Tag Archives: morality

#ShoutYourAbortion and the Devaluing of Children

shout banner
Image found at Kickstarter

I’m going to get into a lot of trouble, at least in certain circles, for writing this, but it’s been bothering me for a while now and, as my long-time readers know, I process my thoughts and feelings by writing.

Believe it or not, back in the day, I used to be an agnostic/atheist and a Democrat. It seemed to be the default setting for most of the people I hung out with after High School (a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away). I didn’t think much about my politics or social opinions for a long time, and certainly didn’t do anything to challenge them.

Then I got married, and several years later, my wife became pregnant. Yes, we were at a stage in our lives when we wanted to start a family, so it was quite intentional. Like I imagine most pregnant couples to be, we immediately started bonding with our unborn baby (it wasn’t until about halfway through the pregnancy that we found out my wife was having twins).

Anyway, my wife started taking prenatal vitamins and otherwise doing whatever she could to make sure our baby was born healthy. We dabbled at picking out baby names, and as her due date got closer, began buying high chairs, car seats, a crib, decorating our children’s room (by then we knew there’d be two). We were drawing ever closer to our two sons even before they were born.

That’s what expectant parents do, right?

One day, on my commute to work, I passed by an abortion clinic. Maybe it was Planned Parenthood, I don’t remember. I know it was an abortion clinic because I saw people carrying signs outside protesting abortions. On other similar occasions in the past, I was mentally critical of the protesters, since I supported pro-choice, just like my politics said I should. I knew women who had abortions and as far as I could tell, the net effect was pretty benign. That wasn’t my only experience, but I’ll get to the others in a minute.

But on the occasion of driving past the protest, I thought about my pregnant wife, and I thought about how we felt about our unborn children. That set me off on a trajectory that would eventually lead me to make some life-altering decisions affecting my political/social outlook.

However, nearly ten years before that, I had worked at a Suicide Prevention hotline in Berkeley. I was on staff, hired to cover the midnight to 8 a.m. shift (since it was rare for a volunteer to want to work that late). Of course, I received all kinds of calls from insomniacs and such, plus we had our “regulars” who would call in (not everyone who phoned was actively suicidal).

However, some of the most heart-wrenching calls I took were from young women who had just had an abortion. This was the late 1970s and into the early 80s and Roe vs. Wade made abortions legal starting in 1973. These were women who were sobbing into the telephone, talking to a stranger in the middle of the night, pouring out their anguish because they had just killed their baby. That’s how they expressed it. I’m not putting words in anyone’s mouth.

I put those experiences all together over the subsequent years, did my research, and came to a single devastating conclusion: The only difference at all between a fetus and an unborn baby human being is whether the child is wanted or not.

That’s it.

My wife and I didn’t wait until some critical period in the gestation of our sons to start emotionally bonding with them, we began the minute we found out she was pregnant. My wife didn’t wait until some critical period in gestation to start taking prenatal vitamins, stop drinking alcohol (she’s never been a big drinker anyway) and doing everything in her power to make sure our unborn sons would be as healthy as possible, she began right away.

I’ve heard it said that in order for an otherwise sane and moral human being to be able to kill a person, their “enemy” has to be dehumanized. In other words, if the person you plan to kill isn’t considered human, then it’s easier in war, for example, to pull the trigger. Check out a number of World War Two propaganda posters. They depict Germans and Japanese in the most ghastly lights, as vicious killers and monsters. That’s what made it okay for American civilians to hate them, for our government to intern Japanese people in camps, and for soldiers to kill them in battle.

So a fetus is a potential human, but while that potential is unrealized, it’s okay to kill them. That’s pro-choice. The potential mommy’s body, her life, her attitudes, are all more important than her child’s life.

I know what some people are going to say. What about cases where a girl or woman becomes pregnant due to incest or rape?

