Good morning. My name is Rabbi Jack Moline, and I am a Conservative Jew. Now, being a Conservative Jew is not the same as being a Jewish conservative, except in this sense: we all say we are preserving tradition.
So how can it be, if I share this label "conservative" with Gary Bauer and James Dobson and Pat Robertson, that I find myself astonished at how deeply we disagree? How can it be, if my faith is based on the same bedrock as the theirs -- the word of God in the Hebrew Scripture, that I find myself on the other side of a deep divide when it comes to applying that Scripture to our society?
It cannot be because I am a Jew and they are Christian. Look at the company in which I find myself today. My friends and colleagues, Rev. Gaddy, Rev. Wogaman, Sister Fiedler are devout and uncompromisingly Christian, and yet I stand with them united on this message of God's love for all people. I stand with them because we have made a place for each other, and for the faithful adherents of many traditions who believe God has a rightful place in politics, not just a place in the political right. That's the message of The Interfaith Alliance.
But the Christian Coalition -- let's not ignore the name, there's no ambiguity there -- the Christian Coalition has staked out a very narrow place, a place with little or no room for those with whom they disagree. They speak of God's unconditional love, but then put conditions on that love: you must be heterosexual, you must be a Christian by their definition, and you must be prepared to legislate their agenda. And, if you are a woman, you must submit to your husband. That is a very narrow place, conceived by equally narrow minds.
And if these narrow definitions of love, and of human dignity, and of right relationship with God, and of political correctness are not the traditions I share, if they are not conservative, then what are they?
They are desperate attempts by desperate people seeking to turn back the clock to a time of relative darkness, to a time when insecure people used fear and intimidation to suppress the free exchange of ideas and enlightenment. How else do you explain James Dobson threatening to bring down Republican legislators who do not toe his line? How else do you explain Pat Robertson threatening Orlando, Florida with hurricanes, earthquakes and meteors for tolerating Constitutionally protected free expression?
I have two words for those threats: as if.
Let me tell you about the tradition I want to preserve. I just returned from Jerusalem. I walked in the footsteps of Jesus and of the great sages of the Jewish tradition. Do you know that there were at least twenty-five different denominations of Judaism in the first century? The people I honor, the people whose traditions I preserve, moved easily among them. They disagreed mightily, but they honored those disagreements as being part of God's plan. They sat together. They learned from each other. They broke bread together. They preserved each other's visions of covenant.
The Interfaith Alliance strives to protect that tradition where differences are respected and civility treasured. Where each member of our human family is embraced as being worthy of respect not demonized and ostracized using the language of love and compassion.