Rabbi Shmuley Unleashed

Rabbi Shmuley Unleashed

Religion’s Summer of Discontent

Word on the street is that the bomb placed in Times Square, near the

headquarters of Viacom, which owns Comedy Central, may be in response to a South Park episode that portrayed the prophet Muhammad in a bear costume. If true, and some fanatical Muslims believe that people ought to die because of a couple of jokes on a TV show, then it’s another nail in the coffin of the public’s respect for the usefulness of religion.


Indeed, this is religion’s summer of discontent. Humankind’s most

powerful impulse, to approach the divine, is being undermined by the
directionlessness of today’s great faiths. From ongoing violence in the name of Islam, which is the most serious of all modern religious sins, to priestly
pedophilia, to the evangelical fixation on gay marriage to the near exclusion
of everything else, to Judaism’s impotence in purging materialism from its
community, mainstream religion is being discredited, becoming increasingly
irrelevant to the lives of modern men and women.


The main reason for the deterioration of modern faith is not its sins
of commission, but its sins of omission. People can forgive scandal in religion
so long as, the rest of the time, religion guides and inspires them. But
secular people today see religion’s main goal today as self-perpetuation, more
concerned with its timeless institutions than with the pressing needs of its

Last week I met with Pope Benedict in Rome after his Wednesday
audience, arranged by Gary Krupp of the Pave the Way Foundation. The substance
of the meeting received significant media play because of what I asked of the
Pope. In essence, I pressed the pontiff, who graciously received me, to join in
creating a global family dinner night on Fridays, something we have already
begun with our ‘Turn Friday Night Into Family Night’ initiative. I presented
the Pope with a dual-time Phillip Stein watch and told him it was set to the
time zones of Rome and Jerusalem, signifying my desire to have him focus on
Israel and the threat the Jewish people face from Iran who, with openly seek to
wipe Israel off the map. And second, the dual clock face is symbolic of my
request that he take the lead in our global campaign by calling upon all the
world’s parents to give their children two uninterrupted hours every Friday
night, inviting two guests, and discussing two important subjects with their


He nodded his assent and repeated twice, ‘We will work together.’


When the papal meeting was over we met with Walter Cardinal Casper,
President of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity. I continued my pitch,
now with the Cardinal, for the importance of the worldwide Church partnering
with us to create an international family dinner night. The Cardinal, a close
friend of Pope Benedict for more than forty years, strongly endorsed the idea
and related his memories of family dinners with his own parents.


I made the case to the Cardinal that the pedophile priest scandal had
significantly undermined the Church’s standing as a champion of family. Many
influential American commentators were now skewering the Church for being an
all-boys club, run by men who do not marry and who had, in the imagination of
some, been prepared to sacrifice the welfare of children in order to protect the
reputation of the Church. What better way to reverse this perception than to
use the full power and reputation of the Church to address children’s core
needs, namely, receiving the love and attention of parents.

Would this not be a new and positive narrative of the Catholic Church
as a champion of family, giving productive and useful advice as to how to
reinvigorate the parent-child bond?


There are two kinds of children. One who receives time and love from
their parent as a gift, and the other who receives it, if at all, as something
that must be earned. The former grows up steady and sturdy like a cedar,
fortified by the ongoing validation given to him by doting parents. The other
becomes a crowd-pleaser, riddled with insecurities, always feeling that there
is nothing especially worthy about him and that he needs to perform and produce
in order to become special. I asked the Cardinal to help us populate the world
with the first kind of child.

Within the Vatican hierarchy I encountered priests who were all-too-eager
to discuss the current controversies facing the Church and who understood the
need for the Church to re-emerge as a global champion of family. With the
Church operating the world’s largest network of schools, hospitals, and
orphanages, it is crucial that it also reach everyday mothers and fathers who
are struggling to raise purposeful children in a world that celebrates
narcissism and fame.


For many people religion offers ritual but no wisdom, dogma but
practically no self-help. And all the splendors of the Vatican will not save
the Church from being anything other than a wonderful tourist destination if it
doesn’t take the initiative and teach people to master life.


The irrelevance of modern religion is something being felt worldwide.
Europeans especially have no time for religion. Secular Israelis feel the same.
Religion for them is a form of OCD, forever concerned with meaningless minutiae
while life’s larger issues remain unaddressed. In Israel religion is viewed as
a parasite, living off the hard work of the secular people who built the state.
Religion is the Yeshiva which teaches meaningless texts while refusing to serve
in the army.


