The Pew Christian Report: What It Means For Them And For Us
First Pew came for the Jews; then Pew came for the Christians.
Martin Niemöller didn’t really say that – but he could have. The famed Pew study of Jewish religious life and attitudes (Pew1) that sent shock waves through the Jewish community a few years ago has now done the same for Christians (Pew2). There are huge implications for them – and for us as traditional Jews.
Pew2 demonstrates that more Christians continue to live in the US than any other country in the world. About seven out of ten Americans call themselves Christian. But Pew2 found that that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, while the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points. Losses are severe among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Among Christians, only Evangelicals, the Christian groups that place that make the greatest demands of doctrinal conformity (e.g. biblical inerrancy) emerged from Pew2 feeling good about themselves. Their absolute numbers may have actually improved. Mormons held their own; Muslims are gaining. (By 2050, Muslims will surpass Jews as the second largest religious group.)
Interpretation of the data will go on for quite some time. Spin doctors will spend months ministering to the patients. Here are a few points they are likely to miss in the ER:
1) Tradition has more staying power than helter-skelter innovation.
A familiar bit of popular wisdom we’ve retained from the old country is the epigram “a zoi es sich christelt, a zoi jüdelt sich,” which loosely and lamely translates as “whatever is happening in the Christian world happens to us Jews. Christians would be well advised to consider flipping it. What happened over generations to Jews has now happened to Christians – and will happen to other Christians if they are not careful. Proposals to modernize Judaism by abandoning tradition in favor of social action failed. Pew1 showed the rubble left behind in the Jewish community by the process. Pew2 shows that the mainline Protestant denominations are in an equivalent state of decomposition.
Pew1 demonstrated that the heterodox movements are either terminal (Conservative) or on life-support (Reform) with deferred marriage, family sizes well below ZPG, and an intolerable intermarriage rate. (When you factor out the Orthodox, 71% of American Jews marry out.) The largest group of young Jews – a whopping 41% of the 18-29 year-olds – are the ones who have walked out of affiliated Jewish life altogether, and claim no denomination as their own. Meanwhile, Orthodox Jews stand at 11% of the Jewish population – up from somewhere between 5-10%, depending on whom you asked – but already account (according to a follow-up study for 27% of Jews under age 18. Meanwhile, their dropout rate is far below any other religious group that Pew has measured. Why is this so?
To the surprise of many – especially the ghosts of the founders of the Reform and Conservative movements – strong traditional practice took hold where they assumed it was doomed to geriatric failure. Rewriting the religious script, as the heterodox tried to do, did not bring a happy ending to the story. Traditional observance, coupled with years of serious Jewish education and focusing on the home as the center of Jewish life rather than the synagogue, had far more appeal than the compromisers thought possible. (To be sure, that appeal was far weaker than we would have liked. It did not prevent the disappearance of millions of Jews. We are painfully conscious of the fact that our ascendancy is a triumph for our “team” affiliation, but at a cost none of us wants to bear. It leaves a yawning chasm in the collective Jewish soul. This is no “victory” for Orthodoxy, as much as an epic tragedy for the Jewish people.)
2) Tikkun olam may cure the world, but it won’t keep people from walking out of organized religion
As the other movements sensed that they were marching inexorably towards the cliff, they tried various patches, none of which put a dent in the outflow of Jews. They tried modernizing the temple service, especially with music. They pushed outreach to intermarrieds. They elevated egalitarianism above all other values. The most ambitious attempt, the one with genuine spiritual appeal, was the decades-long conflation of Judaism with social justice. Healing a fractured world, feeding the poor, protecting the environment – those were modern mitzvos that people could get into!
They could, and they did. And the mainline Protestants did the same to try to keep their own young people engaged. (Some of them even borrowed from the Jews, and called their programs tikkun olam.)
