Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nobody's Right If Everybody's Wrong

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
--Buffalo Springfield, For What It's Worth

When I was 10 years old there were battle lines being drawn. We had a politicians war, unrest in the streets, the sexual revolution--I'm glad I was too young to be in the front lines for that one--and students shot down on campus at Kent State. And sometimes when battle lines are being drawn, when sides are chosen up, and when "paranoia strikes deep" it is easy to forget the principles for which we stand because we tend to be "sayin' Hurray for our side."
It happened then.
And now, 40 years later, it's happening again. Intensity is growing, anger is deepening, and we know that choosing a side is not voluntary. If we don't choose, the line will cross us. And in this kind of climate, it is very easy to forget the principles for which we stand in order to keep saying "Hurray for our side."

A small incident in Albuquerque last week illustrates very well that "nobody's right when everybody's wrong." And how those conditions can create a climate where the temptation is to not think, but to "ditto-head" all the way to the end of the Republic.

This morning I received one of those "I won't back down" e-mails. The message was that something happened here last week, and if I wasn't angry about it, why I didn't belong on the mailer's mailing list. But as I read the story and watched the video it became apparent that this was not exactly a case of cop bashing in innocent protestors. But neither was it a case of innocent cop being harrassed by Weathermen Underground wanna be's. Although I think the protestors were more in the wrong, the cop was not exactly a model of mature rectitude and professionalism.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Judge for yourself.

What Happened:
There was a heavy metal concert, Rob Zombies, at the new Hard Rock Cafe Albuquerque, which is not in Albuquerque at all; it is at the Casino on the Isleta Pueblo. Apparently, some Christians disapprove greatly of metal, or maybe of any rock music, because a small group of them appeared with signs and an attitude and stood a few yards away from the concert goers who were standing in line waiting to be admitted. The Christians, not content to carry signs that told the crowd they were going to hell, were also telling the people in the crowd that they were going to hell. Loudly. And did I say with attitude? The crowd was getting angry and shouting a few choice words back at the Christians. Enter a young deputy sheriff, J. Goff. He told the Christians that this was private property and that they would have to leave. The Christians began to argue with him, claiming a non-existent right to free speech and presence on private property. The deputy persisted. The Christians continued to both incite the concert-going crowd and argued with the deputy. With attitude. The concert goers began to look as if they were getting ready to throw things at the Christians. The deputy told them once again it was private property and that they had to leave "right now" or they'd be arrested. As the Christians finally began to leave, video-taping all the way, they also began to tell Deputy Goff that he need to repent or go to hell. Goff--apparently channeling attitude from the Christians--began to mock them saying that he was an unbeliever and that there is no god. He also incited the concert crowd further, asking them if they wanted the Christians to leave or stay.

There was Attitude. There was Unprofessional Behavior. Christians were violating private property rights. A deputy was acting like a snotty teen-ager.
Nobody was right. Everybody was hot.

You can read the story here. (The local paper didn't cover it, though there was a discussion on one of the local afternoon drive talk-shows). There is a You-Tube video associated with the story and that can also be found here. The video was taken by the Christians and in this case, sadly, shows the depths of their ignorance of individual rights. And even more sadly shows the shallowness of the deputy's understanding of his job.

But given the powder keg our nation is sitting on now, we have to keep our heads, and our principles. This is not a free-state vs. police state issue. This is an issue of private property rights and the initiation of force against concert goers by inconsiderate Christians. And I believe that in the present incendiary climate, we cannot get hot under the collar, we cannot be spoiling for a fight while ignoring our principles.

So when the guy who e-mailed me and a dozen or so others, saying:
"There's so going to be a fight" and " if this doesn't make you really, really mad then let me know so I can remove you from my address book",
I sat down and wrote a letter back to the whole list.
Because I refuse to be required to agree with the emotion of the day, and allow it to cloud reasoned defense of principle. Because we can't afford to start a fight over anything less than bedrock principles. And even then, we cannot afford to throw the first punch.

Here is what I wrote:

Given what was said in the WND article--and shown in the video--both the deputy and the protestors were in the wrong. The protestors do not have a constitutional right to trespass on private property for any purpose, but must have the permission of the property owners in order to protest. Clearly they did not, as they had not purchased tickets, and the law was called in to enforce the property rights of the property owners. Being Christian does not excuse one from the responsibility to respect the right to life, liberty and property of others.

However, the deputy needed to handle the situation in a professional manner, and his personal beliefs should have had nothing to do with the situation at all. It really should not have mattered why the protestors were violating the private property rights of the Hard Rock Cafe, only that they were.

It is clear from the beginning of the video that the protestors did not respect the private property of the Hard Rock Cafe, and they had not purchased the right to be on that property in the form of a ticket. Such a purchase is a contract, which requires the ticket-holder to follow the policies of the business that owns the property. The protestors were not only violating property rights; they were also inciting the crowd attending the concert, and the concert goers were responding, and the situation was escalating. In such situations, one particularly nasty gesture or statement could begin a riot. Crowds are not rational. The protestors were not only endangering the concert goers, they were endangering themselves. In such situations, a peace officer has the obligation to get the offenders--in this case the protestors--off the property as quickly as possible. When the protestors heard that they were invading the private property of another, they had the obligation to obey the peace officer or face arrest.

However, by injecting his personal beliefs into the situation, this deputy needlessly increased the tension and insulted all citizens (those who were present and those who were not) who pay his salary. Those citizens have a right to complain about the situation. At the same time, the citizens can request a particular disciplinary action, but they cannot demand it. Peace Officers, like any other laborer, sell their time to the employer--in this case, Bernalillo County--via contract. That contract will generally refer to departmental policies for discipline. The department and Bernalillo County are therefore obligated by contract to follow those policies, which may or may not allow for the deputy to be fired. Those conditions may (and probably do) have contingencies for the type of offense, as well as the record of the officer. The officer also most likely has the right to a disciplinary hearing, and legal representation, as well as arbitration, should he believe that the discipline received is not according to contract.

