Big tent Orthodoxy or old-time Big tent Judaism in the works?

There is an upcoming conference that will discuss “Big Tent Christianity.” In the 1980’s and 1990’s everyone loved boxes. People fit themselves into boxes and they fit others into boxes. Now there is a feeling of lots of lines crossed and that there can be a big tent religion again like in the1950’s. Lines between denominations are more fluid. In addition, mystic and rationalist, social activist, and those who want a return to the medieval or are more vision centered than denominational now feel they dont like the institutional boundaries. If there was a Conference on “Big Tent Judaism,” would people come? probably

Who would speak? Not those who are branded by a specific slice of the pie. Who is cross denominational? The Left side of Orthodoxy is clearly labeled as narrow and denominational. Who are the boundary crossers? How many are Rabbis? How many Academics? How many psychologists or journalists?

Limmud -NY attracts pluralists of all denominations – How would a big tent conference be different? Is there interest in creating a big tent and taking down walls? Or will Jews be against it and will only do it 4-5 years after the Evangelicals, Catholics, and Mainliners change? So is this the jewish trend for a decade from now?

Apparently, the next big thing on the agenda for some in the movement is a conference that will be held in Raleigh, NC on September 8-9, 2010, called “Big Tent Christianity.”
There’s a new ethos emerging. It’s a Christian identity that hasn’t fully discovered itself yet, but knows it doesn’t fit in a lot of the standard categories…
…What happens if you’re a fundamentalist who starts asking questions, or an Evangelical who is tired of having to defend yourself from a fractious right flank, or a mainliner who dreams of a faith that is more mission-driven than institution-bound, or a Catholic who has more affinity with St. Francis and Mother Teresa than Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, or an Eastern Orthodox who wants to share their ancient treasures and receive gifts from other newer traditions too?

I think some folks – not all, of course – who know they don’t fit in with these established spaces are seeking a more expansive and open space – to think and dream together, pray and worship together, serve and reach out together. The “big tent” image works beautifully for this because it evokes both the American revivalist phenomenon of the Pentecostal tent meeting and the more “liberal” sense of hospitality and welcome.
Is Emerging moving toward a “new ecumenical movement”? Is that the next step? And how “Big” is this “Big Tent”?
full version here

In the same entry- there is a question- What is happening to the emergent Christians who broke from the Evangelicals? Answer- some are becoming liberal, others are returning to their Orthodox base, and some are actually still trying for new expansive visions.

“Some emerging Christians will become mainline liberals (or progressives as many prefer to be called now), some will retreat a bit by assuming their old seats in evangelical churches, and others will continue to impact the evangelical movement in a missional or expansive, robust gospel direction.”

11 responses to “Big tent Orthodoxy or old-time Big tent Judaism in the works?

  1. avraham rosenblum

    Everything that happens in the Christian world gets adopted by the Jewish world (E.g. the division between the Christian Chasidim (called pietists) versus the enlightenment in the 1600’s got translated in Jewish terms in the haskala verses the Chasidim in the late 1700’s) Matin Luthers individualism got translated into Rebbi Nachman individualism. Hegel and Nietzsche have so much affected Jewish thought today that Rav Kook adopted them in their entirety (just he substituted the centrality of Christianity in Hegel to a central place for Judaism). Even the Chasidic world view has been borrowed almost entirely from Nietzsche and Freud with the centrality sex and power occupying their thoughts constantly. Halacha is relevant only in so far as ritual. But for the inner soul OJ is no longer compelled by the vision of the Rambam or other rishonim.

    Little in charedi hashkafa stems from musar or the philosophy of the rambam or other rishonim. In fact the philosophy of the rambam has been banned in its entity.
    Even rabbi nachman’s hisbodadut was borrowed from Brother Lawrence.

  2. Even rabbi nachman’s hisbodadut was borrowed from Brother Lawrence.

    You would have to prove this.

  3. I would vote for Old Time Big Tent Judaism. We can disagree vehemently with each other about issues, but Ahavas Yisrael is Black Letter Halacha.