The motivation was real; the dedication was sincere; the goals were lofty. Why didn’t social action keep people in churches and synagogues? Simple. After a while, it became apparent that you could do all that repair of the world without your church, without your denomination, even without G-d. Why would the social action projects in a local Presbyterian church keep a young person within the fold when she realized that there was no difference between what she was doing, and what they were doing in the Lutheran church down the road, or for that matter, in the Buddhist shrine or Hindu temple?
For Jews, the reason tikkun olam couldn’t salvage the heterodox denominations was even more pronounced. As Michael Oren put it in a recent interview:
When I grew up and went to Hebrew school we never heard about Tikkun Olam. It’s in the Aleinu prayer, I know, but it’s originally a rather obscure medieval Kabalistic notion that has to do with the broken vessels and divine light of creation. It has been adapted to 21st century liberal American Jewish thought, to mean that our purpose in the world is to light the world’s injustices, make the world a better place. It’s a beautiful notion. But you have to reconcile it with the fact that we have Jewish peoplehood, and that we have a Jewish state to support.
To survive as a distinct group, Jews have particularist interest. Tikkun olam’s stress on the universalist clashed with the Jewish need for particularism. (The clash is apparent, but not essential – at least if you have access to the wisdom of Chazal, consciously or otherwise. They can coexist, just as they do in the incredible story of Israeli humanitarian aid around the world for decades. But that is for a different essay.)
Bottom line: Evangelicals (and Pentecostals), the Christian survivor groups, had better learn the lesson of the failure of the non-Orthodox Jewish movements. Even though their numbers seem to be far more robust than other groups, their own young people have been pushing back against their elders, and clamoring for a gentler, kinder religion. (Those numbers are only relatively good, when compared to other Christian groups. The retention rate of Evangelicals is only 69%, which means that one in three younger Evangelicals are walking out.) For some years now, that has meant more involvement with social action projects. Leaders of those groups need to see that channeling religious devotion into social action may work in the short run, but it won’t sustain long-term affiliation with any one group. Those leaders will need to find a way to make use of the positive social action energy, while stamping it with their own unique imprint. If not, they too will go the way of Reform and Conservative. Thankfully, that is not my place and not my job.
3) Christians need a paradigm shift to cope with having become the new minority
This is a crushing realization, brought home all the more powerfully by the rapid change in American attitudes towards same-sex marriage, and the recent Supreme Court decision. For over two centuries, this country was a Christian country in many ways. Many Christians, discovering through Pew2 the decline in denominational affiliation, have come to the conclusion that they have become a minority swimming against the current. There is serious talk in some circles of the need to form closed communities where they can believe, educate and practice as they wish.
This has been devastating to some. Others have argued that minorities can sometimes be more energetic and more confident than established, lethargic majorities. Some of them point to Jews as the obvious example of a minority that has survived through millennia, meeting the challenges of counter-cultural existence.
Some go even further than looking to the Jews as an example of the possibility of survival. They sense that Jews, with a head start on this kind of survival, might have some specific wisdom and advice. Here are a few lines of a longer and moving note I received from an evangelical friend who is a professor at a Christian school. It is one of several such messages I’ve received lately from Evangelicals:
I write with tears over the irony that I have more kinship with an Orthodox Jewish rabbi I have met once and corresponded with occasionally than I do with other people I have known my entire life…We are again in the days of Nero, reviled by Jew and Christian alike for his antipathy to all things good and holy, and for his bloodthirsty, immoral nature. We American Christians have much to learn from you; you are much better at handling persecution than we, our forefathers having afforded you so much practice. Now we who thought we’d never face this day must hang our heads in shame as we not only beg your forgiveness, but for pointers in the dark days to come.
4) The coming Orthodox-Evangelical alliance.
What Pew2 ought to produce is a strategic alliance between Orthodox Jews and Evangelicals, such as existed (and continues to exist) with Roman Catholics in regard to issues like resisting right-to-die legislation and in support of school vouchers.
The groups are irreconcilably different in our theologies. There is no gainsaying that. But both of us still offer our adherents a take-away that others thought no one wanted. And they were wrong. Millions still have strong belief in a G-d who speaks to Man directly, who has demands, expectations, and sets limits, and Who doesn’t change His mind. Where some – Jews and Christians – found these notions both outdated and burdensome, others are finding it impossible and unsatisfying to stay in a religion without them.
