A Layman’s View of the Critical Theory -- By: Herbert William Magoun
BSac 70:278 (April 1913) p. 202
A Layman’s View of the Critical Theory
It is proverbial that the Occident cannot understand the Orient. Human nature is the same the world over; but viewpoint differs so widely that the same environment actually produces diametrically opposite results in persons of different races. It has even been claimed that a Chinaman has been known to hang himself in his neighbor’s well to satisfy a grudge, because he thought that his spirit would thus be set free and he could then hound the offender to a speedy destruction. Whether any truth is to be looked for in this statement or not, is, in this connection, a matter of comparatively little importance; for, whatever the facts may be, the story illustrates a fundamental difference in the character of the Oriental and Occidental minds, and it does so admirably.
To all intents and purposes, the Jew is an oriental. He is a Semite and he has a Semite’s peculiarities. His eastern proclivities persist even in a western environment, and it often requires a residence of several generations with a free occidental people to eradicate certain distinctive characteristics that cling to his personality as a mark of heredity. Among these is a curious conservatism which makes him devotedly faithful to various forms and ceremonies long after he has ceased to attach any real importance to them in his
BSac 70:278 (April 1913) p. 203
daily life. He will observe his own Sabbath carefully until sundown, but he is not above securing a gentile partner to keep the business in active operation on that day. In some places the practical result has been a seven-day business week instead of a six-day one. But if the Jew really loved his Sabbath, he would not wish to have it broken even by a gentile. Its sacredness, therefore, must be external rather than internal, where such practices are in vogue; and conservatism, or possibly superstition, furnishes, in all probability, the dominant motive for his conduct.
The same characteristic is also shown in another way; for it is plainly back of the persistence with which Rabbis cling to the outward forms of Jewish worship even after they have surrendered themselves to a thoroughgoing rationalism. It matters little that their idea of God has undergone such a change that he is no longer a person and survives in their thought merely as a governing principle or ethical force; for the old forms are retained, outwardly at least, and they continue to be observed with a punctiliousness worthy of a deeper and a truer conviction. Religious ideas change with the lapse of years; but religious forms and formulas, especially among orientals, tend to persist without alteration down through the ages.
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