Supersessionism is when a Theology attempts to push Jews out of their seat. Inclusionist Messianic Judaism (i.e. One Law) says that Jews remain Jews and remain obligated to the Sinaitic Covenant. Thus, it can’t be considered supersessionist–because Jews keep their seat. They remain the older brother–and that means being a role model and also teaching the younger, adopted brother (Gentiles) how to understand and practice Torah.
-Commentary from a Hebrew Roots blog post
OK, I’ll bite. I know I shouldn’t, but I will. Like the politically correct pundits and visionaries popular in the mainstream media, the term “inclusionist” seems all nice and cozy, but it doesn’t always fit well when translated into other venues.
Do I believe in “inclusionism?” First, we need a definition of “inclusion.”
- The act of including or the state of being included.
- Something included.
There were also entries for how inclusion is used in Geology, Biology, Computer Science, and Mathematics, but they didn’t seem particularly relevant to the conversation.
Of course, I support inclusion as applied to equal access to resources in society such as education, jobs, housing, and the “pursuit of happiness,” but that has to be filtered through a few things such as “citizenship.” If you’re a citizen in this country, you have rights, such as the right to vote, for example. If you aren’t a citizen, your rights aren’t the same and sometimes you don’t have access to the identical resources in society as do citizens.
With that in mind, let’s return to the specifics of the subject at hand.
Bob (Craig T. Nelson): You need an invitation?
Lucius (Samuel L. Jackson): I’d like one, yes.
-from the film The Incredibles (2004)
I’ve written about supersessionism or replacement theology many, many times before, including in a four-part series in Messiah Journal last year. As a Christian husband married to a Jewish wife, I am very sensitive (some might say, “overly sensitive”) to the basic tenet that has been supported in the majority of the history of the church that Christianity has replaced Judaism in all of the covenant promises God made to Israel. In essence, the church is supposed to be the “New Israel” and Judaism and the Jewish people are now “has beens” relegated by God to the backwaters of eternity.
However, according to the person I quoted above, supersessionism is “solved” when Christians don’t try to push Jews “out of their seat” but rather, try to crowd into the same seat with them. Does that work? I don’t think so.
I’ve blogged and blogged about how this doesn’t work in so many different ways that you’d think one of them would “stick” by now, but as Rabbi Dr. Michael Schiffman recently said, maybe the person commenting or I or both of us are “addicted to negativity.” I hope not, but there’s something about misinformation and disinformation that gets under my skin.
Let’s accept the existing metaphor used by my source, that supersessionism is the pushing of Jews (presumably by Christians) out of their seat, or their accepted identity and role as defined by the Bible and God. What does it do to push the Jews out of their seat and to sit in it instead as usurpers?
Usurp, as a transitive verb is:
- to seize and hold (as office, place, or powers) in possession by force or without right (usurp a throne)
- to take or make use of without right (usurped the rights to her life story)
- to take the place of by or as if by force : supplant (must not let stock responses based on inherited prejudice usurp careful judgment)
Used as an intransitive verb:
- to seize or exercise authority or possession wrongfully
Boiling it all down, it would be as if I lead a political coup in a nation, kicked the King off the throne and replaced the King as ruler of the nation.
OK, I get that and I agree. I have no right to replace the King. The metaphor seems to hold up pretty well when compared to what we understand about supersessionism.
But what about sharing the throne? What if I lead a political coup and demand that the King share the throne with me? I’m not kicking him out of his chair, so to speak, but I’m demanding that he share the throne with me, insisting that I have rights to sit in his chair, too. Do I really have a right to do that? Not if I don’t have legitimate claim to royal authority. If I do, then either I’m the rightful King and the person now on the throne is a pretender, or I am in line for the throne once it becomes available.
Neither of those metaphors works very well when we apply them to the covenant relationship Judaism enjoys relative to God. In fact, as Gentiles “grafted in” to the Jewish olive tree, we don’t suddenly become Jewish and thus have rights to “share the throne” in the manner of those who were born as “Princes.” If Christians aren’t Jews, then no matter how much we share access to God and to salvation and a place in the world to come, we don’t actually become Jewish and thus, hold an identity and responsibilities exactly equal to those who originally came to be a light to the world.
Let’s change the picture a little bit. There’s a children’s birthday party. Naturally the “birthday boy” gets the seat at the head of the table and is served a double portion of ice cream and cake because, after all, he’s the birthday boy, this is his home, and it’s his special time.
Now let’s say that one of the other kids gets jealous. Maybe his birthday has come and gone and he didn’t get such a nice party or maybe he just sees all the attention the birthday boy is getting and he wants it, too. He can push the birthday boy out of his chair and try to take the double portion of ice cream and cake, but as we see from our above metaphors, we know it’s wrong to do so. Let’s say the jealous birthday boy knows it’s wrong, too.
But, hey! What if we “share?”
So the jealous boy goes to sit in the same chair as the birthday boy, “shoehorning” himself into a very limited space meant to be occupied only by one person. He brings his own spoon and insists that the birthday boy share his seat, his cake, his ice cream, and his presents.
Does that seem right to you?
No, of course not. Only the birthday boy is the birthday boy. Even if the jealous boy was born on the same day (and he probably wasn’t), it’s still not his party, his cake, his ice cream, or his presents. He gets his own seat, his own cake, and his own ice cream because he’s an invited guest. Maybe he’s even a special guest because he’s the birthday boy’s best friend (think David and Jonathan). Maybe after the party is over, the birthday boy will share all his gifts and play with him. All the jealous boy has to do is accept who he is, where he’s seated, and be kind and patient. All the jealous boy has to do is realize that it’s the birthday boy’s day, not his own.
That’s what happens at most birthday parties for children. We teach children who is the special person who is having the birthday and who are the guests. We teach them that only special friends and relatives are invited to be guests at the banquet. There are other kids who don’t know the birthday boy who don’t get invited and don’t get ice cream, cake, and a door prize.
If the jealous boy realizes all that, then he realizes that even though he’s not the birthday boy, he’s special too, and he has no reason at all to be jealous. By being rude and trying to “share” something that clearly doesn’t belong to him, he risks losing everything. By understanding that he is special and a friend and a guest, he will someday gain everything.
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
–Luke 14:7-11 (ESV)
Now, was that so hard to understand? Even a little child can get it.