Rabbi Perry Raphael Rank, the president of the Rabbinical Assembly of America, the Conservative rabbi's Union, wrote a column for the Fall 2004 edition of the United Synagogue Review, an in-house rag sent to the Conservative laity in North America. This article was at such a shallow intellectual level, I wonder how Rabbi Rank could have risen in the "ranks" (pardon the pun) of the Conservative Rabbinate. His basic thesis is that Conservative Judaism will die out in 20 years unless Conservative Jews adopt orthodox theology. Well, of course, Rabbi Rank might have a personal interest in how many Jews affiliate with the Conservative movement in 20 years because, after all, someone has to pay into the Rabbi's Retirement Fund. But Rabbi Rank's views are sentimentalistic, guilt-tripping, and inconsistent, not the best way to attract and keep members.
Here's a link to the original article:
But don't take my work for it, here it is in his own words (with some commentary by yours truly in italics):
There is another statistic that the Jewish community must ponder these days,
and that is the number of children who will receive no religious education. The statistics are interesting. They show growth in the area of Reform Judaism, but they also show growth in zero Judaism – that is, Jews who feel no need to identify with any one denomination or give their children any religious education. What is that all about?
What it is, is secularism. Secularism is an approach to life in which God is, at best, marginal if not completely absent from the way in which we arrive at our decisions and our moral posturing. God’s chosen have become a profoundly secular group. That is not to say that we are atheists, but even when we believe in God, the belief does not manifest itself in any practical, measurable way
Secularism – It is not a problem for Conservative Judaism that those who wish not to affiliate with a Jewish religious denomination are infected with secularism. If there's a problem for Conservative Judaism, it's that the people who do affiliate with the Conservative movement are mostly secularists, whereas the rabbis have a philosophy that's closer to Orthodoxy. This problem could be solved by changing the attitude of either the rabbinic leadership or the lay membership.
. . .
The root problem is a way of looking at life that has rendered God marginal.
. . . The French Revolution, and, more generally, the Enlightenment, brought with it the doctrine that all men are equal, and even the people who heretofore had been very unequal, like the Jews, had to be treated equally.
This was a big problem for Christian Europe. However hostile the landscape, Jews sought to make integration a reality through accommodation.
We were deemed cliquish, so we abandoned Jewish nationhood.
We were dismissed as uncultured, so we became prominent supporters of the arts.
We were thought of as linguistically challenged, so we shunned Yiddish.
And since we were hell-bound due to our Judaism, we exercised various options in getting “undamned.”
One option was to convert to Christianity.
Another option was to reform Judaism to render it acceptable to the Gentile world.
And one option was to opt out entirely
In order to secure our future as Conservative Jews, we have to reclaim our Jewishness with vigor. We need not abandon secularism, but we must take charge of it.
Most Jews who belong to our synagogues believe in God, but it is most likely the God of Newton, Einstein, and Watson
It is a God Who has set up the universe but does not intervene in its workings;
a God Who commands all people, but not One Who commands Jews.
a God Who may be out there somewhere, but not One Who is right here, right now.
In order to reclaim the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
the God Who took us out of the House of Bondage,
we must abandon three dangerous theological myths.
The first is belief in a God who utters only universal truths but cannot speak to Jews in particular.
This is a repetition of the theme that the God of Newton must be abandoned.
The second damaging theological myth is the accusation that God is uninvolved in our lives.
Another screed against the God of Newton, what makes this one any different from the first "myth?"
Unfortunately, it’s the abuse of freedom that forever reminds us just how free we are. We are free to abuse God’s home and God’s creatures. It is Torah that teaches us to make better choices.
We may be angry with God, but when we curse God, we do irreparable damage to Judaism. Through our curses of God, we, in a sense, render God impotent. By rendering God impotent, we make God irrelevant. By making God irrelevant, we undermine the entire foundation of mitzvot upon which Conservative Judaism rests
The third damaging theological myth is that God does not care about our ritual lives.