Sometimes there is little conflict. I doubt any YCT rabbi would counsel someone that eating pork is okay if you really, really want some bacon 'n' eggs. When it comes to Shabbos I also doubt they'd permit driving or other gross violations of God's holy day.
But when it comes to issues that have moral underpinnings then things start to become more anxious for them. Rabbis Hyim Shafner and Yosef Kanefsky have repeatedly written about their yearnings to somehow make homosexual marriage and intercourse permissible and accepted within Orthodoxy. As well, who can forget Kanesky's articles on why saying "Shelo Asani Ishah" is, according to his view of Judaism, a chilul HaShem?
The underlying consistent theme in their writings is the belief that the secular liberal values of society around us are superior and preferable to traditional Torah ones and should replace them. The frustration comes from the recognition that this is exactly what the Conservatives do - keep traditions and rules when they're harmless or in sync with society and turf them when they're not. Rabbi Farber et al would seem to be interested in this approach but because of their desire for sincerity in worship of God they want to remain Orthodox and they know they can't have both.
That conflict is well articulated in Farber's latest piece on Morethodoxy. His description of an Orthodox shul, for example, could have been written by any anti-Orthodox Reformer or Conservative:
Watching the Flintstones with my children one day, it struck me that our synagogues have an uncanny resemblance to lodge no. 26 of the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes, where Fred and Barney go to have a men’s night out. I say this in jest, but it is illustrative. The men of the LOWB wear a special garb, they have a special code and gestures which they use, and there are no women. Although our synagogues are a step advanced from the Stone Age lodge—we let our women watch—the resemblances are worth noting; only the men have the special garb, only the men know the secret handshake, and when the Grand Poobah speaks, his podium faces only men.Perhaps his example of how only men have a special uniform betrays the ultra-modern nature of his congregation. In most Orthodox shuls women have a definite uniform in terms of what clothes are acceptable. No, they don't have a tallis but is that all Farber sees? A uniform for men and not women? Does he not appreciate the idea that there is a kiyum mitzvah involved?
I know the feeling. In my shul one reason I started avoiding the amud many years ago was when one of the other regulars began to routinely walk through the woman's section on his way to the bimah. The precedent was not one I wished to participate in and again, it helps to ignore the established fact that in Judaism men have an obligation to engage in public prayer and women do not. Their presence in shul is encouraging, warm and pleasant but they don't have to be there the way men do, hence the difference in participation. Is Rabbi Farber suggesting a sea-change in Torah law to make public prayer obligatory on women? What authentic sources does he base this suggestion on? And frankly, is he a posek in the first place to even suggest it?
Of course, the placement of the podium is only one way—albeit an obvious one—that Orthodox synagogues communicate to their participants that women are not really in the room. This message is also communicated by access to the holiest and most central feature of the synagogue, the Torah scroll, which is removed from the ark, inevitably by a man, during Shabbat morning services. The Torah is then handed to the man leading the services and carried around so everybody can touch it and kiss it… well, not everybody.
It is true that in some Orthodox synagogues the Torah is either passed to a woman to carry through the women’s section or is carried through the women’s section by the man leading the services. However, in most Orthodox synagogues the Torah is carried only through the men’s section; the message being that access to the Torah is only for participants in the prayer services, not for onlookers. Some synagogues that are sensitive to the problem decide on the awkward solution of carrying the Torah slowly near the meḥitza(barrier). The women can then scramble to the meḥitza and vie for access in Darwinian fashion.
Of course, Farber then throws in the whole "And they don't even wear tefillin!" argument which is so tired it's not even worth fisking over. But it is here where he betrays his true loyalties when it comes to choosing between prioritizing Torah values or secular ones:
Modern Orthodoxy is in a bind when it comes to women in the synagogue. In a world where gender roles are constantly shifting, it becomes rather difficult for a religious group that is both modern and Orthodox to navigate the many tensions that exist between traditional practices and modern egalitarian values. Sometimes these tensions express themselves around halakhic issues: women leading devarim she-be-qedusha, wearing t’fillin, counting for a minyan, or participating in the Torah-reading ceremony. Other times the issues appear more sociological: bringing the Torah through the women’s section, women holding or carrying the Torah, placement of the podium, or women speaking from the podium.It is certainly not shocking for me to state that the "modern" in Modern Orthodox does not mean navigating tensions between tradition and modernity when it comes to values that are in breach of the accepted standard of Torah behaviour. Blue shirts vs white? Fine, you have a tension. But changing the mitvzah obligations of half the Jewish nation? Adjusting what we consider acceptable based on what people around us think is right? This is completely outside the pale of what the "modern" means.
Certainly this problem isn't unique to the YCT crowd. Years ago the Union for Traditional Judaism split from the Conservatives over what they found to be unacceptable breaches in Jewish tradition like the ordaining of women rabbis. However, unlike the YCT crowd they were starting from a position where altering inconvenient Jewish traditions, like using a mechitzah, was already acceptable which is what kept them from abandoning Conservatism completely and returning to Orthodoxy.
Farber et al have the opposite problem - they started inside the Torah-observant community and don't want to leave but have a hard time convincing other Orthodox folks to change Orthodoxy to make it more acceptable to secular liberals. They want to call themselves Orthodox but without all the Orthodox hang-ups like different, "archaic" values that stand at odds with whatever popular culture considers "cool".
At some point they are going to have to ask themselves a hard question. They can be Orthodox. They can be secular liberal with a smattering of tradition but they cannot be both. Which will they choose?