Sunday, May 21, 2006

Quote of the Day: On Community

Home is not where you live but where they understand you. -- Christian Morgenstern
(Tip o' the hat to dbackdad, at sadie's.)


I've never been able to articulate exactly how it was that I felt excluded from my former community when I started having doubts about Orthodoxy, but this quote nails it. Not only did most Orthodox people not understand me, but once I stopped being like them, they didn't even want to understand me. There are a few Orthodox people from my former life who remain close friends, but the majority were not interested in understanding.

Actually, this does bring to mind a quote I previously blogged by Shalom Auslander, on his former Orthodox community:

There were a lot of conditions for love and affection and continued membership, And they were serious, and they were ludicrous. It was, "You don't wear a yarmulke you can get out. You intermarry, we sit Shiva for you. You eat non-kosher and our children are not allowed to hang out with you." --Shalom Auslander


Parts of religion are okay. Other parts really suck.

12 comments:

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Parts of religion are okay. Other parts really suck.

Judaism is not representative of all religions. I think the genius of Judaism is found precisely in the rules that set Jews apart from non-Jews: circumcision, kosher, the Sabbath days, etc. Those rules enabled the Jewish people to survive two millenia of life in the diaspora.

The point is, Judaism is part religion (i.e. it sustains the individual's relationship with God) and part socio-cultural (it perpetuates the Jewish people as a distinct ethnicity).

When you started eating cheeseburgers, you stepped outside the boundaries of the community. Personally, I don't think that has any implications for religion -- i.e., whether you're in good standing with God. But it certainly has socio-cultural implications.

If God is your focus, you could find a place to worship and serve and still eat cheeseburgers. But if the community is your focus, you took a wrong turn there.

(That last sentence sounds judgmental, which isn't my intent. In some respects, I've taken a similar "wrong turn" within the Christian community by denying core doctrines like the Virgin Birth. But my focus is on God; maintaining my standing with the community is a distant second for me.)

asher said...

JA,
Let me get this right - you want people to understand why you left the fold? Can you understand why they feel you have betrayed them; that you have jettisoned all they have tried to instill in you all these years? I had a parting of the ways too. I used to say "It's very important for you to be religious, but not anymore for me"

Just asking...if you ever do go back for an occasional visit, how do you feel in shul ?

asher said...

P.S.

q very good response

Jewish Atheist said...

q:

The point is, Judaism is part religion (i.e. it sustains the individual's relationship with God) and part socio-cultural (it perpetuates the Jewish people as a distinct ethnicity).

Very good point. However, I hasten to add that if Judaism were *only* socio-cultural, basically good people would not ostracize others for stepping off the path.

If God is your focus, you could find a place to worship and serve and still eat cheeseburgers. But if the community is your focus, you took a wrong turn there.

I wish the community could allow more heterogeneity. If Judaism is largely an ethnic matter, why don't Orthodox Jews do a better job of living and letting live?

asher:

Can you understand why they feel you have betrayed them; that you have jettisoned all they have tried to instill in you all these years?

I could understand some sadness and sense of loss. I cannot understand a sense of betrayal. I cannot understand not getting past it.

Just asking...if you ever do go back for an occasional visit, how do you feel in shul ?

It's been a long time since I've been to an Orthodox shul. I have gone to a few pesach sedarim and the occasional simcha or other social event where I had to (was expected to) wear a kippah. It's mostly fine, although it's kind of awkward when people who don't know I'm no longer religious ask questions like "Do you live with anyone?" in front of a crowd. I don't know whether to evade or tell the truth. ("My girlfriend," until recently.)

dbs said...

I still live in my old community, since I have young children who live with their mother, and I want to be as close as possible. As a result, I come up against this on a very regular basis. For those who want to justify it, fine. I understand why they are acting this way. But this isn't my idea of friendship. There should be a warning label on all orthodox relationships "change your ideas & I'll do everything I can to hurt you."

Here's a (loosely) related post which I though was interesting:
http://www.nataliercollins.com/weblog/?p=266

Jack's Shack said...

Parts of religion are okay. Other parts really suck.

This is more of a comment on groups/communities than religion. I have been part of many groups that are not relgious in nature.

They include my business associations, sports teams and my fraternity. In each case people expect that you behave in a certain fashion. Each group provided a certain latitude in what they would accept, but there were always lines that you could not cross.

I am not making a value judgement here, just commenting on my experience with group think.

Sadie Lou said...

Q--
In some respects, I've taken a similar "wrong turn" within the Christian community by denying core doctrines like the Virgin Birth. But my focus is on God; maintaining my standing with the community is a distant second for me.)

How do you feel about the portion of Scripture in 1 Corinthians that talks about the body of Christ?
1Corinthians 12:21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

you're not saying you have no need for the rest of the body are you?

Stephen (aka Q) said...

• Sadie Lou:
No, that's not what I'm saying. After some years of practising my faith in splendid isolation, I've begun attending church again. I've been part of a specific congregation for the past eighteen months.

But look at the Hebrew prophets, and Jesus and Paul. They were frequently at odds with the mainstream religious community.

In all cases, their first commitment was to God. If the community took offense at them, they didn't like it, but their primary allegiance was to the truth as they saw it.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

p.s.
I should amend my final two paragraphs above. (Though I'm not sure anyone is even reading this thread anymore.)

The Hebrew prophets, Jesus and Paul all believed that they were acting in the best interests of the community, even though the community opposed them at every turn.

Jeremiah is a good example. He believed that the Babylonians were sent by God to chastise Israel for its sins. He counselled the people of Israel to submit to God's chastisement which meant, essentially, surrendering to the king of Babylon instead of putting up a fight.

That made him unpopular with both the political elite and the religious leaders. But he was acting in the best interests of the community: he was afraid that, if Israel fought back, the Babylonians would utterly destroy the nation. (And events proved him right.)

The point is, sometimes one offends the community precisely by taking a stand for what is in the best interests of the community. A person of integrity will do what he believes is right, regardless of what it costs him personally.

Sadie Lou said...

Q,
I'm speaking of the new body of Christ, which is made up of many members.
How can you compare the Church to a singular person?
We, all of us, are to do the works of Christ as he would. You can't leave the body of Christ and be your own, singular body of Christ--can you? Can you support that from Scripture?
I understand that we are judged individually; not corporately but this does not mean we can be so radical in our thinking that we no longer resemble the fellowship of believers.
It would be like if your right eye suddenly abandoned it's function and began to work independantly of the rest of the body--all because your right eye thought it knew better than all the other members, what the body wanted.
I understand that you think you're on to something with some of your radical beliefs but to what end?

Stephen (aka Q) said...
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