Criticism, Self-Criticism and Antisemitism

A common thread of modern leftist anti-Israel anti-Semitism is the claim that Israel has only itself to blame for Jew-hatred. If only they had been “nicer” to the Arab armies and terrorists committed to their annihilation! A preposterous but familiar excuse for leftist racism.

But in another sense, anti-Semitism does indeed have roots in Jewish history. For Israel, in addition to discovering monotheism and the concept of a meaningful history, also invented self-criticism. The first references to Jews as a stiff-necked, materialistic, ungrateful people may be found in the words of the Prophets of ancient Israel, quoted in the Jewish (and Christian) bible.

In a PBS series on Jewish history, host Simon Schama (a respected historian) cited as proof of St. Paul’s anti-semitism his claim that the Jews had often slain their own prophets. Schama seemed unaware that Paul was quoting Jesus, and Jesus was quoting the Prophets Nehemiah and Elijah, criticizing Hebrew ingratitude:

“They were disobedient and rebelled against Thee, and cast thy laws behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.” (Nehemiah 9:26)

“They children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword.” (1 Kings 19:10, quoting Elijah)

The prophets lambasted their own people in order to turn them to repentance. When Christian anti-Semites began seeking excuses to hate this strange “other” people, they found plenty of ammunition in their shared holy books.

In a similar vein, Protestants criticized the Catholic Church in order to purify and save it. The Enlightenment took the Protestant critique and used it to overthrow all of Christianity.

And it may be noted that some Jewish critics of the state of Israel, both on the left and right, find themselves perilously close to this danger point. Their well-intended (in some cases) criticisms of Israeli government policy are immediately embraced by those who openly seek the annihilation of the Jewish state. They are touted as especially valid because they come from the Jews themselves!

Conclusion: Honest self-criticism (or acceptance of the criticism of others) is a risky business. It will invariably empower one’s enemies, so it must be approached in the most serious spirit and with only the highest purpose, as was the case with the Prophets. And one must always consider the possible misuse of one’s words.

What do YOU think?  Post a comment below.

The Marriage Divide

Not sure I agree with all of this, but there is an extremely interesting interview with W. Bradford Wilcox of The Marriage Project.  It is a web exclusive posted at the invaluable First Things (firstthings.com).  Entitled “How Churches Can Bridge the Marriage Divide“, I found it most informative about just how dire the is “marriage gap” between college-educated and non-college parents.  (Obviously college education is a marker for socio-economic class, since few colleges teach anything even hinting at the value of the married state.)

Most shocking single statistic for me?  10% of babies born to college-educated mothers are born out of wedlock.  Among non-college-educated mothers, the figure is 50%!  And of those kids, few will be college-educated themselves.

Anyway, let me know what you think.  The “Post a Comment” button is below.  (It must be easy, because I get a lot of spammed comments.)

Why “Mother’s” Day? Why not Parent #1 Day?

[As usual, my friend Hans Moleman (at mistermoleman.com) has made a good and timely point: in an age when the benefits of motherhood have been scientifically and legally debunked, refuted, and declared non-existent, why do we still celebrate "Mother's" Day?]

It is time to put an end to this outrage.  “Mother’s” Day is an abhorrent, anachronistic vestige of heterosexist oppression.  In barely concealed homophobic code, it implies that a child needs and/or benefits from having a mother, and that motherhood is something other than an outdated social construct.

Sure, motherhood may have been revered in the Dark Ages.  But as Enlightenment has spread across the land in recent years, social scientists and learned judges have patiently explained to us that “mothers” are now quite redundant.

Wise judges such as Vaughn Walker, ruling that the voters of California have no right to decide so important a question, wrote:

“The gender of a child’s parent is not a factor in a child’s adjustment… The research supporting this conclusion is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology…Children do not need to be raised by a male parent and a female parent to be well-adjusted, and having both a male and a female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted.”

See?  It is “accepted beyond serious debate”.  As Al Gore likes to say, the debate is over, we know all we need to know.

The judge did admit that things were different in the Dark Ages: “When California became a state in 1850, marriage was understood to require a husband and a wife.”  But, as they say in California, that was then and this is now.  (On retiring soon after ruling against Prop 8, Judge Walker said ““I have done my part.”  Indeed he has.)

The Iowa Supreme Court was equally patient in dismissing the folly of mother-fixation.

“The research appears to strongly support the conclusion that same-sex couples foster the same wholesome environment as opposite-sex couples and suggests that the traditional notion that children need a mother and father to be raised into healthy, well-adjusted adults is based more on stereotype than anything else.

There you have it.  This whole motherhood thing is just a stereotype.

And think of the emotional pain inflicted.  Every “M-word” Day is a gross offense to the self-esteem of gay male couples who are thinking about raising children.