According to “The New York Times” in a 1989 article (yes, it’s old, so the statistic has changed slightly), only One percent of abortions are performed because the girl or woman was a victim of those crimes. Only one percent. According to a 2011 article by Christian media group Focus on the Family, that figure had risen to 1.5%. So as of about seven or eight years ago, only 1.5% of all abortions nationwide were performed because of incest or rape. So much for that straw man argument.

But what about other reasons? Why do women get abortions? Yes, because the pregnancy is unwanted, but what are the specifics?

According to a 2005 paper published by the Guttmacher Institute and cited in Table 2 of their paper, the primary reasons in descending order are:

  1. Having a baby would dramatically change my life interfering with education, job/career, other children/dependents
  2. Can’t afford a baby now due to being unmarried, unemployed, or for reasons of poverty
  3. Don’t want to be a single mother or am having relationship problems
  4. Have completed my childbearing and don’t want additional children

You can click the links I provided to read the entire table for the full list of reasons, but these are the major ones.

According to Very Well Health, the most common reason women have abortions has to do with finances. Specifically, 40% of women are financially unprepared to have a baby, and this includes conditions of poverty and being on public assistance.

Depending on your perspective, poverty/finances might be a valid reason to have an abortion should a woman unintentionally become pregnant. After all, what costs more, an abortion or raising a child from infancy to age eighteen? It’s a tough argument to counter. On the other hand, it sounds like there’s a justification of ending a human life just because that person is poor. It has some horrible implications if you start applying the principle to people who have already been born. No, it’s not that pro-choice people are actively promoting murder of a born person, even a newly born infant, but where do you draw the line between late-term abortion and killing a viable child?

That question deserves further consideration. Toward the end of my wife’s pregnancy with our sons, she developed pre-eclampsia and had to be hospitalized until she gave birth. This was at Long Beach (California) Memorial Hospital which, at the time at least, had one of the best neonatal ICUs in the nation. I saw prematurely born babies, some as young as 20 weeks gestation, all struggling to stay alive, their parents in horrible anguish and heartbreak.

I know that by most standards, 20 weeks gestation (though some authorities go as young as 16 weeks) is the cut off point for late-term abortions. There may be some pro-abortion pro-choice advocates who would be okay with aborting a baby at 21 weeks, 22, 25, or 30, but I’m not sure about that. All I know is what I witnessed was another reason I believe the only difference between a fetus (which you can abort) and an unborn baby (which you can’t because it would be unthinkable), is whether or not the child is wanted. That’s the ONLY reason based on my experiences.

Some weeks ago, I watched a video of conservative political commentator, writer, attorney, and Orthodox Jew Ben Shapiro explaining why an unborn baby is not “a ball of goo.” You can watch it at LifeNews.com and read the accompanying article, but Ben’s argument is devastating.

Okay, so why am I writing this all right now (as opposed to last year, or next year, or never)? Because I read this today.

shout
Screenshot from twitter

Regardless of where you land on the abortion debate, what person in their right mind forces their own abortion experience on children? She even tells children that having an abortion is part of God’s plan, like going to the dentist.

When I was a kid, I knew women became pregnant and had babies, but in my wildest imagination, I had no clue those pregnancies could be (at that time, illegally) terminated. I’m pretty sure my children didn’t grow up with that knowledge, at least before Junior or Senior High. I don’t know what my almost ten-year-old grandson knows, and to a high degree of confidence, I’m absolutely sure my three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter doesn’t have a clue.

Amelia Bonow and several other activists created the #ShoutYourAbortion movement, hashtag included. I guess she thought the other abortion advocates didn’t take it far enough, so in addition to just having abortions be legal, she wants women to be proud of them. Heck infamous popular celebrity Lena Dunham has gone on record saying she wishes she had an abortion. Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren compares abortion to having your tonsils removed. I don’t know if she’s ever had an abortion, but I do know she has two (adult age) children.

And who the heck would actually produce a book for children on abortion? My son, the father of my grandchildren, has similar political and social attitudes to my own (he’s actually a lot more conservative) and I’m sure he’ll agree that it’s a book my grandkids will never read, not until they’re old enough to buy it themselves or check it out from the library.

