When I was a young, rebellious teenager I caused my Orthodox Jewish father significant grief when at 15 I would not even pretend to be an observant Jew. I did not believe in any of the religious stuff that I had blindly followed until I figured out how I could escape. I believed then as I believe now that I am an ethnic and cultural Jew, just not a religious one.
I expect that my father was an example of a Jew chased out of Russia when he was a baby in the very early twentieth century by a bunch of anti Semitic Cossacks determined to rid Russia of all of its Jews.
Having grown up in a Constitutional democracy (notwithstanding our society's rampant racism), I was sadly oblivious to the actual experiences of my dad, and his family.
My father took the position that Christians would think less of us if we were non-observant. My life nearly ended when I asked my dad if Hitler provided different ovens for observant and non-observant Jews?
I did try to understand--then as now--why so many of us find it either desirable or necessary for others to believe as we do.
I have a few friends who are born again Christians who sincerely believe that they will save my soul from burning in hell if I accept Jesus Christ in my life. I allow them a certain space to do that, but eventually tell them with love that I appreciate that they are trying to save me, but ask that they let me go, and if I am doomed, so be it. Not easy for them to do.
Abdul Rahman was released from an Afghan prison this last Tuesday. Afghan authorities wanted to execute him under Islamic law for becoming a Christian. Many Muslim clerics in the country called for his death, and said that even if he were freed his life would continue be in danger. I used to think I had it tough wanting out of Jewish Orthodoxy.
Abdul was granted asylum by the Italian government, and a spokesperson for Prime Minister Berlusconi welcomed him to Italy. (Difficult person that I am, I wonder if he would have been welcomed to Italy had he converted to Judaism).
I continue to wonder about gay and lesbian marriage. If you are not happy with it, why is it your, or society's, business to prevent it? If the Church decided that divorce was against God's will, would we all run around to pass a constitutional amendment to preclude divorce? I think not.
One of the funnier items floating around the Internet the last week or two came when Professor Raskin, from American University Law School, was testifying before the Maryland legislature.
Senator Nancy Jacobs asked: "Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?"
The professor replied: "Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You didn't place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."
I think the professor said it all with that rejoinder.
Follow God, (or a higher power) if you wish, but please do not tell me how I am to do it. Let me drink, or go to the movies on the Sabbath if I choose, and please keep God in your heart, not in my kid's school.