Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Should Religious Liberty Scare us? Hardly!

Pope Francis and Rabbi Edgar Gluck (YWN)
There are some media elites that have panned Trump’s ‘religious liberty’ executive order. In short that order has endorsed the idea that freedom of religions will once again be restored as an unfettered right. Religious people will be able to practice their faith without undue interference by the government. 

This act – as noted a few days ago - has also restored the free speech rights to religious organizations. They can now endorse political candidates without fear of losing their tax exempt status. I agreed with this order but cautioned our own organizations not to do so as a practical matter.

But the Forward’s Jay Michaelson will have no part of it. He, like far too many other Jews, fears the consequences of this executive order for the Jewish people. Consequences that he thinks will accrue great advantages for Christians at the expense of Jews. Especially Evangelical Christians whose nefarious aims are to first Christianize America and ultimately convert the Jews.

This used to be a legitimate fear. There is no question that this was on the agenda of the Evangelical mind for may decades. But times have changed. Those who still believe this are ignoring the sea change that has taken place among the in the last 25 or so years. 

Thanks to the efforts of people like Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, Christians no longer actively seek to do that. They instead see us as natural allies in pursuit of restoring religious values into the American psyche. Values that we have in common with them. Well, maybe not all of us. But certainly those of us that are Orthodox.

That’s why one will find the clergy of both Orthodox Jews and Christians fighting the same fight… lobbying congress to not legislate interferences in religious practices that favor the new morality. A morality that is agnostic about sexual matters. A morality that sees pornography in a far different light than was seen just a few short decades ago. A morality that glorifies sex in all forms. A morality where sexual promiscuity is considered almost normal. A morality that allows for same sex bathrooms as a civil right.

Jay doesn’t seem to notice that. Or perhaps he just doesn’t care about it. What he does notice is what he believes to be the negative Evangelical opinion of us. And that they use code words disguise it. Code words like ‘New York liberals’ whom they blame for all the moral decay in this country.

I agree that this kind of thinking does exist among some of them and that they do use those code words. It is certainly a prejudicial approach to paint only ‘the Jews’ as being responsible for it. There are plenty of non-Jewish smut peddlers in Hollywood.

But at the same time it cannot be denied that Jewish hands were involved in major part for moral decay they describe. Hollywood, whose lack of any sexual mores is more responsible for that than any other entity - was created and is still dominated by Jews. Almost all of whom do not subscribe to the biblical view on sexual morality – to say the least! So even though some Evangelical preachers are wrong to use broad brush strokes about Jewish responsibility it is understandable why such prejudice might exist.

But the fact is that most mainstream Evangelicals do not see the Jews that way. They understand that those of us with the values of the Torah see the same moral decay they do… and blame the same people. Instead of being seeing Christian bias against us or being afraid that their missionaries are out to convert us, we are now allies in the same fight. (Yes, I know that their are some Christian missionaries that do seek to convert us, though they might be tolerated - they are surely no longer part of their mainstream.)

But that is not how Jay sees us. He sees us as consorting with the devil for financial gain:
Jewish proponents of these changes — overwhelmingly Orthodox and Republican — are unwittingly selling our country’s pluralistic birthright for a short-term bowl of financial porridge. 
How sad it is for someone with a religious background like Jay Michaelson to now see us in such a negative light. Equally sad is his inability to see the change in how Christians view us ever since Vatican II.

Which I believe began with the Catholic Church under Pope John in the early 60s. I have discussed this change more times than I can count. The short version is that what they once saw us as a people abandoned by God  whose only salvation was to convert – they now see as a legitimate brother religion. They now believe that we Jews would do best to practice our own faith.

I recall that famed conductor James Levine (the Pope’s conductor) had asked Pope John Paul whether he should convert to Catholicism since he admired the Pope so much. Pope John Paul told him not to do it and instead be true to his own religion.  My, how things have changed since the days of the Inquisition!

Was Pope John Paul an esception or the new rule? The answer should be more than obvious by the way the new Pope sees us. From YWN
In a fascinating, and unusual half hour private conversation with Rabbi Chaim Baruch (Edgar) Gluck, Rav DovBer Pinson, and Rabbi Zvi Gluck, speaking about the need to teach the world the Oneness of Hashem, the Pope said “the greatest and most important teaching the world needs to hear is “Shema” (the Pope, said this word in Hebrew). 
I cannot ever remember a time where a group of Charedi Jews went as a delegation to the Pope and treated him with such respect. (And even admiration it seems. Rightfully so.)

I am thoroughly convinced that the Pope would see Trump’s  religious liberty excutive order in the same positive light that Orthodox Jews do.

Jay Michaelson would do well to rethink his objections to it. Hurt the Jewish people? Hardly.