For crying out loud, let children BE children. You really don’t have to drag them into some of the messiness that goes along with being an adult. Honest. Stop it!

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about parenting and abortions. If you’ve never parented, maybe it’s easier to have an abortion, because you haven’t let yourself go through the experience of bonding with an unborn (and later born) child. But what if you’ve had children? You know what it feels like to grow close, to cherish, to nurture an unborn life. How can you simply turn around after having those profound experiences and have an abortion as if you were flipping off a light switch?

Oh, but there’s more.

You may or may not be aware of an eleven-year-old boy named Desmond Napoles, also known as Desmond is Amazing (and if you click that last link, yeah…that’s a boy).

NBC recently promoted Napoles, in part, because he was featured cross-dressing and performing at a Gay club, with adult men waving money at him as if he were a stripper. I don’t know about you, but I consider that outrageous, and I can’t imagine why his parents allow such insanity.

Supposedly, he’s starting a dating website for trans children as well as a drag club for children.

Yes, I know this is an extreme example of poor parenting decisions, and you’re probably wondering what this has to do with abortion.

It has to do with objectifying and hypersexualizing young children. I mean, if a child means so little to you in the womb that you not only abort that child, but #ShoutYourAbortion to the world, including to children as young as little Desmond, how much can kids in general really mean in today’s progressive society (okay, so there are probably tons of progressive parents who love and cherish their children, but to the degree that all this other stuff is happening, there’s a problem)?

I know the counter-argument is that some conservative and religious parents do harm to their children as well, and I’m sure that’s true, but it doesn’t make any of the points I’ve established in this blog post less valid.

desmond 8
Desmond Napoles at age 8 -whose dancing drew joyous applause from the crowd at Sunday’s New York City Pride March. (Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

Something has changed in our world when women are told that having an abortion is not only a good thing, but a valid, right, and moral thing to achieve, no more harmful than going to the dentist or having your tonsils removed, and all part of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of the world. Something is horribly wrong when an eleven-year-old boy performs in drag in front of a bunch of men in a gay nightclub. Something is horribly wrong in our world, when that boy then performs on a major network (NBC) television show and is praised for being (in my opinion) sexually exploited, and millions of people in the audience think it’s okay.

It is not okay. How younger people are being programmed to believe ending a human life and sexually exploiting young boys is not okay.

Parents and grandparents and all the other caretakers of children out there, please protect your kids. Don’t let the culture corrupt and destroy them. If this is what morality looks like when progressives and atheists believe they are the highest moral and ethical force in the universe, I don’t think you have to look too far to figure out why I prefer that a perfect and Holy God is my moral compass.

Oh, for more, read the article The Problem With “The Kids Meet Someone Who Had An Abortion” Video.

Advertisements

Moral vs. Legal Imperatives and Marriage Equality

same-sex-marriage2Supreme Court justices seemed skeptical of creating a new federal right to same-sex marriage as they grilled lawyers this morning in a potentially landmark case over California’s ban on gay marriages.

As the politics change by the day, the court heard a case — Proposition 8 — that could drastically change how states and the federal government approach one of the touchiest social issues of the past decade.

The justices today challenged lawyers on both sides on common points of contention that arise whenever gay marriage is debated.

-Chris Good, Terry Moran, Ariane DeVogue, and Sarah Parnass
“Supreme Court Justices Struggle with Federal Right to Gay Marriage”
ABC News

I shouldn’t do this. I shouldn’t write one single word about this subject. I’m going to get in trouble with just about everyone when they read this. My Pastor reads my blog. My Mother reads my blog. Boy, am I in for it.

Then why I’m I writing this? I’m tempted to write it because the news media is just plain shoving it down everyone’s throat today. I can’t get away from it. Even other religious blogs are demanding Christians support same-sex marriage. But then, this is really is big news, regardless of which side of the fence you’re on. It will affect not only the state of “marriage equality” in California as related to Prop. 8, but potentially the “rights” of same-sex couples to become married in all fifty states (I put “rights” in quotes because of the question, can something be a “right” that hasn’t been established as such yet? But I digress).

