Jewish Faith: The Ongoing Crisis and the Left Hand of God

As the human rights violations of the State of Israel become more well known, this tendency to build a faith, either religious or secular, on the themes of love and generosity is likely to grow dramatically in the next several decades. And as the depth of environmental devastation becomes more apparent, both secular and religious Jews will increasingly define their religion in terms that affirm the priority of saving the life-support systems of the planet (though few will be willing to acknowledge the fundamental conflict between that goal and the daily operations of the capitalist system in which we are all embedded and implicated).

The materialism and selfishness embedded in the worldview and economic reality of globalized capitalism will produce two other tendencies, not only in Jews but in everyone: the abandonment of ethically based faith and an intensification of the struggle for more power, on the one hand, and on the other, an intense search for spiritual nourishment as a compensation for the ruthlessness of the capitalist marketplace. This search most often reveals itself by avoiding political consciousness and turning to religion as a source of meaning in lives that are increasingly pushed into the dynamics of struggle for shrinking resources at a time of environmental crisis. Thus, as Holocaust trauma declines in newer generations, we will see both an apolitical spiritualizing of most denominations of Judaism in America, and a continuing growth of Jewish orthodoxy, particularly of those variants that celebrate Israel and American capitalism as manifestations of or necessary allies to the "great, mighty and awesome" version of God that they fiercely hold on to even while deepening the joyous aspects of their tradition.

Happily, there will be a saving remnant, a group of Jews who embrace a spiritual, progressive variant of Judaism that rejects all forms of triumphalism and chauvinism, both of the Jewish and American variants, that recognizes that our well-being is dependent on the well-being of everyone else on the planet and on the well-being of the Earth, and that joyously embraces a spirituality that refuses to be split off from the tikkun olam imperative of Jewish tradition. This is not the misinterpretation of tikkun olam as merely an intensification of good deeds like providing meals for the poor or a night in the synagogue for the homeless without eliminating poverty or homelessness, but rather the tikkun olam commitment to fundamental transformation.

This transformation must penetrate all the world's economic, political, educational, and cultural forms that contribute to global capitalism's inevitable championing of materialism — "looking out for number one," the demand for "growth," and consumption and acquisition of power and things for the upper 30 percent of income receivers or wealth holders of the American population at the expense of the well-being of the other 70 percent of the American population, most of the world's peoples, and the well being of the planet Earth. This "saving remnant" will also grow in the coming years, though the official institutions of the Jewish community will try to marginalize it, fearing that it will bring more disasters to the Jewish people if ruling elites once again see us as subversive to their interests.

Yet the revolutionary message of Torah — that the world can and must be healed and transformed, and that there is something about the universe that makes that possible — will increasingly align itself with those in every other religion in the U.S. that similarly embraces the Left Hand of God and its commitment to a New Bottom Line of love, generosity, environmental sanity, and awe/wonder/radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery and love of the universe.

7/8/2015 4:00:00 AM
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