Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mike: Response to Rami's 9/9 Post

Thanks for the overview of the history the rabbinic materials. Both of us draw heavily and easily on the accumulated "wisdom" of our traditions. Occasionally, it's probably a good that we slow down long enough to share such information with our readers.

Turning back to the text and your remarks, I did not mean to suggest lust was the primary or only ingredient in male/female relationships prior to Jesus. In fact, I do not think is an ingredient in any healthy relationship. I do think, though, that Jesus' words remove lust (as previously defined) from the list of acceptable components of that relationship. This is important. Historically, there's a rather large "disconnect" between the teachings of either of our traditions and the popular assumptions of large numbers of adherents. This is certainly true with regard to the relationship between men and women. The teaching and example of Jesus functions as a counter to the assumptions of many a male in many a society across the ages.

We agree as to the church's poor record with regard to women. Insofar as the church taught or supported the inferiority of women, it departed (and departs) from the intention of Jesus. At the same time, the church, operating within the context of various western cultures, preserved the teachings of Jesus. Such teachings often furnished raw material for various forms of women's liberation. It's a strange thing to observe in history, the way in which the "good news" (as we call it) keeps breaking through cultural constraints.

With regard to hell as a kind of self-isolation, the notion is really quite old. While we disagree as to what happens to the individual at death, I think we agree on the power of the paradigm of hell as self-isolation. The paradigm, by the way, may be applied not only to individuals but to cultures as well. North Korea's political culture comes to mind as a possible example.

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