Shaul Magid, professor of Jewish studies and religious studies at Indiana University Bloomington, has written a new book, American Post-Judaism.
In this work, he probes some very interesting questions for both Jews and non-Jews alike. The University posted a press release in which it stated:
“Magid argues that we live in a ‘post-ethnic’ time in which traditional signifiers of identity no longer apply for many if not most American Jews. But he finds the seeds for a new paradigm of Jewishness in contemporary movements that draw on ideas from a variety of faith and philosophical traditions.”
“(The) era of multiculturalism is ending and group identity is becoming fluid and flexible. For Jews, increasing intermarriage, religious conversion, adoption of children, multiracialism and globalization have made being Jewish a matter less of destiny than of choice.”
The phrase that he uses at the end of these statements captured my attention. “Being Jewish…a matter less of destiny than of choice.” I am challenged by this statement and am presently trying to wrap my head around it. What does he mean that Jewish-ness may be more a matter of choice than it is a destiny? For those of us who were raised on the biblical narrative, and the narratives of history regarding the Jewish people in general, disassociating them from “destiny” almost seems incomprehensible.
Magid says his book, “explores a range of topics including Jewish engagement with Jesus, ‘post-monotheism’ in Jewish metaphysics and questions of leadership and authority.”
I believe these statements have long-term significance for those of us who find ourselves in conservative, evangelical churches. I believe there is abundant opportunity along with compelling reasons for establishing fresh, relevant understandings those under 30 in our congregations. The fluidity and flexibility of which Magid speaks is not unique to Jews.
In the Wesleyan-holiness community, the insignificance of our size could potentially communicate to adherents an ethos of cultural identity as well as theological conviction. If Magid is correct, and the end of multicuralism is upon us, then what significance will an era of of fluidity, flexibility, and an openness to, “draw on ideas from a variety of faith and philosophical traditions,” mean for our religious tradition?