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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Chief Rabbi speaks up for family values

Jonathan Sacks (Lord Sacks of Aldgate), the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, has caused a stir with his lecture last week to Theos, the "Public Theology think Tank". Here are links to two articles from the broadsheets:

Telegraph Jonathan Sacks's solution to family breakdown

Falling birth rate is killing Europe, says chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks

The complete text of the lecture has been posted as a Word Document: Lord Sacks 2009. Here is the passage that drew most attention, I think:
Parenthood involves massive sacrifice: of money, attention, time and emotional energy. Where today, in European culture with its consumerism and its instant gratification ‘because you’re worth it’, in that culture, where will you find space for the concept of sacrifice for the sake of generations not yet born? Europe, at least the indigenous population of Europe, is dying, exactly as Polybius said about ancient Greece in the third pre-Christian century. The century that is intellectually the closest to our own – the century of the sceptics and the epicureans and the cynics. Polybius wrote this:

"The fact is, that the people of Hellas had entered upon the false path of ostentation, avarice and laziness, and were therefore becoming unwilling to marry, or if they did marry, to bring up the children born to them; the majority were only willing to bring up at most one or two."

That is why Greece died. That is where Europe is today.
Later, Chief Rabbi Sacks summarises two reasons why religion is essential to the freedom that we take for granted:
Tocqueville was right: the place of religion is in civil society where it achieves many things essential to liberal democratic freedom, but two in particular: Number one, it sanctifies marriage and the family and the obligations of parenthood; and number two, it safeguards the non-relativist moral principles on which Western freedom is based.
In his lecture he referred to his recent book "The Home We Build Together" which looks quite good:

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