Overall, this situation was very different from the situation in Michigan in which Christian protestors were handing out copies of a bible to Muslims on a public street. There, the Christians were on public property, and they were not initiating force against anyone; the crowds there were able to refuse the interaction, which is their right.

As Patriots who respect the Constitution, it is incumbent upon all of us to respect the rights of others, to behave in a civil manner and to respect the law that protects our rights. As human beings, it is incumbent upon us to treat other individuals with good will, and to abjure the initiation of force against them and to respect their liberty to disagree with us. Being a Christian does not entitle anyone to violate property rights and incite a crowd. To say otherwise is to sanction mob rule, which is the opposite of the Republic based upon individual rights and the Rule of Law that has been bequeathed to us. All of us must respect the rights of others, including their right to disagree with us peacefully. We must be very careful to exemplify in every way the values that we claim to represent.

Since I am not a Christian, I cannot say what Christian ethics would require in this situation. But I can say that Christians do the Patriot movement no favors if they refuse to respect the rights of individuals who do not subscribe to their sect's particular beliefs. It is clear from the World Net Daily story that some Christians believe that Heavy Metal music is sinful, and others don't.

As a mother, though, I would say that good manners and polite discussion and persuasive arguments are more likely to get the attention of those one disagrees with than rudeness and force. Or as my first-grade teacher used to say, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." We all get passionate from time to time, but that does not mean it is the best method of persuasion in every time and place.

So many people claim that they stand for liberty, for individual rights, and for the American values. But so many of them appear to have no idea what liberty is, or what individual rights mean. They believe that it is permissible to violate the rights of others because they have "the truth" and therefore can force it upon everyone else. They believe that their rights supercede the rights of others--that rights do not belong equally to all individuals.

These Christian kids were not only initiating force against the property owner, they also videotaped their lack of respect for the rights of the concert goers, their lack of good manners, and they also revealed their embarrassing lack of fundamental knowlege about freedom and liberty. They have the right to free speech--absolutely. But the property owners are not slaves. They are not required to provide protesters with a platform to make that speech.

The concert goers have a right to choose their activity and engage in it without being verbally assaulted without recourse. They paid for the privilege of enjoying that right on the private property of the Hard Rock Cafe. And because of that payment, the Hard Rock Cafe was obligated to remove protestors.

"Paranoia strikes deep,
And into your life it will creep.
It begins when you're always afraid . . ."

If we are to restore the Republic, we must be zealous defenders of liberty. We cannot create paranoia within ourselves by convincing ourselves that peace officers are against us, without considering the parameters of the law. We must stand on the principle that every individual enjoys that same liberty that we expect, even if we do not like him or agree with his activities and choices. We have no right to initiate force against him. And we must know and practice the core principles that created our liberty.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Liberty Song Saturday: America--The Song

There are these Saturdays that never wake up . . . yesterday, it was a monsoon Saturday--hard rain, fog and then drizzle gently falling. And I took a full Shabbat. So, maybe I should change my theme to Liberty Song on a Sundae this week . . . (Geek Alert: You have to have read Lucifer's Hammer to get that one!).

This week, no parody but a real, honest to goodness country song. I was born in northern Illinois, but grew up south. I can speak Chicago--though that's getting harder all the time!--but I can also speak Harrisburg, and Cairo and Kentucky. The soft, drawn out vowels that are not quite southern. I can speak country, because I grew up in McLean County Illinois, surrounded by Mennonite farmers, German and Irish railroaders, and Jewish merchants; Americans all.

This song was inspired by Ellis Island. And sometimes, I swear I forget the trouble they went through, not so long ago, so I could be born on these shores and have the liberty to make the stand I am making. Although I doubt they understood the philosophy of natural rights, or knew the words of the Declaration, they understood that Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness would be theirs if they left everything they knew, to take that dreadful trip in steerage across the Atlantic:

". . . but the weariness and worry must have faded from their eyes,
to behold that lady arising in the sky,
Oh, can't you hear them cry:

America, I hear you calling me,
Sweet land of Liberty,
I'm on my way!
America, beckoning with open arms,
I long to feel the warmth of Freedom's flame!
G-d had given hope a name,

This week--America: The Song by Dustin James

Dustin says:
"This song has no political agenda. It does not scold the way we are or lament the way we were. It is a simple tribute to a remarkable country by one deeply grateful citizen. . . "

I hope those ones who came before me, they who took a risk so that I could have freedom, will be proud of what we do to claim the liberty they risked everything to obtain.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More on Mixed Premises: Part II--Common Themes

This is part II of a discussion piece related to my Sunday July 18 blog entry entitled Mixed Premises: Glenn Beck, Collective Guilt and "the Jews". Yesterday, in More on Mixed Premises: Part I--Challenging Assumptions, I outlined the differences between Judaism and Christianity that I believe are the most important and most commonly misunderstood, so that they contribute to Jews and Christians in dialogue talking past one another. In today's post, I am going to discuss three common themes in the comments on the Mixed Premises post, found both here and on my Facebook link to it.