But if religion is inevitably destined to be consigned by modern
Westerners to the ranks of the useless, then why are sophisticated and highly
educated people turning in their tens of millions to the Dalai Lama as their
hero? It remains a striking phenomenon that people who work on Wall Street and
go to Harvard believe in a man who dresses in a sheet and believes he is the
incarnation of earlier spiritual teachers. The reason: the Dalai Lama addresses
modernity’s greatest problem. We’re sinking in a morass of materialism that is
suffocating our spirit and he shows you the way out.

The Pope has the largest microphone to the world and with it the
greatest opportunity to heal marriages which are struggling to remain intact
and children who are in pain over lovelessness and neglect. An international
family dinner night would be a huge step toward religion becoming vital again
and toward the Catholic Church being seen in its true light, as a faith that is
focused on protecting children and cherishing family.


Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is founder of This World: The Values Network. On
May 14
th he will publish Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life. Go to
to sign up your family as part of a global dinner initiative.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


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Terri Kayden

Director of Communications for Rabbi Shmuley
201-221-3333 (office)
845-709-0711 (cell)

Comments read comments(6)
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posted May 3, 2010 at 1:29 pm

You’re bright guy, Rabbi. If it’s true that people around the world are feeling betrayed by religious bureacracies, by minutiae instead of meaning, by fanaticism and dogmatism, then do some thinking about how religion can regain its attraction to the masses of the people of the earth.
There are millions around the world who want to bellieve in something larger than themselves. But we never get to hear from them in the media. What we get in the media is scandal, hatred, car bombs–in other words, the usual about dog bites man. How do we get the media to report about the millions who quietly believe and practice–in other words, reporting about the dog who didn’t bark. Maybe that would be the beginning of the return of people to their God and their religion.

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posted May 3, 2010 at 2:54 pm

The dinner night is a fine idea, but it will not even begin to scratch the surface toward redeeming the church’s credibility. It would be more of the sort of window dressing the Vatican likes to bring out to distract people from the need for true reform.
Their image problem is not due to a dearth of good PR initiatives. People perceive them as corrupt and perverse because they have a long and unmitigated record of doing corrupt and perverse things. Not failings of well meaning folks. Tens of thousands of predatory crimes against children. They have never demonstrated real remorse or taken any steps to correct it which were not forced by courts or civil authorities. The pope and bishops cannot bring people closer to God because they themselves believe in nothing more than their own power and privilege. The man you spoke to has no more moral standing or inclination to foster your vision than would a tobacco industry lobbyist or Charles Manson.
He met with you because it’s good PR. They have no more core respect for Judaism than they did in 1510, but in 2010, it’s not cool to be openly anti-Semitic anymore, so…smile for the picture with the Rabbi. This problem is not unique to Catholicism by any means. It arises inevitably when you have a caste of men who act as the intermediaries between the divine and ordinary people. It creates a climate of the perfect conditions for abuse of power, and it will happen 100 percent of the time so long as people are foolish enough to place godlike faith in other humans.

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Bill Henson

posted May 3, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I just want to strenuously object to Boteach’s column title, in which he describes himself as “America’s rabbi”.
As an American Jew, I want to categorically refute the notion that Boteach is a rabbi or spiritual leader in the eyes of anyone in the American Jewish community other than Mr. Boteach himself. Rather, Mr. Boteach, who seeks out the limelight to preach his personal brand of for-profit sanctimony, is at odds with the particular hasidic group that once bestowed the honorific “rabbi” on him, and is more an embarrassment than a moral compass to the American Jewish community at large.
I don’t begrudge Mr. Boteach his rights to free speech and to make a living, but I do resent his over-the-top, in-your-face representation of himself and his largely non-Jewish ideas as enjoying a leadership position over me and my community.
(NOTE: I posted this comment yesterday to the previous Boteach blog entry, but am resubmitting it here since it’s doubtful it will be read there now that a new essay has been loaded on the site.)

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J. Wiesenfeld

posted May 4, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Bill Henson is spot on! “America’s Rabbi” my tuchus.
Rabbi Boteach -the only person ever to be expelled from Chabad-
is a slick-talking huckster. It is clergy like him who give religion its bad name today.

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posted May 10, 2010 at 7:47 am

Learn quran online at home and quran learning with tajweed. Read Quran learning classes for kids, muslims from online quran tutor. 1 week Free Trial learn quran

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Learn Quran Online

posted November 9, 2010 at 4:25 am

Quran guide us towards nature and show us the path where we all are one. Quran teach us how we can change our individual thinking into collective thinking so that peace prevail in our society.

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