Sunday, April 18, 2010

Orthoprax Ministers

A Guest Post By E. Fink

A Facebook friend, (Jewish Atheist), posted a really fascinating article on his Facebook profile. The article is a Boston Globe piece and is called "The Unbelievers". I recommend reading the entire article as this post will just highlight a few parts of the well researched article to illustrate some points of interest to this audience.

Lately, there's been a lot of talk of Orthopraxy within the Orthodox Jewish world. There are even some blogs dedicated to its theology (and challenging the tradition OJ theology). Interestingly, the Orthoprax people I know of (NOT Orthoprax by default) are lay people. Not Rabbis. True, they are very learned and could probably pass as rabbis, but they remain lay people. Though I wonder if there are "closet Orthoprax Rabbis"...

According to this article, there are significant clergy members of various Christian denominations that for all practical purposes are "Orthoprax Christians". They value the rituals, the connection with others, the music, but they don't believe their religion's theology. They don't believe in God.

When comparing ministers and Christianity with Rabbis and Judaism there is a marked difference. Almost all Orthodox Jews spend several years of Torah study. Many lay people in the OJ community are more learned than their Rabbis. The article led me to believe that it is highly unlikely that lay people in the Christian community would be "Orthoprax Christians" because they don't know enough about the Bible and Christianity for the gaping holes, flaws and problems to bother them. But the educated class, the clergy, is susceptible to disbelief because they know what the problems are.

Cynics have said that the reason for "Daas Toyrah" ousting rationalism and "Slifkinism" from the "mesorah" is to keep the public ignorant so that they won't revolt against the rabbis. Perhaps there is some truth to that cynical belief. Ignorance will definitely keep people in line. It also shows is a complete lack of confidence in Torah.

Reading through the article I noticed little things that are virtually the exact ideas that Orthoprax Jews talk about. One idea is the "more benign forms of religion". That is a religion without God. It takes the moral aspects of religion and the rituals but divorces them from divinity and yet brings people together. Another idea is the issue of who wrote the Bible. Orthodox Jews don't usually struggle with this. But those who are aware of the issues, do.

In short, this article is not written about Jews. But it very likely could have been. It seems to me that there is nearly endless room for discussion about the questions it raises for us. I urge you to read the article and think about how it makes you feel.

The article made me feel confused about how I feel. How about you?

Search for more information about Orthoprax Christians and Jews at

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