Monday, 14 March 2016

Dear Ted Cruz -- Part 3

Please first See  
Dear Ted Cruz -- Part 1
Dear Ted Cruz -- Part 2


The essence of these two articles is actually, simply, a disagreement over moral perspective. One sides with Ted Cruz's moral perspectives and one doesn't. But thrown into this mix is the use of the term "Judeo-Christian" with the extension of the argument becoming an implication, through the use of this term by Ted Cruz, that Judaism is in agreement with Cruz's views. The Rabbi who disagrees with Ted Cruz thus is further upset because Cruz is presenting views with which the Rabbi disagrees but also is doing so in a manner that implies the Rabbi's inherent agreement as a follower of Judaism. The Rabbi who favours Cruz, alternatively, finds solace in Cruz's use of the term for, thereby, his personal position is strengthened for he is not just one in agreement with Mr. Cruz but is further seen as abiding by his own Jewish values. What the two articles really show, though, is not only the problems in the use of the term "Judeo-Christian" but the very problem in the modern use of the very term "Jewish" (and the term "Christian" although that is not our issue").

Let me first state that I have always had problems with the term "Judeo-Christian". It is, in my opinion, a misrepresentation, implying some common base for Jewish and Christian values. In fact, if there is an overlap between Jewish and Christian values, it is simply because Christians, in their break from Judaism, decided to maintain some Jewish values in their new faith. It is not some common organic root. In presenting their new perspective, Christianity also expressed other values contrary to Judaism. Furthermore, even in regard to the values Christians maintained from their Jewish roots, they offered new understandings reflecting their new faith. There may be points of overlap but that should not be seen as reflecting some common perspective or base as implied in the term "Judeo-Christian". This is untrue and misleading. There may be points of convergence but to assume a common base has, to me, always been problematic.

This would seem to imply that I would be strongly supportive of Rabbi Gruenwald's article. In fact, on the simple issue of the term "Judeo-Christian", I am basically in agreement. Rabbi Gruenwald's real objective, however, is to critique Ted Cruz's values, further strengthening his argument by challenging any connection between them and Judaism. In response, Rabbi Poupko's argument, and his use of the term "Judeo-Christian", is thus really to show that Cruz's views actually do connect with Judaism and there is reason to support them because of this. What all this actually shows, though, is our avoidance of confronting the modern lack of clarity of what is meant by the term "Jewish". (Let me make it clear; in this regard, I am speaking solely in terms of language, not authenticity.) Different people have different meanings in regard to the term "Jewish", even as they perceive the term to only have one meaning. It is for this reason that I advocate for the use of adjectives in conjunction with our terms for Judaism. See, further, my Adjective and Non-Adjective Jews at The fact that I would describe Rabbi Gruenwald's values as reflecting Conservative or Reform Judaism does not mean that I am in agreement with him or validate his view. It is helpful to do so, though, because I can then explain my Orthodox values with better clarity. I can respond to his arguments by stating that he is applying his definition of Jewish which is not mine and is not universal. I can then honestly describe Mr. Cruz as expressing views that are somewhat in accordance with certain understandings of certain forms of Judaism but not in accord with others. He then can't challenge Cruz for attempting to connect with other perspectives of Jewishness.

This takes us back to the term "Judeo-Christian". Rabbi Poupko's response is really to challenge Rabbi Gruenwald through promoting the fact that those values with which Rabbi Gruenwald has problems actually flow from Jewish values, i.e. Orthodox Jewish values. But why not just say this directly. The fact is that Mr. Cruz's values which may overlap with Orthodoxy still flow from Christianity and, as such, really have a different base. Even as there may be a good amount of convergence, I am still sensitive to the points of divergence. The challenge of Rabbi Gruenwald should not be, then, the Jewishness of Mr. Cruz's viewpoints but the more honest retort -- that there is a divergence in moral opinion within the Jewish world -- which we also actually try to avoid. There is not one Judaism and one perspective of Jewish values. We disagree. The challenge against Rabbi Gruenwald should then be to stop implying a monolithic vision of Jewish values with which everyone agrees. This is a challenge that could be voiced against many. The issue is not whether Cruz uses the term "Judeo-Christian" or not. It is that Rabbi Gruenwald is incorrect in presenting his values as the singular perspective of Jewish values.

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