Zygmunt Bauman is a world-famous sociologist, cultural theorist and interpreter of Postmodernity. He is Jewish, but not, as far as I know, a believer in Yeshua. So why he is featured in “On this day in Messianic Jewish history”?
His life and work have great relevance to Messianic Jews and the Messianic Judaisms they are attempting to create. Although Bauman does not claim a belief in God, his work, especially on Jewish identity, the impact of the Holocaust, the nature of individual and communal existence, and the issues of modernity and postmodernity, are profound critical and often lyrical reflections, which often mirror the discourse of Jewish philosophers and Christian theologians.
His work on the Holocaust and Modernity is to me a profound examination of the human processes that created the Shoah, with several jumping off points for those who ponder also the mystery of God’s presence and absence in that horrific event.
His work on allosemitism (see below) paves the way for a much more profound analysis of philosemitism, anti-semitism and supersessionism (in Christian theology) than has previously been proposed, and I look to develop his insights in my own writing on the subject.
At a time when Messianic Jews are greatly concerned with what it means to create community both in Israel and the Diaspora, Bauman’s insights are again helpful in challenging us to create authentic personal and communal identities that are fully Jewish and believing in Yeshua.
If you have haven’t read any Bauman yet, I recommend the Holocaust and Modernity as a powerful and profound reflection on the Shoah. Then try Liquid Modernity or the Bauman reader for a more general taste of his work.
Prayer: Thank you Lord for the wisdom of your creatures, and for the life and work of this postmodern Prophet and Interpreter of our age and existence, Zygmunt Bauman. May he be blessed with the knowledge of your presence, peace and the person of your son, our Messiah Yeshua, and may his wisdom increase in the awareness of your divine purposes. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.
A Short Art History of Allosemitism: Judaism and Christian Art
In his 1997 essay “Allosemitism: Premodern, Modern, Postmodern,” Zygmunt Bauman proposed that the term “allosemitism” should replace “anti-semitism” as an explanatory category for representations of Jews and Judaism. Bauman emphasized three qualities of allosemitism that are relevant to the book under review here. First, rather than constituting straightforward enmity, allosemitism is a “radically ambivalentattitude,” and thus the basis of philo- as well as anti-semitism. Second, allosemitism is a form not of heterophobia but rather of proteophobia, meaning a fear and horror of that which defies clean-cut categories. Third, historically Judeophobia was never “cut from one block.” Pursuing his interest in social categories, Bauman proposed that “the Jews served as the wasteyard onto which all the ambivalence squeezed out of the universe could be dumped, so that the self-identity of the Christian world could be of one block and at peace with itself.”
BAUMAN, Z. (2001). Community: Seeking Safety in an Insecure World. The USA: Polity.