Challenging Tradition, Young Jews Worship on Their Terms –

Posted on May 13, 2008


This post is just a reminder, for those who may be unaware, that all faiths are dealing with the challenges of changing times. This article in the, back in November, reports on the various intricacies of the “minyanim,” (מנינים) the Jewish equivalent to the Christian “emergent” congregation.

Here are some parallels that I find intriguing.

BUILDINGS AND BUDGET; LESS INSTITUTION, MORE COMMUNITY. Both minyanim and emergents prioritize the organic gathering of the faithful over the gathering place. Organizational or institutionalized religion is also a turn-off. Many reject hierarchical structures for a flatter authority scheme.

GENDER. Both are more widely accepting of progressive theologies and practices regarding sexuality and gender roles within the context of Torah and Gospel.

REDEMPTIVE MOVEMENT. I found this quote to be appropriately descriptive of both, “Members of the minyanim are looking for ‘redemptive, transformative experiences that give rhythm to their days and weeks and give meaning to their lives.’ ” Both of these communities are highly experiential, introducing a new kind of phenomenology to their respective faiths, one that is more of a “centered-set” rather than “closed-set.” [1]

YOUNGER, BUT NOT ALWAYS. Both find themselves dealing with a paradox of generation. While consisting of mostly younger adherents, each has older “sages” that help them along the way.

THE TENSION OF TRADITION. Both are desiring to uphold the “traditions” of their faith — the liturgies, rituals, celebrations, etc. — while shedding the pious “traditionalism” that has tainted the fullness and depth of its expression.

There are definitely other parallels, but this is just to whet the appetite. I’m working on a post on S3K (Synagogue 3000) which will share a bit more about the implications of all of these cultural evolutions. I believe that this tells us, not so much about each respective religion, but about the nature of faith itself. I also believe that we ought to listen carefully to the relationship between faith and culture in a way that honors the Creator of them both. And I believe this stance will help illuminate, strengthen, and make each come alive in a way that we only pray about.

[1] “Centered-set” simply states, in contradistinction from “closed-set,” that a participant is neither “outside” nor “inside” the boundaries of faith (such as a “believer” or “non-believer”), but rather someone who is either moving more towards the center of redemption, or further away. The image below is one way to graphically depict this idea.

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