  4. avraham rosenblum

    I retract on the hitbodadut. I got carried way. rebbi nachman does borrow plenty of ideas but when he does he does so in such an original fresh startling way that he is the last person I could have cast aspersions on. No. I was wrong and you are right about rebbi nachman. And especially in the hitbodadut he seems clear he was heavily involved in it even as a child when he had no chance to have heard about Brother Lawrence. Rather it does seem he had heard about the special emphasis on prayer by the besht and translated that into his own personal service even when very young.

  5. mr. rosenbloom-

    you have expressed this sentiment on several occaisons. can you please explain why this notion of expropriation is so problematic for you? even the rishonim borrowed and adapted after all. the gemarra too. It is not as if this is unique either, christianity and islam also borrowed extensively from both jewish sources and from their surrounding cultures. Why should judaism be regarded differently in this arena? If i may presume (and correct me if i am wrong) is it about wanting an original and distinct content-essence of judaism? if it is, i (respectfully) think you might be looking in the wrong place. Outside of tanakh, I think the real contribution judaism has to offer is its form, not its specific content: concepts like the importance of deeds over internal experiences and beliefs, dialogue/dialectic in which even opposing viewpoints are viewed as being equally valid (elu v’elu these are over arching values that the world community has yet to adopt and which it sorely needs….. also, i think this view of judaism, as a work in progress and as a form rather than a content would do much to enable the sort of boundary breaking the “big tent” ethos promises

  6. avraham rosenblum

    kevin rothman
    What bothers me is that we have original thinkers (gemara rambam rebbi nachman, the arizal) and they are often pushed out for hackers, second rate books or rearrangements of Kabalistic concepts with some emphasis on some present day pseudo rebbi mixed in.
    It seems to me that what is fresh and original and important in torah is ignored.

  7. i entirely hear what you are saying with respect to the quality of books put out for a popular audience today. I am with you there. But :
    1) books put out for a popular audience were always of a low calibur. in europe it was story books, midrashic adaptations, and techinos. most jewish men never went past cheder; they were certainly not going to be reading moreh nevuchim. The high calibur work was addressed to the intellectual elite. I think high calibur work is still being produced; however, it is, as it was, not directed to a popular audience.
    2) what I am trying to get at more is that the original/unoriginal distinction you are drawing does not seem to me very useful because the authors you mention also borrowed a great deal, either directly or indirectly. Why is the question coopting other work and not the sophistication and nuance of that cooption? The problem with the sort of literature you find problematic is its utter lack of both. thew writers you approve of, however, approach their sources with both.

    but this is a totally different discussion than the question of cooption itself.

  8. avraham rosenblum

    Fine maybe I worked up the originality thing too much. But I did not overdo the importance of distinguishing between great books and second hand hackers.
    But furthermore, originality and quality tend to go together. Sure Reason and faith is an old Jewish theme but is there any relation between the approach of Philo and that of the Rambam? Clearly the Rambam in his approach was both original and had quality.
    Hey and if someone wants to borrow from the STATE AS THE DIVINE IDEA ON EARTH (Hegel) I think that if they would at least state the source that might lead to a more balanced approach. The way I see it is the adding nationalism to Torah did not do anyone any favors. (You can be loyal to a State without nationalism–but then the state has got to stand for something.)
    And also as you might have guessed, I am not thrilled with Hegel. I am tired of authoritarian systems. Does no one else notice that rabbis are trying to generate enough power to rule over us.

  9. I found it interesting that our rabbi, in his sermon today, invoked Rav Kook’s stance toward the secular Jews who founded the State of Israel. Because they readily identified themselves as part of the Jewish nation, Rav Kook said that they were subsumed in the greater Jewish whole, despite their lack of religiousity.

    Was this an attempt to sensitize the MO community to “Big Tent” possibilities, or was he simply trying to promote ahavat Yisrael?

