Parallels of Reform Judaism and Secular Christianity
Rabbi Rick Jacobs was installed as president of the Union for Reform Judaism at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, NY, June 9, 2012. The inaugural address he made ought to be the inspiration of most modern, particularly US, Christians, who betray constantly that they know nothing in the least about the teachings of the man whom they believe is God incarnate, Jesus Christ, and how he expected Christians to behave to be Christians.
Here following are some slightly modified extracts from the speech with “Reform Judaism” replaced by “Secular Christianity” and mutatis mutandis so that Christians can get some idea of what a practical moral life should be.
Too often “Secular Christianity” is regarded as Christianity lite. What nonsense! “Secular Christianity” is built on the shoulders of “Secular Christian” forbears who took Christian tradition in an entirely new direction, re-envisioning our sacred texts and practices in the light of scientific inquiry and the new frontiers of human thought. Today we embrace the best of tradition and modernity, science and spirituality. Ours is the Christianity of autonomy, inclusiveness, creativity, passion, relevance and depth. We are the Christianity for a new era, and it’s time we let the whole world know.
“Secular Christianity” is unafraid to change our tradition when it holds us back from growing and deepening our faith. For us, change is not only permitted but obligatory. And sometimes it isn’t even fast enough.
Ours is an inclusive Christianity. For too long the Christian community had no place for interfaith families and LGBTQ Christians. But we leant the sacred power of inclusion. The loving embrace of all who had been excluded adds to our numbers and to our strength.
No questions are off limits in our texts. The core mission of the practical morality of Christianity has always been defined largely in social justice terms—to solve, on the basis of justice and righteousness, the problems presented by the evils of the organization of society. That sacred mission still inspires commitment among “Secular Christians” of all ages.
“Secular Christianity”, when practiced with commitment, is no less demanding than other expressions of Christianity—and some would argue even more demanding because we do not practice by rote but by informed choice.
Rabbi Jacobs observed that through Abraham all Jews have been given their charge:
“Through you shall all of the families of the world be blessed.”
What Jews do together is meant to shape a world of holiness, dignity, and equality for God’s children everywhere.
That is the objective of “Secular Christianity” too. All people, all human beings, according to the Christian God, are not merely His children, but they are God! A Christian who wants to abuse another human being wants to harm God Himself, and God Himself repeated it once in a positive and once in a negative light (Matthew 25:40;45) in the very context of eternal punishment and salvation (Matthew 25:31-46). Any “Christian” concerned about their place in the future life they hope for ought to know this passage as the minimum Christian lesson.
The Rabbi ended with this little story of a prayer answered by God, which is both essence and substance of “Secular Christian” commitment:
“Dear God, there is so much pain and anguish in your world. Why don’t you send help?”
And God answered, “I did send help. I sent you.”
It is the duty of us all to help and not to harm others, and that is inescapable if anyone wants to claim to be Christian. Caring and sharing might not appeal to most Americans, especially the right wing ones who most frequently claim to be Christians, but that only proves what an intrinsically evil country the US is. It claims to be Christian because so many utterly unchristian Americans self designate themselves as being Christian. Yet almost everything that they think, say and do shows they are children of evil.
“Secular Christianity” is saying that the very least you can do to be a follower of Christ is to follow his basic practical precept. Be kind to other people, by imagining that God is within every one of them and suffers every blow and jibe you aim at them, as well as every kindness offered them. Help yourself by helping others. That is another way that Christ put it—the Golden Rule:
As you would that people should do to you, do likewise to them.Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31
Ultimately, Jesus Christ was a Reform Jew, teaching his understanding of God’s commandment in Leviticus 19:18:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yehouah.
Perhaps Jesus was in a line of them from Rabbi Hillel who preached:
Love all creatures.Avot 1:12
Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to another.B Shab 312
What is sure is that Jesus linked failure to act in this kindly way to other people with eternal damnation. So do not regard anyone who is deliberately cruel or unkind to others as being a Christian. They are kidding themselves, and probably because they aim to kid you. You have to be kind to be Christian. That is what loving others means!
Now print this off and keep it in your Tephillin or your wallet to read and remind yourself! Not least if you fear for your soul.