Noahide Unity – Mission Impossible?

If you’ve read some of my articles, you may have seen that I tend to stay away from the religious understanding of the word “noahide”. I prefer to speak of “gentiles” and “non-Jews” rather than the ambiguous “noahide”. But the fact is that there is a religious group that calls themselves “noahides” and speak of a “noahide faith” and a “noahide religion”. They are made up of gentiles that see “noahides” not simply as a simple gentile, but as a person who believes in the God of Israel and keeps the seven laws of Noah because God commanded them to gentiles. So this noahide is not a translation or transliteration of the term “bnei Noah” used in the Talmud to describe the set of people who were commanded the seven laws, i.e., non-Jews, but rather these “noahides” are a translation of Rambam’s term “pious of the nations of the world”. Many of them advocate prayer, worship, encourage the keeping of Jewish holy days, and wish to develop what they call “noahide communities” which seems to mean communities of people that have the same religious belief and practice. Essentially, they are a different religion to christianity and islam and atheism, etc, and seem to be a sub-religion of the Jewish religion. They would say “a christian is not a Noahide!” You’ll see that this is different from the old usage of “ben Noah” which would say that a gentile christian is a ben Noah, a descendant of Noah, but if he worships a man as God then he is an idolator, i.e., he is an unrighteous ben Noah.

Now what I’ve said above is not to condemn such people. The fact is that they exist. The English languages changes and evolves, so our definitions may change, even if the Torah definitions remain quite set. They would class me such a “noahide” because of my worldview, even though I see things differently and I think that this religious noahide concept is artificial and potentially harmful.

So let’s imagine that I am amongst this group. Not only do I have my different view, but I also see that there doesn’t seem to be a real community amongst them. Sometimes they seem just as factious (susceptible to splitting and forming factions, groups) as any group of people. You don’t need to be religious to form cliques or groups of your own. It happens to children in school, teenagers, adults, it’s just a fact of life.

But some may think that because the Noahide Commandments are supposed to provide a better way, it may seem disconcerting to leave a religion, and embrace the Noahide laws, and find that people calling themselves Noahides, who are supposed to have learnt a bit more Jewish teaching and Torah, are still split and disagree so often.

My belief? I think I personally raise the bar too high. Am I expecting humans to stop being humans and all of a sudden get along in a whole group in a way that doesn’t really happen throughout the course of human history? Do I expect Torah learning to remove ego and humanity, to heal all wounds and remove the potential for two or more humans to come to different and counter opinions, or to misunderstand one another and to hold onto that difference as if it’s something personal? Throughout the history of humanity so far, one thing has remained the same: humans are still humans, with all our imperfections and limitations, personalities and personal values, etc. I’m not going to expect the Noahides to be some amazingly unified group that either agrees on everything or always get along amicably. Whether I’m remembering how things used to be when I was a christian at church, or a kid at school, or going to my various workplaces, or whichever part of life, I’ve always seen division and difference. Maybe I’m becoming indifferent to it. No, I don’t think so. But I think experience should teach a person not to expect too much from humanity. We have great potential to be the kings and queens of respect and decency, and also to be the impoverished scoundrels of selfishness and dispute. A human is a complex thing.

In light of my experiences, do I really think that a lasting unity is possible amongst these religious Noahides? Do I really think a lasting unity is possible between gentiles who choose to keep the seven laws because God gave them?

Another factor in all this is that, normally, the people I meet amongst the “Noahides” are from so many different paths in life and so many places in the world. One moment I can be speaking to a “noahide” in India, and the next moment I’m speaking to a righteous gentile in Wales, and the next moment I’m across the world again speaking to a “noahide” in USA, and then a friendly German will send me a message. How could I imagine such disparate people to just “get along”? Hell, even I don’t get along with some people. Sometimes I have differences with people in my own country or in my own family. People are just people.

So again, in light of these thoughts of man, do I really think unity is possible? Can the “Noahides” and the righteous gentiles across the world really have unity, to have true “shalom”, the harmony of disparate parts where differences are recognized but seen as part of a whole? Honestly, I really don’t know.

Wait! What were you expecting? Me to give a positive answer that “yeah, with God involved, with Torah involved, we can all come together”? No way! Humans are creatures of potential, potential that is only actualized and made real by choice, and who knows the choice a person will make and what factors are involved and what impact that choice will have? Only God!

So I don’t know if unity is possible amongst Noahides and amongst righteous gentiles across the world. But here’s one thing I can say. I shouldn’t be surprised if there are differences in opinions, splits, people going their own way, people leaving the whole noahide idea. I shouldn’t be surprised at the opposite: people making peace and having the same voice and accepting the idea of the seven commandments and living by them.

No matter what, the simple thing is this: I just have to deal with it. I know the basics of what I believe and know. I have to be the best I can be and leave whatever is not in my hands in the hands of God and the people responsible.

Yeah, of course, I would encourage that everyone pursue peace, real peace, being a disciple of Aaron and to the best human beings in the image of God they can be. But I’ve also got to encourage myself to do that. We just have to do our best and deal with whatever happens the best we can.

Sounds a bit airy fairy, right? But what more can we ask of ourselves?

I’m open to correction.

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2 Comments

  1. Keith Chopping

    Unity is too much to hope for. Judaism is hardly united even amongst the Orthodox there are differences and divisions between Haredi, Modern and Open Orthodox. Then there are the Reform, Masorti, Conservative , Traditionalist and Progressive Jews. Perhaps argument, debate and division could be a sign of life within the Noahide movement.

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