Arts & Culture

Jesus 1, Rosenberg 0

What happens when two Jews go toe to toe, and one of the Jews happens to be that Jesus guy? Things get messy. Read More

By / July 28, 2011

Dear Jesus,

Well, I give up. You win—as I’m sure you “knew” you would.  Two nice Jewish boys went toe-to-toe for the love of H. the Shiksa, and you knocked me out. Let the record show, however, that I put up a good fight . . . I even had you on the ropes a couple of times. And of course I was a serious underdog. Jesus Christ (no offense), people say you’re the son of God! I’m only the son of Saul and Linda Rosenberg.

Still, for a second there I really thought I could take you. We Jews are not big on proselytizing, but turning H. into an old-school monotheist was worth a shot. After all, she really didn’t talk about YOU a whole lot—she was way more into your father, who I think is a pretty powerful dude. All you brought to the table, it seemed to me, was a pretty (human) face and some more sociable qualities.  The rest of your shtick was pretty thin. I know all faiths have their whoppers, but that Immaculate Conception and Resurrection stuff is a bit hard to swallow. And if you’re the messiah, why do I still have to wait in line at the DMV?

While training for our bout, I visited your hometown of Nazareth to dig up some dirt (I know, I know: too much. The thing is, I was already in Israel for a friend’s wedding, and there’s a place up there with some kick-ass kabob).  I started off at the Church of the Annunciation, built where the angel Gabriel told your (virgin!) mother she was pregnant with you, God’s child.  Because I’m a decent fellow and don’t want to come off like a sore loser, I’m going to leave mothers out of it.  Let’s just say I’m not convinced.

Anyhow, I left the church feeling pretty good. The whole scene was pretty similar to a synagogue (especially with that Arabic liturgy), and everyone there seemed nice enough. Sure, they all believed I could only be “saved” by accepting you as my Lord and Savior, but no one seemed that riled up about it, and H. had already assured me she didn’t think I was going to Hell (phew!). What’s more, I learned that the locals have all sorts of disputes about where you actually lived and preached, meaning there had to be some major holes in your story. Hell (my bad), if I had time I would’ve moved on to Bethlehem to check up on your birth. Which reminds me: where’s that certificate?

Back in the States and feeling cocky, I regaled H. with stories about my trip to the Holy Land. Like Bill Clinton on the stump, I led with a positive, feel-good narrative about the Jewish state while subtly “going negative” with some of the choice intelligence I’d picked up in the Galilee. Soon thereafter, she told me she’d been “reading up” on Judaism and liked it quite a bit.  Then we took a religion quiz together, and she came out more Jewish than me! Sure, I wrote the quiz to begin with—but so what? Round 1 to Rosenberg.

Round 2 involved attending H.’s “non-denominational” church in Los Angeles. I figured if I’d made it through a Catholic mass at a major holy site without a scrape, surviving a service in some converted theater on Wilshire Boulevard would be a piece of cake. I got a little nervous seeing all the beautiful, hip people heading inside—you don’t get that at Congregation Beth El—but overall, I really thought I had you nailed (oops).

Little did I know who I was up against. Jesus Christ, do those people love you. I mean, they’re really into you . . . and they’re convinced you love them, too.  One note played on some hipster’s guitar and the whole place went nuts with the Holy Spirit. And who could blame them? The lights, the sound, the visual effects: everything was state-of-the-art. At first I was impressed, but soon—particularly after the “give us money so you can go to heaven” tithing pitch—I started to get uncomfortable.   And when the well-heeled chick leading the service began railing on the “The Enemy” (who, FYI, encourages such evil practices as ‘self-reliance’ and a lack of ‘pure faith’), I headed for the nearest exit. I didn’t know if I was in the middle of some kind of pyramid scheme or just a concert I didn’t like, but I did know I was down for the count.

In retrospect, I really should have known what I was in for. H. would often call me with doubts about her church, relaying some utterly un-Jewish story about saving souls via email or a friend who spoke to God about soap in the shower. But she kept coming back to it because, she said, it “just felt right.” What’s a Jew gonna do about that?

So, enjoy your victory, Jesus—all’s fair in love and war. Just do me a favor: try turn A. into a Methodist.

Yours truly,