Skip to main content

Crossing over

Updating WORLD's Judaism-to-Christianity list

WITH THE JEWISH HIGH HOLY DAYS LAST MONTH came another letter asking why I had written six months earlier that Bob Dylan, "born again" in 1978 by his own testimony, had "apparently reaffirmed his Judaism" in the 1980s.

Well, that's what the evidence indicated, but I am glad to report that when Mr. Dylan opened his latest European tour this April he played one of his songs that he had not performed since 1981. Here are some of the lyrics to "Solid Rock": "For me He was chastised / For me He was hated / For me He was rejected / By the world that He created / Nations are angry / Cursed are some / People are expecting / A false peace to come / But I am hanging on to a Solid Rock / Made before the foundation of the world."

Let's hope that he is hanging onto the Rock, and let's thank God for the following four additions to my "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" list of Jewish conversions to Christianity (WORLD, March 2, 2002):

1939: Harold Berman, 21 years old and in Germany to study Europe's past, flees on a midnight train as World War II begins to burn up the future. Thinking that the war would lead to the destruction of civilization, he "was shattered-in total despair," until "Christ appeared to me in a vision, His face ... bearing the marks of having suffered. I suddenly realized that I was not entitled to such despair, that it was not I but another, God Himself, who bore the burden of human destiny." Mr. Berman began "to believe in Him even though human history was at an end." He joined the U.S. Army, then went to Yale Law School and taught for 37 years at Harvard Law School, becoming known for books on Soviet law, international trade, legal history, and jurisprudence.

1972: Frank Meyer, a key shaper of the alliance between biblical understanding and libertarianism that created the modern American conservative movement, acknowledges-six hours before dying of cancer at age 62-his faith in Christ. Mr. Meyer went from Judaism to Communist Party membership to 15 years as book editor and columnist for National Review, in the process becoming "certain that Christianity, which informs Western civilization, is the highest and deepest relationship to the divine that men can attain."

1978: Songwriter Al Kasha, winner of Oscar and Tony awards, suffers through panic attacks so severe that "fear of the world made me a prisoner of my home." Psychiatrists and drugs do not pop his phobias, but he watches a television talk show about Christ's perfect love and suddenly comes to faith. Mr. Kasha soon joins a Bible study and particularly appreciates 1 John 4:18-19: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because He first loved us."

Oct. 18, 2002: A book by Lauren Winner, Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Religious Life, is scheduled for publication on this day. It endearingly tells one and all about her winding road from a Jewish dad to Orthodox Judaism to Christianity. This is a real girly girl book, a does-he-like-me-doesn't-he-like-me, do-I-have-faith-don't-I-have-faith picaresque personal tale, but it is charming and emotionally insightful, and a great book to give to a confused young person (particularly a Jewish one) looking for a Solid Rock on which to stand.

Ms. Winner, a doctoral candidate in history at Columbia University, contributes to publications like Christianity Today and The Christian Century, and she zigs and zags as those two venerable magazines do. But she reminds us that coming to Christ, while not a matter of feeling, is also not a matter of unfeeling. Emotions matter. All sorts of little things matter, so for a time we wander like the little children in a Family Circus comic. But in the end, one big thing matters most.

Ms. Winner has an eye for good quotations, and I like one she provides from Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem. Context: People think they're coming to church for this reason or that, but the real reason, even if they don't know it yet, is that God is pushing them. Quotation: "Perhaps some man among you has come because he wants to win the approval of his girlfriend.... Perhaps a slave has wanted to please his master or someone has wanted to please a friend. I accept this as bait for my hook and let you in."