Inveterate Missionizing

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On the elevator this morning, a courier — this legit-looking man in his late 30s or so — took out one of the earbuds to his iPhone and hooked it atop the massive golden cross on his neck. And for the next four floors, the rest of my elevator guests and I heard, very loudly and publicly, an Alicia Keys clone shrieking out “Jesus, Jee-e-eee-zuss” in holy tremors over a sustained, mid-tempo soft-R ‘n B keyboard track.

I used to shiver every time I heard the word “Jesus,” as though the name alone might dig into my skull and involuntarily convert me. I actively tried to avoid saying it. I was in Bible Club in my public high school along with a bunch of born-again Christians (although part of it was, admittedly, because of this girl with amazing hair who smelled like vanilla) and thought I’d open myself up to this strange other religion that we shared a world with. But even today, when I feel too much Christian energy around me, I start to worry that they’re preparing to shove me into a portable baptismal pool.

And then I heard about the Church of Latter-Day Saints, and how they practice after-the-fact conversions on dead people, and started freaking out even more about where my soul is going to end up. Who’s missionizing to me without me knowing it? I voiced these concerns to my cousin Zev the other day, the one who grew up, not just as the son of an Orthodox rabbi, but the son of a Hasidic rabbi who KNOWS EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE. He looked at me like I was crazy. “Why should I care?” he said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with me.”

Posted on August 6, 2008

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