Can we file this under “unintended consequences”?
(Scott Johnson) Even more surprising than fake religion from Pete Buttigieg is fake religion from the formidable Timothy Cardinal Dolan. In his Christmas Eve New York Post column “A Christmas lesson on housing the poor,” Cardinal Dolan writes: “The Son of God was homeless; his earthly parents were immigrants and refugees.” I’m not Christian and mean no disrespect. For the reasons set forth in Paul’s post, however, I doubt Cardinal Dolan has this right and Cardinal Dolan doesn’t set forth an argument on these points.
Cardinal Dolan himself twists Jewish tradition to suit his purposes a bit further along in the column. After discussing Abraham’s hospitality to strangers, Cardinal Dolan writes: “No wonder, as I’m told, Jewish families still set a place at the table for an unexpected guest who might show up for a meal on one of their holy days.”
Here is a good discussion of Jewish hospitality. Consider this related teaching: “Traditional mandates extend to the guest as well. Guests should avoid causing hosts extra work. They should accede to their host’s or hostess’s requests. A guest should not bring along another, uninvited guest. If guest and host are entering the home together, the guest should defer to the host. Leaving together, a guest should exit before the host.”
I’m not sure if I read this piece by Michael Chrichton before or not, but listening to a friend of mine who is very definitely an environmentalist, I noticed how she seemed to believe in a Fall From Grace story. At one time in the past, the environment was in a perfect state. And then humans came along and started making changes, and every change humans make is, by definition, for the worse. (She did not receive that well.)
Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.Environmentalism is a Religion — Michael Crichton
There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.
So what about it?
There are two reasons why I think we all need to get rid of the religion of environmentalism.ibid
First, we need an environmental movement, and such a movement is not very effective if it is conducted as a religion. We know from history that religions tend to kill people, and environmentalism has already killed somewhere between 10-30 million people since the 1970s. It’s not a good record. Environmentalism needs to be absolutely based in objective and verifiable science, it needs to be rational, and it needs to be flexible. And it needs to be apolitical. To mix environmental concerns with the frantic fantasies that people have about one political party or another is to miss the cold truth—that there is very little difference between the parties, except a difference in pandering rhetoric. The effort to promote effective legislation for the environment is not helped by thinking that the Democrats will save us and the Republicans won’t. Political history is more complicated than that. Never forget which president started the EPA: Richard Nixon. And never forget which president sold federal oil leases, allowing oil drilling in Santa Barbara: Lyndon Johnson. So get politics out of your thinking about the environment.
The second reason to abandon environmental religion is more pressing. Religions think they know it all, but the unhappy truth of the environment is that we are dealing with incredibly complex, evolving systems, and we usually are not certain how best to proceed. Those who are certain are demonstrating their personality type, or their belief system, not the state of their knowledge. Our record in the past, for example managing national parks, is humiliating. Our fifty-year effort at forest-fire suppression is a well-intentioned disaster from which our forests will never recover. We need to be humble, deeply humble, in the face of what we are trying to accomplish. We need to be trying various methods of accomplishing things. We need to be open-minded about assessing results of our efforts, and we need to be flexible about balancing needs. Religions are good at none of these things.
Andrew Klavan commented on the sex scandal in the Catholic Church. In his ongoing courtship with the third rail, he points out that it’s also a homosexuality scandal — the majority of victims were males under the age of majority.
There’s another point he raises, about bigotry.
Myself, I believe that bigotry creates the problem in the first place. When people are excluded from society, they are excluded from its moral structures and tend to become estranged from them. They say to themselves, “Well, if you hate me, your rules don’t apply to me.” This is likely to transform some members of the despised class into the very image of the cliche the haters hate. Shakespeare’s villainous Jew Shylock addresses the effects of anti-semitism when he snarls: “Thou call’dst me dog before thou hadst a cause; But, since I am a dog, beware my fangs.” In the excluded gay community, being sexually “wicked” or “evil” was often perceived as a positive thing. Why not, when the “good” people despise you?
This in no way lets the doers of evil off the hook. Rather the opposite. It means that when mores change and bigotry passes, excluded people should not only be welcomed into the majority community, they should also be held responsible to its values. It is no good to say, “Yes, we were bigoted against black people, so now we will not only welcome them in, we’ll ignore the high crime in their neighborhoods to show how un-bigoted we’ve become.” No. You have to say: “We were wrong. You’re part of our community now. Act like it.” Then you have to listen to CNN and the Twitter mob call you a racist. Then you have to say what you said again. And again.
So with gays. Instead of hiding this problem, the media should name it and address it. And instead of persecuting a cake baker who has the full and perfect right to disapprove of them, gay activists should work to purge their community of those who abuse the young. Instead of re-opening scars and feeding anger, this would begin the unification of gay culture with the majority straight culture.
And in addition, Thomas Sowell points out the cultural ills that are associated with “black ghetto” culture trace back to the redneck culture of the American south. Blacks in the north were very aware that they needed to be on their good behavior, and that any transgressions on the part of any black would reflect on all blacks.
