Guest blogger: Michael Berkowitz
The symbolic fight over religion has spilled from the churches to the schools, public meetings, market place and even into the cinema. Superstition seems at high tide. Everyone knows how their imaginary friend “God” would support their causes.
Movies like Heaven is Real, Son of God, and God is Not Dead trumpet the triumph of Christian religion. The United States Supreme Court rolls back Constitutional separation of church and state. Evangelicals mob the media suffusing daily life with a constant diet of rigid Jeremiahs, condemning social change and critical thinking.
Against this backdrop, it was a joy to encounter Rabbi Stephen Fuchs’ What’s in it for Me? Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives. Rabbi Fuchs has given us a refreshing, practical application of how biblical stories may help us deal with the 21st Century. Fuchs goes beyond the literalists battle over truth and historicity to mine these legends for the purpose that more enlightened elders used them: to help organize and inform daily life.
Rabbi Fuchs employs the biblical stories with wisdom, compassion and even humor to gently prod us along a path to better life. More than most contemporaries, he has grasped the essence of faith as a life affirming way to achieve social change. In bright, crisp, direct prose, Rabbi Fuchs shows how such belief may “make the world a better place.” As he says, “The biblical narratives I elucidate relate to this central idea. These narratives can enrich all of our lives whether we see ourselves as religious or not.”
The chapters refreshingly confront us with the issues from these timeless stories: “Eden: Would You Want to Live There?” “Joseph: A Model for Change,” “Slavery: Sensitized for Suffering,” “Six Women Heroes: Where Would We Be Without Them,” “Moses: He Answered the Call to Conscience: Will We?” Fuchs even deals with the issue of non-belief without patronizing or denigrating the non-believers. In his chapter, “What If I Don’t Believe in God?” he reiterates the biblical message that meritorious action is more important even than belief.
Clearly and precisely, this good book goes right to the actual purpose of the older Good Book, making it a useful tool in our lives. Rabbi Fuchs has done us a great service by his thoughtful interpretation and action-oriented guide to the morality of social change.