But that’s not the reason I’m writing this. I’m a Christian. I’m kind of unconventional, but my general stance on homosexuality is that the Bible doesn’t support it. However, like most Christians, I can’t always immediately point to my source data in the Bible. So I guess I’d better go looking for it.

Thanks to Google, the search is brief, if not particularly focused. I land on a site called ChristianBibleReference.org and an article called, “What Does the Bible say about Homosexuality?”

I won’t quote everything, but they provide a handy bullet point list for reference:

  • 2 refer to rape (Genesis 19:5, Judges 19:22)
  • 5 refer to cult prostitution (Deuteronomy 23:17-18, 1 Kings 14:23-24, 15:12-13, 22:46, 2 Kings 23:6-8)
  • 1 refers to prostitution and pederasty (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
  • 4 are nonspecific (Leviticus 18:21-22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:8-10)

OK, let’s consider a few things. Any references in the Torah or the entire Tanakh (Old Testament) that specifically prohibit homosexual behavior are within the context of the laws and statutes that apply to the Children of Israel. While God may or may not disdain homosexual behavior for all human beings in general, the Tanakh prohibitions don’t apply to all human beings in general. They apply (there may be exceptions, but for the most part) to the Jewish people; the inheritors of the Sinai covenant.

So if you’re not part of that covenant by birth or conversion, then those laws don’t apply to you.

Stay with me. I’m just getting started.

What about the New Testament?

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Romans 1:24-27

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

1 Timothy 1:8-10

Christian-Campus-GayThere are other scriptures that address sexual immorality (which in some cases may or may not be specific to homosexuality) in the New Testament, but these are two of the most “damning.”

But in my brief Google search, I did find a blogger who wrote an article called Why The Bible DOES NOT Forbid Homosexuality. He provided a defense based on Romans 1 and basically ignored 1 Timothy 1 or many other NT scriptures, relying on statements citing other sources such as the following:

Homosexuality, like heterosexuality, is a sexual orientation. Sexual orientation deals with a person’s sexual attraction to another person’s sexual organs.

In first century, Roman imperial culture, homosexual sex was a fairly common practice but only as a specific, social function.

The blog author tried to link the latter quote with the “neither male nor female” portion of Galatians 3:28 but bottom line, I wasn’t convinced. He was heavy on history and social commentary but light on providing a clear illustration of how the Bible was either neutral on the topic or even “pro-gay.” The blog post is almost a year old and has 67 responding comments, all of which I have not read. I’m not interested in joining that particular debate (which ended last November with the last comment) and it’s certainly not the point of what I’m writing today.

The general moral and ethical structure of Christianity is taken largely from Judaism. How can it not, since Christianity has grown and evolved from the first century Jewish sect known as “the Way?” Therefore, I wouldn’t expect Jesus, Paul, or the rest of the apostles to teach moral and ethical principles that differed significantly from their “source material,” the Torah. Therefore, it’s unlikely that Jesus and his followers would have taught a social/sexual practice that was different and specifically not one that reversed something that appears quite plain in the Torah. Why would they?

Of course, many people are quick to point out that Christianity doesn’t follow the kosher laws either and that Jacob had twelve wives, and Solomon had more wives and concubines than you could shake a proverbial stick at, so can Christianity reasonably reach back into the Torah for its binding principles?

It gets complicated in the explanation, but Jesus was specific in saying the following:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Matthew 19:3-6

So Jesus is defining marriage specifically between a man and woman and not allowing any “wiggle room” for two men or two women. Yes, he was talking to a Jewish audience, but this is one principle that has been extended to the non-Jewish disciples of the Master (i.e. Christians). I know there are Christians and Jews who hold religious beliefs that accept homosexual behavior and include support of “marriage equality,” but we need to be careful not to mix and match principles of faith with political correctness or even secular law.

