Every time I see something about being a Christian in community, or a Jew in community, or especially a non-Jew in (Messianic) Jewish community, I start thinking about those of us who, for one reason or another, aren’t in community.
Many years ago, I listened to a “Messianic Jewish luminary” denigrate Gentiles who were isolated from community, and he had a point. A lot of non-Jews who have left the traditional Church for one reason or another, possess rather “fringy” theologies, and often are considered “religious nuts”. These are the kinds of people who believe faith can cure any ill, and who wouldn’t take their kid to a doctor even if he were having a heart attack. People who think taking an aspirin is a mortal sin.
But there are plenty of reasons to be disenfranchised or unaffiliated besides being mentally ill or having cult leanings.
For anyone with a “Messianic” perspective, it may be a matter of not having an appropriate venue within driving distance. In my case, it’s a little more complicated, being a Gentile believer married to a (non-Messianic) Jew.
But the most common reason we experience is that we’ve been burned, not just by the Church, but by Messianic Judaism as well.
Not to overstate the point, but Gentiles in Messianic Jewish space have traditionally been a problem, and some of us, who don’t want to be a problem, solve it by simply not showing up.
So what happens then?
Over the past few months, I’ve been satisfying my more “creative writing” desires by becoming involved in “flash fiction challenges” of various sorts. The idea is that someone posts a photo online and authors use it as an inspiration to write a very short story, anything between about 100 and 250 words. We then share our work with one another and comment.
In response to one of those challenges, I wrote The Listener.
As I finished writing it and was editing, I realized the message I was communicating was literally true of me. Various difficulties in my personal life, as well as just plain “busyness,” had resulted in my leaving the vast majority of my “religious practice” behind.
The result, among other things, was a massive piling up of anxiety and hopelessness. If God lets little kids starve all over the world, why should He care if my grandchildren are having problems? What’s the use of praying? God either knows they’re hurting and will have compassion or He won’t.
As many pundits have previously warned me, it’s hard maintaining faith outside of community, and there’s the rub.
Technically, all I should need is God, but in the history of Judaism and Christianity, at least relative to the Bible, faith has always been communal. Okay, Paul spent plenty of time alone, but he always came back (at least until he was shipped off to Rome).
I’m alone because my attending Church or anything “church-like” (such as a Messianic community) hurts my wife.
I’m alone because I’ve been burned, and more than once.
I’m alone because even if there were an appropriate community, and even if my wife didn’t mind, I wouldn’t be able to keep my mouth shut, and 100% of the time, opening my mouth eventually ends up with me offending someone.
The religious blogosphere has been pretty peaceful lately, and I suspect that’s because the trolls and nudniks have moved on to something else, but real life is a wild west show.
We may wander away from each other, but while we can keep God at a distance, He’s always close enough to touch. He doesn’t fail. He doesn’t burn you.
Sure, He’s also incredibly hard to understand and, if you have trust issues, it’s still hard to believe everything will work out in the end, especially when kids all over the world are starved, beaten, raped, burned, and otherwise assaulted and abused on a daily basis.
I’ve got to get back. Not sure how, since a lot of my praxis is based on time I no longer have.
I feel more connected when I read/study the Bible. I feel more connected when I pray. I feel more connected when I take a deep breath and reach out to His Presence.
I feel more connected when I write here.
A lot of “religious people” can and probably will be critical of me. Fortunately, God isn’t a person. He’s always ready to welcome the prodigal son home.