When it comes to the issue of gay marriage, the Jewish Theological Seminary blinked and gave way to society’s shifting mores. So one must ask the question: Should we guide religion, or should religion guide us?
The ongoing battle over redefinition of marriage threatens to shatter a long-standing, popular approach to personal faith and biblical morality.
For several generations, most Americans have embraced what could be described as the Goldilocks attitude toward religion: affirming faith choices that seemed not too soft but not too hard, not too hot but not too cool. Majorities viewed easy-going moderation and comforting compromise as the religious path that counted as "just right."
Conservative Judaism — the "middle branch" of the ancient faith — always exemplified the "Goldilocks" orientation with its emphasis on the "sweet spot" between stringencies of Orthodox observance and the anything-goes adaptability of Reform. But just before Passover, the Conservative movement's flagship institution, The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), announced a controversial decision highlighting the painful contradictions of middle way religions.
Following the findings of an expert panel filed last December, JTS signaled its intention to accept openly gay candidates for the rabbinate and to raise no objection to their involvement in same-sex commitment ceremonies. For a movement that still stresses time-honored standards of Sabbath observance and kosher food, this represents a stunning break with tradition. A spiritual leader proudly, publicly promoting consumption of pork would never fit in with the Conservative rabbinate, but this same denomination now will sanction rabbis who call unblushing communal attention to their personal practice of sexual relations that the Torah describes as "abomination."
Following the written word