Other Jewish groups speak to Evangelicals with great reluctance, if at all. It galls them that Evangelicals might pray for our souls, that they are anti-abortion, and that they sometimes vote Republican. Even when they do speak, there is little in their spiritual vocabulary that they share.
Evangelicals very quickly find that they share such a lexicon with Orthodox Jews. They sense a dedication to G-d’s commandments, and a passion for feeling connected with him. They learn that Orthodox Jews who pray quite regularly are not afraid of their prayer. Evangelicals learn that Orthodox Jews don’t find their zeal off-putting, because they are secure enough in their own beliefs not to be concerned with those of others. They comprehend quickly that they will get nowhere in attempts to win frum Jews over, and that frum Jews won’t proselytize to them – or to any other non-Jews. Moreover, Orthodox Jews will not badger them to read sacred texts together so that each group can benefit from the insight of the other. While this has been a staple of interfaith work for decades, both Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews never took the playing field for that activity Each was quite satisfied with what their own traditions vouchsafed them, without the inclination of seeking the insight of those who did not share their core beliefs.
Succinctly put, Orthodox Jews have a leg up in building strategic alliances with Evangelicals. The recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage may make such alliances more compelling, if it will be followed by years of test cases against institutions and individuals who act on their conscience. Even without such a Damocles’ sword hanging over all of us, an alliance should be in the making in trying to counter the rampant secularism of the surrounding society. Until recently, many in religious communities were satisfied with preaching to the choir. Slowly, people are realizing that they are going to have to do more articulating and less pontificating if they want to even retain a place at the discussion table of a society that has grown contemptuous of authority and restrictions on personal liberties. Moreover, the winds of discontent blow into the houses of worship, affecting greater numbers of young people. They, too, will need more explanation, and less appeal tradition alone. Arguments are there for many parts of traditional life, arguments not married to particular texts and that can therefore be shared by Jews and Christians alike. Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews might very well find themselves working together to make the case for religion in the public square.
Of course, it will be no secret that Jews will want to maintain the large level of support for Israel that has been part of Evangelical response since before the founding of the State. An alliance between Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews will offset the significant efforts of Palestinians to subvert that support.
Any working together will require the guidance of gedolei Torah to determine what is appropriate and what is not. It is important that our own community understands that we are not talking about anything that remotely resembles the kind of ecumenical dialogue that our gedolim have shunned for decades. As an adjunct to that realization, it might be good to reflect on the words of the Ibn Ezra in Yisro on the second dibur, where he argues that worse than avodah zarah (at least the kind that maintains belief in HKBH, but allows for other powers as well) is atheism – which is fast on the rise in America. This might be the first time in history where we might have to take an active role in combating it, even if only to preserve a place for ourselves in this last stop of galus on the way to the final home of Torah.
Forgive me, Rabbi Adlerstein, but why in the world shouldn’t whatever thought, planning, effort, and resources that would have to go into this “partnership” you are describing not instead be better invested in trying to make the case for religion among our own people, whether in America or better yet, here in Israel. There are plenty of fellow Jews here in EY who need a convincing case made for religion in the public square, starting with some of our Supreme Court justices.
By the way, if America is “the last stop of galus on the way to the final home of Torah,” where exactly do those of us in EY live?
[YA – For a number of reasons. But the most important one is that the last major group of people who still strongly support the Jewish State are Christians, and retaining their support is vital to the security of the State of Israel]
1. “Tikkun Olam” as practiced these days is far from perfecting the world. Its advocates often aim to reduce human freedom in favor of socialism and worse, empower an expanded government against the citizen, trash both Israel and traditional values, and base government policies on politically biased junk science.
