Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I was cleaning up popcorn today in the darkness of a movie theatre, one of my summer jobs, when I had the opportunity to meditate and get lost in thought, or should I say "found?" I realized something interesting; Christianity and Islam are "messianic" religions in that they both were founded as religions by individuals whom deemed themselves the harbingers of Messianic redemption. Both religions were simultaneously founded on the belief that the End Times were right around the corner, if not already in process, and both stand on the notion that they somehow are the literal fulfillments of all previous prophecies and expectations. That they are "messianic" religions in this sense explains the certain kind of "extroverted" energy that both contain, the felt need to evangelize their points of view to help bring about the redemption that (they believe) began with the life of their respective figure. That after 2,006 and 1,284 years respectively that Messianic redemption has not reached full circle yet has necessitated theological explanations as to why it has not occured yet, or that it had already begun and will be completed at a later date, or that the Messiah figure (Jesus in Christianity and the Hidden Imam in Shi'a Islam) is scheduled to return or already has.

Judaism is also a "messianic religion," but it did not spring up as a religion based on a Messianic figure whom announced that the arrival of the Messiah was imminent or had been fulfilled with him. This figure was Abraham, the starter of the Jewish religion (to whom Christians and Muslims also attribute spiritual and literal fatherhood). Perhaps that Judaism was not born out of Messianic fervor unlike Christianity and Islam does alot to explain the different attitude inherent to Judaism regarding prosletyzing. The only prosletyzing in Judaism to convince people of the existence of the One G-d, but not to have them convert to Judaism. Judaism does not believe in the imminent presence of the Messiah, but believes him to be scheduled to arrive any day. Indeed, it would be a lie to say that Messianic fervor does not exist in Judaism, for it surely does and can be felt with many people, but the widely-held belief in Judaism is that the arrival of the Messiah is not open to opinion or interpretation, meaning that when he arrives it will be as clear as day and not a belief held by a group of people. Islam and Christianity are in a state of constant Messianic fervor; Judaism is in a state of constant Messianic longing, which Jews believe will be broken at a certain point in history at which point the truths of G-d, life, and reality are revealed to humanity.

Most importantly is the Jewish view that Messianic redemption is a continuously occuring process, perhaps even after the arrival of the Messiah, which moderates some of the "absolutism" that are part and parcel of Christianity and Islam, the absolute conviction that the Messianic age is here (and has been here). The belief that he is already here makes the "nothing to lose, everything to gain" mentality quite fitting, and imagine being locked into that mentality for 2,000 and 1,284 years respectively. The reality is that there is always much to gain and much to lose; one cannot give away his estates as long as the Messiah has not arrived, and who is to say that one should give away his estates once the Messiah HAS arrived? If Messianic redemption is based on humanity's conviction that G-d is One and rules all, then that revelation is a steadily-occuring and continuous revelation, like an envelope being opened inch-by-inch, not being torn open in one violent act, in which humanity harnesses its best potentialities and learns to moderate its worst, and understands the ever-deep significance that G-d is the King of everything.

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