The Orthodox Union slips on marriage
The Orthodox Union (Orthodox Judaism's Flagship Organization)'s involvement in the latest "expanded definition of marriage" bill (H.R. 8404) illustrates the status of the nation's cultural slide.
The O.U. did a political calculation, given the House vote in support of the bill, and figured it would be best to "get what they could." The O.U. then lobbied the Senate for exemptions for religious institutions and chose not to oppose the legislation codifying anti-Torah marriage concepts. Whether that was the reality or the price of the amendment is unclear and perhaps immaterial. In some sense, it sends a message: the U.S. culture ship is sinking, so let's just do our best to make everyone comfortable in his compartment for the rest of the voyage.
The speed at which the slide has happened is dizzying. Just a few years ago, congressional dynamics such as these would have been unthinkable. Prior Democrat administrations were adamantly opposed to codification. Fast-forward a few years, and we just saw the nation's observant Jewish headquarters, the O.U., choosing not to take an official position on the legislation other than to say they don't support the bill's purpose. They did not take steps to work with other religious organizations to defeat the bill, as they concluded that their efforts would be futile. Other faith-based organizations such as the Mormon Church took a similar approach.
Marriage is no small matter in Judaism. It is foundational. The traditional family is the bedrock. Proper relationships are enshrined in the seven laws that Jews believe the entire world needs to follow. We read about prohibited relationships on our holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, as the gates of repentance are closing. Judaism's oral law describes the downfall of societies if certain relationships are canonized. The story behind the upcoming holiday of Hanukah, where the Maccabees were victorious, is actually the story of a 25-year Jewish war against Greek culture, which celebrated and strongly encouraged forbidden relationships.
It is important to add that the observant Jewish community has tremendous empathy for those who struggle with sexuality challenges of any kind, whether due to nature or nurture. Toleration and acceptance are one thing. Celebration and codification into law are another.
People of all faiths look to Orthodox Judaism with great respect as the rock on which many faiths are built. For traditionally religious people of other faiths who wish to see America rebalance culturally in line with their values, these days are difficult. For the flagship Jewish orthodox organization, the O.U., to take such a parochial approach may be reality, but it is also hugely disappointing.
Fortunately, in the U.S. Judeo-Christian world, there are still local strongholds in most observant Jewish and other traditional faith-based communities. For Jews who live in Israel, the demographics should be able to keep the USS Culture from docking. It will take tremendous courage and persistence for traditional values to prevail, but ultimately, they will.
Gary Schiff is the president of "Jewish Family Forever," working to strengthen traditional Jewish families.
Image via Libreshot.