Which brings me to a couple of points, one of which I mentioned above. If the Torah forbids homosexual behavior, it does so within the context of the covenants that apply to the Jewish people, specifically the Sinai covenant. If you are not Jewish, then the Torah doesn’t apply to you since you’re not a covenant member. End of story.

abraham-covenant-starsChristianity has a covenant relationship with God based on a portion of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) which was extended by the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36) and then applied by the Messiah in the Gospels (see Luke 22:17-20 for instance). Unlike Jews, Christians are not born into a covenant relationship with God. We must choose to become Christians. Once we do, then we are bound by the covenant and all that it contains, which traditionally includes a prohibition against homosexual behavior.

But if you aren’t Jewish and you aren’t a Christian, you aren’t a covenant member and therefore, the “rules” don’t apply to you. It’s arguable that the Noahide Laws, which at least Orthodox Judaism considers binding on literally everyone, prohibits homosexuality as one of the forbidden relationships, but that definition is set by religious Judaism and if you don’t buy into that, you aren’t going to feel too “bound” just because you’re a human being.

(In the end, God has the right to judge everyone, covenant member or not, but that’s not the point of today’s missive.)

What I’m getting at is that if a person isn’t a recognized member of a covenant relationship with God, can you as a religious Jew or a Christian actually make them responsible for upholding moral and ethical behaviors defined by your beliefs? If you consider homosexual behavior a sin and there are secular gay people in the world, how are they any better or worse than say, a secular bank robber or (heterosexual) adulterer?

I suppose gay readers or readers who support gay rights might be chafing at this point in my narrative, but I’m speaking to a religious audience from within that context. I understand you do not equate a man loving another man with a man robbing a bank or a man cheating on his wife.

Now to my other point.

Whatever the Supreme Court does or doesn’t do has nothing to do with your faith.

A number of important laws in our country, and in most countries, more or less mirror what we read in the Bible. The Bible has a commandment against murder. Generally, murder is illegal in this country. The Bible is against stealing. We have laws against stealing. But we also have a lot of laws that range from morally ambiguous to just plain crazy from a Biblical point of view. What do you do about laws permitting marijuana use in some states but not others? What do you do about the legality of heterosexual marriage in general when the first man and woman in Genesis presumably weren’t married? How the U.S. Supreme Court interprets the Constitution today would probably have driven the Founding Fathers insane, so how can we reconcile the Bible to laws in the United States of America in the 21st century?

Religious Jews and Christians historically have lived in nations where the penal and civil laws did not completely (or sometimes in any sense) match up with the religious “laws” of Jews and Christians. Where do we get the idea that the Supreme Court has to interpret the Constitution in a way that makes us feel comfortable and is consistent with our definition of marriage?

My personal opinion is that it is only a matter of time until our nation permits homosexual marriage in all fifty states (whether individual states want to permit it or not). As an American citizen, I have feelings about that, but as a Christian, can I impose my morality on the law of the land? Yes, the law of the land imposes itself on me because I’m an American citizen, but if the law permits a man and a woman to live together and have a sexual relationship, and that is also against my religious beliefs, why am I not protesting or complaining about that?

I know someone is going to mention abortion which is A) legal, and B) generally against Christian moral principles, but if you believe life is sacred and you believe life begins at conception or at some point before 10 or 20 weeks gestation, then you also believe that aborting an unborn child is killing a baby.

Another “unpopular” subject to be sure but it is a subject for another time.

same-sex-marriage4If the Supreme Court rules that it is unconstitutional for the State of California (and this decision will affect all other states ultimately) to pass a law forbidding same-sex couples from marrying, what am I as a Christian supposed to do about it? Can I hold the world around me to the same moral standards to which I hold myself?

