The Crisis of “Relevance”

I have never met anyone from this group.  I know nothing about them, but this picture to me said it all.  “Judaism your way.”  My first reaction was, “Really?”  My second reaction was, “But that’s exactly what Judaism is not, right?”  My third reaction was, “Crud, if the crisis of ‘relevance’ has hit Judaism, the world may really be coming to an end after all” (which may or may not be a bad thing).

Seems to me that this sort of domestication is exactly what has gotten the American church in trouble and is constantly beguiling us.  I confess I have no idea what to make of this kind of thinking.  Of course I understand the motive – we want to clear away the clutter so that people can reconnect with some kind of religion (because we apparently think that religion, like vegetables, is a good thing).  Okay, that makes sense.  But isn’t there a point you reach where you’re defeating the purpose of your own existence?  I mean, “Judaism your way” is really not Judaism at all, right?  Why not just watch Oprah, take yoga, and then smoke a little weed here and there with friends to achieve the ever-so-sought-after “balance” we all need.  Seems like Judaism was always about a call to not to self-express, but to join up with a people who were called to change the world…  so what in the world is “Judaism your way”?  Isn’t that kind of like having being an American sundae with a Jewish cherry on top?

The irony is that, from my vantage point, the attempt to “market” faith like this as a sort of least-common-denominator, we’re-here-for-you group therapy experience is ultimately self-defeating.  If people are going to “give religion a try”, don’t you think they want something that’s going to introduce them into an experience that’s different from what they already know and believe?  Something that leads them up and out of life as they know it?  Just imagine walking into a mosque and having the imam up there (wearing a cool shirt from Express and some square-rimmed glasses) saying, “We’re providing Islam YOUR WAY!” and then having a really cool band rip some tunes from U2 for an “opener”.  How weird would that be?

One wonders if part of the reason Islam continues to gain a following worldwide is precisely this steadfast refusal to accommodate culturally.  Christianity (and apparently now, Judaism) could learn a thing or two.  If I’m going to join a mosque, give me the pure, unadulterated version of Islam.  If I’m going to convert to Judaism, hack off a piece of my flesh and tell me what and what not to eat.  If I’m going to become a Christian, give me a tall, stiff drink of “take up your cross” and let me slurp it down till I’m punch-drunk and totally disoriented.  Anything less is an insult to me and to the religion itself.

At least that’s my view.


4 thoughts on “The Crisis of “Relevance”

  1. I’ve believed for quite awhile now that Islam’s greatest attraction is that it doesn’t bend over for anyone and it doesn’t have television programs (incidently, this could be the secret to the Mormon success as well). The day you see a Muslim cleric selling viles of Muhammad’s healing water to the first 100 callers who pledge $1000 is the day you can rest assured Islam is finished. Pop-Christianity has been dead for generations. Look at what it produces: millions of people who believe they’re following Christ because the ‘think about’ Christianity once in awhile. Islam has always been a religion that involves the whole person, that’s hugely appealing, as wrong as it it, its way appealing.

    • I absolutely loved this… “millions of people who believe they’re following Christ because the ‘think about’ Christianity once in awhile.” Geez. We have to do better.

  2. You’ve brought up something that has been a burden and if I’m honest a struggle of mine. I feel we’ve watered down Jesus and made him a feel good buddy that pats us on the back and gives us happy words when we need it or on the other hand just a topic of theological talk and feelings.

    So many friends once alive with love for our Lord Jesus now wandering in circles confused. It’s saddening.

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