Friday, April 11, 2008

Rami's Reply to Mike 4/11

I would certainly agree that any one perspective on religion, be it sociological or otherwise, has it limitations. When I teach comparative religion at Middle Tennessee State I tend to focus more on the heart, the perennial wisdom that each religions shares, though I have to be careful not to impose my own bias on the religions we discuss.

I am so glad you brought the Holy Spirit, which we Jews call Ruach haKodesh, into this conversation. Ruach haKodesh is radically free, unconditioned, surprising. It is the way God works through the institutions of society; it is the way God raises up prophets who battle the powers that be to keep our institutions open and evolving. It is the way God breaks through the ego to liberate the soul. Ruach haKodesh is divine poetry bring ecstasy and meaning to the all too human prose of religious doctrine and creed. I worry, though, that organized religion tries to tame Ruach haKodesh just as it tries to control God and align the Divine with the biases of the ruling elites. But as long as the Holy Spirit is capable of demolishing our egoic structures (both personal and communal) salvation, living a life surrendered to God and godliness, is possible.

As to Bronze and Iron Age worldviews penetrating modern expressions of Judaism and Christianity (by the way it is Reform Judaism, not Reformed, keep that for the Dutch Church), I think it’s a mixed bag. I can’t speak for Christianity, but even modern Jewish prayer books speak of God in ways that are highly reminiscent of ancient times. We use metaphors such as King and Lord that are meaningless if not anathema to liberal, democratic Americans. We continue to speak of God as if God resided somewhere “out there” in time and space. Nowhere are the insights of modern cosmology included in our prayers. While most Jews live in 2008, we continue to pray as if it were 1008.

So, yes, Judaism is a living religion, but I often feel it is on life-support. A true healing would require a radical openness to Ruach haKodesh empowering Jews to rewrite our prayers and refashion our theology so that they speak to what we know to be true and give meaning to life in the 21st Century.

As for the practice of theological self-restraint. All I can say is, “Amen to that!”

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