2. Christians have been a minority in Muslim-dominated regions for some time, and the picture for them is bleak. It’s not only ISIS, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood that try to kill and oppress them. Palestinian Muslims do their share of this, too. Yet the beleaguered churches and the Vatican keep finding ways to blame Israel!
3. There are trends among evangelical Christians that bear watching. The pendulum swings. Not all are so enamored of Jews and Israel, so we need to be very careful in making our alliances.
YA writes of the the “next generation” frum Christians who may be dissatisfied with their parent’s form of Christian Orthodoxy:
“Those leaders will need to find a way to make use of the positive social action energy, while stamping it with their own unique imprint.”
Actually, they need look no further than the growth, energy and excitement of Chovevei Torah and Open Orthodoxy as a model–this is precisely its strategy…and why its prospects for continued growth are strong.
Otherwise, the increasingly rightward leaning forms of Jewish and Christian Orthodoxy may find common cause, but they will be surrounded by the vastly growing numbers of both serious believers and non-believers (both Jewish and others, including Christians, Hindus, etc. ) in the coming decades who have different worldviews.
[YA – But another possibility is that OO will go the way of the other non-Orthodox movements (as they too combine woeful ignorance of traditional texts with a rejection of the process of mesorah) and wind up at the same dead end. I guess time will tell]
The two big trends moving forward are a) the growing acceptance in public life of those who do not profess a religious belief; b) the vast growth of the Hispanic population. In many cases, the more doctrinaire first generation Hispanic immigrants have children and grandchildren that are far more practical, moderate and more accepting of those around them (see the Cubans as one of several excellent case studies).
This is a big reason why the Republicans are very worried about their prospects during the coming decades. Orthodox Jews with a rigid, conservative sociopolitical stance should be similarly concerned. If they are not careful and selectively adapt to changing America, it is they that risk irrelevance–not others.
While I agree with the importance of an alliance with the Evangelicals, isn’t there also another important message from Pew? The secular left is on an upswing and non-Orthodox Jewry, their natural ally, is dwindling. For both our religious freedom here and for Israel, shouldn’t we also focus on learning to dialogue and work with the moderate elements of the “social justice/tikkun olam” left?
Well, as you know, a great many orthodox Jews expressed a LOT of skepticism in the accuracy of Pew 1. So what makes us think Christians don’t have the same skepticism of Pew 2? Its like reading a newspaper – whenever you see a story that concerns something you’re intimately familiar with, you realize how many facts the reporter missed or got wrong. Then you realize that for every single story printed, somebody is thinking the same thing.
Having said that, I agree with conclusion 4, and we don’t need a Pew to tell us that. It’s been obvious for some time that the “battle” has gone macro, in the sense that its no longer between Jew and Christian, but between religious and non-religious. I am sure that many Jews, like me, and many Christians, have already discovered in personal friendships that there is far more that unites us than divides us.
I am not convinced that similar views with evangelicals on certain issues should be a source for other than tactical partnership. Orthodoxy is united around the performance of mitzvot, while exhibiting a diversity of hashkafot. Hashkafah is what drives fundamentalist Christians and for the most part they are aligned with the right wing of orthodoxy wrt beliefs. Those orthodox whose hashkafic views do not demand creationism, literalness, the historicity of the entire biblical record, etc. may find it more important to align with mainstream U.S. denominations, whose influence, particularly for Israel, may be important, as the size (and influence) of other Jewish streams diminishes. I may be wrong, but solidifying our connections to other Jewish denominations and the overall culture, seems an equally, if not more, important effort. Fortunately, this is not an either/or situation.
“[YA – But another possibility is that OO will go the way of the other non-Orthodox movements, and wind up at the same dead end. I guess time will tell]”
Time has already weighed in on this question. OO is a modern manifestation of Conservative Judaism and just as that peaked and then waned and withered, OO will experience a similar pattern, but not nearly on as grand a scale because the mere word Orthodox precludes large swaths of the R and C world. Jewish movements based on ideals other than Judaism don’t last for the long term. Momentary excitement by the likes of R Yid and similar fans of A Weiss’s warmth and sensitivity will have no bearing on the future prospects of OO.