Part II: Discussion of Common Themes in Comments

כל מחלוקת שהיא לשם שמיים, סופה להתקיים; ושאינה לשם שמיים, אין סופה להתקיים
"All controversy waged in the name of heaven shall be of lasting worth,
but that not in the name of heaven shall not be of lasting worth."
--Pirkei Avot--The Ethics of the Fathers--5:20

My blog post on Sunday discussed Glenn Beck's anti-semmitic comment, an aside the appeared to assign collective responsibility for the death of Jesus to "the Jews." I used the example of this blunder--and I do think it was a blunder--to illustrate what happens when one does not examine, question and discard premises that are in conflict with one's bed-rock principles and values. Before I go further in this discussion, I want to emphasize two things:

1. I believe this is exactly the case for Glenn Beck. I don't think this clearly anti-semitic statement, made as an aside, can be used to claim that Glenn Beck is an anti-semite. I don't believe that the comment is a thoughtful expression of his position on the charge of deicide against "the Jews". Rather, as I wrote in the first essay on this issue, I think that his statement was the result of an unquestioned premise that he probably absorbed with his mother's milk, an unnamed collectivism that he applies reflexively and only in this particular context of his Christian religion; the context of his literal interpretation of the trial and death of Jesus as taken from a conflated version of the gospel accounts. Since I only know the man from what I have heard him say over the period of four years, I could be wrong. However, I do listen closely to what people say on a variety of issues and I don't think I am wrong in this instance.

2. I believe that this discussion is "for the sake of heaven." That is, it creates the opportunity for all who participate--including me--to examine our own premises, to question them, and to determine if any should be discarded in favor of the premises that are more consistent with our most deeply held values and principles. Therefore the discussion should remain on the level of ideas and concepts, and it should not deteriorate into attacks on persons, name-calling and other manifestations of sinat channam--causeless hatred.

Given that, I also believe that Glenn Beck has moved on with respect to this issue. That is, he is either unaware or unwilling to make himself aware of the real cause of the controversy, which has nothing to do with the politics of the people who tried to call him on it. I am sorry for him for this, because had he not been a celebrity, had he not conflated those who hate him with those who wished to see the matter corrected, he could have learned something important, something that would have made him a better man. "Who is wise?" asks Ben Zoma, "He who learns from all men."

We can learn from one another, even if Beck misses the opportunity.

The Discussion Its-Own-Self:

I. The most common response I received to my concern about Beck's remark, while varying in wording, went something like this: "I watched the whole video and I did not get that Beck made any mistake other than the use of a bad metaphor.

Response: The fact that this was the bad use of an example was part of my point. That it was so obvious to Beck--and to many of his listeners--that the charge of deicide is a fact, is my entire point. That Beck did not clarify this specific example, indicates that he did not see it as the problem. Rather, the problem to him was the entire idea of "collective salvation." And I agree that this is a problem, however, his lack of clarification made it possible for listeners to hear the remark either way. As I said, it was the fact that Beck approved Pat Gray's interpretation that "the Jews wanted him [Jesus] executed" on the Friday morning radio show that made the whole thing much more offensive. He never did complete the thought that began with "I'm saying that in a perverted world--", demonstrating that the remark was not important, that he never did understand the reason that many of us objected to the original remark. And this in turn demonstrates that Beck is indeed operating from mixed premises. That was the thesis that I was discussing.

II. The second most common objection to my essay was to my statement that Glenn Beck does not know the history behind the charge of deicide, and therefore he does not get how serious an issue it is to most American Jews. I was told by several people that they believed he does know the history, because he objects to National Socialism as a philosophy that leads inevitably to mass murder.

Response: I agree that 1) National Socialism (and all forms of collectivism) leads inevitably to mass murder; and 2) that Glenn Beck knows that history. However, I do NOT believe that he knows the extreme nature of the deicide accusation and the 1500 years of horror that it created. If he got that, he would certainly have hastened to clarify his example for his audience, if not immediately on the TV program, then certainly on the Friday program. Of course, I could posit the much more serious charge that Glenn does know the history of the deicide charge and refused to clarify in order to spare himself and other Christians a vicarious discomfort for the past, but that would mean that Glenn is willing to fudge on the truth. I certainly hope that is not the problem, although his defensiveness on the matter may indicate that it is.

I have noticed at various levels of Jewish-Christian dialogue that some Christians become as uncomfortable with a discussion of the truth about how Christian institutions treated Jews in the past, as if they were personally responsible for it in the here and now. Of course, that is also an indication of the very mixed premises we have been discussing. That is, if they feel guilty, they accept the premise that collective responsibility and guilt is correct. The answer is not that Jews should stop telling the truth about the history, but that those people who feel inappropriate guilt should discard such collectivist ideas. They can no more be guilty of persecution of Jews in the past, than Jews now can be guilty of the death of Jesus.

III. The third most common statement goes something like: "We all know that it was not the Jews that killed Jesus, it was the Romans that did it." Some people also stated that the Jews present in the crowd on the day of Jesus' death were responsible, even if present day Jews are not.

The short response to both of these statements is: Why is it so important to assign blame for the death of Jesus? Even if the gospel accounts are literally true in every detail, who killed Jesus should not matter to Christians because of their particular theology of the meaning of his death. The answer of a Christian should be: "We killed Jesus by our sins." Which illustrates that Christianity is itself mired in the premise of collective guilt and punishment, which seriously undermines the competing Christian claim of personal responsibility. There are the mixed premises again. And this is an issue that only Christians can sort out for themselves.

I am not a scholar of Christian scripture, but my knowledge of Jewish law and custom makes me doubt that the story is literally true. In fact, I did take a course in Christian scripture in which we used "The Synopsis of the Four Gospels" which lays out the same story from each gospel side by side in four columns on the page. It is quite interesting how many differences there are in the four accounts. My professor (a Catholic priest) taught that these accounts each had a larger theological point and should not be read literally. I realize that this will anger the literalists in Christianity, but there it is.

I don't think "the Romans" put Jesus to death any more than did "the Jews." Roman soldiers under the command of a Roman governor did. Most of the Roman soldiers doing occupation duty in Judea at that time were freed slaves from the wars with Gaul, and they probably had no clue about why they were executing Jews. Jesus was just one of the many thousands of Jews crucified during the time 'the Senate and People of Rome' governed Judea. Most Romans probably had little to no idea about where Judea was and why Rome was governing it. Even those in the Senate who did, probably thought of Judea as an abstraction and nothing more.

