Interfaith Relations: Traditionalists vs Modernists

How do traditionalists and modernists coexist in a multi-faith society? Rabbi Irwin Kula argues that we currently have a "wonderful agreement" between the two, where liberals become the containers for all the world's future hope, and traditionalists the fear that we're losing the past. But the risk on either front is extremism, because "life is a combination of genuine fears and genuine hopes." Learn more about Irwin Kula.

May 17th, 2011 12:14 pm

I think that to a certain degree, dialogs already take place, but that "fear" causes us to lash out, or conversely, NOT speak out, and the conversation often falls apart.  Instead of being constructive, I fear trying to communicate about such significant and important subjects is sometimes destructive, and people either become afraid to converse going forward, or carry big sticks with them. 


I wouldn't know about how to open a dialog between any two people, let alone two groups of people such as traditionalists and modernists (or liberals, as Rabbi Kula calls "us", and appropriately, I believe).  But, just watching this video helped me to see what I wasn't seeing, which was right in front of my eyes; what common sense it is.  "It is so obvious, how did I not think of it before"?  It is as if I needed permission to feel good about my personal views, while acknowledging that my own tightly-held beliefs may be narrow, partisan perhaps, regardless of it's purported "liberalisim" (or, in some cases, conservativism).  Why should the idea that the understandings which support one's beliefs have room for improvement  surprise anyone?  After all, we are only humans, and so, necessarily, we are not perfect.  Only God is perfect.  From that starting point, we should assume, I'd think, that there is something imperfect about our worldviews, and be looking for better, clearer, "righter" ways of thinking. "Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me".  We don't ever have all the answers, and sometimes a "closer to the best" way of thinking or dealing with something can be right in front of us, but we are afraid to acknowledge or admit it.


From watching the video, I found it wonderful, and liberating, to realize that our own thinking is necessarily imperfect, and that it's okay, but that as we are called to ever seek perfection, it may mean admitting something that might wound our pride or frighten us--fear that we are losing our "freedoms" or that things are getting "too different".  I heartily agree that we as a society, in our social evolutionary journey, often head too far down a path, and then correct ourselves.  At 47 years old, how often have I watched new fads (be it spiritual, political, clothing, colloquialisms, music, whatever) come into "fashion", only to succumb to a backlash a few years later, where the scales tip strongly in another direction in reaction.  No mild corrections here--I'm talking about RUNNING headlong in one direction, then pivoting and RUNNING full out in another direction, each time leaving a chunk of people continuing in the direction we were so recently heading, which I like to think is good: we aren't lemmings, after all. 


I think before there can be a dialog, we each need to feel confident and secure enough that finding out that our current thinking isn't 100% perfect is okay, it's alright, it's expected and assumed, and that egos and clung-to beliefs can be set aside to look at the issues, the ramifications, the realities, with a heart toward what is right with and for God, and not what will be the least disruptive to our lives.  As we become kinder and gentler with our own imperfections, then perhaps we can be able to hear from and speak with more and more people, trusting that we all want the same thing, trusting that we will recognize arguments and "fights" with people who are just out to pick fights, not work together for the common good, quickly and with better understanding, and gently walk away or brush aside spiritual and emotional bullies.  Stopping only to pray for them, and pray that we didn't "misjudge" them, throwing out potential wisdom with the rancor. 


For me, allowing this open-mindedness, and actually living it, is VERY difficult: as a "recovering doormat", every day I have to assess everyone I meet to figure out if they are sincere or trying to "pull one over on me". I used to be a very easy "mark", and gaining and then trusting my own judgement has been a long and painful process.  But, if I can do it with regards to knowing who is a friend and who is a predator or bully, then I can know it with regards to other matters as well.  But I'm the first to admit, it is far easier to be either a passive doormat, allowing and rationalizing anything and everything, OR an aggressive cynical bully, allowing NOTHING but what I've already decided and defending it at all costs, than to navigate the middle grounds.  It takes so much more courage to step into the middle, think things through, deal with each person, each idea, each thought and belief that is presented or challenged with an open, "present" mind.


Once an individual is not threatened by questions, or triggered by challenges, THEN, perhaps, that person can join a constructive dialog.   


Knowing we are above all loved, and called to each find our way that brings us closest to living the life and creating the world that God wants for us, (which, if we believe in God, then we know will ultimately make us, and all God's children, happiest), questioning our directions, refining our maps shouldn't be something we would wittingly fight against.  If we DO appear to fight against it, perhaps we are only displaying our humanity, our human fragility. 


(I'm glad there is no "dislike" buttons on Facebook! 

And, please, I pray, be gentle if you are going to respond to this post :-) 

Thanks for letting me think out loud, be part of the dialog!


Deirdre Page (FB handle G. Cove)

May 16th, 2011 15:39 pm

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