Before hard-core Orthodox Jews start dancing in the streets at their supposed “victory” in the PEW poll and justify their triumphalism (“look how big we are…we must be right!) I think we should all remember that there was a massive abandonment of Jewish observance by the large majority of Jews who were born into religiously observant families in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Whose to say it couldn’t happen again? I believe that a big factor in the growth of the Orthodox community in the second half of the 20th century and now into the 21st is the development of the welfare state and the rise of post-Modernist philosophy which allows space for “New Age” spirituality and tolerance of “exotic” (i.e. non-mainline Christian) religious (and non-religious) beliefs.
We need to ask the question why so many Jews, a large majority in fact, gave up religious observance. The answer is that the religious leadership was unable to confront the challenges of that era which included encountering new ideas for social and political change, new ideas resulting from scientific and technological advancement, the then endemic poverty and the rampant antisemitism that existed in that era which predated the creation of the state of Israel which has subsequently given Jews a new sense of pride and security which didn’t exist in that earlier era. Outside of a few thinkers like Rav Kook, Rav Soloveitchik and other some others, the Rabbinic leadership did not have the ability to address these concerns and challenges. Many simply hunkered down and simply said, as Dr Timothy Leary once did “turn on, tune in and drop out”, i.e. the modern Jew should simply turn his back on the outer world’s ideas and values. As I said, the modern welfare state has made it possible to disengage from existential economic concerns which negatively impacted entire generations of religious Jews in the past, and as long as it continues, these questions may continue to be submerged, but what if (as seems likely to me) that the welfare state will have to be severely cut bringing those challenges to religious life to the fore once again? Does the current leadership of the Rabbinic world have the ability to confront changing values or will it end up being neutralized as happened before bringing yet another crisis to Orthodox Judaism like it faced in the past?
OO has a crucial ingredient that was missing from Conservative Judaism–an observant laity.
CJ was about maintaining some of the traditions for the next generation while being able to rise socioeconomically and become more fully “American”.
Our generation, in contrast, takes its Americanness for granted. By and large, the people in OO are also already highly educated and occupy a high socioeconomic niche. If anything, they want to increase their level of observance.
[ The early years of Conservatism also claimed some observant laity. That didn’t last, as they gradually succumbed to a variety of forces, including rabbis who had little regard for genuine halacha, and little familiarity with traditional Torah thought. Sure sounds like neo-Conservative OO right now!]
Always good to see “Reb Yid” consistently write some artistic propaganda to endores the Open Orthodox/neo conservative movement. When he actually uses his name perhaps people could take him more seriously.
Throughout Conservative Judaism’s entire existence, one could never truly make the claim that a significant portion of its synagogue members were observant. Not to say there weren’t observant members, as you note, but they were hardly the norm.
Certainly if one applied certain measures such as kashrut observance, going to shul at least once a week (never mind others like observing taharat hamishpacha), sending one’s children to a Jewish day school, the “average” OO layperson today is far more likely to adhere to these measures than the “average” C layperson ever did–for sure.
Some perspective: Open orthodoxy is at present a miuta dmiuta (R’ Meir’s kol safri didayanei for those conversant in Gittin 2a. Though I applaud the efforts of Crosscurrents and R’ Gordimer in particular (he may soon gain the right take his place along with David Berger among those waging one man crusades against insidious forms of apikorsus) in terms of demographics they don’t need to be a part of the discussion lishvach ulignay.
In all I agree with much of what R’ Adlerstien has to say with one caveat. There can be no blurring of the lines here. Christianity is avoda zara. There is NO opinion that for Jews this is not the case. In a perfect world Christians could not live in Israel at all. Lo Yeshvu Beartzecha.
Emotionally we must keep our distance even while practically and pragmatically deepening out co-operation.
Sometimes reality co-operates! Dr. Berger has done me the honor of validating the tzu shtell.
“I am sure that many Jews, like me, and many Christians, have already discovered in personal friendships that there is far more that unites us than divides us.”