More to the point, no matter how much the governor supposedly abjured his own responsibility--"I did what the ubiquitous they told me to do"--it was his, not theirs. If he gave the order, he--and he alone--was responsible. With great power comes great responsibility. I doubt the literal truth of that portion of the story as well, because it would be a rare Roman who would care much about justice towards barbarians, and the history of Pontius Pilate indicates that he was a brutal governor to the point where even the Roman Senate--hardly the sensitive types--thought it was excessive and removed him from office.
So even if you take the gospel accounts to be true, an individualistic assessment of responsibility would require you to assign the blame to Pontius Pilate, and the over all responsibility to those who gave him power, the Roman Senate.

However, this belated excuse that "the Jews" are cleared from blame because "the Romans" killed Jesus, is in itself an evasion. Perhaps, the evasion takes place because present day Christians become very uncomfortable with the actions of previous Christians, which is also an error of assigning collective responsibility (see Response to Point I above). Or perhaps it is an evasion of the bloody history of Christianity, which was just as inevitable as the bloody history of any other religion or state that reasons from a collectivist philosophy or from mixed premises. But as an individualist, I do not assign responsibility to present-day Christians for the past sins of Christians against Jews or anyone else.

I think that blaming the Jews for the death of Jesus was just an excuse to rob, plunder, rape and kill the strangers living among the Christians of Europe. It has the same root as the excuses that Che used to kill dissenters in Cuba, or that Stalin used to starve the Kulaks off their land. That collectivism leads to this bloody end over and over again in history cannot be disputed. That is why I agree with Glenn Beck that collectivism is evil.

And this is why I wish that Beck would open his eyes and see past the accusers to the accusation itself, and acknowledge his mixed premises. He has a lot of influence, which gives him great power. And with great power comes great responsibility.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More on Mixed Premises: Part I--Challenging Assumptions

As a blogger, I am always gratified when there is discussion of my posts. Discussion brings out differing points of view, new insights, as well as the intellectually stimulating process of further thinking, the clarification of the writing, and the countering of arguments. Such has been the case with the post I published on Sunday 7/18 concerning Glenn Beck's mixed premises. I am well aware that my counters, my clarifications and my thought will not necessarily change the closely held opinions of others, and especially when they involve the issue of religion which is so basic to many people's thought that it goes unquestioned and is therefore difficult to discuss passionately without hurt feelings and misunderstandings. And although sometimes I do change my own opinions in response to these arguments, more often the synthesis of ideas in my own mind that occurs due to them leads me to a better understanding and better expression of my thesis.

In this spirit then, I would like to clarify and discuss some of the common themes that have arisen in the comments I have received here and on my Facebook link to the same post. This essay will be presented in two parts. First, as I have listened more to Glenn Beck on this topic, as well as reading the comments, I have noticed a certain assumption--that there is something called Judeo-Christian tradition--that has led to a good deal of unclarity about the very real differences between Judaism and Christianity. Although most Jews have a reasonably good idea of the differences, most Christians--as a result of being the dominant religious culture--are not aware of the fundamental differences that make Judaism and Christianity different religions entirely, even if both are Western in root and thought.


Hot August night and the leaves hangin' down
And the grass on the ground smellin' - sweet
Move up the road to the outside o' town
And the sound o' that good gospel beat
Sits a ragged tent, where there ain't no trees
And that gospel group, tellin' you and me

It's Love, Brother Love
Say Brother Love's Travellin' Salvation Show-ow (halle-halle)
Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies
And everyone goes, 'cause everyone knows, brother Love's show

(Neil Diamond, Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show, 1969)

In listening to Glenn Beck I have noticed a shift in the emphasis of his themes, so that as he approaches his big Washington Restoring Honor Rally, it has become "Brother Glenn's Traveling Salvation Show". I have also noticed that he tends to treat Judaism and Christianity as one thing--Judeo-Christian--emphasis on the Christian--and from the Jewish perspective, he adds insult to injury by assuming that Jews are in agreement with the Christian gospel. His focus, though presented broadly as "America has to get back to God", is really that America has to accept the Gospel. I have heard him make statements refering to "Judeo-Christianity" that give me reason to believe that he is not only ignorant of the real differences between Judaism and Christianity, but that he shares the common assumption that Judaism is a sect of American Christianity, a sort of Christian-lite. Harmless, I suppose, for the most part, except that this ignorance and this assumption have lately caused him to make certain statements that revive the ancient deicide charge against Jews, and have also caused him to misperceive the reaction to these anti-semitic remarks.

It is certainly true that Judaism and Christianity both arose from the same roots--the tribal Israelite religion of the Hebrew Scriptures--but it is not true that Christianity either arose from or replaced modern Judaism. Rather, both arose at about the same time--Judaism being the elder by a few centuries--and in response to the same historical events, making both truly Western religions. (I would argue that Islam is not truly Western, though it is often given that designation, but that's another essay). Modern Judaism, which has its roots in the Babylonian exile and matured due to the Roman wars with Judea and the Second Exile, is a complete religion in its own right; it is not Christianity "lite", nor is it merely a precursor and foundation to Christianity. Although there are many differences between them, the most foundational of them have to do with each religion's understanding of human beings, to the nature of the Divine, and to the nature of law and faith. In broad strokes, these differences are as follows:

1) Rabbinic Judaism understands the human being to have free will, and to be responsible for his or her own actions, and to be expected to make decisions about those actions based on the importance of life as it is right here. There is no notion of original sin in Judaism; a person is judged solely on his or her own moral choices, and the standard of value is life on earth; there is no heaven or hell although some Jews have a notion of a "world to come" in which all men live by divine law.

