I wrote this post about a month ago, but decided not to post at the time. I stored it at a corner in one of the warehouses of the Frum Factory. Tonight, I was in the mood of posting, so this rant was dusted off, adapted to reflect current events, and posted.
The history of the United States is speckled with paradox. Most notorious is the conflict within the man who composed the inspirational verse that all men are created equal, yet was a slave master himself. As Dr. King pointed out, after four score and seven years, plus five score later the Negro still was not free.
I always found the Puritan way of life to be bitterly ironic and psychologically perplexing. How could victims of harassment at home introduce it to the New World? How could heroes who endured persecution on their own hide by the establishment create the institutions that would inflict the very same persecution on others? How could brave men infused with the spirit of freethinking and the valor to defend their beliefs against a tyrant succumb to the temptations of repression and intolerance?
Perhaps years of shuffling in exile bowing heads to others drove them to establish a colony where they, and they only, make the rules? Perhaps the whiff of ownership intoxicated the pilgrims whose perceptions were accustomed to a sense of not belonging? Perhaps in order to protect their faith from unfavorable laws they enacted such laws against the Quakers in a subconscious defense mechanism? The Puritans were a moral failure. They failed to weed their hearts of bigotry and hatred, but instead turned the hate against anything non-Anglican.
Orthodox Judaism in general and Hassidic culture in particular is repressive. Freethinking is overtly discouraged. The Talmud catalogs certain philosophical fields as thought-restricted. Not too long ago, my Hassidic sect was shrouded in inquisitorial terror. People accused of inconformity with the spiritual leadership were excommunicated, physically assaulted, and their property damaged. Hassidim are not allowed to say what they think, for they are not supposed to think that way in the first place.
None of this is new or different to a seasoned blog reader, but how disappointing is it when refugees of oppression share the same outlook with their oppressors.
Haven, Not Heaven is a blog for former religious Jews—strictly. Its implied mission statement is to provide a haven to OTDs for philosophical discussion, leisure chat, and inspirational support free from the nagging remarks and challenging arguments presented by soul-saving commenters. The Havemen make it clear they are not trying to avoid debate. Many Havemen hold public blogs open for theological discussion. But Not Heaven is precisely that: Heaven; a utopia where everything is agreeable, friendly, and pleasant.
The disturbing thing about HNH is its criteria of admission. Applicants must declare their disaffiliation to God, Torah, and observing Jews. But Associate status is not guaranteed with the oath of admission alone. Hopefuls still have to prove their OTDness. They may have to check in on the Sabbath or submit an essay that manifests high levels of heresy. Even when admission is granted, poor heretic has yet to reach the Promised Land. Imagine the horror with which Havemen of low caste have to cope. They must constantly guard their language lest their words are misconstrued as pro-God and they will be kicked from the Haven.
McCarthyism, anyone? The Salem witch hunts? Torquemada?
Torquemada! That’s a home run.
When summonsed before the Inquisition, the accused was asked to enumerate all known enemies. If a name given matched with a name on the witness list, the inquisitor had to discredit the testimony given by that witness. This was the sole opportunity of defense for the accused. HNH detectives apply the same methods of interrogation. First impression is all that matters. No indictment; No cross examinations; no due process.
One might wonder why they are so defensive. Granted a person is not as atheistic as the rest. Granted he or she is not as God hating, as religion bashing; just a semi-heretic. Why the rejection? Why resort to the tactics of the Hassidic fear-mongers? Is it the same warped psychology that has driven the Puritans nuts? Are these actions fueled by retaliatory feelings? This is our place; here we will give the frummies what they deserve.
No. This place is different. This place is held to a higher standard. This place is where freedom of speech is cherished. Don’t defeat the purpose. I have a dream that one day HNH will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: A safe place. I have a dream that one day bloggers will not be judged by their beliefs but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.
By executive order, President Obama has shown that we cannot defend the values of liberty by not living out to those values. Let the Havemen show that freedom of expression cannot be gained by stifling it.
Don’t turn your haven into a hive and your non-heaven into burning hell.