Flight Attendants and Maimonides

As I sit here in seat 7D about 32,000 feet above the North Pacific, I am in danger of losing my superb kosher dinner as I cannot help but overhear the married gentleman in 8C shamelessly hit on each of the Japanese flight attendants (including the Purser) every time they walk past. That he was American, clearly practiced at his pitch, and more boorish than suave makes it all the worse.

I’m not going to comment on the gentleman’s marital status or his apparent readiness to set aside the Seventh Commandment: his marriage could be on the rocks, or maybe he lives in an open marriage.

But in this case, the FAs are in a position of disadvantage, in that they are obliged to serve all passengers with courtesy, especially in business class. Does any moral code make it permissible for this “gentleman” to take advantage of the flight attendants in this way? Mine does not. Maimonides makes clear that “the way of the pious and the wise is to be compassionate and to pursue justice, not to overburden or oppress a servant.”

You want to hit on flight attendants? Fine. But do it when they are off duty, at least, and can safely tell you to get stuffed without risking their livelihoods. To do any less is reprehensible.

On Atheist Marriages

Atheist marriages: Should one nonbeliever marry another?
Jesse Bering
Slate
November 14, 2011

Okay, this one is a year old, but it is so brilliantly written and such a hoot that it is a must-read for believers and non-believers alike. Slate’s Jesse Bering (who now rates as our favorite gay atheist) probes with wit and sensitivity the question of whether degrees and nature of belief are criteria for long-term marital compatibility.

The conclusion he reaches is no surprise: your best shot at long-term happiness with a marital partner is a shared set of values. In all likelihood, the more closely beliefs and values are shared, the more compatible you and your partner will be.

Judaism has a lot to say about mixed marriages, mostly negative, and I understand why. No way would my wife and I have made it anywhere near this far without sharing our fundamental belief in Torah. In fact, that faith has held us together (and quite happily) despite the stresses and strains of a mixed-race marriage. Faith runs thicker than culture, to be sure.

The door should never be closed to interfaith unions – I’ve seen a quite few work out pretty well. But I’ve also seen disparate beliefs become the shoal on which many relationships foundered. Hunt first with your heart, then, but don’t forget your soul.

And as far as Mr. Bering is concerned, this article is proof that Theists and Atheists can have constructive conversations without falling into the gutter of kulturkampf.

Seeking a Solution to the Gay Marriage Issue that is Fair to All Sides

One of the primary justifications used by advocates for legalizing marriage between members of the same sex is that the legal and financial protections normally accorded to spouses in heterosexual unions is not available to same-sex life partners.

One way to address this without hollowing out the institution of marriage as practiced by people of faith (or rending the American polity) would be to recognize in both law and language a clear distinction between civil unions and religious marriages. A civil union would be a strictly legal binding process, whereas a religious marriage would take place within the laws and customs of a faith. The state would have no power to order a priest, imam, minister, or rabbi to conduct a same-sex union, and each religion/order would be free to address the question independently.

Thus, to the extent that there needs to be a civil framework for unions occurring outside theologically acceptable bounds, we need to arrive at a common (read “national” as opposed to “state”) set of legal principles so as to keep distinct sanctified and codified relationships. This is fair. What is not fair or correct, however, is a state-led effort that by word or deed dilutes the importance or value of a faith-based marriage. While the state may decide to place legal equivalence on faith-based marriage and civil unions, they cannot legislate a moral equivalence. To attempt to do so would see the government operating outside the bounds of the U.S. Constitution.

It is important for us to get past this debate because we must stop focusing on the marital process and turn our focus where it belongs: on the creation and support of healthy, nurturing families.