Rejecting Liberalism?

There seems to be some correlation between becoming Orthodox and adopting more conservative political values.

This apparently strong positive correlation makes sense for two reasons:
  • Orthodox Judaism reflects certain conservative values
  • Certain aspects of secular liberalism clash with Jewish values

This being said, we, meaning Jews who have become religious, should also remember that there are elements of liberalism that accurately reflect Judaism. Even though there are serious errors with the movement in general, it contains certain truths that we cannot afford to throw out just because it has become tainted or is flaunted by mistaken individuals. Certain notions that liberalism tries to espouse, such as human dignity, compassion, and social justice, are fundamental to Judaism. That some liberals have corrupted these values by expressing them in unjust ways is not the fault of liberalism. They are nevertheless still part of the Torah and need to be preserved by the people who hold the flag of the Torah high.

During the initial stages of transition into the world of religiosity, a period of “conceptual cleansing” is often necessary. Conceptual cleansing refers to the attempt to purge oneself of concepts alien to Judaism, or at least to create a working model of ideas that are compatible with a Torah outlook. Interestingly enough, the Rambam explains that teshuva often requires a person to temporarily move to the polar opposite end of the spectrum. This is not a political statement, but a conceptual one. He should offset his behavior in an extreme manner to help him achieve the middle ground, which is the ideal place to occupy on a permanent basis. In classical sources, teshuva refers to the general act of improving one’s thoughts, actions, and outlooks. It applies to all people, including those who have always been religious. It makes a great deal of sense that becoming religious is a subcategory of teshuva. It represents the initial contact with the world of Torah. The second phase in teshuva is perfecting one’s avoda and middos within the scope of already having consciously accepted the Torah’s framework. It is the attempt to bring these truths into the subconscious and to internalize them.

Observing degenerate viewpoints among religious people, such as racism, is troubling. It is important to understand that honesty and accurate appraisals of the human condition should not be confused with bigotry or hatred. For example, to be opposed to homosexuality on the grounds that the Torah forbids it is not synonymous with hating gay people. It is somewhat shortsighted and even cruel to suggest that holding a particular viewpoint is forbidden. If somebody wants to reject an idea, it should not be judged by the color of its skin, but by the content of its character. The Torah does not require us to hate homosexuals, an act of which is categorized with a list of other impermissible actions. Hating a person is restricted to particular situations, such as a person who deliberately and brazenly expresses hatred of the Torah, although today's cynicism does not seem to fulfill that definition either. To make generalized statements about populations of people, if true and if not done with malicious intent, is not hatred. With effort it is possible to generate accurate evaluations of the behaviors of those around us, whether they be individuals or groups, without making the mistake of denigration.

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