A Religious Misunderstanding
Ever since I got to this university I have been wanting to ask every Jewish person on this campus the same thing. Isn't it great to be Jewish? I try to find subtle ways to ask the question, but my approaches don't really disguise it that well. I'm sure in this world of political correctness everyone thinks I am engaging in some latent form of anti-Semitism. I'm not. Really. And I'd like to take this opportunity to explain myself.
I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, but both my parents immigrated to Canada from Barbados. For as long as I can remember we've been going to Barbados every other year.
When I was nine years old, my parents sent my little sister and me to Barbados alone for the first time. We stayed with my mother's parents. It was June, but we had left school early in order to get to the island in time for my aunt's wedding. As a result my cousins were still in school, and without my parents there to drag us around to see all of our friends and relatives there wasn't much to do all day.
Before I left, my father had given me a brand new Bible. It was a children's Bible, written in modern english with lots of pictures. I read all of my other books in the first two days.
So I decided: "This books looks okay. My dad gave it to me. I'll read it." Had I known anything about the magnitude of the Bible I probably wouldn't have tried to read the whole thing. But, since no-one was there to inform me of this, I just plunged in.
Now, Christian parents generally make their children read the bible in a particular order. You must start with the New Testament. They do this for a reason. If you don't start with the life of Christ and get them going on how terrific that was, you can really confuse a persons. I am a living example of this.
Since my dad wasn't around to tell me start with, say, Matthew, I started where you usually start a book--at the beginning, with Genesis. I read through Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel I & II. I thought Chronicles was kind of boring so I skipped over to Job (I remembered hearing about him before), Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon and Isaiah before my parents joined us three weeks later.
Lest you think I must have been a religious child, let me correct you now. I thought the Bible was just about the most exciting book I had ever read. I read it morning, noon and night (literally--that's the only way you could get through that mush of it in three weeks).
Wars. plagues, revenge, deceit, scheming, plotting, matricide, patricide, adultery--you name it, the Bible had it. I think I must have missed the religious significance entirely. I knew one thing for sure though--the Jews were cool. As long as you stuck with them it didn't matter how much those Gentiles thought they were getting away with--God was gonna getchya.
When Moses came and said "Let my people go!," I was smirking. I was thinking, they should have listened to Moses. Now they're gonna get it. They're gonna get it. They're gonna get it. And I was right. Soon enough came plagues, locusts, water turning to blood, first born children dropping dead (okay, I admit that one kind of scared me, but I was on the Jews' side, and grandmother had a goat which could sub in for a lamb in case any emergency safety marks had to be made above the door). This was a cool book. I definitely had to let my dad in on it.
Dad was pretty pleased about all my enthusiasm for "the good book." If he had any concerns about my delight in government overthrows, homicide and biological warfare, he didn't say anything. With my dad in may corner, I decided to hazard a question, one which had been niggling in the back of my mind. After all, dad did know things sometimes.
"Dad, what's Gentile?"
Little did I know that my childhood faith was about to be shattered.
"Someone who isn't Jewish." I had to be wary, after all. You never knew what a Gentile was up to and I didn't want one sneaking up on me. This is where he dropped the bomb.
"Well, you're not Jewish." You would have been a Gentile if you had lived in bible days."
I couldn't believe it. I mean, I knew I was a Christian. I just thought that Christians were a type of Jew. I was crushed. Depressed. Inconsolable. I was an unchosen. God was out there waiting to get me. I was also really mad at my dad. What did he let me read this book for, if he was only going to tell me at the end that I was a bad guy? I told him as much.
"I think you should read some of the New Testament," he wisely but somewhat belatedly suggested.
So I started in on Luke. But it wasn't any action. Supposed miracle births (there is nothing that miraculous about a virgin having a baby if you don't know anything about sex), bringing people back from the dead (they did that every day on "Emergency") and a whole bunch of people wandering around and talking. All the characters were boring too. None of the good guys ever did anything bad. I just couldn't relate.
The only semi-interesting guy was Judas. At least he had some personality. And he didn't mean to get Jesus nailed to the cross. Look how badly he felt about it. I couldn't believe that God would be so mean as to send him to hell forever.
Plus, the New Testament had all of these horrendous stories, like the one about some people who had to work all day for half a cent, while others only had to work for half an hour for half a cent, and the people who worked all day were supposed to be happy. Or, worse yet, there is the one about the younger sibling who runs away with half the money but when he returns, his mum and dad throw him a party and make his older brother share what's left. Now, as an older sibling, I know that's just not fair.
If someone did something bad in the New Testament, there was no eye-for-an-eye. I just got to turn my cheek and dump a bunch of dust on their head. Nope, the New Testament just wasn't for me. I promptly informed my dad.
"Julie, don't you understand that Jesus dies for you?"
Great, so now, just because a friend of my dad's got killed and told God he did it for me, I had to stay a Christian and pray to Jesus every night or he wasn't going to use his blood blotter to ink out my sins before God could read about them in the Big Book of Bad Deeds and decide not to let me into heaven.
Of course, after some efficient deprogramming my dad was able to convert me into an acceptable variety of Christian. In fact, as I write, I'm counting down the days until the end of lent, and the advent of desert (which I gave up). My early experience left though. I still wonder...isn't it great to be Jewish?