It reminds one of a heart-breaking episode from Monty Python’s Life of Brian.  Stan, a young rebel with gender issues, announces that he wants to have a baby:

Stan (also known as Loretta): It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.

Reg:  But you can’t have babies.

Stan:  Don’t you oppress me.

Reg: Where’s the fetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?

Well, Reg, modern science has finally come up with effective gestation boxes, so Stan’s dream (actually Loretta’s dream) can now come true. And the courts have said that gay adoption is OK, because all that a child needs is “parents”.

So we can leave this motherhood fetish back in ancient Judea where it belongs.

The obvious thing to do is to rename the holiday.  Federal and state governments are quickly replacing the anachronistic “Mother” and “Father” lines on government forms and birth certificates with the more sensitive “Parent #1” and “Parent #2”.

The calendar can and should do the same thing.  May 11 is Parent #1 Day, with Parent #2 to be celebrated later.  (Don’t get me started on the whole “Fatherhood” outrage.  That can wait until P2 Day.)

Boycott Hallmark until they correct this archaic macro-aggression against the differently gendered parent!

Reminder: Did you call your Parent #1 today?

The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Monument at Brandeis

My friend Moleman has posted (mistermoleman.com) an article about the brave Somali feminist freedom fighter snubbed by the cowardly liberals of Brandeis.

It’s worth a look. Moleman is proposing that a monument to Ms. Hirsi Ali be constructed near Brandeis. Good idea.

“Blind, pitiless indifference”

As I have written below, I have spent many years trying to find God.  I have found much Judeo-Christian theology coherent, consistent with reality, and therefore highly plausible.

But I still cannot convince myself that the other coherent, consistent worldview, atheistic materialism, is not also plausible.

Many authors have helped me along; I will list and discuss them sometime.  But nothing so far has been quite so compelling as this quote from atheist guru Richard Dawkins:

“The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

This chilling statement, offered in support of Dawkins’ atheism, is from his book Rivers of Eden, which I found quoted in Francis Collins’ The Language of God.  (I recommend Collins’ book highly.  He was the director of the Human Genome Project as well as a Christian.)

I expect to be contemplating this for a long time.

LUCRETIUS – The Consistent Atheist

I have just read a book that has achieved a rather impressive audience recently: The Swerve, by Harvard Professor of Humanities Stephen Greenblatt.  Accurately subtitled “How the World Became Modern”, it is a look at the re-discovery and modern embrace of Roman Epicurean philosopher-poet Lucretius and his epic work On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura).

Little is known of Lucretius’ life. One historian writes that “Lucretius was probably a member of the aristocratic gens Lucretia, and his work shows an intimate knowledge of the luxurious lifestyle in Rome. Lucretius’s love of the countryside invites speculation that he inhabited family-owned rural estates, as did many wealthy Roman families, and he was certainly expensively educated with mastery of Latin, Greek, literature, and philosophy.”

In chapter 8, Greenblatt  summarizes Lucretius:

Everything is made of invisible particles, eternal, infinite in number but limited in shape and size, all in motion in an infinite void.  The universe has no creator or designer.

Everything comes into being as a result of a swerve [i.e. random motion]; the swerve is the source of free will.

Nature ceaselessly experiments. The universe was not created for or about humans; humans are not unique. Human society began not in a Golden Age of tranquility and plenty, but in a primitive battle for survival.

The soul dies; there is no afterlife; death is nothing to us.

All organized religions are superstitious delusions, and invariably cruel.

The highest goal of human life is the enhancement of pleasure and the reduction of pain.

The greatest obstacle to pleasure is not pain; it is delusion.

Understanding the nature of things generates deep wonder.

Continue reading

The Death Throes of Western Civilization, Part 97

If you are concerned about the dreadful direction taken by the modern university liberal arts, humanities, and social sciences, I urge your consideration of an excellent article, “The Humanities and Us”, by Heather Mac Donald in City Journal.

She begins with the UCLA English faculty’s recent purge of any requirements for the study (or even reading) of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, or any other classics.

The UCLA coup represents the characteristic academic traits of our time: narcissism, an obsession with victimhood, and a relentless determination to reduce the stunning complexity of the past to the shallow categories of identity and class politics. Sitting atop an entire civilization of aesthetic wonders, the contemporary academic wants only to study oppression, preferably his own, defined reductively according to gonads and melanin.

She deftly punctures the arrogant presumption of academic elites:

Course catalogs today babble monotonously of group identity. UCLA’s undergraduates can take courses in Women of Color in the U.S.; Women and Gender in the Caribbean; Chicana Feminism; Studies in Queer Literatures and Cultures; and Feminist and Queer Theory.

