Thursday, February 24, 2011

Was Glenn Beck Right About Reform Judaism? You Bet He Was!

A couple of days ago, Glenn Beck had compared Reform Judaism to Fundamentalism Islam.  The comparison that Beck had made was that "both were more about 'politics' - changing what is outside of oneself - rather than about 'religion' - changing what it inside of oneself."  As Haaretz reports, Beck continues with saying that “When you talk about rabbis, understand that most people who are not Jewish don't understand that there are the Orthodox rabbis and then there are the Reformed (sic) rabbis. Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature. It's almost like Islam - radicalized Islam - in a way to where radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics."

As if it were a surprise, the Jewish Left was outraged, especially when you consider that a plurality of Jews in this country consider themselves a part of the Reform Movement.  Even Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League came out and accused Beck of bigoted ignorance.  Forget for a moment that the man is a political pundit, and his career is predicated on "shock value" and boosting ratings.  This is how a political pundit, no matter which side, earns a living.  But more so, he actually apologized for his comments:

I am all but certain that an apology from Glenn Beck will not suffice for the Left.  Nothing short of him burning in effigy will do.  That previous comment might seem a bit harsh, but to give that a bit more context, I want to go back to the underlying impetus of the comments made in the first place, and ask the question: Is Reform Judaism about politics?  And with that, I can answer with an unequivocal "Yes!"

First of all, I base this on personal experience.  I used to be a part of the Reform Movement.  Just to give you an idea of what I tolerated, here are three examples of Reform sermons, on the High Holy Days of all times, through which I sat.  One was a "sermon" that was essentially fifteen minutes of Bush-bashing.  The rabbi blamed Bush from everything from the housing bubble bursting to Hurricane Katrina.  How a mere mortal has the ability to control natural occurrences is beyond me, but for someone that ingrained in Left-winged politics, anything is possible.  The second one that comes to mind was a sermon that basically stated that Islamaphobia is a right-winged phenomenon because, well, the Right is racist and hateful, hence why I wrote this blog entry.  Then there was that one about how making sure Obamacare gets passed through Congress was a moral obligation for Jews everywhere.

And if you have any views that lean right of center, you might as well not bother announcing those.  That would get you in as much trouble as if you were a homosexual coming out at the RNC. Institutionally speaking, the Reform Movement is not all that keen on normative Jewish practice.  The Reform Movement is by far the most liberal of all the main denominations.  You'd be lucky to find a teshuva of theirs that actually takes any halacha into consideration.  Why?  Because personal autonomy is still very much lauded in the Reform community.  That, and Left-winged politics is the ultimate arbitrator for the Reform Movement.  If you think that's a stretch, look at the Religious Action Center, the Reform Movement's political arm.  Whether it's abortion rights, gun control, fair trade vs. free trade, or even minimum wage (!), you can be guaranteed that institutionally speaking, the Reform Movement is unapologetically to the Left.  There is no debate about the merits of capitalism, gun ownership, and limited government.  No, no, heaven forbid!  The Reform presents Leftist thought as the Jewish perspective.  To paraphrase Norman Podhoretz, Reform Jews, and any Jew on the Left, worship the Torah of Liberalism, not the Torah of Judaism.

Although Glenn Beck did not enunciate his point as clearly as I would have liked, he was correct.  Reform Jews equate liberalism with Judaism.  Jews in general have leaned Left for years, and that's no secret.  I understand that Beck apologized for purposes of public relations, and I am sure that anyone in his situation would have done so to have avoided further heat.  For Left-leaning, secular Jews, liberalism is their religion.  That would be why the tendency towards secular liberals in general is to have a beef with someone of differing political views, simply because Left-winged politics is their raison d'être.  

You want to know something?  I know a lot of Reform Jews.  I know they would never blow up a building in the name of Hashem or have disrespect for other people for "not being part of the tribe."  A good majority are hard-working, decent folk.  Some I even consider as if they were family.  However, I also know that most Reform Jews are not "observant."  Mitzvot and Jewish practice as part a modus operandi are either exceptionally minimal or non-existent for the typical Reform Jew.  That's just common knowledge within the Jewish community.

To have Reform Judaism monolithically present its politics under the guise of religion is disingenuous, to say the least.  Politics come before G-d or Torah in the Reform Movement, and I was exceptionally content to see that Glenn Beck called it like it is.

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