A traditional Christian has beliefs that at least for a Jew are AZ.
” But another possibility is that OO will go the way of the other non-Orthodox movements”
It is at least arguable that the worlds largest religion is to some extent an outgrowth of a movement of Jews that rejected Chazal. In the US the results of the recent World Zionist elections are inconsistent with a dead non Orthodox movements
Mycroft – and traditional Jews have beliefs that are not palatable to Christians, and in fact, in the majority of friendships, partnerships, and marriages, each of the two have certain beliefs or character traits that the other doesn’t like. Re-read the sentence. “There is far more that unites us than divides us.”
Reb Yid – doesn’t OO claim to be there for those women and other “marginalized” who are prepared to bolt Orthodoxy for lack of inclusion and opportunity? Doesn’t sound very observant to me. Also, I grew up in the Conservative movement and the very “far Right” of the Conservative movement (usually referred to as Conservadox) always had a nucleus of observant laity who kept Shabbos, kashrus, etc. That doesn’t change the fact that what we are seeing now in OO with its gushing over the SCOTUS decision (and justification of same), acceptance of open heresy and denial of such basics as the existence of the Avos and Imahos and Matan Torah and bias HaMoshiach, etc. is OO’s “Driving to Synagogue on Shabbat responsum” moment, though the difference is that it is not happening because of one, defining rabbinic decision.
“only Evangelicals, the Christian groups that place that make the greatest demands of doctrinal conformity (e.g. biblical inerrancy) emerged from Pew2 feeling good about themselves”
Not all evangelicals believe in biblical inerrancy, although they generally take the pshat more seriously than other Protestant groups. And the evangelical groups that have been growing are the charismatics, who have very enthusiastic and participatory worship services and welcomed women into major leadership (including ordination) as long as a century ago.
“the “average” OO layperson today is far more likely to adhere to these measures than the “average” C layperson ever did–for sure.”
The “average” OO layperson today is far more likely to adhere to these measures than the “average” member of *Orthodox* synagogues in the 1950s.
“In the US the results of the recent World Zionist elections are inconsistent with a dead non Orthodox movements”
While it has some major issues, the Reform movement continues to have at least double the adherents of Orthodox Judaism. It has over two hundred more congregations than it did a generation ago. We should not underestimate the appeal of a truly monotheistic religious movement that is also antinomian.
I also grew up in a C household (the very traditional end), and have studied the development of the C movement academically. We were the clear minority, even in our synagogue which had a decent number of families that took Shabbat seriously, sent kids to Jewish day school, etc.
As for the 1950 CJLS responsum–how many people have you met that it actually impacted, or who adhered to it? In my lifetime, I have met only a single person (a beloved member of our shul, happened also to be a C ordained rabbi,–drove to shul and back and that was it). Most other C Jews simply drove to shul…and whereever else. A few of us, including our family, eventually came around to not driving at all.
Frankly, many of us raised in the C movement who met Orthodox peers in Orthodox high schools and other Orthodox venues often found ourselves at least as observant, if not moreso, than they were.
As for what OO is doing for many–if it’s not for you or for women you know, that’s your prerogative. But a growing number of well educated Jewish men and women, want more for themselves and believe that Judaism is short changing itself severely, that sometimes sociopolitical mores are being confused with halacha. That context has a place, and that halacha is a process–not a static dead end (or not always, anyways).
The people who are involved in OO (and more generally in more progressive O shuls, even if not “formally” OO) take general and Jewish education very seriously, and take their daily Jewish lives–and certainly their daily practice of tefilla and Jewish ritual–extremely seriously. In this sense those who are trying to equate this with what happened when women demanded changes in the C movement are missing the boat. By and large, those men and women were not people you would be quick to notice at a minyan.
“July 10, 2015 at 9:57 am
Mycroft – and traditional Jews have beliefs that are not palatable to Christians, and in fact, in the majority of friendships, partnerships, and marriages, each of the two have certain beliefs or character traits that the other doesn’t like. Re-read the sentence. “There is far more that unites us than divides us.””
