Why do Christians Become Enraged When Fellow Parishioners Choose to be Chosen?

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I always wondered why Christians have a visceral reaction when the core principles of their faith are questioned. They might laugh off annoying atheists, but they glower at former Christians who urge them to choose the Jewish faith. I thought about this conundrum for the past 30 years. I cannot count the number of people that I watched return to God during this time. Hashem redeemed so many from the Church in recent years. As it turns out, I have never been a Christian. As such, I studied this phenomenon as a detached observer. This, I believe, has been to my advantage.

On most occasions, people do not leave the church in an instant. Rather, there is a transitional period where Christians begin to apprehend that something may be askew in the Church; they begin to grasp that many of its core teachings are doubtful. They let go one finger at a time. There is a gradual process of awareness. Ex-Christians may not take this into account as they engage in what turns out to be a stressful conversation with their former coreligionists.

Frequently, this informal investigation and probing begins by calling into question the long-enduring doctrine of the Trinity. Their departure from the church spirals from there. As time moves on, Christians eventually discover that the authors of the NT may have quoted the Jewish scriptures dishonestly. I mean dishonestly here; I don’t mean incorrectly. They grasp that the authors of the NT may have done their work in a nefarious manner. Christians could live with mistakes in the NT. After all, some scribe may have copied something wrong. Mistakes happen. No one leaves Christianity because there is a mistake in the New Testament. But they cannot abide by lying.

Finally,─and this is big─they are shocked by the vacant, unsatisfying answers they receive from their pastors and church elders about these inconsistencies. They are appalled by the fuming reaction they often encounter from their coreligionists. They don’t know what happened to the “love.”

There is, however, another element in the foreground.

For most Christians, converting to Judaism or becoming a Ben Noach is incomprehensible. Theoretically, anyone can convert to anything; however, becoming a Jew is not a real, practical option for most Christians. It is not a part of their world. In one word, it is alien. Almost all Christians in the West perceive that they have two practical alternatives: 1) believe in God and be a Christian 2) deny the existence of God and identify as an agnostic or atheist. Theoretically, there are countless other choices in a free society. Practically speaking, however, those who grow up in the Christian world consider these two options as their only real, viable choices. Because the belief in God is innate─after all, we are all created in the image of God, and therefore awareness of the Creator is primal─those who leave the Church must discover that they can worship the true God of Israel. If they let go of one understanding of God, there better be a correct one to hold onto. They know there is a God, and they know it isn’t Buddha. It has to be the Father, the God of Israel.

With this in mind, I may be able to explain why people, who are completely rational in other aspects of their lives, cognitively shut down when everything they believe about God’s salvation plan for mankind is challenged. First, they are emotionally unprepared for the conclusion of the ex-Christian: everything you believe in about Jesus is false. They are not there yet; they never went through the process. They are utterly unprepared for the trauma they associate with “rejecting Jesus.” This “rejecting Jesus” part is very important.

Why do Christians always call not being a Christian “rejecting Jesus?” We don’t think of not being a Muslim as “rejecting Mohammad.” We just don’t believe in the tenets of Islam. It’s nothing personal about Mohammad. Why the fuming rejecting language?

This leads me to the next point: the Christian mind is filled with powerful stories of people turning their back on Jesus. Don’t underestimate the importance of the stories found in the Gospels. It is these stirring stories about Jesus, not the firm doctrines of Paul that attract people to Christianity. The moving stories in the Gospels may contradict each other, but they are so compelling. All the characters in the Synoptics and especially John are well-developed. The odious villains are gripping. “You want me to do to Jesus what his enemies did to him?,” they wonder aloud. “I’ve been betrayed. I know what that experience feels like; and I am not going to do it to Jesus. And don’t do it to Jesus either!” Furthermore, “I’ve been talking to Jesus since I was four years old. Was I speaking to nobody?” Christians are appalled at the suggestion that they should “reject Jesus.”

The fear of going to hell is very real to Christians. The confidence that they exude by their certainty that they are going to heaven after they die is supremely important to Christians.

