Maria Poggi Johnson, a professor of theology and a Christian…
the mother of four, moved into her current home “sort of accidentally,” figuring that while the neighborhood could not be described as upscale, with so many religious people living there, “it wouldn’t get too bad.”
Admittedly, she knew about religious Jews “only in theory. All too often, Christians think Judaism is just a thing that prepared the way for Christ,” she said. “But Judaism is alive and kicking.” (from the New Jersey Jewish Standard)
Being a religion scholar and a keen observer, after a while, she made a remarkable observation:
“The thing that struck me most was all those laws. Yet I was meeting people who loved it and were excited about the rules they had to keep. It’s profoundly anti-cultural,” she said, pointing out that the norm is to pursue independence at all costs.
Upon reading that, it dawned on me that much of the contemporary civil and political discourse as relating to religions and religious people, is informed, or rather, misinformed, by Christian antinomianism, as in Paul’s statement that “before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith …now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor,” which, needless to say, is a thoroughly, thoroughly un-Jewish concept (and totally inappropriate in a number of other religions, too). How often do opinion leaders simply assume that religious practice is merely a matter of going to the house of worship, giving alms and occasionally eating special foods and celebrating the odd holiday, while misunderstanding how prayer can be a daily routine including what seems to some like bizarre and even fear inducing rituals, clothing can reflect one’s beliefs, diet can be restrictive, business practices can be impacted (especially marketing), and people may wan to abstain from helping other people sin, and that after all that, religious people do not necessarily resent their restrictions, but find that these actually open spiritual doors? Prof. Johnson’s remark is very much on target.
Prof. Johnson wrote a book about her experience living in a “yeshivishe” (i.e. Chareidi) neighborhood: “Strangers and Neighbors: What I have learned about Christianity by living among Orthodox Jews.”