Strange Bedfellows

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.

15 thoughts on “Strange Bedfellows”

  1. Good message. There are few people with whom we can agree upon every subject and it is good to work together where we do agree. Sometimes difference of opinion can reveal pieces of God’s truth in a fresh light.

    As a Christian there is another perspective I would like to respectfully point out pertaining to your sentence:
    “Our Christian friends, on the other hand, put to the side their religious duty to share their faith (evangelize) and rather do what they can to support our religious needs.”

    “Putting aside” a Christian duty would be inexcusable because we cannot not cherry-pick the commands of our Lord for the sake of convenience or friendship.

    At the same time it is not wise to always “evangelize” with words, especially when the people whom we are interacting with have already been exposed to the Christian message.

    Most people in America today have been exposed to the Christian message in some form or flavor, which puts them into one of 3 camps:
    1. Not knowing enough to make a personal decision, or perhaps putting off a full consideration of the facts because of procrastination / prejudice
    2. Genuine misunderstanding of the basic Christian message – usually from observation of “Christian hypocrisy” or “religious rules”
    3. Having performed a genuine examination of the facts, made a specific decision against the Christian message

    “Evangelizing with words” can actually be counterproductive with people from any of these 3 camps by producing a “hardening of heart”, such as happened with Pharaoh. There must be a relationship…a 2-way conversation where it makes sense to use words.

    As a Christian, I am not any less prepared to “give an account of the hope that is within me” by choosing to not vocally preach the Christian message at people who do not want to hear it. I do always attempt to live my life in a way that reflects the glory & joy of my Lord and will make people think “what is it that makes you different?”

    Actions expressed through a Christian lifestyle can often “evangelize” better than words. Neither is wrong, the first I usually find more fitting.

    We may not agree on all of this, but hopefully my thoughts will add additional perspective to your very good musing. Sincerely.

    1. Thank you, Carl, and everyone else who is commenting. I’m in midst of Passover cooking so afraid I don’t have time to respond individually.

  2. Michael Chovanec

    Regarding the apparent need of the opponents of any sort of ‘live and let live’ accommodation to attack those who have faith in an unseen but ever present God, I would quote from the Catholic canon of the Old Testament, specifically Wisdom 2: 12-15, as follows:

    12 Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us;
    he opposes our actions,
    Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.
    13He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD.
    14To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
    merely to see him is a hardship for us,
    15Because his life is not like that of others,
    and different are his ways.

    (Please pardon my ignorance of how to make proper citation to Judaic writings other than in this manner.)

    It is our very existence and faithfulness which they find offensive, therefore all people who seek to act in conformity to a God-centered faith must be destroyed.

    Thank you Susan for expressing yourself so sagely on this matter of interest to those of us in line to be marginalized if not eliminated.


  3. Liberty VS Libertine
    A godly jew named Paul wrote in letters, not using freedom for licensiousness. In much synonymous usage he exhorted us.

  4. Your concept of ‘strange bedfellows’ resonates strongly with our early American colonies. The Puritans held Massachusetts, the Baptists held Rhode Island, etc. The warring religious factions simply could not agree and get along. The dominant issue of contention was faith. But how the world has changed! Now there is no longer one fault line of religious doctrine, but many fracture zones of race, gender, sexuality, etc.

    America’s religious factions were forced to recognize that strength resides in numbers. They agreed to stop damning each other to hell long enough to unite against a common enemy, to form a confederation inspired in many ways by the Indian tribes they met, to defeat and reject a tyrant king. Now whatever disagreements are in motion, we are exhorted likewise to unite against a common enemy: a would-be ‘Progressive’ tyrant spewing intolerance and hatred to exacerbate existing fracture lines and to create new ones. Is this coincidence not a potential omen of promise? You make the opportunity apparent. Unity whether above doctrine or above ‘lifestyle’ is ‘to preserve a more perfect union,’ as a wise man once said in another disastrous conflict.

    ‘What kind of government are you giving us?’ a woman asked Benjamin Franklin. He replied: ‘A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.’ Blessed Passover!

  5. Susan,

    Although I come from a different religious background than you and Rabbi Lapin—or perhaps because my background is different—and although I also live a rather different kind of life than you and your family, nevertheless I emphatically agree with you 100%. Your observations are wonderfully insightful, significant, timely, and clearly expressed. You’ve got right to the heart of the matter on a subject I’ve been trying to work out in my own mind. Thank you.

    1. Mark, this is something I have been mulling over quite a bit as my enthusiasm for the #Walkaway movement grows.

  6. Beautifully stated. Thank you for reminding all of us to apply grace in our relationships. Your friend, Tal from STL. PS, the Sceptic and the Rabbi is a great read.

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