Whenever Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes, he invariably says some things which strike me as deeply insightful, and some which strike me as equally naive or distorted. His latest article in the Jerusalem Post about the dearth of values in modern society is no exception. When he complains about the high divorce rate, I have absolutely no idea why he includes that 3/4 of all divorces are initiated by women - I can't imagine why women initiating a divorce is any worse then men doing so. And, when he claims that 40% of Americans now claim that marriage is obsolete, and that 70% of straight couples opt to cohabitate rather than marry*, I wonder where he's getting these facts.
*I'll bet that the stat actually includes those who cohabitate before marriage, not just instead of marriage.
But, I try to see past all of that, and appreciate his main point:
WHAT WENT wrong? My Christian brothers and social conservatives adopted a narrow definition of values that centered almost exclusively on opposition to gay marriage and abortion, to the exclusion of virtually everything else. Gone was any discussion of civic virtue, of quiet acts of selflessness being superior to publicity stunts, of thrift over consumption and time with family over time at the mall.
There is not one set of "values issues" out there. And, ignoring the fact that my own support of (for example) same-sex marriage is very much a values-issue, anyone who claims to be concerned with values but is only focussed on the two or three hot-button issues out there shouldn't be taken too seriously.
Over the past few weeks the nation has watched the Grammies and Academy Awards without one public call for an awards ceremony for soldiers earning a Purple Heart or the Medal of Honor. Nor have we heard any call for a year of community service for all high-school graduates to combat the growing narcissism of our youth.
As he says, why do we fixate on the relatively small portion of the population which happens to be homosexual, while ignoring incredibly important issues like those?
If social conservatives really want to strengthen the family, they would propose legislation making marital counseling tax-deductible.
Hey - if you're for lower taxes and family values, that one seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it?
Let's face it. More or less, we're all values-oriented. Let's start making sure that we're focussing on the values that will have the largest impact on our society.