Rabbis Did What Pastors, Priests and Theologians Should Do
Rabbis Did What Pastors, Priests and Theologians Should Do
Written By Laurie Higgins   |   09.14.11

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Eminent Princeton University law professor and Roman Catholic, Robert George, wrote about the remarkable election of pro-life, pro-family Republican Bob Turner, who won the Congressional seat of the disgraced Anthony Weiner in New York’s 9th Congressional District. This is a remarkable event in that this seat has been held by Democrats since 1923.

The candidate against whom Turner ran in this special election was Democrat David Weprin who, while claiming to be an Orthodox Jew, endorsed the legalization of “same-sex marriage.” Professor George wrote about the statement issued by Orthodox rabbis just prior to the election in which they asserted that no Orthodox Jew can vote for anyone who endorses “same-sex marriage.” George equated this action to the decision of a few courageous Catholic priests to refuse Holy Communion to politicians who endorse abortion or fetal stem cell research, and to a Catholic priest’s excommunication of three Catholic legislators who did not support desegregation in the 1950s:

When Anthony Weiner resigned his congressional seat in a “sexting” scandal, few people thought that a Republican would be elected to serve the remainder of his term. Fewer still imagined that a conservative Catholic Republican could win. After all, the district (New York’s 9th) is overwhelmingly Democratic and heavily Jewish. It was formerly represented by New York’s current senior senator, Charles Schumer. But yesterday, in a stunning upset, Catholic conservative Bob Turner defeated Jewish liberal David Weprin, with Turner scoring big among Jewish voters—especially Orthodox Jewish voters (despite Weprin’s self-identification as an Orthodox Jew).

So what happened?

The media are certainly right to point to the bad economy and the growing distrust of President Obama by Jewish voters as a result of policies that are viewed as less than supportive of the state of Israel. But there is an underreported aspect of the story that should be of considerable interest to Catholics…

In the run up to the election, a group of Orthodox rabbis…including…notably Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky and Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, two nationally prominent Orthodox Jewish authorities, published a letter stating that “it is forbidden to fund, support, or vote for David Weprin.” The reason? As a member of the New York state legislature, Weprin, despite his Orthodox Jewish beliefs, voted to redefine marriage to include same-sex partnerships. This, the rabbonim declared, was chillul Hashem—a desecration, or bringing of shame, on God’s name. The rabbis went on to say that “Weprin’s claim that he is Orthodox makes the chillul Hashem even greater.”

Catholics, of course, will immediately recall controversies in recent years about the statements and actions of bishops who have criticized (and in some cases excluded from Holy Communion) Catholic politicians who support abortion and embryo-destructive research. Those with lengthier memories will also recall the controversy in the 1950s surrounding New Orleans Archbishop Joseph Rummel’s decision to excommunicate three Catholic members of the Louisiana state legislature for defying his teaching against support for segregationist policies.

The letter from the rabbonim went farther than anything I recall Catholic bishops saying by asserting that under Jewish law “it is incumbent on every Jew” to support and vote for Weprin’s opponent, “if the opposing candidate is committed to safeguarding the moral values that made this Republic great, including the educational, religious, and parental freedoms of Torah adherents, defending family values, opposing abortion on demand, protecting the moral environment, opposing the radical LGBT (To’aiva) agenda, including opposing legislation of civil unions…” http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2011/09/the-rabbonim-speak-in-new-york-9.html

Imagine if every orthodox Catholic priest and Protestant pastor, every Orthodox Jewish rabbi, and every orthodox theologian were to issue such a statement and preach and teach this idea to their congregants and students. The cultural ground, which is now little more than shifting sand, would seismically shift. And then maybe, just maybe, we could start to rebuild American culture on a more stable foundation.

The increasingly widespread cultural approval of homosexuality is as detestable as racism and should be opposed with the courage and vigor with whichWilliam Wilberforce opposed slavery and Martin Luther King Jr. opposed racial bigotry, which means we must oppose it at even great personal expense.

We should heed the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:

I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. . . . too many . . . have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows. . . . I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? . . .

I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, non-biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

In deep disappointment, I have wept over the laxity of the church. . . . I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide, and gladiatorial contests.

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.

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Laurie Higgins
Laurie Higgins was the Illinois Family Institute’s Cultural Affairs Writer in the fall of 2008 through early 2023. Prior to working for the IFI, Laurie worked full-time for eight years...
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