For someone of my ironical disposition, it’s a bit amusing to be attacked by Jews while being simultaneously under attack by anti-semites. Having made known my disdain for the so-called Alt-Right, I have been, for many months, the recipient of the ugliest Jew-hating remarks imaginable. “Stop Jew-splaining western culture, kike!” was one that had a certain zippy rhythm to it. Many others, I fear, had less charm.
Now my memoir has been published. Bearing the title The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ, it was always destined to ruffle a few Jewish feathers. Before I get to that, though, let me say that several Jewish friends who have read it have thought very highly of it. They didn’t agree with my conclusions, and it made them sorry Judaism had “lost me,” but their reactions otherwise were generous, complimentary and kind.
Other Jews not so much. I’m not going to mention names, because there’s nothing personal about this — not for me. And since all their objections to the book are of two kinds, it’s easier simply to address them generically.
First, there are those Jewish readers — and many who haven’t bothered to read — who have said or written to me that a Jew “can’t convert” under the rules of Judaism or that he can’t convert until he first becomes a full Jew. My first reaction to this remark is to note the similarity in logic to some of the Alt-Right’s anti-semitic attacks which say essentially, “I don’t care if you have water sprinkled on you. A Jew is a Jew!”
Now, of course, if I had known these people were in charge of what faith I could hold or what religion I was allowed to be, I would have checked in with them first for permission before just going off and having myself baptized like a crazy man. Instead, I simply checked with God. If they have any objections to His decision, they can complain to Him. He’s always available.
I’m reminded of the wonderful moment when I first met my lovable-but-obstreperous friend, the comedian Steve Crowder. I was hanging out with my lovable-but-wry friend Bill Whittle at the PJTV studios. Bill was sitting in a chair with his feet up, paging through a newspaper. Crowder trundled up to me and said, “So — you’re a Jew who got baptized! What do I call you? Apocalyptic? Completed?” Without looking up, Bill murmured, “How about ‘Christian’?” Wise man, that Whittle. Unlike, say, gender, your faith is not defined by your genes or your physical make-up. Your faith is actually defined by, you know, your faith. My faith is in Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life. I’m a Christian.
The second Jewish objection to my conversion goes something like this: “You never really tried your own religion. How can you reject it, if you don’t really know it?” I am much more sympathetic to this complaint because of its tone of regret, the sense that a sheep has been lost from the fold. I take that as a compliment and appreciate it. But the fact is, there are many religions I don’t know a lot about and haven’t experienced. By accepting Christ, I didn’t “reject” Sufism or Zoroastrianism. I know more about Judaism than I know about those, but I didn’t reject Judaism either. As readers of my book will learn — and as I only discovered in writing the book — Christ had been calling to me ever since I was a child. It took me fifty years to answer Him. Believe me, I thought it through.
Among the obstacles to my baptism was my deep desire never to seem to have denied my Jewish heritage. In truth, I never knew myself as a Jew at all until I knew myself in Christ. I know why that offends some Jewish people, but it shouldn’t. At his call, I turned toward Christ. I never turned away from His brother and sister Jews, and never will.