Today’s professoriate claims to be interested in “difference,” or, to use an even more up-to-date term, “alterity.” But this is a fraud. The contemporary academic seeks only to confirm his own worldview and the political imperatives of the moment in whatever he studies. The 2014 Modern Language Association conference, for example, the annual gathering of America’s literature (not social work) faculty, will address “embodiment, poverty, climate, activism, reparation, and the condition of being unequally governed . . . to expose key sites of vulnerability and assess possibilities for change.”

Maradiaga

I referred recently to the difficulty of fully uprooting the weed of anti-Semitism from the Catholic Church, despite the heroic efforts of modern popes (Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, and Benedict XVI).

Consider Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras: papabile, (considered possible pope material), indeed a leading contender as John Paul II’s successor, and one of eight cardinals chosen by the current pope to reform the church.

I described him earlier as a Liberation (i.e. Marxist) Theologian.  Let me demonstrate, from his speech on October 25 (read it all here):

He rails against “the neoliberal dictatorships that rule democracies” and advises that “to change the system, it would be necessary to destroy the power of the new feudal lords.Continue reading

Progress Report on the Search for Faith

[Written November 11, 2013]

Still searching.

The best result so far is that I can accept the Thomist logic of a plausible God.  But I cannot make the leap from this Philosopher’s God to a loving, caring, father God; and only such a God can offer Hope for what I love. (see previous posting)

The Catholic Church attracts me, calls to me.  Its commitment to Faith and Reason is essential: I cannot believe in a God who makes no sense.  This Thomist thought is one of the Catholics’ greatest contributions to humanity.  (Not to mention other gifts such as clarified morality, organized charity, and the sanctity of marriage.)

But sometimes the church seems to know too much.  Too much confident Dogma where it seems only Trust can serve.  Too much certainty regarding details of God’s thinking.

On this too-great certainty the Church has constructed a demand for trust in its own thinking; and the Church has too often been too wrong.  It has been the fountainhead of anti-Semitism.  It has massively and brutally inquired into individual souls.  It has criminalized heresy and apostasy.

To its credit, the modern Church has purged itself of these errors (sins).  This has been late in coming and grudgingly accepted, but it has happened.  The heroic efforts of the modern popes (from Pius XII to Benedict XVI) deserve honor.

I cannot oppose myself to the Catholic Church of today.  Indeed, the Church today stands as the leading champion in defense of almost all that I hold dear and that is now under such attack.  Family, Life, Truth.

So I find myself standing with the Church…but apart from it. Continue reading

Hope for the Hopeless, O, Abide With Me

News today from the Mideast – all bad.  The Israeli-Palestinian “peace talks” drag on, with the US Secretary of State publicly blaming Israel for the lack of success.  In Geneva the US is on the verge of giving Iran the kind of deal the Mullahs want; in response, the Saudis are ready to buy their own nukes from Pakistan.  It will take a miracle to prevent a truly horrible all-out war in the region within a year. (My friend Mr. Hans Moleman has an insightful take on all this at his site mistermoleman.com.)

Back home, the trend towards undermining of the family continues at a rapid and yet accelerating pace.

Meanwhile, I continue my lonely search for Faith. And I sometimes wonder why.  What is so imperative about Faith?

I could, like many good people I know, put the Big Questions aside. Without Faith I could live a relatively moral, or at least decent, life, and when the time comes die a bravely accepting death.  It mightn’t be too bad.   I have lived an extremely easy life; with luck I could just continue on until it ends.

But without Faith there is no Hope.  And that I cannot do without.

As a young man, I saw the world as do most young men fresh out of (liberal arts) college: a cesspool of suffering and misery, caused by greed and folly, and just waiting for some brave, bright young man like me to set all things right.

The course of my adult life was one of gradual discovery (re-discovery, some might say) that there was much to love and value in this world.  The beauty of art and music, as humans re-capitulate the wonders of nature. The courage shown throughout history by those fighting (what they believed was) the good fight. The endless search to find the truth about ourselves and our world.   In a word, the great culture we have been blessed to inherit, and graced with the opportunity to hand forward to the future.   (In a word, I became conservative.)

But all this appreciation brings with it fear – the fear that every parent feels when gazing into his child’s future.  Can it possibly be safe, in such a dangerous world?

What if everything exists by accident, constructed on nothing, the result of an inexplicable chance pinpoint explosion called the Big Bang?  If we are accidental, then all we have done and built is doomed, if only by the force of Entropy.  We see these forces of entropic doom all around us every day, and we keep our sanity only by extreme mental exercises.

Some place their hope in mankind and science as the forces that will save us.  This is a fool’s hope, available only to those who haven’t looked into it too deeply.

Some avert their eyes and seek constant distractions to avoid thinking about it.  This works well until it doesn’t.

And some find Hope in their Faith in a loving God who cares about us and has a plan for us.

I have tried the first two, and they no longer work for me.  So I keep knocking on Door Number Three.

I still don’t know if God exists. But I know that without God, there is no Hope.

And I don’t think I can live without Hope.

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