Although normative Christianity also posits free will, it is incomplete because of the doctrine of original sin which posits that human choices are by nature skewed towards evil, which is why a human being cannot obtain goodness on his own and needs the blood sacrifice of Jesus in order to obtain it. Normative Christianity has a well-thought out notion of an afterlife and of eternal reward and punishment that supercedes in importance any earthly consequences.

2) Rabbinic Judaism does not have a well-characterized theology of the nature of the Divine; the existence of G-d is assumed, but not described. It is quite possible to be a good Jew without having any specific notion of the Divine, or any such belief at all, and many modern Jews believe that the Eternal dwells within the human being, rather than outside the universe. Rabbinic Judaism does not posit Divine omniscience and omnipotence. The Rabbinic tradition, and more formally, the Jewish philosophers of the European Enlightenment both convey the understanding of the amorality inherent in such a being.

Christianity, on the other hand, has many different well-developed theologies about the nature of their Trinity--which has made some creative and some destructive tendencies in the relationships among its sects--nearly all of which posit Divine omniscience and omnipotence. These theologies create for Christianity much lively thought and argument about the nature of good and evil, the quasi-dualistic nature of the universe, and faith and works, among others. This might be a reason for the multiplicity of different sects within Christianity and the the arguments about which sects are legitimately Christian and when a sect has become a different religion entirely. Whereas Rabbinic Judaism, without this theological specificity, has three broad sects related to differing views of the relationship of the individual to Jewish Law. This second difference is, I suspect, a result of the third difference below.

3) The Jewish religion in broad strokes is based on the mythos of a Divine covenant(contract) with a particular people, B'nei Israel, and since the basis of a contract is specific actions, Judaism does not rest on agreement to intellectual beliefs, but rather to agreement to specific actions codified in Halachah--Jewish Law. The Rabbis--the founders--of modern Judaism placed this Law in the realm of human action on earth ("It is NOT in heaven"), because they said it was not necessary to any being that does not have free will and freedom of action. The law (Halachah) and the teaching (Torah) belong to us, here and we a responsible to make our contribution to its implementation. Judaism is therefore orthopraxic--a religion of right action. It is also particularistic--Jews do not believe that others have the same obligations or purposes; rather they have other Divine obligations and purposes.

On the other hand, Christianity is based on the concept of the universal blood sacrifice of Jesus that brings all human beings in right relationship with the Trinity. According to Christianity, law is secondary to this atonement, done not from the merit of human beings but from grace. In order to participate in this atonement, each person must agree to "believe" in it, accepting specific intellectual beliefs--doctrines and dogmas--that bring him into the community of believers. From that point on--in varying degrees according to sect--Christians must act in certain virtuous ways modeled on the sacrifice of Jesus, but Christianity is primarily a religion of orthodoxy--right belief. It is universalistic in that Christians have a mission to cause everyone to accept these beliefs and thus attain salvation.

The bottom line for me is that Jews accept that there can be many covenants that lead different people to salvation, and Jews are concerned about their own particular covenant; whereas Christians accept only one covenant that supercedes all others, and are concerned that everyone accept that one. Jews are more concerned about right action that leads to more abundant life in the here and now; Christians are more concerned about right beliefs that put each human being in alignment with the atonement of Jesus' death and will be rewarded by eternal life in the eschatological there and then.

Both religions secondarily recognize the primary concerns of the sister religion, it is the primary emphasis that creates the fundamental difference. Both religions, in their normative forms and sects, focus on the individual and his or her responsibilty to Law and Action (Judaism) or Grace and Faith (Christianity). However, of the two, Judaism defines virtue as action that leads to life in the here and now, and Christianity defines virtue as sacrifice of earthly desires for heavenly gain.

Both religions are western--having borrowed or developed Greek logical argument, as well as the Greek emphasis on thought that leads to specific actions. However, Judaism borrowed more heavily from Greek logic and rationalism, and Christianity borrowed more heavily from Greek Gnosticism. These differences are probably due to the nascent time periods for each religion.

Again, I want to emphasize that this is a summary of what I see as the critical differences between modern Judaism and Christianity, done in very broad strokes. Whole books have been written just on the issues I touched on in this post, and volumes have been written about the historical periods and philosophical arguments that underpin each. I am also aware that neither religion is monolithic, and that Christianity, in particular, has a multiplicity of sects that differ among themselves in regard to the relative importance of these ideas, among other things. These arguments have indeed made Europe a bubbling and sometimes brutal cauldron of ferment and change.

Further, I am writing about these two religions from a different perspective than most, being more concerned with and knowlegable about Judaism than Christianity. I am not interested here in opening a debate about the relative merits of the two religious traditions, although I am sure my thoughts on this are clear to readers. And I have little regard for the argument that the United States is a "Christian" country; from 1791 onward,when the First Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, it became the supreme law of the land that the United States has NO established religion, and that everyone (including Brother Love) has the right to freely exercise of any religion he or she chooses. Finally, I am not open to comments that attempt to convert me to Christianity. I have chosen my path, and my feet are firmly on the Way of Torah. This part of the discussion was written for the sole purpose of laying common groundwork so that a fruitful discussion of Beck's remarks, the reactions to it, and his assumptions vs. reality can be entertained.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mixed Premises: Glenn Beck, Collective Guilt and "the Jews"

Norma Rae:You a Jew?
Reuben Warshawsky: Beg your pardon?
Norma Rae: Are you a Jew?
Reuben Warshawsky: Born and bred.
Norma Rae: I never met a Jew before.
Reuben Warshawsky: How ya doin'? . . .
Norma Rae: Well, what makes you different?
Reuben Warshawsky: History.
(From the Movie Norma Rae, 1979)

History. That is what defines the difference between how a Jew--however secular--thinks about anti-semitic statements and how a non-Jew thinks about them. History. That is why many non-Jews are mystified by what Jews consider to be anti-semitic. It's history. The history of European Jewry that even American Jews seem to carry in their DNA and the history that Americans thankfully have not experience and know nothing about.

