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Mixed Lineage

January 17, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Oxford Study Bible, page 6: “both [the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament] relate the continuing story of God’s involvement with the Jewish people and the surrounding Gentile world.”

What does this have to do with me? Why are these the scriptures on which I’ve built my life? I’m not Jewish, and since the word “Gentile” only has meaning from a Jewish worldview, I’m not Gentile either.

I suppose there is both form and content at play here, the cultural clothing and the truth that it clothes. Human beings all over the world have interactions with God, and, distinct from their cultural trappings, the truth they discover is universal, therefore fair game. The clothing certainly belongs to one person or another, but the truth inside that clothing isn’t something that can belong to you or me – rather, you or I belong to it. It so happened that the Jewish stories introduced me to the God I know. They will always be the foundation.

I just don’t understand why I don’t have a faith tradition of my own, specific to my own people. I can’t get past the idea that Christianity stole someone’s holy book, added a bunch of other stuff, then reintroduced it as its own property. Yes, Christianity’s identity is distinct, and history proves it capable of holding its own alongside Judaism, Islam and Buddhism, but to me the fact that it originally commandeered another people’s tradition makes it something of an imposter.

Then again, there are other ways of seeing. We all have a lineage, and no lineage is “pure.” The lines change over time, and distinct identities emerge from blending ancestors who hold nothing in common with their descendants.

Once there was a Jew who revolutionized his faith, attracting Gentiles, yet his Jewish followers did not require these newcomers to convert to the formal tradition, so a new formal tradition emerged.

Long before that, there was a Hebrew who had two sons, one who called God Jehova and one who came to use the name Allah; they both honored the father they shared, and went different ways.

And even longer ago, there were people and myths and gods, and the stories they told formed and reformed the people that emerged during the telling, until Abraham was born and Genesis was taught. This happened in the cradle of what is called civilization. It happened in the land where the first humans were made.

The stories that belong to the land in which I now live are important, and I am learning them; yet I am not native here and must admit a different lineage. I am a third-generation European transplant. My people were immigrants and Christians.

From time to time a tradition begs for reform, yet when reform comes, the result is not a changed original but a new invention. Martin Luther did not reform Catholicism; he invented Protestantism. Jesus did not reform Judaism; he invented Christianity. I too will go back to the root: Catholicism, the paganism it replaced, the Judaism that preceded it, Hebrew mythology and the stories that came before. I will seek to reconcile the problems I find. I will seek a truth to which I can belong, one that has relevance to the land where I live, to myself and my own, and perhaps in the end I will find that something new has been invented. In so doing, I must accept the debt I owe the Hebrew Bible and its Jews.

Nevertheless, while that debt may well explain why I grew up reading the Bible, it doesn’t explain why I read it now. I read it because I love it; even when it says things I can’t accept, it has my love.

Yet if the Bible introduced me to God, it must also be said that the Bible has nothing to do with the God I know. Everything is intertwined; everything is unmixable. When I walk outside, I remember the importance of direct experience.

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