I know I’ve probably upset everyone who has managed to make it through this lengthy article. It was not my intent and I didn’t write this just to be a pest. I’m trying to process this information within myself (which is why I write most of my blogs) and I’m trying to present an alternate point of view, one that doesn’t say “all gays are good” or “all gays are bad” either because that’s how I may feel on a visceral level or because I believe that’s what the Bible is saying to me.

I have a responsibility to God to live my life in a manner consistent with my faith and my beliefs. If my brother or sister in faith appears to be stumbling, I believe I have a responsibility to gently point out that they may have a problem and to offer to help them.

But if someone outside the faith appears to be having a moral problem, what is my responsibility (however, if I see, for instance, a secular man beating his child, the state of his faith is irrelevant and I do have a responsibility to protect the innocent)? If my nation is passing laws that appear to have a moral problem but otherwise aren’t the equivalent of making it legal for adults to beat children, what is my responsibility?

I’m not an attorney, but I have racked my brain trying to look at the marriage equality issue from a strictly legal perspective, temporarily putting aside both my faith and my visceral response.

I can’t find a legal reason to forbid such unions, regardless of my moral stance. So now what do I do?

Let the “hate mail” begin.

Struggling with the World, Part 1

I’m not arguing for either the superiority or the necessity of a covenantal orientation to life for the realization of human responsibility and dignity. In thinking about Judaism, I cannot ignore the fact that atheists act with moral dignity and compassion in the world. I believe, in contrast to many contemporary religious thinkers, that secular humanism is a viable and morally coherent position. What I am claiming is only that neither the critique of halakhic Judaism found in the Christian tradition nor the moral critique found in Spinoza is convincing. There are many different approaches to human life that encourage initiative, intellectual freedom, responsibility, and the sense of personal adequacy and dignity. I am not arguing that faith is necessary in order to have these values, but only that faith in a covenantal God of Judaism does not have to contradict or undermine them.

The God of Sinai does not merely hand over responsibility for the mitzvot to Israel and then take His leave. He also commits Himself to permanent involvement in the history of the community…

-Rabbi David Hartman
Chapter 8: “Rabbinic Responses to Suffering”
A Living Covenant: The Innovative Spirit in Traditional Judaism

I hadn’t intended to turn this into a series, but I find myself continuing to compare the relative merits of the moral and ethical positions of Christianity and, if not atheism as such, progressive secular humanism, which is the predominant philosophy of modern western culture. My previous missives on this topic are Collision, which is my introduction into why atheism holds such animosity toward Christians and Repairing Life which suggests one possible response.

That should have been the end of my reflections on “Religion vs. Atheism,” and it was from a Christian point of view, but I neglected to discuss how Judaism considers this dynamic. As with many things, there’s no single Jewish viewpoint (and I’m probably not qualified to write about this but I will anyway) so I’ll try to offer two: one from Rabbi Hartman’s above-quoted book and the other from Rabbi Tzvi Freeman and Chabad.org.

Whenever someone asks me a question, I first have to think, “What kind of a box has this guy trapped me in?” Then I can deconstruct the box. If the box dissolves, there goes the question. If it doesn’t dissolve, I better listen up. The guy’s got a point.

Here comes one now:
“Rabbi, what was the Rebbe’s response to modernity?”

For at least two hundred years, Jews scrambled to find a response to modernity.

Today, there’s no longer much scrambling. Movements have stopped moving, firmly entrenched. But there was a time when Jewish creative genius generated a cacophony of responses to modernity: Reform, Orthodoxy, Zionism, Religious Zionism, Conservative, Ultra-Orthodoxy, Reconstructionism, Modern Orthodoxy, Renewal and more. Each movement had leaders who spent their years zealously articulating and re-articulating their particular response to the progressive, liberal, enlightened, modern world that came rushing down upon us, particularly after France beheaded its kings and smokestacks started belching into the sky.

Now, in Brooklyn sat a Jewish leader who built up a powerhouse movement that has transformed the face of Jewry worldwide. What was his response to modernity?

Gotcha. Neat little box. But it doesn’t work. What doesn’t work? The box: “Response.”