This difference in understanding is exempified by the popular radio talk-show host Glenn Beck, and his TV Christian testimony, and a crucial remark that probably seemed innocuous to him, but was disturbing to his Jewish listeners. In the interest of full disclosure, I do listen to Glenn Beck frequently. I am not crazy about his current revivalist mood, and I am not interested in his religious opinions, but I do admire his ability to make connections that are not obvious, and from them to discuss what is happening to the Constitution of the United States. I often agree with his assessment of the people and the actions that are making the news but my definition of the terms and my reasoning is very different from Beck's because his morality is definitively collectivist and Christian and mine is definitively individualist and rational. And yet, being a Jew and knowing the history, I shuddered at his remark.

On his Tuesday July 13, 2010 TV show, Beck dicussed the issue of collective salvation as presented by Black Liberation Theology. Part of the connection between liberation theology and Marxism is the idea that salvation is not individual, nor can it be attained by individual choice, rather it is collective, and therefore the initiation of force against individuals in order to "save" them can be morally justified. In liberation theology in general, Jesus is identified as the ultimate victim, and thus only victims have spiritual value and are among the elect. They, in turn, by forcing the oppressors ( usually identified as white, male, or wealthy) to "give back what they took", can save them as well. Since this salvation is collective, one does not have to be among the actual oppressed to be saved, rather one merely has to belong to some "oppressed" class or group as identified by those who promulgate this idea. (Jews, though certainly oppressed for millennia, never make the collectivist cut).

The problem is that such an idea also assigns collective responsibility over generations, and promotes the notion of collective punishment. There is no place for the individual moral choices that promote life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The "oppressed" are good by definition, and the "oppressors" are evil by definition, regardless of the actual actions of individuals so defined. This kind of collectivist morality has always led to mass torture and murder of the second group by the first.

In the segment of Glenn Beck's TV show on Fox News that is in question, Beck first plays a video of the founder of Black Liberation Theology, James Cone. (Full segment is available at JIDF. I do not agree with JIDF's politics nor their assessment of the Glenn Beck remark). Glenn Beck's full response to Cone deals with the Christian theology of the atonement by the crucifixion of Jesus.

Note: Jews DO NOT agree with the doctrine of original sin that was posited by the early Christians in order to explain the need for the crucifixion. Judaism teaches that the presence of human beings on the earth is very good -- tov meod--and that human beings are endowed with free will, which means that each person must make choices and it is the nature of those choices that determine whether he is good or evil. This is a religious expression of individual responsibility. This idea evolved over time within the Israelite religion, and became normative in very early Rabbinic Judaism.

In his response to Cone, while discussing the Christian doctrine of the cross, Beck begins by saying:

"This is kind of complex, because Jesus did identify with the victims. But Jesus was not a victim. He was a conqueror...Jesus conquered death. He wasn't victimized. He chose to give his life....If he was a victim, and this theology was true, then Jesus would've come back from the dead and made the Jews pay for what they did. That's an abomination." (The Glenn Beck Show, Tuesday, July 13, 2010--at approximately 6 minutes into the segment. Emphasis mine).

Here is a video of this crucial statement. It is in its own context, and can be understood just from this clip:

The last few words of this statement indicate not what liberation theology says about Jesus and the Jews, but what Glenn Beck appears to believe about the crucifixion of Jesus and the Jews: that "the Jews" were indeed responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. For him, it is not a matter of the responsibility of some people or some Jews, but it is the responsibility of "the Jews." The use of the collective noun "the Jews" is an assignment of collective responsibility. Beck did not continue this line of reasoning, but rather went on to discuss the difference between Black Liberation Theology and normative Christian theology regarding the blood atonement of Jesus' death. His offhand remark about what "they [the Jews] did" was never clarified. And although at this point it is possible to imagine that since this was not Beck's main point, he did not choose his words carefully, that is not how many Jews took it.

To many, many Jews--the liberal, the conservative, the libertarian--the remark made it difficult if not impossible to listen any further to what Beck had to say. I am one of them. The reason for this? History.

The charge of Deicide--the crime of killing a god--was first leveled at Jews by the fathers of the early Church, and was made more explicit following Constantine. The code of Justinian imposed legal handicaps and penalties for this "crime" collectively on the Jews of the Roman empire nearly five centuries after the death of Jesus, which indicates that these Christian theologians and leaders thought that the collective responsibility is borne by Jews across the generations. Augustine wrote that Jews must be made miserable forever for this "crime." The Anti-Defamation League of B'nei B'rith (ADL) characterizes the charge of deicide as one of the four big lies about Jews that have caused the most persecution of our people down through the centuries. Good Friday was generally 'Bad Friday" for the Jews of Europe, as Christians of various denominations attended church and learned every year that the Jews are eternally responsible for the suffering and death of Jesus. The Catholic Church approved the following prayer for the "perfidious Jews" as part of the Tridentine Good Friday Service until 1955:

"Let us pray also for the perfidious Jews: that Almighty God may remove the veil from their hearts; so that they too may acknowledge Jesus Christ our Lord. ('Amen' is not responded, nor is said 'Let us pray', or 'Let us kneel', or 'Arise', but immediately is said:) Almighty and eternal God, who dost not exclude from thy mercy even Jewish faithlessness: hear our prayers, which we offer for the blindness of that people; that acknowledging the light of thy Truth, which is Christ, they may be delivered from their darkness."

Such prayers, as well as the reading of the Passion, in which "the Jews" call for the death of Jesus, were not likely to inspire in the hearts of the Christian faithful any charity for their Jewish neighbors, and in fact many instances of the destruction of Jewish life and property occurred following Good Friday services across Christian Europe over the centuries.

