Why Christians Become Muslims or Jews

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured Topics: Christians, Converts, Jews, Judaism, Muslims Views: 1582

Thousands of former Christians become Jews and Muslims each year in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.

Why do they do it? 

I think many of the reasons outsiders find Islam and Judaism to be attractive are very similar; especially the Jewish and Muslim concepts of God's unity, the warmth of Jewish and Muslim extended family life and the importance of being part of a religious community. 

Shayna Estulin, who wrote a master's thesis on singles converting to Judaism, found that some did it because they felt Christianity didn't give them the answers and Judaism did. 

Others reverted to Judaism because a parent or relative was Jewish and they wanted to reconnect to their heritage; like one man she interviewed who converted to Judaism after he discovered he had an ancestor who had been a Jew who was forced to convert to Christianity many generations ago. 

But each reason had the same underlying theme: All these people experienced a deep connection to Judaism and to Jews. As an example Estulin writes about Kelly. "She told me that she had wanted to be Jewish since she was a little girl growing up in Canada. 

"The homes of her Jewish friends seemed like warm, loving places, where everyone got along, and holidays were always being celebrated.Her home was very different. Birthdays and holidays were rarely celebrated, and the house felt cold, her parents distant.

"That feeling of coldness followed her into the neighborhood church that the family would attend occasionally. I was always freaked out by Jesus on the cross. Aesthetically it's just dark and scary, worshipping a dead man on a cross,' Kelly said 

Muslims will find many similarities to Muslim converts in this account. But there are also some practical differences that need to be understood. 

I have taught Introduction to Judaism classes (Reform-Liberal) for more than thirty years in Los Angeles California, and during that time I got to know hundreds of non-Jews who were interested in learning about the Jewish religion and culture. 

Most of these people had been raised in Christian homes, but had drifted away from the Church in their teens or in their 20's. For years they considered themselves to be Christian only by tradition or culture. 

They still believed in God, but they did not believe that Jesus was the Divine Son of God. Indeed, some of them, even in their youth, while they were still attending church, prayed only to God, the father; and not to Jesus, the Son.

Most of them also believed in the value and importance of religion for themselves and their future children. When they found themselves involved romantically with a Jewish person they decided to learn about Judaism as a good way to unify their marriage and their family. 

Not everyone who took the Introduction to Judaism class decided to become Jewish. Some realized that they were not ready to actually join a religious minority, or that they were not willing to give up having a Christmas tree.

Others found that while they had not been actively Christian for years, they still believed in some aspects of Christian salvation.

The majority of non-Jews who marry Jews do not convert to Judaism, so in the case of almost all converts to Judaism; marriage is the occasion but not the cause of their conversion.

Those who did decide to become Jewish usually felt they were coming home (reverting). Their own beliefs already were closer to Reform Liberal Jewish values than traditional Christian values. 

All they needed to do was to add a love of Torah study and debate and the many Jewish Holiday celebrations and traditions to their life; and push their way into the Jewish community.

I say push their way in because unlike the Muslim community, which since its inception has eagerly welcomed outsiders into the Muslim Ummah, some Jews are ambivalent about converts to Judaism. 

This is because more than sixteen centuries ago, when the Church became strong enough to influence the Roman government, it started outlawing conversion to Judaism.

For many centuries prior to Christian rule, the Jewish community welcomed large numbers of converts into the Jewish People. Recent genetic studies have provided strong evidence of this major influx of Mediterranean peoples from North Africa to the Middle East, into the Jewish People. 

All this changed in the generations after Constantine. By the fifth and sixth century, converts to Judaism faced death, as did those who helped them become Jewish. These laws remained in effect in Europe until the end of the eighteenth century. 

For example, Count Valentine Potocki, a young Polish nobleman went to Paris to finish his education, There he found a Jewish teacher to teach him Hebrew so he could study the Bible in its original language. 

After some time Potocki decided to become Jewish. He went to Amsterdam, where it was safer to convert to Judaism, and then went to the Land of Israel, where he lived for several years. 

Eventually Count Potoki became homesick, and took the dangerous step of returning to Poland. He settled near Vilna, posing as a born Jew, and spent all his time studying Torah. When the police learned he was a convert, he was arrested. In 1749, Count Potocki was burned alive in the center of Vilna. 