To make matters worse, except for a few famous stories here and there, a handful of prayers from the book of Psalms, and Isaiah 53, almost no Christian has read the Jewish Bible in its entirety. And the few that are somewhat conversant in the Jewish Prophets, read only selected parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. A very tinny number of Christians have ever thoroughly read the entire Jewish Scriptures. And with the exception of a studious few, the tinny number of churchgoers who read the entire Book of Jeremiah only did it once in their lives. Few pastors ever read the Book of Amos or Chronicles; and they rarely can tell you a thing about the book of Habakkuk. Of course, Christians believe these timeless works are holy; they are just not motivated to study them. And, to make matters worse, except for some professor in college, no Christian can read Tanach in its original Hebrew. They are all slaves to the all-important Christian translator who happily leads them by the cross dangling on their necklace. As a result, it never occurred to any Christian that the Jewish Bible almost never mentions heaven or hell. It is mentioned. And if you search carefully, you will find those passages that briefly discuss the afterlife. As it turns out, the discussion of heaven and hell in the Jewish scriptures comes up passingly and indirectly. It is not the point of the teaching. It is never conveyed as a threat or an epic creed. In stark contrast, the authors of the New Testament routinely threaten their readers with eternal damnation and hellfire; and Christians seem to know exactly who is going there. Why the vast disparity between the Jewish Scriptures and the Christian Bible on this point? Christians never ask this question. Never.

As it turns out, we spend a lot more time dead than alive. Why then is there so little ink spent on this topic in Tanach? The answer is simple: of course there is a heaven and hell. Without Olam Haba and Gehenim, the World to Come and Hell, there could be no justice in the world.

Detailed information about heaven and hell, however, has nothing to do with how you are to conduct your life in this world, the only place you have free will. Tanach is committed only to conveying information that you need to live your life properly in this world. In other words, the details about the afterlife are unimportant (and incomprehensible), and God is not going to threaten you with something that is inaccessible. You can’t test it.

In stark contrast, when Hashem speaks to us in the Torah, He brings into view epic moments from the knowable past; events that the entire Jewish people witnessed. In turn, the people of Israel are commanded to be a “witness” to the world, a “light to the nations.” The Almighty therefore declares to us, “I am the God Who brought you out of Egypt; I am the God Who brought you to the Promised Land.” It is for this reason that the Torah calls upon us to “Remember” (Deut. 4-5, 7, 13, 15-16, 24). The Torah commands the Nation of Israel in the first person, “You shall remember, you shall remember!” No nation would have accepted such a detailed command to remember that which was seen and experienced had these events not actually occurred. The emphasis which is placed on remembering demonstrates that the memory of these events carved itself deeply in the consciousness of the nation. Furthermore, the nation of Israel is commanded to remember the events that they were witness to and personally experienced. Only when it becomes evident that the Torah was not written at a later date or dates, but at the time the events themselves occurred, is it conceivable that the entire nation would shoulder the responsibility to remember. This claim is testable─it is verifiable─and therefore it is a claim made only by the children of Israel. No other nation in history had the audacity or the ability to claim that God revealed Himself to their entire nation. On the other hand, no one can test the veracity of the well-worn claim that you are going to go to hell if you don’t believe.

None of what I stated has ever crossed the mind of a Christian. Nothing. Are Christians therefore stupid? A re they unable to process such unambiguous teachings? We know the answer: they were deprived of the tools to discover this on their own. As such, they imitate the scandalous methods of the New Testament writers and impose Jesus onto the Jewish Scriptures, an Oracle they cannot read and know too little about.

In short, Christians need a lot of room to think, lots of space to ponder, lots of patience for growth, and lots of prayer to Hashem

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20 Comments

  1. Rabbi..you nail it every time..My christian friends look at me in bewilderment when I ask them to just at least examine the validity of their faith. Why the fear? I pointed out errors and mistranslations, inconsistencies and lies and yet they refuse to question their beliefs..Its to scary for them..What would they do if they began to doubt their faith. Better to turn a blind eye..its really quite sad.

  2. Tovia, you are spot on…. For me, both my parents were Jews, yet Mom insisted that we be raised Christian and Dad did not want to fight about it.
    For me, the first thing I dumped was the eternal burning hell, while remaining in the church…. as a teaching elder in three different churches; I simply avoided the subject. Then the trinity became increasingly bothersome to me as I found it was not even consistent with Christian scriptures. I was 22 years in my Th.D. educated brother’s church, when finally all his Jesus hallucinations in the Tenach finally bothered me so much that I looked first into Bibilical Unitarians, after the messianic groups turned out to be Baptists in a tallit. When I finally decided I absolutely had to go, it cause me to lose my three siblings and all the friends I thought I had (My parents are both deceased, but my Dad seemed simpathetic to the idea of converting to Judaism when I mentioned that I was looking into a synagogue).
    I am now a practicing Jew at the Ocala, Florida Chabad house. My wife is still resistant and hangs onto some elements of xtianity, but she attends with me. Yes, it has been hard, and yes, it has been a process of letting go of what i was raised on one finger at a time. But I cannot go back to what I have clearly seen is false and a throroughly defeatist, idolatrous religion.

