22 April 2009

self-identity #7 . . .

Posted by at 3:14 PM Read our previous post

Reading along . . .

Here's another expression of self-definition on the part of Reform Judaism.

The Philadelphia Platform

The Philadelphia Conference
3–6 November 1869

Statement of Principles
  1. The Messianic aim is not the restoration of the old Jewish state under a descendant of David, involving a second separation from the nations of the earth, but the union of all the children of God in the confession of the unity of God, so as to realize the unity of all rational creatures and their call to moral sanctification.
  2. We look upon the destruction of the second Jewish commonwealth not as a punishment for the sinfulness of Israel, but as a result of the divine purpose revealed to Abraham, which, as has become even clearer in the course of the world's history, consists in the dispersion of the Jews to all parts of the earth, for the realization of their high-priestly mission, to lead the nations to the true knowledge and worship of God
  3. The Aaronic priesthood and the Mosaic sacrificial cult were preparatory steps to the real priesthood of the whole people, which began with the dispersion of the Jews, and to the sacrifices of sincere devotion and moral sanctification, which alone are pleasing and acceptable to the Most Holy. These institutions, preparatory to higher religiosity, were consigned to the past, once for all, with the destruction of the Second Temple, and only in this sense—as educational influences in the past—are they to be mentioned in our prayers.
  4. Every distinction between Aaronides and non-Aaronides, as far as religious rites are concerned, is consequently inadmissible, both in the religious cult and in social life.
  5. The selection of Israel as the people of religion, as the bearer of the highest idea of humanity, is still, as ever, to be strongly emphasized, and for this very reason, whenever this is mentioned, it shall be done with full emphasis laid on the world-embracing mission of Israel and the love of God for all his children.
  6. The belief in the bodily resurrection has no religious foundation, and the doctrine of immortality refers to the after-existence of the soul only.
  7. Urgently as the cultivation of the Hebrew language, in which the treasures of the divine revelation were given and the immortal remains of a literature that influences all civilized nations are preserved, must always be desired by us in fulfillment of a sacred duty, yet it has become unintelligible to the vast majority of our coreligionists; therefore, as is advisable under existing circumstances, it must give way in prayer to intelligible language, which prayer, if not understood, is a soulless form.
The conference also passed resolutions on marriage and divorce, and whilst accepting the matrilineal principle for determining Jewish status, emphasized that the child of a Jewish mother was Jewish, even if an uncircumcised male. This makes me think of some footage of a dialogue between Richard Dawkins and a clergyman (Alister McGrath?) that I recently watched, where the topic of the 'religion' of children came up, Dawkins' main point being that just as there are no 'republican' children and no 'unionist' children and no 'terrorist' children, there are also no 'Christian' or 'Muslim' children. These are labels that we project onto them through our own paradigms. Dawkins even goes as far as to call fire-and-brimstone-type indoctrination and initiation of children into the cult of their parents a form of "child abuse." A bit extreme, perhaps, but point taken. Imagine the uproar that would be caused if there were "Reagan Camps" alongside the Jesus Camps of documentary fame. White-Separatist Camp? Just how far does the right to screw up your kids extend? Unfortunately, no limit is defined for this 'right', and it will likely never be.
What to do when a problem whose solution is self-evident becomes unsolvable because the solution is deemed naive and untenable given human selfishness tendencies and traditions?
I guess this is what inevitably happens when you give the Word to the monkeys, eh?

... anyway, back to self-identity . . .

Some notes on these Reform platform points:

It seems to me that most of the enumerated points are clearly reactionary affirmations against—a defiant rejection of—Christianity. I find it hard to digest this newly (at the time) defined "world-mission" of the Jews without seeing it through the lens of the dominant Christian culture within which these reformers found themselves surrounded.

In fact, on a personal note, the explicit desire for the conversion of the whole world is a big red flag to me for precisely the same reasons that those of the Christian creeds and the Mormon creeds give me pause. I simply cannot process the possibility that God (whatever that might ultimately be) mandates such 'world-missions'. The psychology that insists, "I am chosen, and I want you to be like me—nay!, you WILL be like me someday! . . . it is written!," seems a highly unattractive and ultimately delusional one to me.
Nevertheless, and returning to my focus, :P .. . THAT was the way that an highly influential group of Jews of the mid 19th century defined itself (at least in North America).

Finally, I see irony in the last point (#7). For a sentence which presumes to call for an end to all dissembling language in our religious practices, it sure is a vaguely-worded convoluted monster of a sentence, ain't it?

Is it just me?

As usual . . . just more food for thought . . .



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