Today I heard one of the most distasteful comments I have had the misfortune of encountering. It was made by a man who claims to be a leader, a teacher and a role model. It was troubling for a host of reasons- mostly because he is viewed by some as a representative and a role model for members of the tribe.
He engages in kiruv, outreach in which he reaches out to unaffiliated Jews with the intent of bringing them into the fold. I don't have a problem with outreach provided that it is done in a responsible fashion- but that is not how he is doing it. I wouldn't be exaggerating to say that he reminds me of a con artist who attempts to sell his preferred brand of snake oil by preying upon fear.
I haven't any tolerance for religious terrorism by any group. You cannot gain my confidence or support by trying to bully people into believing as you do by threatening them with eternal damnation of any sort.
Every religious group claims that they have the final word on God. Every single one claims that they know something that the others don't. Every single one claims that they have irrefutable proof of their righteousness and why others should believe as they do.
In the end it is up to each one of us to determine what we believe based upon faith. Some of you will disagree. Some of you will claim to have a personal relationship or some other proof that you can use to sway opinion. I am happy for you and I do not mean that sarcastically.
I am a Jew- born and raised. I'll die a Jew. I believe because I believe. I have thought about it- argued and debated about it and come to the conclusion that I am happy with it. My level of observance has gone up and down through the years. It may continue to do so- that is consistent with age and life experience. Evolution of beliefs is normal.
What galls me about this man is that he is proud of his young child asking if he was looking at a goy (non-Jew) or a Jew who isn't frum yet. I consider that to be religious bigotry. I have a very simple philosophy that I'll share. This is the watered down version:
Be good. Do your best to treat others well. There is no difference in access to olam habah, the world to come for any of us- provided that you are good. There might be better ways to do things but on the whole being good will get you there.
Now remember, I am also the guy who doesn't believe that you have to be religious to be moral. You don't have to believe in God to be a good person. It is possible to do all these things without.
Unfortunately we are subject to the same foibles as everyone else and have people who embarrass us because they haven't any common sense, are ignorant or just bigots. The saddest part is that sometimes the bigot is proud of their bigotry and clueless about many lives they damage in the process.
I am much more than inclusive about things than some others. I don't say that because I am trying to present myself as the lord of tolerance. I am not. I believe that some beliefs are morally superior. I believe that I am better than some others- so what. It is ok to be judgmental, but that is an old post.
It just saddens me to think that some poor bastard is going to be abused by this fellow. Some poor schmuck is going to buy into the bullshit. Truthfully I had to restrain myself from linking to a video he did because seeing is believing.
The problem that I have is that I am unwilling to drive any traffic to him. Let him raise money for his nonsense on his own because I won't be a part of it.
So my friend, let me say in closing that "God willing you should learn something this year and become a better person than you are today."