18 October 2007

Dialogue.

Matt Labash hilariously goes back-and-forth with A.J. Jacobs regarding the latter's book, The Year of Living Biblically. A very fine example of meaningful Jewish-Christian dialogue:

So, I'm accepting this invitation in order to see what happens when two worlds collide, when Christian (me) and Jew (you) come together, breaking matzo and sipping Jesus juice in the spirit of brotherhood, interfaith dialoguing so that we can celebrate both the commonality and distinctions of our shared Abrahamic traditions. Also, I'm hoping that by the time it's all over and we've fostered mutual understanding, walking hand-in-hand by the flickering lamplight of enlightenment, that you'll renounce your false beliefs and accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

Or maybe I'll let the proselytizing slide. You wouldn't have much conversion value to my superiors back at HQ. You do, after all, admit in your book that you've been a committed agnostic who "is Jewish the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant" and only says "Lord" when "of the Rings" follows it. So, let me start with a compliment.

I've just finished The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest To Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. I don't want to give too much away about your excellent book, but in it, you strive to follow the Bible as literally as possible for a year. And at the risk of overreaching, I'm just going to say it: It's better than the Bible. Or not better, necessarily. But it is funnier, moves faster, and doesn't bog you down with any of those genealogies. I know that God's ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), but I never understood, with limited space and the pressure of crafting a universal message to resonate throughout the ages, why He would bother squandering valuable chapters telling me that Meraioth begat Amariah, and Amariah begat Ahitub.

And here's Jacobs in installment #4:

As you probably noticed, I spent more time following the Old Testament, first because I am officially Jewish, and second because that's where most of the laws are. I also discovered that—despite my secular upbringing—I do have a surprisingly Jewish and Old Testament way of thinking. For instance: I am attracted to deed over creed. This, as you know, is a handy Jewish catchphrase. The religion places more emphasis on the behavior than on the belief. It's considered more important to follow the ethical laws and do the prayers than to believe in God.

The weird thing is, my creed eventually started to catch up to my deeds. I became more spiritual during my year. I couldn't handle the cognitive dissonance. Which is how I ended up calling myself a reverent agnostic. I was praying several times a day, and it gave me a sense of awe. I'm going to sound like a high-school sophomore who just took his first bong hit, but I'll say it anyway: My prayers helped remind me of the miracle that there is something instead of nothing, of the unlikely fact the world exists at all.


Here's the first installment.
 

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