(photo credit: FACEBOOK SCREENSHOT)
A Rosh Hashana video in which Deputy Minister for Diplomacy in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren described himself as “weird,” has provoked some bemusement and ridicule on social media, along with a smattering of praise.
Oren uploaded the 18-minute message to his Facebook page just before Rosh Hashana on Sunday. Since then it has garnered more than 44,000 views and mostly-negative comments, alongside hundreds of shares and “likes.”
Many viewers expressed discomfort hearing Oren speak of his sense of religiosity when, as a child, he said to God, “What do you want from me? I am here to serve you, just let me know how I’m supposed to do that.”
Oren then criticized people and communities that claim God’s support for their political and social views, and called such claims antithetical to Judaism’s idea of ethical monotheism, and a form of “neo-paganism,” in which devotees expect God to embrace their own politics.
Neo-paganism is “the religion in which the God I worship is essentially myself,” Oren said, and added that such an approach was a challenge to religion and civilization.
“‘Why should I fight for the next guy,’ a neo-pagan is liable to say, ‘when he believes in a different God, different principles and ideals? Why should I support the weak when they do not believe as I do?’ Like-minded communities get smaller and smaller and the societies containing them become increasingly divided.”
Oren said societies with such an approach are unable to defend themselves because their citizens do not agree on what to defend. He went on to praise Israel as a “powerful antidote to neo-paganism,” and as a country that “shows how to balance tradition and modernity, security and freedom, exceptionalism and diversity, the love of one’s people and compassion for others.”
Despite the story’s generally upbeat tone, most comments on Oren’s awkward childhood attempts to communicate with God were negative. One quipped, “Michael, got news for you... YOU’RE STILL WEIRD!” Another took offense at the implication that morality must to be based on religion. “Thank you for implying without religion we wouldn’t know right from wrong,” he wrote. “Now I finally feel free as an atheist to kill and rape as much as I like!” One comment likened the video message to those of evangelical preachers: “I think Michael Oren has officially launched the born-again Jewish Evangelical movement. May God, however you understand it, help us all.”
The Washington Post Jerusalem Bureau Chief shared the video on his Facebook page alongside a list of what he considered the more scattershot ideas raised by Oren.
Not all feedback was negative, however, with one commenter saying “Well said Michael, from the heart and soul.” Another said, “BRAVO!!! I have never heard an active politician speak so thoroughly and deeply about the real dichotomy between liberal neo-paganism and any of the monotheistic religions!”