If the pope were a liberal Jew, what would his pontificate look like?
I’m being facetious, of course, as everyone knows that the pope, by definition, is Catholic.
That said, humor me, if you will, and consider the sorts of things that might come from the pontificate of a man who, practically speaking, thinks and feels and acts with the mind of a liberal Jew.
Before we begin this exercise, we need to know a little bit about what constitutes liberal Judaism, the two main branches of which identify as “Reform” and “Conservative,” despite the absence of a formal creed to which their members must accede.
To that end, for the sake of expedience, I’ll focus on sources that describe the characteristics of Reform Judaism, with the understanding being that, broadly speaking, Conservative Judaism differs rather little from Reform Judaism in its core convictions, notwithstanding its more “traditional” window dressing.
In order to get our hands around the tenets of Reform Judaism, such as they are, it is useful to consider, first and foremost, the myriad of traditional Jewish beliefs that the movement rejects.
Writing in the magazine Reform Judaism, Rabbi Elliot Stevens referred to several such beliefs, saying:
..the famous Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 that defined Classical Reform Judaism for several generations … rejected such traditional Jewish notions as peoplehood, chosenness, the personal Messiah, resurrection, and a return to the Land of Israel … as well as any references to the priesthood and the sacrificial cult.
Commenting upon the history of the Reform movement, Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman explained:
Reform Jews prized an intellectual outlook on Judaism and valued religious tenets that could be upheld even in a rational, secular milieu. They did not, therefore, embrace traditional messianism – rooted in complicated Scriptural allusions and folklore, filled with images of apocalyptic battles, a superhuman deliverer, and even a physical resurrection of the dead.
Perhaps the most powerful reason to jettison traditional messianic belief, the Reformers argued, was that it was simply not needed anymore. Human beings – guided not by a Messiah but by their own intellect – had already begun the work of redemption … Reform Judaism abolished the concept of a divinely-sent Messiah and promised instead that humanity would accomplish its own redemption.
With so much focus on man as his own redeemer, it may come as little surprise that reformjudaism.org contends:
Social justice and advocacy are among the central tenets of Reform Judaism.
Among the causes that fall into this category (as addressed on the same site) are those concerning economic justice for the poor, gun control, and liberal immigration reform.
None, arguably, has taken on quasi-religious status among Reform Jews to an extent equal to that of radical environmentalism – a movement-within-the-movement that twists the Psalmists words, addressed to God, “Thou shalt send forth thy spirit, and they shall be created: and thou shalt renew the face of the earth,” into a manifesto for purely human endeavors that tend toward earth worship.
With regard to its aversion to the traditional understanding of peoplehood, and its unwillingness to embrace a doctrine that would dare to single out Judaism as the uniquely exalted religion of the one true God who revealed Himself to His chosen people, it only makes sense that Reform Judaism also holds:
In our diverse and multicultural society, effective interreligious relationships are vital so that diverse faith groups may live together in harmony and work cooperatively.
Reform Judaism, just as predictably, also rejects traditional belief in the divine origins of the Hebrew Scriptures….
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