You Are Your Own Spiritual Government

Every so often, I get questioned from the average person along these lines: 
You’re a religious person. Why aren’t you more up in arms about the gay marriage debate?” 
You’re a religious person. The Democratic National Convention refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Why are you not more upset about this?” 
You’re a religious person. A public school teacher got in trouble for leading a prayer in school. Why are you not willing to fight for them?” 
In the past couple years, I’ve come across so many people who are adamant about their religious beliefs intertwining with their political opinions that they have simply forgotten that there are other people in the world who don’t share their beliefs. And guess what? That’s not a bad thing. God created us all as unique beings with our own freewill, our own likes and dislikes, and our own paths. Here is my message for these people: learn to self-govern. 
1. I will be the first to say that I firmly do not believe in gay marriage. Why am I not flipping out over people who attempt to legalize gay marriage? Were you not listening? I said I don’t believe in gay marriage. 
You see, as a religious person, I believe marriage is a spiritual act and outlined in spiritual teachings. The first definitions of marriage started with people who came together and both swore to God that they would remain faithful to each other. Before that time, people cohabited; not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, as I’d rather not have people pretending to make a promise to a god they don’t believe in. Still, the very definition of “marriage” was of a spiritual unity before the God of a faith, whether that be Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, or whatever other religion. I believe that marriage is a sacred union between man and woman. Why am I not more up-in-arms over people trying to legalize gay marriage? Simply because my own beliefs speak louder than society’s attempt to alter the definition of marriage. If two men or two women claim to be married and the law of the land says they are, that still doesn’t change what I believe marriage to be. That marriage to me is the same as Christians saying the Sabbath is on Sunday. There are many “Sunday Blue Laws” in place in Oklahoma and other states that ban the sale of liquor on Sundays because it was historically the Sabbath for an entire community of Christians. Does this make this so with me? No. Would legalizing gay marriage change the definition of marriage for me personally? No. Either way, I believe in self-governance and staying out of other people’s business. I wouldn’t argue with someone who claimed to be the tooth fairy because they’re probably not interested in hearing why I think they’re not.
I never knew Homer was so progressive!
While I personally do not believe that gay marriage can exist because it is a religious institution by definition, I couldn’t care less about two people living together and whatever legal implications that incurs, so be it. Eventually, I’d like to see marriage completely phased out of regulation and anyone who desires to be legally bound to another individual should be allowed to be, regardless of sexual orientation, religious belief, gender, or otherwise. If you’re married, that is between you, your spouse, and God and Uncle Sam is only getting in the way.
2. The Land of Israel was promised to the Children of Israel. These days, man has made a mostly secular city that didn’t exist in the time of Ancient Israel its capital. Not only that, but more and more people are attempting to call this land Palestine. Why am I not more outraged? 
Regardless of what people call Eretz Yis’rael (the Land of Israel), it is Eretz Yis’rael. If I was living there and a government overthrew the Israeli Government, renaming it Boogerland, I would still know that it was Eretz Yis’rael. If they changed the capital from Tel Aviv to a newly found city called Jerksville, I would still know that the capital would be Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). What man does to Eretz Yis’rael does not make it any less Eretz Yis’rael to me and my God. 
Biblical Israel: Just think about how much they’re not fighting for.
3. They’ve stripped official prayer from schools! Oh, no! As a religious person, I should be outraged. Well, guess what? I’m not. In fact, I think it’s about time. 
“Now, just put your hands together like this or else God can’t hear you. This is your God antenna.”
You see, in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, it reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” 
A teacher in a public school has an enormous responsibility. Not only are they teaching the upcoming generations, but they are also government employees. During the period of time that they are fulfilling their duties as teachers, they are representing the United States government. Not only that, but they are teaching a wide variety of students. They could be teaching Christian kids, Jewish kids, Hindu kids, Sikh kids, Muslim kids, Atheist kids, Agnostic kids, Buddhist kids, and the like. If you officially pray to one universal god, you are discriminating against the Hindu kid. His parents taught him to pray to all the many Hindu gods. You’re also being disrespectful to the Atheist kid, who was taught to pray Richard Dawkins (only joking). If you pray to Jesus, you’re likely to disrespect the Jewish kid, and if you pray to Allah, you’ll be disrespecting the Sikh kid. 
Most all people who fight for official prayer in public schools are members of the majority religion. After all, if you were a Southern Baptist living in Iran, would you be upset when the school teacher taught your child to pray to Allah? Of course you would be.
In the end, restrictions aren’t preventing children from praying in schools or even from children leading other children in prayer. They are simply keeping children from being coerced into a prayer they may or may not agree with by a government employee. If you want your teachers leading your kids in prayer, you still can! Simply enroll them in a religious school of your choice. 
In conclusion, I am not saying that I believe gay marriage is ok by me. I’m not saying that Israel should just give up to the Palestinians and the secular people should decide what is its capital. I’m not saying that prayer should be banned from schools. I’m simply saying that if we all learned how to self-govern and not mettle in the affairs of others, our faith should be able to protect us from what some thing of as an impending doom. 
Nobody is forcing you to attend a gay marriage or even believe that such a thing exists.
Nobody is forcing you to deny that Eretz Yis’rael is the promised Land of God. 
Nobody is forcing anyone to abstain from praying in school. 

Be your own sovereign nation and do not engage in political interventions with other people’s sovereignty.

I Don't Eat Kosher. I Eat Food.

