another in conversation?
Enjoying a good read on ethics, I sometimes immerse myself in Joseph Telushkin’s A Code of Jewish Ethics (I only have volume 1 at the moment). I just spent a little time in Telushkin’s book on the subject of when to criticize and how to criticize. Inspired by some of his many thoughts, and also by some principles from Hashivenu (see hashivenu.org), I have some resolutions for 2010:
–Since God says “you shall rebuke, yes rebuke, your fellow” (Lev 19:7), I will consider it important to challenge harmful ideas and actions, but in a manner consistent with love as shown below.
–Believing that “love without criticism is not love” (Genesis Rabbah 54:3) and “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov 27:6), I will speak gently but truthfully, considering the person I am challenging as a friend and not an enemy.
–Since I must be more concerned with the speck in my eye (Matt 7:3) I will consider myself unworthy of merciless judgment, especially knowing the mercy of my Creator.
–So that others will not think I condone a harmful idea or action, I will not let it go without a challenge.
–I will make it my goal to overlook personal slights since he who forgives an offense seeks love (Prov 17:9).
–I will always seek to correct myself before I correct others (Talmud, Bava Mezia 107b).
–I will seek to correct others gently, patiently, and if possible to avoid embarrassing, privately.
–I will try to be winsome in challenging others, believing that “the righteous person comes with pleasant, gentle words and draws people to Torah” (Midrash Proverbs 10:20).
–Confine criticism to specific words and actions; do not generalize. (For example, do not say, “why do you speak hatefully?” implying that someone habitually does so).
–Ask myself, “Am I being fair or am I exaggerating?”
–When criticized or challenged, I will not be defensive, but will consider and admit partial or complete wrongs.
–I will regard all people I discuss with as sharers in God’s image and likeness and as potential teachers.
–I will practice the rule of love given by our Messiah: treat others as I would want to be treated (Matt 7:12).
If you have been a reader of blogs and comments on blogs, perhaps you would like to share some of your thoughts.
Do controversies and arguments bring more readers and more attention to blogs?
What helps you learn the most in a dialogue: belligerence or civility?
Is there a principle of ethical discussion you would like to share or would you like to comment on one from my list?
Has a blog discussion ever caused you some unpleasant emotion and what have you learned?