Thursday, October 25, 2007


Somewhat Delayed Lech Lecha Blogging and Sticky Santorum on the Sheets

Far be it from me of all people to defend Santorum's remarks about Islam in comparison to Christianity, but I think I understand what Santorum is getting at -- he's not being the hypocrite or un-religious person people may think he's revealed himself to be (although, from a Catholic point of view, he's likely revealed himself to be a heretic ... but nu? how's he different than Donohue, et al, then?), but rather there really is a difference between certain strains of Christianity and even the most liberal forms of Judaism and Islam here: certain strains of Christianity would hold that living a Christian life only involves having faith in the truth of certain Christian doctrines and not falling astray of certain moral dictates, while Judaism and Islam certainly are comprehensive ways (c.f. the meaning of halacha) of living.

Indeed, while this distinction really is one more of theory than pratice (even many sola fide Christians are inspired daily by that faith to live lives in the constant pursuit of tzedakah while for many Jews, Muslims, etc., religion is kept in a box of the Sabbath and the festivals), it's a distinction that we Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Taoists and even some Catholics often keenly feel: we do wonder about the sincerity of certain Christians for whom their religion (lit., binding) is not so much a binding way of life but a set of faith principles and otherwise unjustifiable prohibitions (mainly relating to teh hawt sex). But we need to understand that this is indeed how people approach faith ... and that they see our religious weltbild as being fundamentally un-Western and un-Enlightened. To a certain kind of Christian, even a liberal, "conform" (assimilated into Western culture) Jew like me must have an amazingly exotic and foreign weltbild.

What Santorum has done is not to show his lack of faith, but to show that the divide between "faith" and "religion" cuts both ways. Just as we who answer God's call of "Lech Lecha" (see, I did work in the parsha) to Avram don't get how the religiosity of our self-appointed moral guardians of the religious right can be so "shallow", they also don't "get" us. Let us not gloss over those differences or dismiss them whilst trying to build alliances (e.g. to "defend" Israel), but let's also not let them spill into hate. We Jews alas no all too well what can happen when these sorts of misunderstandings spill into hate.

So Rick Santorum -- if you're reading this: I'll try to understand your point of view about religion being for Sundays and matters of prohibiting teh hawt sex, if you'll understand that many of us for whom religion is not just for sacred time can still be productive peaceful and indeed liberal (perhaps for you, too liberal) citizens in a modern state.

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