Thursday, April 08, 2010

Dennis vs. English, round 82

We don't even need an intro, do we?

Dennis is mad again. About what, I'm not sure, but since he decides to take it out on left-wing Jews and Christians, I figured this would be as good as fisking target as any. He starts with a stupid premise and takes things from there.
Leftism, though secular, must be understood as a religion (which is why I have begun capitalizing it).
Why? Based on what? Are we bothering to differentiate ideology from "religion?" If not, how come?
The Leftist value system's hold on its adherents is as strong as the hold Christianity, Judaism and Islam have on their adherents. Nancy Pelosi's belief in expanding the government's role in American life, and therefore her passion for the health care bill, is as strong as a pro-life Christian's belief in the sanctity of the life of the unborn.
Uh huh... but no one calls being pro-life or believing in big-government a "religion." They're positions based on ideological beliefs, not religious systems/philosophies unto themselves, so....
Given the religious nature and the emotional power of Leftist values, Jews and Christians on the Left often derive their values from the Left more than from their religion.
But this assumes that Judaism or Christianity are static monoliths and that there is always a clear dichotomy between "religion" and "left-wing values." Both Judaism and Christianity say you should give to charity and help the poor. Helping the poor is also a value pretty high on the liberal list. If a Jew or Christian supports giving to charity, does that make them LEFT? Not everybody's values are so easily dissected and assigned to their respective ideological corners, Dennis. Some people do what seems right to them, regardless of the source.
Now, of course, most Leftist Jews and Christians will counter that Leftist values cannot trump their religion's values because Leftist values are identical to their religion's values. But this argument only reinforces my argument that Leftism has conquered the Christianity and the Judaism of Leftist Christians and Jews. If there is no difference between Leftist moral values and those of Judaism or Christianity, then Christianity is little more than Leftism with "Jesus" rhetoric added, and Judaism is Leftism with Jewish terms -- such as "Tikkun Olam" ("repairing the world") and "Prophetic values" -- added.
Again, you're essentializing everything you're talking about. Judaism or Christianity are bigger ideas and philosophies than merely left or right, and anyone that claims that being left or right encompasses the totality of either religion is doing those belief systems a disservice. But you are being totally dishonest by suggesting the argument of most liberals is that "Liberalism= Judaism", as opposed to something like, "My values come from liberalism and Judaism," or, "My Liberalism informs my Judaism, or vice-versa." Yes, some people may truly believe that Liberalism and Judaism/Christianity are totally interchangeable, but guess what? Those people don't take their religion very seriously. As usual, your opponents are strawmen.
But if Christianity is, morally speaking, really Leftism, why didn't Catholics or Protestants assert these values prior to 19th-century European Leftism? And, if Judaism is essentially a set of Left-wing values, does that mean that the Torah and the Talmud are Leftist documents? Or are the two pillars of Judaism generally wrong?
Here's a question: why are you only bothering to "address" the most simplistic version of this argument? And why would it matter whether we call the Torah and Talmud "leftist" or not? Stupid tidy labels don't matter nearly as much as honestly looking at the content and distilling useful messages from it.
More questions:
Oh goody.