Nowadays, we see more of an antinomian fallacy – blacks and other minority groups declare themselves to be not bound by the laws of the majority culture. They then complain when they are seen as lawbreakers.
There’s another aspect of bigotry to beware of. Shylock says, “beware my fangs”. When the majority is slapped with the labels of Sexist, Intolerant, Xenophobic, Homophobic, Islamophobic, Racist, and Bigoted, they will eventually tire of being called dogs. It’s one thing when a minority bares its fangs, it’s another thing entirely when the majority does so.
Why was support for Trump so high among Evangelicals? Do they not care about [name the scandal the media was hyping]?
Maybe, but they care about other things a lot more.
…Family Research Council President Tony Perkins told Politico, “We kind of gave him — ‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here.’ ” Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham, told CNN that Trump is a “changed person.” He rationalized, “These alleged affairs, they’re alleged with Trump, didn’t happen while he was in office.”
There are two ways to view this: Either evangelicals like Perkins are rank hypocrites or, in the spirit of their faith, are simply very, very forgiving.
Many lean toward the former interpretation, and I get the temptation.
But it willfully leaves out a lot of recent history. As the left and liberal media try to “figure out” Christian America during this latest, complicated moment, it’s instructive to understand where they’ve recently been.
Two years into Barack Obama’s first term, I wrote a book on the liberal war on Christianity. When “Losing Our Religion” came out, folks on the right got it immediately. “Of course the left is attacking Christians,” was the general refrain.
Many on the left, however, were incredulous. One far-left radio host had me on to tell me he had no plans to read the book, but that my premise was absurd on its face. Christianity’s the biggest religion in the country; it can’t possibly be an oppressed class, they insisted.
OK, ask one — just one — evangelical Christian why they voted for Trump.
Perkins spelled it out. Evangelical Christians, he says, “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”
It wasn’t just Obama’s condescension toward the faithful, who he famously said “cling to guns and religion” when angry or scared. It was eight years of policies that trampled on their religious values, from expanded abortion rights and decreased regulation, even in the face of horrific cases like Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s, to continued efforts to chip away at religious employers’ rights.
It was a smugness from the liberal media, which talked about Christian America as if it were a vestigial organ of some extinct, diseased dinosaur.
Liberal television hosts mocked Sarah Palin for banal things like praying, and reporters wrote that her faith — Pentecostalism — was fanatical, kooky and bigoted. Liberal networks and newsrooms were windowless cocoons of secularism that only deigned to cover Christianity to dismiss its relevance or spotlight its perceived backwardness.
And it was decades of concerted cultural elitism that marginalized Christians as not cool enough to cater to. Movies like “The Passion of the Christ” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” were blockbuster hits in spite of dismissive Hollywood film critics who refused to believe there were enough Christians to go see them. Celebrities called them fanatics; comedians made fun of them.
Many evangelicals I talk to say they grew tired of turning the other cheek. In Trump, they finally found someone who was willing to voice the anger and resentment they had been holding in.
They could overlook his personal foibles — after all, let he who is without sin cast the first stone — and his evangelical illiteracy, in exchange for getting someone who would tell off all their past tormentors.
It’s worth noting, there’s also Trump’s record. From tapping Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court to acknowledging Jerusalem is the capital of Israel to following through on his pro-life rhetoric, the President has delivered on a number of promises he made to evangelicals. But that’s not why they voted for him.
So while the willingness to forgive and even defend Trump’s alleged sins seems anathema to many, the fact is evangelicals, like many Trump voters, had good reason to pull the lever for him — and now to stand by him.
Dennis Prager has written a great deal on Judeo-Christian values, which he considers one of the underpinnings of American civilization. Many people have an almost reflexive aversion to the term “Judeo-Christian” and will leap to oppose the term. Judaism and Christianity are different religions, they will point out, which means there can be no such thing as Judeo-Christian anything.
Dennis Prager wrote a set of 22 essays on the subject, including what values he identifies as particularly Judeo-Christian. There’s one website I’ve found that has the essays conveniently in one place.
One thing I think doesn’t get enough attention is the meta-law in Judaism. The Torah could have been interpreted in ways to make Judaism just as oppressive as Jihadist Islam. Instead, the rabbis have a history of interpreting laws so that the harshest penalties are literally impossible to invoke. One example is the ongoing arguments between Hillel and Shammai, and how much more restrictive Judaism would have been had Shammai carried the day.
One could make the case for this as an underlying current that drives the course of religious doctrine and practice. Because it’s not written down anywhere, it can be ignored. Individuals and institutions can swim against the current, at least for a while, but the current eventually overcomes all.
The final installment in Michael Broyde’s series on religious courts in America. The take-away is in a bolded paragraph:
The truth is that Islamic courts are not so scary. State court judges regularly order the enforcement of religious arbitration awards, as the previous four posts explained. The future of Islamic law and sharia courts could look like the present state of Jewish law and rabbinical courts.
