I will seem to be writing about Jews today but, in fact, am mostly aiming my remarks at Christians because I think we Christians could learn something from our Jewish sisters and brothers.
Start, for instance, with Abraham seeking to prevent God from destroying Sodom in the 18th chapter of Genesis. Whoa, says Abraham. What if I find 50 righteous people in the city? Will you, the Lord, destroy the city and those 50 righteous with everyone else? Oh, OK, says God. I'll spare the whole town for the sake of the 50. Then Abraham bargains God down to 45, then 40, then 30, then 20 and finally 10.
That's guts, or chutzpah, as the Jews sometimes call it.
Or think of the story in Exodus 32, when Moses confronts God, who is angry that the people of Israel have turned to idols, specifically a golden calf.
What happens is — get this — Moses ministers to God. Really. Moses ministers to God. Imagine that. This is, of course, preposterous. It’s outrageous. It’s ridiculous. It’s just plain nuts. And yet that is exactly what I think is really happening in this story. Moses ministers to God by confronting God's anger and challenging it.
In this spirit, what is Jesus, a Galillean Jew, reported to have said from the cross? "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Some interpreters want us to remember that Jesus was just quoting the beginning of Psalm 22 and to remember that it ends on an upbeat, hopeful note and that by quoting the start of the poem Jesus was invoking the whole thing. Yeah, well, maybe. But I prefer to think of the quote as a profoundly Jewish challenge to God. Somehow we Christians have mostly lost the ability or willingness to challenge God in this way.
I use these examples today to introduce you to this fascinating piece by the famous Israeli writer Amos Oz and his daughter, Fania Oz-Salsberger. It's about why the Jews could never stand to have a pope. Amos Oz argues that the Jewish tendency to challenge religious leaders would mean a Jewish pope would never have a moment's rest. It's a funny piece but also full of wisdom. Have a read.
And, of course, if you disagree with the piece, challenge the writers. They'll be expecting that.
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PREDICTING THE LONG-TERM RESULT
As the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week in two cases about marriage equality, retired Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in that denomination's history, got it right when he said this about gays and lesbians: ". . .we know how this is going to end, don’t we? This is going to end with our full acceptance and inclusion into the life and citizenship of this nation.” It's inevitable. The arc of history bends toward justice, no matter how long it takes to get there. And this is a matter of equal protection under the law, not a matter of requiring this or that religion to change its views on homosexuality.