UltraOrthodox Jews, who are still wedded to Medieval ways of thought, still prefer to avoid non-Jews in general and potential converts in particular. Reform and Liberal Jews who are wedded to Modern ways of thinking, are much more open to welcoming, and some even encourage, converts. 

In addition to being more welcoming to Non-Jews who want to become Jewish, Reform and Liberal Judaism are not as hard to observe as Orthodox Judaism is, although becoming circumcised does discourage some men. 

While Jesus and Muhammad are not officially called prophets in the Jewish tradition, one can see them both as prophets of Reform Judaism. 

As a Reform Rabbi I believe that Jewish religious leaders should modify Jewish tradition as social and historical circumstances change and develop. 

I also believe we should not make religion difficult for people to practice by adding an increasing number of restrictions to the commandments we received at Mount Sinai.

Although the Torah of Moses prohibits adding to the commandments (Deuteronomy 4:2 and 13:1) over the centuries Orthodox Rabbis added many restrictions to the laws of prohibited activities under the theory of building a protective fence around the Torah's laws. 

Also, whenever Orthodox Rabbis were in doubt if an animal had been slaughtered correctly according to Jewish law, or if one could eat a new species of bird, it was ruled prohibited. UltraOrthodox Rabbis still believe that the more strict; the better. 

They do not follow the example of Muhammad as narrated by his wife 'Aisha: Whenever Allah's Apostle was given the choice of one of two matters, he would choose the easier of the two, as long as it was not sinful to do so, but if it was sinful to do so, he would not approach it. 

'Aisha also said: "Whenever Allah's Apostle ordered the Muslims to do something, he used to order them to do deeds which were easy for them to do."

I believe that Muhammad was a prophet of Reform Judaism to the Orthodox Jews of his day; although he was 1,200 years ahead of his time. The same was true for Jesus, 2,000 years ago, who said plainly, 

"Do not think that I came to abolish Torah Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from Torah Law until all is accomplished." (Matthew 5:17) 

For those people who believe in God but cannot fit into a Trinitarian church, and for those people who do not need, or want, statues and pictures of God; the Mosque and the Synagogue are the right place to worship. 

Islam offers its believers: a world wide, multinational monotheistic community, yet all praying in one language and facing the same place. 

Judaism offers those who belong to it: a monotheistic community with a very long tradition of overcoming national adversity and adjusting to international cultural change, yet all praying in one language and facing the same place. 

*****

Rabbi Allen S. Maller retired after serving for 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California. His web site is rabbimaller.com


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  2 Comments   Comment

  1. Babandi A GumelI from U.K

    There is no compulsion in Religion truth is clear from falsehood

    despite all the media propaganda and continued hatred shown by

    some leaders and other enemies of Islam including the so called

    Muslims who harbor hatred to Deen and Muslims Alhamdu Lillahi

    Islam continues to progress and spreads unabated.We pray our

    Muslim brothers and sisters would continue to show nice

    beautiful good examples especially those living in the West and

    other non Muslim countries as people are looking for the nest

    choice and now turning to Islam.

  2. fatemA from usa

    The problem what you said in your last paragraph is true but how many jews relay follow the ten commandments,. why don't you abandon the Talmud if you say that Islam is akin to Judaism and is montheisic faith . why don't you stop Hollywood jewish actors producers directors from spreading pornography. and why don't you stop the news media from spreading lies and false propaganda for the political ambition of state of ISRAel FOUNDED Russian jews . who were descendants of the CZAR ,. how would you explain the masonic association the Lucifer signs and symbols the serpent. and the blue lodges and secret society .and why do you as reformist jews join them and help these satanic societies. why do you/ allow Mr modi a staunch idol worshipper to come to power. with help of ISrael and try to justify Hindu Idols as being real. why don't you stop .the jews from harvesting insects to be fed to human race as protein and are stopping or going to stop them from consuming goats and cow and chicken why do you allow isreal to rule the world and put the world in perpetal slavery why do you control gold why are you spreading war in disguise of ISIS . can you delete the term from torah thou shall do war by way of deception. it is easier to say things but very difficult to put it in real practice. and even if you did rabbi maller your greedy jewsih community taken away 500 trillion dollars of worlds wealth in Rothschileds coffers in new York will not allow it. and more than half the worlds people live below poverty line. why why why. do you have an answer can you stop what your people are doing. and demonsing islam and muslim even the worst of us will not do these acts. your people are reblling against Allah.the creator of everything. unfortunately.