The alert reader may well notice the modal — “could” — in that paragraph. And he’s right, Islamic courts certainly “could” look like the present state of Jewish law and rabbinical courts. All it takes is…
These measures, which have been successfully adopted by rabbinical courts, can be implemented by Islamic panels too, if they wish to do so.
Of course, just because they can be learned and applied, does not mean that the Islamic community actually will do that: That is their choice and their choice alone. Either the Islamic courts can fit into the framework of religious arbitration in America and have their decisions upheld, or they can remain outside that framework, be a source of protest and not be acceptable to the legal system. The question is not whether American courts can adapt to Islamic arbitration — judges know no more Jewish law than Islamic law — but rather, the question is whether Islamic arbitration will adhere to the norms of American law.
Successful religious arbitration allows religious communities to be moderately self-governing. This sort of respect for legal pluralism is part and parcel of American legal culture and history: Federalism — the concurrent existence of multiple sovereigns (federal, state, local jurisdictions) — meshes well with the idea that for some people some matters are ecclesiastical, and that also is a “jurisdiction.”
Perhaps more importantly, by permitting Islamic communities to conduct private faith-based dispute resolution within certain legal limits, American law can bring Islamic and secular segments of society and culture into conversation with each other. Islamic communities will improve from these interactions with secular law, and secular law will advance as well.
And this is all quite true. That last paragraph may be the ultimate barrier: Jihadists probably also see this, and recognize that adapting Islamic courts to be compatible with U.S. law will wind up changing the practice of Islamic law. So just as adopting the values that lead to success in Western culture is called “selling out” by certain minority groups, accommodating Western law may be called “infidelity” by certain minority religions.
Cyclically, intellectuals, ulama, Muslim jurists and politicians go back to the question of whether the apostate deserves an earthly punishment or the punishment is the sole prerogative of God in the hereafter. While in many moments of history the first interpretation had prevailed, today other interpretations exist that question the traditionally imposed penalty for the apostate (murtadd), but also the very meaning of the term.
In this sense, the statements made a few days ago by the high scientific Council of the Moroccan Ministry of Habous (Religious Affairs) are unprecedented. In Sabīl al-‘ulamā’ (The way of ulama), a volume of over 150 pages, it distanced itself from the traditional meaning of apostasy and of the penalty given for this offense. According to this document, Murtadd would not be the one who leaves Islam for another religion, but the one who betrays the group he belongs to.
“The most correct understanding of the apostasy issue resides in the spirit of the tradition and of the biography of the Prophet, who, by apostate, means the traitor of the group (khā’in al-jamā‘), the one who reveals its secrets and hurts it with the help of its opponents, what is equivalent to high treason under international law,” the document states.
The commission in fact offers a new interpretation of the two hadīth (Prophet’s sayings) traditionally cited in support of apostasy, framing them within the historical circumstances in which they would have been revealed: “Whoever changes his religion, kill him,” and “He who abandons religion is the one who breaks away from the group.” In the context of endemic wars, as was the period when Islam was born – the document explains – abandoning Muslims meant joining the nonbelievers. Apostasy was therefore political, not doctrinal.
According to the ulama, this meaning of apostasy would be evident in some historical facts of the time. Abū Bakr, the first of the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs, according to the tradition used to wage war against the apostates, understood them as political traitors because, in refusing to submit to the imam, they were dividing the unity of the group and undermining the understanding of religion, destroying its pillars.
Our results suggest that living in a state with a an extra clergy member for each 1,000 habitants increases the earnings of black workers by 1.7 to 3.6 percentage points relative to white workers.. In addition we show that this relationship is robust to different measures of exposure to religious density, and that these estimates increase to 7.6 percentage points when the change on religious density is defined exclusively increasing an extra black religious workers for each 1,000 habitants. Finally, we estimate a series of robustness tests that suggest that these results are not due to spatial sorting across states, nor to secular time trends associated with changes in labor market outcomes for black American workers.
….And it is that contact which Mr. Ceglowski most fears. For he thinks that “if everybody contemplates the infinite instead of fixing the drains, many of us will die of cholera.” I wonder if he has ever treated a cholera patient. This is not a rhetorical question; the same pamphlet-forging doctor of my acquaintance went on a medical mission to Haiti during the cholera epidemic there. It seems rather odd that someone who has never fought cholera, should be warning someone who has, that his philosophy prevents him from fighting cholera.
And indeed, this formulation is exactly backward. If everyone fixes drains instead of contemplating the infinite, we shall all die of cholera, if we do not die of boredom first. The heathens sacrificed to Apollo to avert plague; if we know now that we must fix drains instead, it is only through contemplating the infinite. Aristotle contemplated the infinite and founded Natural Philosophy; St. Benedict contemplated the infinite and preserved it. Descartes contemplated the infinite and derived the equations of optics; Hooke contemplated infinity and turned them into the microscope. And when all of these infinities had been completed – the Forms of Plato giving way to the orisons of monks, the cold hard lines of the natural philosophers terminating in the green hills of England to raise smokestacks out of empty fields – then and only then did the heavens open, a choir of angels break into song, and a plumber fix a drain….