Many people have had similar experiences – you are sitting at a wedding ceremony and as you are waiting for everyone to find their seats and the ceremony to start someone sits down next to you and begins a conversation. Or, you are visiting friends and someone you never met before starts to speak their mind. Take the dog for a walk and someone stops to play with the dog and unloads their innermost feelings. Well, it is a common experience for me and one that has been occurring with increasing frequency outside of my consultation room.
While every person has their own unique story the ones I have been hearing are increasingly familiar. I have heard stories of marriages gone bad and business failures and I still hear those but I am now more and more often hearing stories of religious coercion. Perhaps I have a certain look or some people recognize me and feel freer to unburden themselves. I have written about how meaningful orthodox beliefs have morphed into orthoprax stringent behaviors that may no longer represent true religion and people are showing signs of reacting.
This is particularly so for people in their mid 20’s to mid 30’s who choose to reveal themselves to me in open social settings. The stories are not about how expensive life is or how difficult finding a job has become or the problems associated with raising children or even politics, though all those topics do still come up. These young people, almost all from insular religious or haredi backgrounds are complaining about their limited life experiences, their poor education and the rigidity of their leaders. They are frustrated by the ever increasing restrictions that their community places on them and the burden their lifestyle has created. None of these strangers to me have spoken of leaving the fold but they do speak with a degree of vehemence and sense of entrapment I have not heard before. One young very upset husband told me that his wife went to a lecture on tznius, modesty and she came home with the notion that she can no longer wear perfume and should not use creams that are scented. Another man in his 40’s told me that his son was taught by his Rabbi that it is assur, forbidden to learn secular subjects and even if forced to he should only learn them to just get by. Still another said that his son was told that if he listens to popular music he will go deaf at a very early age. And a young man who is dating was told that he should not have more than one date every two weeks or it may “pollute” his mind.
While some of these specific narratives are new to me they are contortions of older tall tales that have been heard before. What is completely new is the frequency at which I am approached and unburdened to about them so I have decided to begin a collection of these “problems.” I am therefore asking you to tell me your problems, send me your stories of orthopraxy, where religious bullying and intimidation, the incidents that describe not true religion but those that focus on false beliefs and practice have become a concern or problem for you. Contact me through Facebook or Twitter below – maybe we can work to make religion more orthodox and less orthoprax again.