    • Shalom Uvrakha my brother David Kaufman, I was raise conservative but I have been secular. But 15 years ago my wife asked me to become Torah abservant and Shabbat Keeper.we tried it and know I can’t have enough of Tanakh. But Rabbi Tovia was a big teacher for me. And May Hashem bless Rabbi Tovia and guard him for at least 120 years.

  3. Thank you, I have been on a long journey with this and you have helped cement important fundamental understandings that I have never understood being a christain. You have taken the fear away of not believing in Christ and can now understand why the modern church has become so twisted with doctrines of devils.
    I am satisfied that if we can’t match doctrine with the Torah it isn’t true. I can rest solely on this.

    Sue

  4. Dear Rabbi Toiva Singer,
    English is not my born language. but, want to say you this:
    Your precious articles listed at past web site: messiahtruth.org. – maybe – was let me discharge my over thirty at most sincere worshiper for the Nazarene and decide for Judaism during my writing for my hundreds readers by articles on subject “Why Jews refuse messiah” in Dec. 2010. Thus, I leave you my most deeply thanks for your stronger efforts for Ha Shem. Many thanks.
    Your articles let me discover the Real True Ha Shem, Creator of me. And I taught the truth and Judaism to my daughter, so more thanks. May Ha Shem bless you and your family and all Israel. Thanks.

  5. hello rabbi tovia 🙂
    i thank G-D for men like yourself who aren’t hesitant to proclaim Hashem’s truth. it opens eyes and ignites souls. i have been listening to you for quite a while and enjoy the passion that Hashem gives you. i have recently left behind me all “christian teachings”. and began to attend chabab of poway in san diego,CA.

  6. I grew up in a Jewish/Agnostic Christian household and went to Easter services every year thinking it would be “the” year the sermon convinced me of the death and resurrection story… never happened. Close a few times. As an adult, I attended a church every Sunday for 5 years because I liked the sermons and Sunday school was getting me to read the bible and begin to understand the words (growing up, none of it made sense). I was amazed at how little the church goers knew about the OT, and began reading it with voracity… going back and forth between NT and OT to see what Christians believed were fulfilled prophecies… none I could see. In fact, I took a womens study class on Isaiah to see if that would help me clarify the announcement of Jesus, only to find it was a beautiful poem about Jacob/Israel, servant of G-d, the people who are witness to the Holy One. Its G-d’s declaration of feeling betrayed and forgotten by the people He chose, and His discipline and restoration of them. Then, the Pastor had a run in with cancer and his sermons changed tone… he actually began to call Jesus God… my eyes were opened! I was dizzy thinking I had been tricked… I didn;t know that Christians thought Jesus was G-d, I thought they believed he was son of G-d… I felt sick and asked for forgiveness for ever having taken communion… I saw the crosses on the wall and felt light headed… I began thinking why are these people drinking his blood and eating his flesh to celebrate the killing? It sickened me more. I never told the people why I stopped going as they would have prayed for my straying to satan… as they called Jews members of the synagogue of satan, and I didnt want any prayers from them at all. I thank my years at that church for giving me the internal motivation for reading OT and NT to open my eyes and keep seeking the truth.

  7. This article hits the nail on the head. I don’t how many years I wandered around with no spiritual fullfilment before I converted to Judaism. Only one or two in my family have ever really understood why.

  8. All my life I had a serious problem with the trinity (due to the fact that my mother was a Jehova’s witness) and I discussed this problem only with trinitarians, of course. In my culture everybody is trinitarian. In the last months I studied by my own this problem and now my problem is solved,is extremley clear, baruch Hashem. Now I can’t tell to nobody (with very few exceptions, Baruch Hashem) that I don’t,I can’t believe anymore in Jesus as the Messiah, or as God incarnate. It is very interesting that my theological problems started to solve since I began to learn hebrew. But it is odd that I started to learn it not to study Tanach, but only because I discovered several songs in hebrew and because I dreamt to read Amos Oz in original.

