I have had a troubled few days. Let me give you some background. In the late 1970s, my husband was a business professional in Los Angeles when he was introduced to Michael Medved, who had recently begun exploring his Jewish background. My husband began teaching Torah classes to Michael and a few of his friends. This small bunch soon grew to a sizable group studying in crowded living rooms. After a short while, they discovered an almost abandoned old synagogue on the Venice (CA) oceanfront. Within a year this forgotten little synagogue was filled by young people. Although almost everyone started with little knowledge of his or her Jewish roots, they thrilled to investigate Scripture and discover the majesty of religious Jewish life.
While synagogue attendance played a role in the feeling of community, the passionate congregation that sprang up was chiefly based on Bible study and growing together in connection to God. In fact that is what constituted membership! If you attended at least one Torah class a week, you were a member. The group, as befits the time and place, was composed of many whose values and views had been shaped by the turbulent Sixties and confused Seventies. It included ex-commune members and hippies as well as an unusually large number of scientists who started off believing that science and religion were in conflict.
My husband taught a men’s class before going to his office each morning and taught men and women after work in the evenings. He found himself personally inspired by the immense hunger for learning God’s word. When we met and married, I too began teaching our congregation. Rapidly, the group of mostly single individuals began marrying, establishing careers and raising families, exponentially increasing the level of Jewish observance in their lives. Radical ways of thinking gave way to traditional ones and respect for thousands of years of ancient Jewish wisdom replaced obeisance to the latest psychological and social trends.
For many years, neither my husband nor I uttered a word of politics in either Bible classes or synagogue sermons. We wanted our students’ focus to be on getting to know God and Judaism, not on the political debates of the day. Yet, or perhaps rather because, the focus was on Torah study, God’s word changed hearts and minds, leading people to view political issues of the day through the prism of God’s wisdom rather than the latest newspaper headline. Not surprisingly, this beachfront community in Venice, California, became increasingly politically conservative and members voted just about unanimously for Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. At this time and place, as now, religious and Biblical values aligned more closely with America’s right than with its left.
Much of what my husband taught during those exciting years became the bedrock of our Genesis Journeys series, Biblical Blueprint Set and other books, CDs and DVDs. They are, for the most part, straight scriptural teaching based on ancient Jewish wisdom. We know they have the power to change hearts and minds because we have already seen it happen.
This brings me to my troubled week. I enjoy thinking about and then writing these Musings. Writing helps me clarify my thoughts as does getting feedback from readers which contributes to my understanding. Sometimes it makes me question my premises or presentation. However, today it is almost impossible to keep politics off to the side. Back in the early days of our synagogue community, there was no threat of the government outlawing the recitation of parts of Scripture that are politically incorrect. Nobody dreamed of a day when the government might force a synagogue to fund abortion for its employees. We’d have laughed at anyone objecting to our having men’s and women’s restrooms while levels of taxation and regulation allowed families to live on one income if they so desired, making large families a realistic possibility.
Today, however, one is hard pressed to find any area of life that the government isn’t trying to direct and manage. It is almost impossible to find a topic of conversation which doesn’t relate to some political hot potato—including the weather!
Over the past few months, here in my Musings, I shared my personal struggles deciding who to support during this election cycle. I wasn’t alone. Millions of Americans had a tough time this time around. Last week, in a response to a comment, I said that one of my biggest disappointment in the Obama presidency was that the country is more racially divided than when he entered the office. In my view, he ignored or mishandled a unique opportunity. If asked, I could elaborate on my words. Instead, for this comment as well as others in the months leading up to it, I received a variation on this response, “I will no longer read anything you write…” I got accused of saying things I never said, thinking things I never thought, supporting Donald Trump too much, not supporting Donald Trump enough, hating women, etc., etc. In other words, rather than sharing a different view or engaging in dialogue, the response too often was, “I want nothing more to do with you.”
Herein lies my dilemma. If sharing my thoughts, which invariably are controversial because everything in our day and age is controversial, leads people to disconnect from our ministry, then perhaps I shouldn’t share them. I know the power of our audio programs and books. God’s word changes people’s minds and hearts and leads them to connect with Him. Am I limiting that connection by my writing?