Today I found out I am extinct.
I was talking with a very nice man in his forties about the Bible. I mentioned that I taught Bible at Middle Tennessee State University, and he said joyfully, “Oh, you are a Christian!”
“No,” I said, “I am a Jew.” I expected some response, some well polished piece of evangelism designed to save my soul from eternal damnation for not believing in Jesus just the way this fellow did, but he simply stared at me. He had no idea what I just said.
“You, know,” I prompted him. “I’m Jewish. Like Jesus.” He continued to look at me without any expression at all. And then he said, “I didn’t know there were any Jewish.”
Now I am not a novice when it comes to ignorance about Jews, whether it comes from fellow Jews or Christians, but this is the first time I have actually encountered a person who had no idea that Jews still existed. After all who did he think ran Hollywood? And who would be slaughtered at the Second Coming? And who would be the 144,000 to finally accept Jesus as Christ at the End Times? This guy thought we were extinct. Wishful thinking? Not at all: Christians needed Jews to kill their god and continue to need them to recognize him when he comes back.
“Aren’t Jews Christians?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “We came before Christianity, about 4000 years ago. Jesus was a Jew, Christianity comes after Jesus.” I probably should have left this last part out, it only confused him more.
“Jesus is a Christian. His last name is Christ. That wouldn’t make sense if he weren’t a Christian.”
I know when I am licked. “You know you may be right,” I said. “It is like talking about King David. He must have been a king or we wouldn’t call him that. Or Mother Mary, she must be the Mother of God or we wouldn’t call her that. Or the Prophet Mohammed, he must have been God’s prophet or people wouldn’t call him that either.”
For a second I thought he caught my sarcasm. But then he said, “Yeah, like that.”
So there is hope. The key to interfaith dialogue is not seeking truth together, but not making a big deal out of each other’s ignorance.