Again, as I mentioned in my other blog posts on this subject, I’m not trying to “prove” that religion is right and atheism is wrong or even to say that one group possesses an inherently greater moral response to life than the other (although from my point of view, religion should have the greater moral response).

I want to show that the issue can be as simple as how much or how little of themselves people choose to invest in their particular belief systems and and also demonstrate that these matters are far more complex than what we think of as mere “right and wrong.”

Rabbi Hartman’s position might be considered the more progressive of the two based on the quote I used to open this “extra meditation.” Rabbi Freeman represents the more conservative view. He suggests that historically, Judaism has responded to modernity by generating multiple variations of Judaism to adapt to the demands of progressiveness, but currently seems to be digging its heels in, so to speak, as representative of the Orthodox. But as we see from continuing to review Rabbi Freeman’s commentary, even this isn’t as two-dimensional as it appears.

Rabbi Freeman uses the dilemma of Children of Israel trapped between an advancing and vengeful Egyptian army and the uncrossable barrier of the Reed Sea (Exodus 14) as a metaphor for the struggle of Judaism to respond to liberal modernity.

The Children of Israel are stuck at the Sea of Reeds. The Egyptian army is closing in fast. The Jews divide into four parties—four opposing responses to one situation, perfectly summarizing the orthodox responses of the modern era: The Just-Go-Back-to-Egypt response, the I’d-Rather-Drown-Myself response, the Get-Up-And-Fight response and the Get-Down-And-Pray response.

Response Today
Self-Drowning Immerse in a ghetto of Torah, and pretend the world does not exist.
Back to Egypt Give up on the world, on the future, or on trying to change anything. Just do what you have to do because G‑d says so.
Fighting Prove that we are right and they are wrong.
Praying Rely on G‑d to bring Moshiach real soon.

G‑d’s response? You’re all wrong.

“Why are you crying out to me?” G‑d demands of Moses. “Speak to the Children of Israel and tell them to keep going forward!”

No response. No reaction. Proaction. Take charge. You have a purpose, you’re going somewhere. Keep going.

According to Rabbi Freeman, the response of Israel to the demands of progressionism is to progress. Of course, this doesn’t mean abandoning the covenant of Sinai and blending into the general cultural herd, which for a Jew would basically mean assimilation, but it doesn’t mean hiding or freezing in place, either. If the world moves, move with it, but don’t forget to take who you are with you and particularly, don’t forget to take God.

But the world of faith is always vulnerable, not just to tragedy and evil, but to how those elements of life are interpreted, and on some occasions, used against religious people by not only the atheists who blame all the world’s woes on religion (as if humanity weren’t capable of doing harm without a religious belief system to depend upon), but on our own doubts when “bad things happen to good people,” or when God is otherwise incomprehensible.

Rabbi Hartman continues on this point:

From the anthropological perspective on the problem of evil, therefore, the prime concern is not so much to defend the notions of divine justice and power. It is rather, as in other personal relationships, to determine what measure of continuity, stability, and predictability can enable the relationship with God to survive all shocks. It is to identify the cluster of beliefs that supports a person’s will to persist in the face of tragedy and suffering. If the world I live in requires that I become overly vigilant because of the threat of danger striking at any moment, then how can I sustain commitment to a way fo life predicated on God’s covenantal love and justice?

How do we respond to events that can call into question our whole identity as God’s relational partners?

An atheist can dismiss such questions by dismissing God. The presence of tragedy, suffering, and evil can be accepted as conditions of a natural world filled with imperfect human beings. It can also be a world that, while imperfect, is struggling to develop toward a higher moral and ethical reality as indeed, progressivism strongly believes. Human beings then, establish and revise the foundations of our own morality, sometimes radically, as time advances and the concepts of rightness, mercy, and justice continue to evolve in societal consciousness.

But what about the covenantal Jew? How does he resolve or at least address this problem? We’ll pursue the answer to that and other questions in Part 2.