A Rabbi Walks into the Vatican and Shares Some Poetic Theology of Love

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November 20, 2014 by Alex Johannigman

humanum_screen_shot-255x255I was really excited when I first heard about the Humanum Conference, both because it was going to cover marriage and gender, a topic that (as a self described ToBsessive Catholic) I find really interesting and in need of discussion, and also because it was going to be a truly ecumenical gathering, brining in voices from the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim worlds.

Although I doubt I’ll find the time to read up on everything that was said during the conference which concluded yesterday, I’ve been hearing a lot of great things being said about the presentation given by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the retired Chief Rabbi of the UK and the Commonwealth, so I decided to start by watching his speech. I was very impressed by what he added to the conversation. One of the things I admire most about the Jewish faith is how poetic a lot of their theology is. Rather than speak about all the problems that the modern definition of marriage has (the chaos and confusion, high divorce rates, infidelity, abortion and contraception, ignoring of gender, etc.), he discusses why marriage as it has been understood throughout history is so beautiful and necessary.

If you have the time, you should absolutely check out the highlights or the full video but if you only have a couple minutes, here are some of my favorite quotes (Thanks to blogger AskTheBigot for pulling all of these out on her recent post on the conference. I only added a little bit.):

7.5x4.75 inch b&w r05 draft 01.indd“Some cultures teach that we are nothing. Others teach that we are everything. But the Jewish view is we are half and we must open ourselves to another if we are to become whole… In Judaism, faith is a marriage.”

“What made the traditional family remarkable is what it brought together. And what it brought together was sexual drive, physical desire, friendship, companionship, emotional kinship and love, the begetting of children, their protection and care, their early education, their induction into an identity and a history. Seldom has any institution woven together so many different drives and desires, so many different roles and responsibilities. It made sense of the world and gave it a human face. The face of love.”

“Almost everything which marriage once brought together has been split apart. Sex has been divorced from love, love has been divorced from commitment, marriage has been separated from having children, and having children has been separated from responsibility for their care.”

“The injustice of it all. The children who are deprived of these things, cry out to heaven.”

“It will go down in history, the western abandonment of marriage, as one of the tragic instances of what Fredrick Hayek called the “fatal conceit.” That somehow we know better than the wisdom of the ages and can defy the lessons of history. No one surely wants to go back to the narrow prejudices of the past, but our compassion for those who choose to live differently should not inhibit us for being advocates for the single most humanizing institution in history.”

“And so it has been ever since, that when a man and woman turn to one another in a bond of faithfulness God robes them in garments of light. And we come as close as we will ever get to God himself, bringing new life into being. Turning the prose of biology into the poetry of the human spirit, and redeeming the darkness of the world by the radiance of love.”


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