Knowing this history in all the gory details means that Jews really hear what is being said even in passing, and apply to it all of the background that is the persistence of memory.
American Christians, who are generally ignorant of this history because it did not happen here--thanks to the wisdom of our Founders--do not hear it, they do not get it.

And Beck does not get it either. On his Friday radio program, Beck reacted to the accusations in the press and on blogs that he had made an antisemitic remark by reiterating the issue of liberation theology's doctrine of the atonement, saying that according to that heresy, Jesus' death did nothing salvific and that the empty tomb means nothing, because it is the "oppressed" who are the collective messiah, and their actions to take back from the "oppressors" what is theirs by force is what achieves salvation. ( BTW: Beck is NOT wrong here. This is an accurate summary of liberation theology). Then he goes on to say:

Beck: "What does the press report? That I said that Jesus had to come back and 'get them Jews.'
No! I'm saying that in a perverted world, in a perverted gospel that's exactly--'Glenn Beck says that the Jews killed Jesus! It was the Romans that killed Jesus!' Pat? . . ."

Pat Gray: (giggling) "Well, technically the Romans--"

Beck: "Yes!"

Pat Gray: "--carried out the will of the Great Sanhedrin--the Jews--wanted him executed--"

Beck: "Now does that make me--all of a sudden--anti-Jewish?"

Pat Gray: "No!"

Beck: "That's what they're gonna say!"

Pat Gray: "That's ridiculous ...It's ridiculous that ..."

Beck: "That's what they're gonna say . . .There's no one more pro-Israel and more pro-Jew than I am! I can't take it anymore! The lies! The bearing of false witness. Here's the truth. From Barack Obama, from Jim Wallace, from Van Jones--I'm going to play audio for you today that should shake you to your core. THIS IS the reason why they are doing these things. . .we found their manifesto and I swear to you this is the real thing. This is their plan . . . but above that is this perversion of religion, this perversion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ . . .that's what it is--that there's collective salvation and they'll FORCE you into it. I'll give you that in just a second . . .

(Transcribed by me).

It is clear here that Glenn Beck believes that those accusing him of anti-semitism are doing so because he has attacked the social gospel, liberation theology and collective salvation. And this is true of some of the people attacking him. They are latching onto the statement "the Jews wanted him [Jesus] executed" and "Jesus would've come back from the dead and made the Jews pay for what they did" in order to focus their readers/viewers attention on these collective phrases--"the Jews", "the Jews", "what they did"--rather than on the larger argument that Glenn is making, which is that the doctrine of collective salvation perverts the individual nature of salvation according to normative Christianity. Glenn therefore continues this discussion by getting an evangelical preacher of some note to preach the normative version later on the same program.

BUT . . . that is not what many Jews who hear this are objecting to at all. Speaking for myself as a Jew (with the understanding that a great many Jews would say the same), I could not care less about the Christian doctrine of salvation by the blood atonement of Jesus. I do get that liberation theology is collectivist--and therefore evil--but I also hear those ugly accusations of collective responsibility for the death of Jesus hurled at my people. I hear: "what they [the Jews] did" and "the Jews wanted him executed." And I know from the bloody history of Christian Europe exactly where those charges lead.

When Glenn Beck argues that the Nazis and the Communists preached collective salvation and collective responsibility, he is being accurate. And when he argues that collectivism leads to the deaths of millions he is absolutely right. Because collectivists teach that there is some universal common "good" that trumps the good defined by each individual, they thereby justify forcing the individual to sacrifice for the "good of the collective." Beck condemns collectivism when it comes from the left, from the social gospel and from James Cone. But out of the other side of his mouth, he is unconsciously assigning collective responsiblity to a whole people over two millennia. Apparently, collectivism is not evil when used in the service of Christianity.
And this is the problem with much of the "religious right." They don't even hear the words they are using--words that are painfully obvious to a Jewish ear--words that preach their own brand of collectivism.

It is clear from this that Glenn Beck's worldview is founded on mixed premises. The assignment of collective responsibility and collective punishment is wrong when black liberationists want to take his property in order to "save" him, but when assigning collective responsibility to "the Jews" for the death of Jesus, it must be right--and he cannot be an antisemite--because this is what his religion has taught him from the cradle. He is so unconscious of this glaring contradiction that he cannot question it, nor can he apply his avowed principle--that collectivism is evil--universally to his conclusions. Many of the people on the left, or in the liberationist churches, have the same philosophical problem he has, though they are arguing from the opposite horn of the dilemma. That dilemma is created by the unquestioning adherence to a religious doctrine that has been handed down by tradition--an ugly tradition that has created even uglier results--crusades, pograms, holocaust.

I agree with Beck that collectivism is wrong; the difference between us is that I know that it is evil because it always removes the rights and responsiblilities of individuals, and it removes choice and consequence from human interaction. It ignores the very nature of the human being as an autonomous individual. The use of the concept of collective salvation must always create the role of the annointed--whether they are called "the oppressed", "the proletariat" or "the Christians"--and with it, the role of the damned--whether they be the "oppressors", the "bourgeoise", or "the Jews"--and these assignments are always made on the basis of the class variable--that is what group the person 'belongs to', not by the free association of individuals, but by the arbritrary association of birth. The notion of collective salvation must always come with the notions of collective responsiblity and collective punishment. Whether it is claimed in the name of a god or government, collectivism is always evil.

Beck preaches principles. Here is the principle that he is not applying consistently. That each human being is an individual who by his very nature has the right to life, liberty, and property. That each individual has the ability and the obligation of free will--that he can and must choose between right and wrong--and that each individual is responsible for the outcomes of those choices.

As I have said above, I believe from what Beck has said that he is unconscious of the contradiction between his political and religious beliefs. He appears to be unaware that he denies collective salvation as preached by liberation theology while simultaneously assigning collective responsibility to "the Jews." He does not even hear what he is saying, he does not catch it because it is so "obvious" to him, and he does not really know the bloody history of that particular collectivist notion.