  10. I am with you on hegel. I do not like him either… at all. I also think that there is a power play going on in the relationship between orthodoxy and the rabbinate. However, I dont agree that the relationship between the generation we are talking about and hegel is about power per se. I think it is about trying to present an alternative narrative to the deeply antisemetic nature of hegel’s thought. this is precisely why krochmal wrote his moreh nevuchei hazeman and, I think, implicit in kooks writing as well. It is also, in my opinion, a motivating factor behind rosenzweig’s writing: eg. the whole topic of blood is a way of reversing hegel’s metaphysics of eating, blood, and vitality, from which jews were excluded. I think that the flip that each of these authors does, making jews superior in some manner is shallow, but, again, undertandable in context. … a good question would be how antisemetism has shaped the nature of jewish theology and how that effects communal leadership structures (eg. does adopting defensively reversed totalitarian schemas contribute to the formation of totalitarian institutions?)

    originality – true, there are great differences btwn philo and rambam but this is not b/c each did not borrow heavily from their cultural environment and adapt. it is because philo was a platonist and rambam was primarily an aristotelian (i know, i know, there is a lot of neoplatonism in his writings as well, but i am speaking generally)

    yes, there is a great difference between great books and forgettable ones, though, again, these emerge from a tradition that informs them. they are not pure originals

    i agree nationalism did nothing for torah
    agreed citing sources and dealing with borrowed ideas explicitely is better than not.

  11. avraham rosenblum

    I think OJ and the rabanut is all about power.
    (yet I do like the idea that they give vigorous rigorous exams for the rabanut and daynut–that at least takes care of the problem of all the American pseudo rabbis that know nothing but pretend to be talmidai chachamim.)

    P.S.– Rosensweig and his “Point in Time” (Har Sinai come directly from Hegel) and Marx also used the theme (the special point in Time) to defend his triumph of the workers of the world. What a joke. But OK besides that rosenzweig does look to me (from just a brief look) pretty good–not just borrowing ideas but originating good and powerful ideas. (I have heard that Levinas at Hewbrew U. showed that the rosensweig is rigorous).
    And as for borrowing from Hegel–I don’t think it is bad to be influenced by great thinkers –but if Kant or Rambam or Rebbi Nachman were around why go to Hegel? OK there were plenty of dumb schools of thought founded on Kant but at least Kant is logically dealing with the issues and does offer some possible solutions. On the other hand Hegel spouts out ideas and offers mumbo jumbo logic to support them. He almost sounds like a Rosh yeshiva. Fine he has got what looks like a powerful system but from where I come from you have got to have rigorous logic to support your statements (or if you don’t have that then at least make it clear you are just saying your opinion. Hegel does not have rigorous logic to support himself and yet often tries to pretend that he does.) And there is no question that authoritarians love Hegel.
    My perception of Rav Kook is that people that go with his thought really can’t admit he was borrowing from Hegel because that would imply that Jews did not think of everything and that would be absurd as we all know.
    Personally I have great respect for Mizrachi. Their balanced approach seems to me to be right on the mark. But the nationalism is like venom that seems to be draining the movement of it vitality and spirit.
    At any rate I don’t see it as a bad thing to be influenced by powerful thinkers–just I think people ought to use a little good judgment in which great thinkers they want to be influenced by. The Rambam was absolutely up front from exactly where he was getting his ideas from without the slightest embarrassment. Why can’t we at least emulate his example?

    Kevin Rothman I think that the flip that each of these authors does, making jews superior in some manner is shallow, but, again, undertandable in context. … a good question would be how antisemetism has shaped the nature of jewish theology and how that effects communal leadership structures (eg. does adopting defensively reversed totalitarian schemas contribute to the formation of totalitarian institutions?)
    Jewish theology tends to be a reaction to stuff going on around us. All excuses or the like.
    So why waste time on it? Open a Gemara and get a little Gemara rashi tosphot in and you have got quality thought –as opposed to all the other nonsense out there. It is not that I don’t think philosophy or politics is not important but then learn from the pro—Plato Aristotle Rambam etc. Not from all the modern noise. I mean why spend a nano second listening to a rabbi talk when you could be opening up a Gemara or a Arizal???
    And Rabbis that like power? Hey what is new? The dog bit the cat!

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