Saturday, 7 April 2018

The Anatomy of a Proselytizing Faith

I have recently come back from an exciting experience of visiting Ireland. The Emerald Isle, as some refer to it, is beautiful. Its history is fascinating, full of intrigues, wars, conquests and above all Irish Christian history.

Strangely enough, I was fascinated by the sometimes very intricate and artistically designed Celtic Cross, a recognized ancient pagan solar symbol, which can be spotted around the country’s Christian sites. I was also intrigued, riddled and staggered by its copious use in these sites. Not for long, though.

As someone who has been following the activities of Christian missionaries, I quickly found the answer to my conundrum in the modus operandum of the propylitization milieu.
The goal of any missionary faith, creed or philosophy is to spread its message to as many people and as widely as possible. This is not always an easy task, especially as most humans are creatures of habit who are not readily willing to tread into an unknown realm.

As a teacher, I have learned that a precondition to making the foreign familiar and comfortable is to, first and foremost, create a climate of safety and trust for students. It is the basic stage of human motivation, as correctly prescribed by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Missionary undertakings must be familiar with that concept. 

Their choice of tactics confirms the assumption. One only has to look around at the way missionaries operate here in Yisrael. One only needs to observe their organizations and how they raise money for their designated cause. Their ongoing calls for support and donations are almost always about feeding poor Jews, new immigrants and the elderly. Noble and just causes indeed. But that is where theirs stops - on what Maslow termed as the “Physiological” plain, one that stresses the importance of fulfilling the basic needs for food, water, and warmth.

A principle tenet of their agenda, it would appear, is to make their beneficiaries dependent on them. At least that is what I have observed here in Yisrael. Once the physiological needs of poor souls are satisfied, the missionaries are ready to move to the next level of their holy mission.

That next step in the process of successful learning, knowledge acquisition and adoption of new concepts and beliefs, as any teacher would know, is give them tools that will guide them into new realms. These are aimed at helping them overcome the fear of the unknown and the uncertain and face the alien. It is therefore of utmost importance for teachers to engage students by presenting new ideas in frames of reference that are familiar and comfortable to them as we lead them to the new and unfamiliar path.

Missionaries throughout history must have known that as well.

Imagine the first missionaries roaming the pagan fields of strange lands. How would they be able to introduce the concept of a one invisible god when the ones they worship have human traits?

The answer is very simple. To facilitate that process, all one must do is bring some of their mundane and recognizable pagan symbols into the new faith. To help facilitate the transition all one has to do is embrace their familiar and deeply rooted frames of reference into it. This would bound to make them feel more comfortable and more at home in the newly introduced belief system.

The adoption and incorporation of the Celtic Cross is but one example of such a measure.
Another example is the adoption of the name “Easter,” an important Christian holiday that is an ancient pagan celebration named after the pagan goddess Ishtar, the Sumerian goddess of fertility (hence the custom of Easter eggs and rabbits on this holy day) that was hung on a stake and ascended from the netherworld.

There are many more similar examples. Adoption of foreign symbols and customs is very common. It is also a natural growth process of any culture, a process that no one can or should try to stop.

However, and that is where I have an issue with Christian missionaries here in Yisrael. They do not only adopt Jewish customs and symbols, rather they take Jewish sources that are ours only and redefine them to fit their Christian theology, in order to mislead ignorant Jews into accepting their faith. They become salesmen selling a product by choosing misleading words and phrases and making fraudulent promises. 

This is NOT what teaching is about. This is NOT what good teaching should do.

To that, many of us, refuse to be accomplices.

Special thanks to my dear friend Roger Froikin.


  1. Well, as many people have been confused about where and how they got their "religion." Most people are not aware and they should be.
    Batzi, and Roger, you have written and shared important information. Thank you.


  3. I shared it on Twitter. Worried that if I put it on fb I will join you in 'jail' Shavua tov.

  4. The Celtic Cross you describe as "a recognised ancient pagan solar symbol,"is a Christian symbol. The ring, or "nimbus" of this type of cross represents a halo. The intricate interlacing patterns found on these crosses is a form of "Insular Art." You can look these terms up for yourself. Saying the Celtic Cross is a pagan symbol is a bit like me saying an intricately decorated Magen David on say, a Seder plate is pagan. The history of Christianity probably began in the 5th C due to contact with Roman Britain. In my view, the Christianity the Romans brought with them was already pagan so whatever pagan accretions it gathered in Ireland is a bit academic. The Celtic crosses you saw did not exist in Ireland before Christianity and are not in themselves pagan. They are used as funerary monuments, amongst others things, just as an ordinary stone cross might be anywhere else in the world.
    It is a common misconception that Easter is, "an ancient pagan celebration named after the pagan goddess Ishtar, the Sumerian goddess of fertility (hence the custom of Easter eggs and rabbits on this holy day) that was hung on a stake and ascended from the netherworld." Not so. The correct word for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus is "Pascha" from the Greek word for "Passover" or Hebrew "Pesach". You will know Jesus celebrated Pesach with his disciples. Eggs and rabbits are nothing to do with it. They are tradition, likely pagan. Early Christians celebrated "Pascha" and the word is used in Orthodox Churches everywhere. There is a good Wiki on this, Easter is Old English "Eostre" or German, "Ostern" which does refer to a pagan goddess of the dawn and pagan societies did have festivals in her name. "Eostre" has come down to modern English as Easter, but Christians do not worship or celebrate a goddess of the dawn. All Romance Languages and Celtic languages use a word derived from "Pesach" As an exercise for yourself and your students, type the word "Easter" into Google Translate and check out the various languages.
    "Imagine the first missionaries roaming the pagan fields of strange lands. How would they be able to introduce the concept of a one invisible god when the ones they worship have human traits?" In English we spell "God" with a capital "G" because all proper nouns start with a capital letter. Assuming you mean by the "one invisible God" the God of the Hebrew Bible then it would be okay to call him, "Abba," "Father," Or does the Hebrew God have no attributes, human or otherwise??
    You are correct in saying that the spread of Christianity has adopted pagan symbols wherever it has spread. As I said above, it was already pagan in Rome. The Christian church worldwide has lost its roots which lie in the Hebrew faith. I understand the thrust of your article which talks of the adoption of Jewish symbols into the Christian faith for deceptive reasons. From a scholarly point of view, this is not comparable to the spread of Christianity in Ireland Even though, as I noted, Christianity became pagan early on, the countries to which it was taken had their gods, Christianity did at least bring with it the concept of the One True God of the Hebrew Bible. The issue of the Trinity is a whole other argument. My point is, early missionaries to Ireland did not set out to deceive the local population as you imply, and is not the modus operandi of any Christian who takes their faith seriously. Jesus never deceived anyone.
    It is a deception in itself, in my view, to read into Biblical Christianity pagan stories such as the example you give of "Ishtar." hung on a stake and ascended from the netherworld. This is very disrespectful to true Christians.