|Don't judge zombies by zombies.|
Let's take pop-culture's appropriation of zombies for example. In films, cartoons, comics, and literature, we read about people rising from the dead and often following the direction of a sorcerer or head zombie. They feast usually on the flesh or brains of the unsuspecting. Most would-be victims see a zombie and run, hide, and/or try to protect others from certain death. Now, imagine if there was this one zombie who said to people "hey guys, this is wrong. You can't judge all zombies based on these experiences. Don't judge zombies by zombies." Would people stop running and hiding? Would they suddenly start thinking that the zombies coming towards them are just looking for friendship? It sounds like a ridiculous argument because we accept that zombies don't really exist, but, as with anyone, if we grow accustomed to bad behaviors, we often become conditioned to expect those behaviors. Such conditioning often leads to distrust and fear on one hand, and an unwillingness to overlook the bad, in order to see any good that does exist.
So, if we're not judging Judaism by Jews, then how are we judging it? Let's go back to our zombie analogy. So, let's say you were a zombie and you left zombie culture to become a non-zombie. "Well," a member of the zombie community says to you, "you should come back. Don't judge all of us because some of us eat brains, have a lack of communication skills, (we're conversing right now, are we not?) have pale gray skin with unhealed wounds, and a one track mind." The zombie pauses while you process. "I actually used to be a film student/singer/photographer/physicist/surfer before becoming a zombie. I don't eat brains. In fact, I'm a vegan. I'm not like the other zombies. And I know many others who aren't like those other unscrupulous zombies out there." Of course, that doesn't mean that one should drop his/her whole life and become zombie for the first time, or even go back to being a zombie if one was previously a zombie. A good idea would be to take an independent look at zombie culture and do my own research. Should I let my new very unzombie-like friend try to convince me that his zombie'ism is really not like that of the other zombie'ism that I may have experienced?
Now, not every zombie is going to be like the ones you meet on the street in the dead of the night. And that's fine. There are a great many wonderful zombies out there. But the thing is this: just because this nice guy is a zombie and thinks it's fabulous, doesn't mean that you should change your whole life to become a zombie. Just because he's having a great time, and he's happy and it works for him, doesn't mean that you should quit your degree program and walk around with your arms outstretched, scaring the life out of people. You can have a great time at his house eating that vegan dinner but you don't have to become him. Just because he doesn't think you should judge all zombies because of the actions of some zombies, is still not a justification for adopting his lifestyle. "We don't all eat brains. Why don't you be a zombie who doesn't eat brains, like me?"
Not everybody wants to be a zombie. It would be great if kiruv professionals would realize that, just like becoming a zombie, not everyone is looking to become orthodox, either.