Marc Gellman

Stories by Marc Gellman

  • Reconciling Faith and Reason

    Mitt Romney argues that people of faith share a common creed of moral convictions. But is that really true? And where does human reason enter the equation?
  • Gellman: Are Miracles Real?

    Indian guru Sri Chinmoy was able to lift airplanes and elephants and thousands of people. That's why I believe faith without miracles is empty.
  • Gellman: What I Learned from My Dad's Death

    Sol Gellman was my dad and he just died. I want to tell you the most important thing about my dad and the most important thing I learned after he died.
  • Gellman: Imus Must Repent for His Remarks

    After a decade as a regular on his show, I would not call him a bigot. But the talk host does need to take three spiritual steps of repentance in order to be saved.
  • Gellman: Religious Freedom, Captain America and '300'

    The great spiritual questions of our time concern the use of power to secure freedom. The world of Islam has never faced the jarring revolution of the Enlightenment, which severed Christianity’s ties between faith and power, and, lacking a Muslim Voltaire, some segments of Islam still pine for a restored caliphate in which the sword is wielded by mullahs and the line between religion and the state is obliterated. In the West, this melding of faith and secular power was rejected 400 years ago. Rendering worldly power unto Caesar left faith free to focus on the promise of personal salvation.One crushing obstacle to personalized religion always remained, however, and that was the threat to freedom. Religion can choose to live outside of what Marx called “the noisy din of world history” only as long as that din does not become a deafening roar. Fascism, communism, and now jihadist terrorism compel religions to ask whether faith can truly survive without freedom.If faith is truly...
  • Addressing Abomination

    The Bible has many names for what we call sin. At the top of the sin hierarchy is a Hebrew word, toevah , which is most often translated as “abomination.” An abomination is not just wrong, not just sinful. It is a knowing and ruthless corruption. The recent Holocaust-deniers meeting convened by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not a conference, it was an abomination in the full biblical sense of the word.The question is who ought to have the primary responsibility for correcting this abomination? I think it ought to be Christians, and not Jews, who lead the way in reasserting the truth of genocide.American blacks do not need to understand the institution of slavery in the United States. Whites do. They need to try to comprehend how otherwise decent people could buy and sell human beings, like one might buy or sell chickens or pigs. How could anyone do this and still go to church and pray to God to bless their families? Selling another human being is not just a mistake. It...
  • The Good of Gifts

    Why giving presents during the holidays can be spiritually fulfilling.
  • Managing Expectations

    This week my congregants will celebrate 25 years of my being their rabbi. The ancient rabbis taught that the one who is truly honored is the one who honors others; in that spirit, I wanted to share my joy at this milestone in my rabbinate by offering some words of praise and honor to all clergypersons who have served their flocks for many years.The most important thing I have learned by being professionally religious for more than three decades (I’ve been a rabbi for 34 years) is that what you believe now or do now does not matter nearly as much as what you believe and do in the long run. The life of faith, like life itself, is a marathon—not a sprint. The reason for this is obvious. Some days the breath of God is on our back and some days the breath of God is in our face. To sum up our faith on the days we move without effort is foolishly optimistic. To sum up our faith on the days we cannot move at all is foolishly despairing. Only in the long run can we see what we have wrought....
  • Send in the Clowns

    For many years, I marched as a clown in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Here is some of my clown wisdom:The ordinary streets upon which we travel do not always have to be ordinary. On certain days, they can be a parade route. What makes this great parade special is the willingness to transform the ordinary into the magical. The key elements in this transformation are children, clowns and marching bands. The huge, helium-filled balloons are a nice treat, but they are not needed for the spiritual blessings of a parade.Children, however, are essential to a parade because they represent the ceremony of innocence. Parents take their children to the parade because the children want to go. But parents really take them because kids need to go. Daily life is often so corrosive and difficult that we need a place and a time to recover simple joy. Of course, this can be done alone or as a family or with friends, but large crowds and the parade lift us out of our ordinariness together.The...
  • Open Your Tents

    Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your habitations: spare not, lengthen your cords and strengthen your tent pegs, because you will break out on the right hand and on the left.Thus we read from the pundit who has the best take on the meaning of the midterm elections, the prophet Isaiah.Isaiah’s imagery comes from the desert wanderers who were compelled to set up tents with long cords and strong pegs. Short cords make a safe tent but also a tent that is too small to include family and friends and guests who come in hungry from the savage desert. Tents with weak pegs will blow away in the first stiff wind. Long cords and strong pegs are needed to erect large and safe tents in the wilderness, and we are in the wilderness now.Isaiah’s wisdom about tents must be our wisdom about the journey ahead. There are those rejoicers in victory—and whiners in defeat—who have taken this election as a mandate to shorten our ropes, to make our tents more...
  • Worry. Don’t Be Happy

    A popular but false saying we hear all the time is, "All I want is that my children should be happy."The most obvious reason this wish is wrong is that very bad people can be very happy. Sinners can be smiling and saints can be tormented. In fact, this is often the case. I learned from the comics the truth about superheroes, which is that they are hardly ever happy, while the supervillains are hardly ever sad. The Joker is always smiling, and Batman is always morose. Superman is constantly depressed about his inability to eliminate all evil while Lex Luthor exults in his every act of carnage and murder.In the real world, happy saints are also rare. King, Gandhi and Schweitzer lived with troubled souls but were nonetheless able to achieve a level of surpassing goodness. Gangs exult after killing a rival gang member, and as the Twin Towers were smoking and people were jumping from the windows, some jihadist sympathizers were jumping up and down in delirious happiness at the deaths of...