Tribes

Rabbi David Novak has some bracing words for those who believe that Judaism is exclusively tribal, whereas Christianity may only be meaningfully called universal:

[Conrad] Black’s second error concerns the present state of the Jews and Judaism. What does he mean when he says “Judaism, though close theologically, is more tribal and philosophical than spiritual”? I assume he means “tribal” to be the antithesis of “universal.” Some Christians still do like to think of Christianity as a “universal” religion that is much wider and all-embracing than narrow “tribal” Judaism. Yet one could make a very good case that Judaism is as universal as Christianity, and Christianity is as tribal as Judaism. Judaism is universal inasmuch as Jews can live their Judaism anywhere in the world (though always best lived in the Land of Israel), and anyone can become a Jew who is willing to accept the kingship of the God of Israel (who is also the Creator of the universe) and pledge himself or herself to live according to the commandments of the Torah as taught by ongoing Jewish tradition. And Christianity is as tribal as Judaism inasmuch as those Christians baptized in infancy are as much born into the Christian people (the Church as an extended tribe) by virtue of their Christian parents as I was born into the Jewish people by virtue of my Jewish parents. In fact, the tribal notion of birth being how one is joined to one’s people is so strong in both Judaism and Christianity that both traditions consider converts to be “born again” rather than just being individual volunteers. Moreover, unlike a voluntary association, one cannot “check out” or be “kicked out” of either the Jewish people or the Christian Church, whether a native-born or naturalized member thereof.

As a born-again Christian and a Baptist, I believe that one can not be born into Christianity as a mere function of your birth.

One must choose Christ; that choice must be made by one who is capable of making that choice. God may choose an infant for future salvation (I am a Reformed Baptist); the infant is not capable of choosing God. Your parents, your village, your country, can not make that choice for you. If they do, then your Christianity is just as tribal as traditional Judaism. No more, no less.

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