Why are almost no Christians and Jews who believe that God is the author of the Bible (or, in the case of Jews, the Torah) on the Left?
Again, what does being "on the Left" mean? How are you interpreting it? Are you talking about social politics? Economic ones? In any event, Dennis, do me a favor and google the Israeli Meimad party and you'll be in for an interesting read. Better yet, just read up on Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Why are so few pro-life Catholic and Protestant Christians on the Left? Do they not care about "the poor"?
Why don't you ASK THEM? Better yet, come up with a definition of "Left" where it doesn't seem to be an obvious stand-in for "Communist."
Of course, that is what people on the Left believe. As former head of the Democratic Party Howard Dean said, "Our moral values, in contradistinction to the Republicans, is, we don't think kids ought to go to bed hungry at night."
Yeah, and Republicans say Democrats only care about gay whales being allowed to legally smoke pot while burning an American flag. Hyperbole comes in all shapes and sizes, Mr. "Ruining someone's reputation is just like raping them."
They believe such things despite the fact that traditional Protestants and Catholics have created more institutions to take care of the sick and needy than probably any other groups in the world. And despite the fact that religious Americans give more charity and volunteer more time than secular Americans do.
Again, Dennis, hyperbole tends to be centered in emotion, not facts. You know, like the hyperbole from the right that liberals don't give to charity at all or that gays and lesbians make terrible parents. (For the record, exactly when did giving to charity become the barometer for determining "whose values/country is best?" Just wondering.)
And why have the great majority of Orthodox Jews rejected the Left? For Jews on the Left, the explanation is simple: Orthodox Jews have primitive beliefs and therefore primitive values.
The sad thing is I'm sure that there are people that actually DO believe this, but Dennis still can't be bothered to scrounge up a single quote. It's lazy AND stupid.
The obvious response is that for the Leftist, all opposition to the Left, secular or religious, is primitive and usually worse (Racist, Sexist, Homophobic, Xenophobic, Ignorant, Bigoted, Intolerant, Mean-Spirited, etc.). So this doesn't tell us much. What might tell us much is this: With a handful of exceptions, Orthodox Jews know Judaism far better than non-Orthodox Jews do. Given how few of them are Leftist, this would suggest that Judaism and Leftism are indeed in conflict.
Except that you're again looking at the Jewish community TODAY and extrapolating backwards for FOREVER, and assuming that there's no shift. Which is hillarious given that most sociologists and anthropologists looking at the Orthodox community, especially Haredim, have observed that Orthodox culture, particularly among the leadership, has become more politicized and traditional over the past 50 to 100 years, to the point that many things which were not a big deal in Europe (or were less of a big deal, or at least left to individual choice), are not established community standards which are aggressively enforced. Why should politics be different? Again, your definitions are crucially important here. Was Rashi a "conservative?" Was Maimonides a "liberal?" Most people with a brain would answer that it depends what you're talking about. You want to churn out this simplistic garbage that says that Jews were never liberal under the Enlightenment when they started straying from Orthodoxy and losing their political as well as religious souls... which, again, is pretty funny coming from a committed Reform Jew. God, it's like when people on Fox News try to argue that all the Founding Fathers spent their whole lives in church. Yeah, Jefferson was really religious... except for that whole cutting whole sections out of his bible with a straight razor! CONTEXT, Dennis, give me some context!
But that doesn't matter to most Jews on the Left because to be a good person (and, to those for whom it matters, to be a good Jew), one need not know Judaism, let alone follow Judaism. One needs only to feel what is right (Leftism is overwhelmingly based on feeling); and, when in doubt, one can determine what is right from The New York Times, not from sacred Jewish texts.
Again, give me... I don't know, any sign that this BS is coming from an actual encounter you've had? Rather than just a fictional character you made up (let's call him Lenny Leftenstein). Also, maybe you could give us some clarification on what criteria you use to determine when someone "knows" or "follows" Judaism? I mean, I know you went to an Ortho yeshiva with your pal Joseph Telushkin, but last I heard you go to services at Stephen S. Wise Temple. You're far from being the Godol Hador, Dennis. Get off your high horse (bimah?).
One of the many fundamental differences between Leftism and Judaism concerns evil. Jews and others on the Left (everywhere, not just in America) have a real problem identifying, let alone confronting, evil. Yet, for Judaism, identifying and confronting evil is as basic a Jewish value as exists. That is why, for example, there is no pacifist tradition in Judaism.
How are we DEFINING pacifism? Is nonviolent resistance pacifism? There's a long history of that in Jewish history, actually, from the Holocaust through the Inquisition and Crusades all the way back to Rabbi Ben-Zakkai. You may not agree with the position, but it doesn't mean it didn't exist. God, Dennis, I love how your column insults any readers who are even the slightest bit
knowledgeable about your topic.
Regarding evil, the Psalmist writes -- and this is recited in synagogue every Sabbath -- "Those who love God -- hate evil."
What a delightful and, on a practical level, totally useless, quote, since it does nothing to help us identify evil. 0 for 1, Dennis. Got any others?
And as regards pacifism, one of the Prophets, Joel (3:10), inverts what became the much more famous quotation of Isaiah and Micah: "Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears."
That's it? No context? No discussion about how we have these two competing messages within the same prophetic tradition? Wow, I'm glad you went into being a radio hack, Dennis. Your columns make for terrible drash. For the record: Joel is talking about God strengthening Israel and helping exact revenge upon their enemies for past misdeeds. Nothing specifically anti-pacifist here, IMO. The Jews aren't resisting attacks, they're taking revenge, and they're doing so specifically under the aegis of God. Micah, by contrast, is talking about the Messianic age, after all wars and conflict has ended, permanently. That isn't necessarily a pacifist message, either (though some people tend to selectively interpret it that way). Great, so you're responding to a simplistic drash of Micah with an equally simplistic drash of Joel. Great, thanks, Dennis. You're a real credit to your people.

Dennis brings it home, as he so often likes to do, with a dishonest rant accusing the left (and by association, left-wing Jews and Christians) of hating Israel.
Indeed, Israel provides the clearest proof of how Leftism is stronger than the Jewishness of most Jews on the Left. Israel is threatened with a Holocaust by Iran and tens of millions of Islamic supporters outside of Iran, and Palestinian society is saturated with the most virulent Jew-hatred since the Nazis. Yet while today's Jew- and Israel-haters call the Left home, Jews on the Left continue to be proud members of the Left. Such is the power of Leftism, the most dynamic religion in the world for the last 150 years.
Um, Dennis, Israel is proof positive that being Jewish and being left-wing are two things which are perfectly capable of coexisting. Take a look at the history of the freaking Israeli Labor Party--- a party which, in many areas, was far more left-wing than the US Democrats. Are you really going to suggest that Ben-Gurion or Dayan or Meir weren't "really" Jewish? By whose standards? And, again, you're conflating everyone to the left of... let's say, YOU, as being "a Leftist." Guess what, most Israel-haters (let's take ANSWER just as an example) are not centrist Democrats, they're self-identified Left-wingers for whom the Democratic party is far too centrist. This is not where the majority of liberal Jews identify. Not even close. You are suggesting that there is no difference between voting the Democrat ticket and, say, calling for divestment from Israel (to pick an actual concrete example that would harm the state). Of course, the two camps are not remotely the same, anymore than voting for McCain puts you, say, in the same camp as Timothy McVeigh.


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