  9. This article perfectly highlights so many issues I have held with my religious upbringing and indoctrination. It’s like you were able to reach into my person, and put words to every one of my lingering doubts and ongoing suspicions. I was raised on a congregation full of hypocrisy and deceit, and all around me adults engaged in a willful suspension of reasonable thought. It just never made sense to me and I am finally understanding why! I feel a calmness in my soul after reading this, like none I’ve ever felt after any church service. Could anyone suggest more reading on this topic for someone like me?

  10. I can totally relate to this article. I left the church about 7 years ago. For me something was amiss but I couldn’t put my finger on it. One day I had a very emotional day. That’s really the only was to describe it. I told G-d ok I’m in whatever it is. And within just a few days out of nowhere, I bought a Jewish bible and felt lead to read Jeremiah. To this day I haven’t a clue why I did that. Of course, I did the Messianic thing for a while. I never joined a church or synagogue but I felt like I was getting close. But the BIG thing for me was Paul. Something was just not right with this dude! I studied night and day for years. My family thought I was nuts. One of my children had a nervous breakdown on the spot when I told them I felt Paul was a false prophet. Needless to say after that we didn’t discuss religion anymore. Lucky for me my daughter’s in laws had a Jewish relative and I locked my sights on her. We have become great friends and my family has no idea that we even talk. She was the first person I told that I was considering converting. She was so excited. She sent a prayer book and some other books on conversion. It’s been very lonely though because no one else knows. Rabbi is right, it’s not something you can talk about. My husband and I are very well educated professional people with degrees in science so when our belief system became in question and could be proven incorrect or wrong we really had no problem with it. We thrive on empirical evidence. Even though my husband wasn’t able to study for hours and hours as I did he had no problem with anything I told him because I could prove it with scripture. I could disprove the New testament with the Old. We had no problem checking Jesus at the front door but it wasn’t over night. So now the question is do we convert or join a Noahide group which around here is even harder to find than a synagogue. We will most likely convert because somehow to me it just feels like I would be compromising. Rabbi Tovia, I ordered everything on your website and we continue to study so we will be prepared to defend our faith. In a lot of ways I feel robbed. Robbed of a life because I lived a certain way as a Christian. All Christians are taught to live for the next life. But it is what it is and I can’t change it. I’m just so thankful that I finally found the truth. I never had this kind of peace in my soul with Christianity. Please pray for our family. We still have one child at home. I am so glad I did not raise her in the church. She would just be confused and have to unlearn so much. She has always gone to a Christian school but we got her out asap. Rabbi, there are more of us out there. I talk to people and they are beginning to see the light. When they bring something up I just plant a little tiny seed and let G-d do the rest. Thanks again. Keep up the great work and my G-d bless.

  11. The article comes to the very correct conclusion that Christians have never been given the tools needed objectively to evaluate Judaism and Christianity in the context of Judaism.

    The author does not say it outright, but it is the conclusion that I had years ago in AK: Christians need to be taught. Not “they need their own teaching supplemented by that of rabbinim”. Instead, Christians need to have their largely incorrect teaching replaced by correct teaching from people of knowledge and understanding. And the people who do this teaching need to do so nicely and patiently. Otherwise, that teaching won’t help anyone.

    The author’s bottom line is important: “In short, Christians need a lot of room to think, lots of space to ponder, lots of patience for growth, and lots of prayer to Hashem”

    I do add that in addition, Christians also need teachers who have kindness, patience, and 4,000 years of intimate knowledge of the Scriptures, both written and oral.

  12. Thanks, Rav T. Your website, books and phone conversations got me started on my way to the truth some 7 years ago, after experiencing the exact same scenario described in this article. Today, I completed my journey to Judaism and finalized my conversion before the Beit Din.
    Baruk Hashem!

  13. I am so glad to have found you Rabbi Singer, also all those who respond and tell their stories. Mine of course is similar, My husband and I considered ourselves Christians for over 30 years but always felt unfulfilled, there had to be something more.
    Short story, we have turned away from Christianity and embraced the Tanakh. It is so difficult as we live at the very bottom of New Zealand in a small populated area with absolutely no-one to talk to about the things we have discovered. The closest Rabbi is not even on the same island as us. New Zealand is 3 Islands for those who don’t know. We have looked at an online conversion to Judaism course but it would end up costing us around $1000 and we don’t have that kind of spare money, my husband is having chemotherapy for leukaemia and not working for the moment. Not complaining, just explaining our difficulty in knowing how to move forward. I am so grateful to you all.

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