While I was in college, I held many part-time jobs that allowed me to come in contact with many people I normally would not have come in contact with. While I was working at a printer cartridge re-manufacturing store, around the same time I was really shifting away from Christian thought and more into a Hebraic perspective of the Scriptures, I was fortunate enough to have a conversation one day with a certain customer who really shined new light on eating kosher. Interestingly enough, this man was a Christian. By Christian, I mean he probably believed that his salvation came from Jesus, but other than that, I bet this guy had been kicked out of a couple churches just by the way he spoke. 


At this point in my conversion, I did not consider myself B’nai Yisrael, but rather since I kept many of the tenants of the Torah, I considered myself a “weird Christian.” That was the best way I knew how to explain it to anyone who asked by I was wearing blue-accented fringes and didn’t cut my beard. 

I think the customer was waiting on some of his printer cartridges to be refilled and he asked me about my fringes and beard. I explained to him where I was, spiritually, and didn’t really know what to expect in reply. He gave me an approving “hmmp” with “will ya look at that?” happy frown and raised slightly surprised raised eyebrows. 

“Well, ya know, Jesus kept kosher. So did all the disciples; even after Jesus’ resurrection. No, I betcha money even Paul never touched a ham sandwich. The Bible plainly says eating certain things is forbidden and there’s no getting around it.”

His reply surprised me. All the other Christians I knew had quoted the classic “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled?” line from Matthew 17; which goes on to say “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” as well as “…to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” What most Christians will claim is Jesus’ way of abolishing the laws of eating kosher in the Torah (which doesn’t make sense because the rest of the Bible says that if anyone comes claiming to be Messiah, but teaches against the Torah, cannot not possibly Messiah) is actually a teaching against speaking evil and also enforcing man-made laws as though they are in the Torah. Though washing one’s hands before eating might be a good idea, the command to wash one’s hands before eating bread isn’t found anywhere in the Torah. 

The customer didn’t quote that famous Matthew 17 verse, instead he started to speak about Torah by quoting verses from Leviticus 11. According to the Torah, Israel is forbidden to eat: 
  • Mammals that don’t both have a cloven hoof AND chew their cud 
  • Fish that don’t have both scales and fins 
  • Birds of prey
  • Winged insects that go on all four besides those that have jointed legs above the feet for hopping
  • Any reptiles or amphibians 
  • Pretty much any animals that eat other animals
This man did not bring the usual argument about these creatures being disgusting or cursed or anything. He made it even more simple than that:

“These animals were not designed to be food. Animals that die in the wilderness are eaten by scavengers; wild pigs, vultures, wolves, some tinier than you can see, and the like. When fish die, they fall to the lake bottom or ocean floor and are eaten by bottom-feeders like crabs, lobsters, and catfish. You wouldn’t try and eat the garbage truck, would you? I wouldn’t eat these creatures any sooner than I’d eat my own shoe. It’s not because I consider my shoe to be cursed, but simply because I need my shoe. God designed these creatures to take care of the earth by keeping it clean.” 

It was very bizarre that this Christian was bringing a very Jewish perspective to eating clean foods, but he was absolutely right. These animals are not necessarily non-kosher food, but they simply weren’t meant to be food anymore than my shoe is meant to be food. 

When I look at a big piece of ham, I don’t really think “Oh, disgusting! That’s sick!” After my chat with that guy one day at work, I see a big sizzling sneaker on a plate and that bacon hidden in the salad is more like little pieces of rubber. 

So, I’m not really against eating non-kosher, but more about eating what the Torah considers to be food.  

"Saying You're Sorry" ≠ Repentance

It is my theory that the reason why Christians see observant Jews as being so diametrically opposed to them because of their commitment to the Torah is, for the most part, dependent on the translation of one word linked to a theological concept. 


This word/concept is: תשובה  – pronounced like “teshuvah.” 

In English Bibles, this term is typically translated as “repentance.” While the word in its entirety shows up very rarely in the Hebrew Bible, its shortened form (“shuv”) shows up fairly frequently. 

“אם־תשוב עדש־די תבנה תרחיק עולה מאהלך”
“If you return to the Almighty you will be built up; if you remove injustice far from your tents.” 
-Job 22:23

In Hebrew, the term simply means “to turn” or “return”. To Jews, this term doesn’t merely mean saying you’re sorry, but literally turning away from your sin, not doing it again, and returning to the ways of the Torah where you were before you slipped up. While righting wrongs between your fellow man is implied, from a Hebraic mindset, teshuvah/repentance can only be done when the sin is not continued.  All spiritual repentance of sin is typically used to express returning to the ways of the Torah. When one begins to move in the opposite direction, only then is repentance actually accepted by God. 


Teshuvah is a continual process that each person works on every single day; all day long. The more teshuvah takes place, the easier it is until the commands of Torah become habitual and a part of everyday life. It can be extremely difficult at first, but grows easier with time and practice.


As an experiment, let’s see how reinserting this Hebrew concept back into some New Testament passages would force change in the lives of some Christians: 


“Return to the Torah; the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
 – Matthew 3:2 


“So they (the disciples) went out and proclaimed that people should return to the Torah.” 
– Mark 6:12


“No, I tell you; but unless you return to the Torah, you will all likewise perish.” 
– Luke 13:2

“Return to the Torah therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out.” 
– Acts 3:19 


“Before his coming, John had proclaimed a baptism of returning to the Torah to all the people of Israel.” 
– Acts 13:24


And this isn’t changing the meaning of the passage since the original meaning of “repent” in the spiritual sense was a returning to the Torah. Interesting perspective, ain’t it? 


Shalom, 
– Ken