Ep. 2 & 3 on SemioBytes: Interview with Dr. Leonard Sweet

In this week’s episode, Terry and I discussed our takeaways from our joint interview with Dr. Leonard Sweet at his resort in Orcas Island. We conducted our interview the last week of May 2018 during our face to face intensive to finish our cohort DMin program with the last of our classes with Len. He graciously took the time to answer a few questions on record for us to share in this podcast.

Below you will find an embeds of the interview and our follow-up thoughts aired on Anchor. Following those embeds will be my additional thoughts regarding the interview. I encourage you to subscribe to the blogs and podcast individually or sign up for emails to your inbox. Also, click here to learn more about this project and how you can contribute ideas (as well as be a guest speaker).

We aired the interview with Dr. Leonard Sweet last week after we both caught up with our busy schedules. Between finishing courses, switching gears to dissertation mode, and trips (like mine to Israel in mid-June), we finally synced our schedules. The interview ran longer than we anticipated so we opted to do a “Part 2” in which we discuss the interview.

As you can tell, there was a lot to discuss. Our audio definitely went over the 10-15 minutes we aim for and clocked about 35 minutes total. I have to admit – it’s quite possible that some episodes may run this long. If it’s a common occurrence, then we’ll have to adjust our own length expectations to accommodate these discussions since everyone would miss out if we had to cut it off abruptly.

In the course of our engagement, Terry and I believe we found a mutual way to view Len’s comments. In the YidBrik process, it’s essential that I build bridges. That’s what my entire dissertation is based on. Some of the comments Len made were challenging to work with. His discussion on Jesus is always a point of contention with Jews. As I shared in the episode, however, many notable and respected rabbinic resources really don’t have a problem with Jesus, but with his followers and what it became. I guess in some ways that’s not much different from Rebbe Schneerson’s work in life and how some have treated him after death.

Are there problems with engagement? There can be. That’s why we aim to challenge one another instead of evangelize one another. Both Terry and I feel that’s what Len was trying to say, but the words themselves have a meaning we can’t bifurcate. Here’s the rub: when building bridges, we need to recognize that we have to treat them gently and with respect. Just as many bridges for cars and trains typically cannot withstand an earthquake, significant tremors in the field of interpersonal relations can be detrimental.

There will be bumps along the way, and that’s where everyone learns to apply grace and forgiveness. For example, I don’t aim to offend Christians, but I know some things I say eventually will. I do my best to phrase it in a way that lessens discord, but there are golden calves that must be tipped. When we learn to communicate with respect for one another and to try to share an understanding, we’ll go much farther than we would if we simple shouted and one another with condemnations and libel (we have enough of this in history and don’t need to make any more).

A great example is Terry and myself: we don’t see eye to eye but we try to understand one another and find a middle ground. That can be hard when dealing with something so personal such as religion and culture, but we need to play nice and be willing to be challenged. If our own respective worldviews cannot hold up to scrutiny, then there’s an issue with that worldview. The goal is not to convert one another, but rather to understand one another. If we take conversion out, and Judaism certainly permits that with Noachide status (Christianity, actually, does permit this as well with suzerain vassal doctrine of the Judaic nation), then we can communicate without ulterior motives, and we have a chance.

What are your thoughts? Where can we make bridges? What areas seem unlikely? 

Questions about religion, semiotics, Judaism, or Christianity? Maybe all of the above?

Ask the SemioBytes podcast today!

PS – this connects to the dissertation artifact for both Terry L. Rankin and myself, so we really would appreciate your questions!