I therefore wish for him the realization of the quote he loves from Jefferson:
"Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear."
Edited once for typos, incomplete cut-pastes, and clarity.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Liberty Song Saturday: Get Your Money From Nothing--Spread the Wealth from Me

This one's a parody, from Politizoid--another one from an '80's song I liked in the original. This is Dem Straight--Money for Nothing.

"Look at them Yoyo's --that' the way they do it, they spread their Healthcare on the NBC,
This ain't working--that's the way do it, money for nothing, spread the wealth from me . . .

"That crazy lady with the gavel and the facelift,
Yeah, man,, you're really getting dissed,
That crazy lady got her own jet airplane,
That crazy lady is a socialist . . .

"I should have read the Constitution,
I should have learned some history,
Look at that Congress, they just stick it to America, man . . ."

And just to appreciate the changes in technology from MTV then and YouTube now, enjoy the original:

Come on, Nancy--this ain't working!
Come on, Harry--we ain't dumb!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Very Cool Milkweed . . .

I have put off the 2010 return of One Hundred Species while my camera--the one that took a short dip in the Rio Grande--dried out. Utterly. And Completely. Now, a very cool member of the Asclepidaceae:

#48: Asclepius asperula--common names: Spider Milkweed or Antelope Horn. Like all the milkweeds, this plant is poisonous to animals (including humans), and contains a milky latex. It does attract bees, butterflies and birds, and is primary food for the Monarch Butterfly. Monarch then ingest the bitter milky latex and become bad-tasting to birds.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Liberty Song Saturday: Letting the Days Go By (Parody)

Yesterday, which was Saturday, I took a complete computer Shabbat, spending my day enjoying a mountain summer and reading real books (!) lazily on the porch. So here is Liberty Song Saturday--on Sunday this time.

This week, it is a song parody by The Talking Feds. This one illustrates the Obamable lack of leadership in dealing with the Deep Water Horizon well breech in the Gulf.
But I liked the original, too. It fit the mood of the '80's when I heard "Once in Lifetime" as a young mother asking myself, "How did I get here?"

When you've watched parody, check out the original to see the parallels in production between the parody dance moves and the real Talking Heads.

Now, the Talking Feds:

"Letting the days go by--play another round of golf--
Letting the days go by--oil is rising in the gulf--- . . ."

"You may find yourself living in a big White House.
And you may find yourself with the largest oil spill in the world.
And you may find yourself blaming the last administration. . ."

"You may ask yourself: Where is that beautiful beach?
And you may ask yourself: Why did I vote for Obama?
And you may tell yourself: My God! What have I done!"

I never expected, back in the '80's, to see what has happened to us now. I never dreamed how seriously and insanely our world would spin out of control when given into the hands of progressive pols of both parties, who have a post-modernist lack of respect for reality and a passion for . . . nihilism. (That's another blog).

I never thought that I'd actually miss the Reagan administration, with all its faults. As I watched the video of the original Talking Heads song, Once in a Lifetime, I had a powerful moment of nostalgia for those days when my baby daughter brought smiles, and my world--crazy and exciting as it was--rested on the foundation of the values of the United States.

This time--in honor of the moment of wistful nostalgia--I am embedding the original.
Here is the Talking Heads: Once in a Lifetime:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day 2010: Defiance, Not Obedience!

That was the motto of the American Revolution.
The rattlesnake represents an animal that will warn a person with the rattle. It will not strike without warning, but if you tread on it, it will STRIKE.

Is the warning that Americans are now giving, as they go to Tea Parties to protest the abrogation of their liberty through the collectivist agenda of the pols of both parties, the administration and the courts. We will exercise our RIGHTS.

Is why Cloward and Piven will not work upon Americans.
We will not acquiesce to the imposition of tyranny. We will defy it!
And a new generation is being taught to defy attempts upon their liberty . . .

Ayn Rand wrote:

"A dictatorship cannot take hold in America today. This country, as yet, cannot be ruled—but it can explode. It can blow up into the helpless rage and blind violence of a civil war. It cannot be cowed into submission, passivity, malevolence, resignation. It cannot be “pushed around.” Defiance, not obedience, is the American’s answer to overbearing authority. The nation that ran an underground railroad to help human beings escape from slavery, or began drinking on principle in the face of Prohibition, will not say “Yes, sir,” to the enforcers of ration coupons and cereal prices. Not yet."
From: “Don’t Let It Go,” Philosophy: Who Needs It, 213

To which, for the sake of our children, we reply: NOT EVER!


Celebrate the 234th Anniversary of American Independence:

Go Forth and Exercise Your Rights!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Liberty Song Saturday: Every Generation Needs a Revolution . . .

It is a treat to have a brand new song for Liberty Song Saturday, Independence Day Edition.
This is Rise Up! By Jeremy Hoop, and it is featured in the Tea Party Movie.

Despite the overblown fear--what else can you call it?--of the MSM, the Tea Party Movement has been the peaceful rising of the ordinary Americans, those who know that as one sign so aptly puts it: Your Socialist Ends Affect MY Means!
The Tea Parties represent the beginning of the II American Revolution--a Revolution like the first, one that began in the hearts and minds of the people. In Rise Up! Hoop sings:

"Ride with me from Boston to Phili to LA
With reason come marching
With knowledge come drumming
Let everyone hear you
Each soul that is near you
The British are coming! the British are coming!"

How different that is from the Mao-loving, car-burning leftists protesting at the G-20.

Enjoy! And Happy Independence Day! Go to your local Tea Party. Be part of the Jeffersonian Revolution. As Jefferson said (at various times):

"And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that its people preserve the spirit of resistance?"
" Every generation needs a revolution. God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion."
--Thomas Jefferson

Happy Independence Day! And in the spirit of our Founders:
Go Forth and Pursue Happiness!