I recently wrote about the #Walkaway Movement, founded by Brandon Straka, as one of the bright lights on the American horizon. I avoided mentioning one aspect of his crusade that I do think deserves discussion. I would like to do so now. How I can ally with them and, more so, greatly appreciate their involvement in affecting the future of this country, while disagreeing vehemently with many of their lifestyle choices?
The movement is diverse in a way that few areas of American life are today. Rather than identifying by color, sexual orientation, gender, age, religion or nationality, those signing on agree on shared ideas. Among them are a love for the United States, respect for freedom of speech and thought, and serious concern about the bullying and hate being promoted by today’s Democrat Party.
Wherein lies the problem? Many, including the founder, Brandon, identify and behave, particularly in the sexual arena, in ways that I not only think of as religiously sinful but consider damaging to the long-term health of a culture. Yet, I am grateful for their presence. For their part, they are not demanding obeisance from me or anyone else for how they live their lives, though I imagine at least some are hurt by what they see as my prejudices. At its most basic, you could say that the relationship is based on the idea, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” but I think that is not only incorrect, but misses an opportunity.
My husband and I have cultivated relationships outside our “box” for many years. In the early years of our marriage, this took the form of leading a synagogue made up mostly of young Jews who had a strong ethnic Jewish identity but negligible religious education or knowledge. (If you’d like to know more about our electrifying experiences during those years, check out Judy Gruen’s The Skeptic and the Rabbi, telling her story of reluctantly being drawn to faith via my husband’s teachings.) This meant that the Jews we welcomed into our home often behaved in ways that were counter to our convictions. They drove by car to our home or synagogue on the Sabbath; brought us non-kosher food as hostess gifts and sometimes even approached topics with our young children that made us uncomfortable. We had no difficulty distinguishing between their behavior and them. Over the years, many of them involved themselves in our congregation and began to follow the Torah; others did not. People in both of those categories came to be our dearest friends.
When we shifted our professional focus away from our Jewish community and onto the national stage out of concern about the anti-Godly direction the United States was taking, we again forged friendships with those different from us. In this case, our new relationships were mostly with Christians. While we agreed on the moral vision for the country, our theologies were not congruent. Since we all took God and His book seriously we could work towards a mutual goal, however this meant putting our differences to the side. In our case, we truly were (and are) completely not disturbed by the notion that some of these individuals are convinced that we will not meet them in Heaven. (It actually amuses us that some secular Jews who profess not to believe in an after-life and Heaven at all, get highly offended at that theological view.) We respectfully listen as our Christian allies pray in Jesus’ name. Our Christian friends, on the other hand, share their faith (evangelize) by example rather than by insisting on conversations we do not want to have and do what they can to support our religious needs. Once again, we count many of these Christians as dear and cherished friends.
I see the #Walkaway group as another example of this kind of alliance. I think that many in this group have mistaken ideas and I’m quite sure many in the group think I do too. I can embrace them for their political decisions without embracing everything about them.
Knowing something of history is imperative for making wise choices in life. However, trying to live as if we were still in an earlier era is an easily made mistake. When the Jewish Reform movement first started in Germany during the 1800s, those Jews who abandoned the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, did so deliberately rebelling against God. At that time and place, Orthodox Judaism sought no common ground with Reform. Instead what was needed was vigorous opposition to this distortion of Judaism. By contrast today, most Reform or completely unaffiliated Jews aren’t rebelling; often they are extremely serious about the only version of Judaism they’ve ever known.
When European pogroms against Jews were regular occurrences in many countries, frequently encouraged by the local priest, the answer was not to form a Cossack-Jewish friendship society. But that is no longer today’s world. For the most part, anti-Semitism today stems from Islam and secularists.
And when sexual norms began to be shattered during the 1960s, whether through the birth control pill, the normalization of homosexual behavior or the deprecation of marriage, loud voices of opposition were required. However, many of those living by those new rules today are not revolutionaries. They are often following a path that they believe to be good and normative.
I still think that when Jews desecrate the Sabbath, it is a problem. I still think that homosexual activity is a sin, along with many other behaviors (like gossip) that are completely accepted today. Yet those who do these things are not automatically my enemy. A common theme one hears in the #Walkaway stories is how supporting President Trump or even having something positive to say about any Republican is enough to end decades of friendships and destroy family relationships. Yet, what I read and hear is not a desire to reciprocate the venomous feelings towards these ideologically pure “progressives,” but a wish that these estranged loved ones can overcome their hatred.
At this time in history, the right thing is to build alliances with anyone who doesn’t think that those who disagree with him should be physically, emotionally or financially attacked. It is time to stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone who feels that the power of government should not be used to impose thought control over the populace. It is time to find common ground with anyone who is willing to let each American live by his or her beliefs rather than strip us of our freedom of speech, religion and assembly. There may be numerous areas of disagreement, but, disturbingly, today there is an ascendant group that is trying to crush those with whom they differ. At a time such as this, new friendships and alliances are needed. There may be other times when doctrinal purity must be emphasized. Now is not one of those times.