Other than we all have a zelem elokim-we have much more in common with the non believing Jew. The non believing Jew may not be part of Brit Sinai but he is certainly part of Brit Avos. The non Jew is part of neither covenant.
I’m a bit sorry that this article was taken over by the OO controversy.
I think that the fact that Rav Adlerstein, who is a spokesman for Haredi Judaism, speaks so positively about interaction (the most pareve word I could find) with Evangelical Christians and really with Christians of any flavor, is the real story here.
Though his Wikipedia entry emphasizes his “interfaith work,” this is the only article I could find here that talks about his thought about Evangelicals and Jews. (If the fault lies with my proficiency in using the intra-site search engine, please enlighten me.)
I am most interested in the fourth point, and would only take issue with one item:
“Orthodox Jews will not badger them to read sacred texts together so that each group can benefit from the insight of the other… Each [Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews] was quite satisfied with what their own traditions vouchsafed them, without the inclination of seeking the insight of those who did not share their core beliefs.”
At the risk of drawing fire from readers of this blog, I would like to point out that there are developments that are davka doing this–not badgering, but offering–at least in one direction. I will mention my colleagues Dr. Faydra Shapiro (Director, Galilee Center for Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations at The Max Stern Academic College of Emek Yezreel) and David Nekrutman, Executive Director for The Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding & Cooperation, and of course the leaders of this movement, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Rabbi Daniel Lapin. Any omissions are my fault and I would appreciate a reminder.
I, the katan, am the director of Root Source, a new Internet platform of Israeli [Orthodox] Jews teaching Christians Worldwide about Judaism, Israel, Jewish History, and anything else related that we want to teach and they want to learn from us. Currently, after launching less than a year ago, we have about a dozen teachers, close to four hundred paying students, and over 35,000 subscribers to our newsletter.
I am happy to be under the guidance of G’dolei Torah (though what I call g’dolim and guidance may arguably be different from what others here do) and invite others here to engage with me about Root Source. http://www.root-source.com. Not to defend myself, but to help develop this phenomenon.
When I am deciding whom I am going to support for President, almost no factor is more important to me, then to see if the particular candidate is an Evangelical Christian. That is because for me, there is no political issue more important to me than Israel, and chances are very good that an Evangelical Christian candidate will be far more pro-Israel than any other kind of candidate. And indeed, of all of the Presidential candidates so far, the two who are most pro-Israel, namely Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee, also happen to be Evangelical Christians. And those are the two I most favor for President, among the already-declared candidates.
I always feel hesitant to quote our greatest theologians, just in case my understanding of them is somehow faulty, but I do seem to recall that none other than the Rambam himself, had far higher hopes for Christianity than he did for Islam or certainly any other religion or ideology. While it is true that the Rambam did say that Islam worships the same One G-d that we do (something that I personally disagree with, but I will save that for another time), the fact is that Islam rejects our Torah as being the valid Divine document handed down from G-d to Moses as we claim it to be. Christians divide G-d into parts, which of course violates our bedrock principle of the Absolute Unity of G-d, and Christians misinterpret several key passages of our Torah, but at least they recognize our Torah as the same authentic Divine document that G-d gave to Moses on Mount Sinai so many thousands of years ago. In a sense, this was the Rambam’s somewhat roundabout way of reminding us that the way to understand G-d can only be done through the prism of our Torah. The Rambam would thus reject the New Age movement, as it claims to be spiritual, but without any Torah foundation at all.
And so, while there are certainly theological disagreements between Christians and Jews, it does seem to me that the Rambam would approve of our forming a political alliance with Evangelical Christians, particularly because we seem to be the only two groups in the entire world, who have only the highest regard for our Torah, and by extension, our Jewish people and our Jewish land of Israel. And whether we like it or not, we are currently in a world war, with traditional, Orthodox Jews and politically conservative Christians on one side, and the moslems and their Marxist enablers, on the other, darker side.