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A Pet Peeve--DC Rabbis Blathering About Politics:

Ilya's post on rabbis' (and other clergypeople's) economic ignorance reminds me of one of my pet peeves, D.C. area rabbis who give overtly ideological sermons on general political topics like gun control, environmental issues (see Sam Kazman's post My Green Rosh Hashannah), and the like.

Put aside the issue of whether such sermons are appropriate as a general rule, and whether rabbis are completely miscontruing the concept of "tikkun olam" when they claim a special Jewish interest in such issues under that heading; I have a narrower complaint. In the D.C. area, no matter how much any given rabbi studies up for a sermon on, say, the living wage movement, immigration reform, or national health insurance, there are always going to be hundreds of individuals far more knowledgeable on the topic available as guest speakers. Indeed, in many cases one or more real experts will be in the chapel as the rabbi gives a rather ignorant talk on the subject (I've found myself in that position, once).

In short, why would I go to a synagogue to hear a rabbi speak about, say, the prospects for U.S. intervention in Darfur, when I could attend a speech by a real expert at Brookings, SAIS, or some other DC venue? If the rabbi has some wisdom to impart regarding how Jewish law and/or tradition specifically speaks to the topic of his sermon, that's another story. But in my experience, most of these sermons are more akin to a bad op-ed written for a general interest newspaper, and can only be attributed to some combination of laziness (much easier to write up a quick talk on gun control than the philosophy of the RAMBAM); pandering to the overwhelmingly liberal congregation; misusing the pulpit, in a rather inefficient way, to further one's own political ideas; and rabbinical frustration at not being a real "player" in DC.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. A Pet Peeve--DC Rabbis Blathering About Politics:
  2. Law and Economics Training for Religious Leaders:
EMD:
I haven't heard many political speeches in Orthodox synagogues. In DC, I would suggest popping in Kesher Israel to hear the intellectual and engaging Rabbi Barry Freundel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Freundel). How many rabbis have be on Da Ali G show?
9.24.2007 12:27am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
David Bernstein in 1933 Germany:

"I wish the Rabbis would just shut up about politics. They shouldn't be concerned which political party controls the Reichstag."
9.24.2007 12:31am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
It could be worse: I live in Boulder, where everyone is entitled to preach sermons about political topics.
9.24.2007 12:34am
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Oh, and JF: that's an amazingly ugly and unfortunate comment.
9.24.2007 12:35am
Dave N (mail):
I concur with Charlie's second comment.

On a substantive note, I am not Jewish, so perhaps I should not comment. That said, while it is true that there are innumerable experts on any given subject, they all are not as readily accessible as to both time and location as is a rabbi's (or a preacher's) sermon.
9.24.2007 12:43am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Dave, that's why I noted the guest speaker (which could even be "guest sermon" option, except then one might wonder what a Brookings fellow is doing giving a "sermon") option.
9.24.2007 12:47am
LTEC (mail) (www):
It's not just D.C.
My experience is that rabbis love to preach politics, and almost never make an effort to relate it to Jewish scripture and tradition. Often this is because the scripture and tradition are in the wrong direction.

Some examples I've seen:
--Preaching liberal attitudes towards homosexuality, without ever mentioning that stoning-to-death thing;
--Preaching land-for-peace in Israel, without mentioning those passages where God has other views;
--Preaching religious freedom at Chanukah, ignoring the fact that the Maccabees were the Taliban of their day.

When I was young, rabbis were wise. Now they are younger than me and they are idiots.
9.24.2007 12:48am
George Weiss (mail):
EMD..

agreed

heh...i know a lot of older jews who arn't so orthodox themselves but attend orthodox services just cause they are sick of all the politicing in conserv and reform ones

charlie..are you suggesting boulder is more political than DC??
9.24.2007 12:48am
Jim at FSU (mail):
I've said it before and I think it bears repeating: "JF Thomas, STFU already."

Clergy (like all experts in a particular subject) need to recognize when they are leaving their area of expertise and heading into another area. That being said, even a very loud and ignorant rabbi is unlikely to cause enduring harm. At least they aren't deciding cases or passing laws. Of course those in government have amici briefs and helpful lobbyists to cure their ignorance, problem solved.
9.24.2007 12:50am
George Weiss (mail):
LTEC...

"the Maccabees were the taliban of their day"

when exactly did the Maccabees take the lives of civilian greeks on greek soil?
9.24.2007 12:51am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Strikes me that they lived in peace with the Hellenists until the Greco-Syrians tried to impose Hellenism on the Jewish populations, and the Jewish Hellenists seemed to be on the wrong side.
9.24.2007 12:54am
Milhouse (www):
George, when did the Taliban do that? Al Qaeda and the Taliban were very good friends, but they were not at all the same people. Anyway, the concept of "Greek soil" is utterly anachronistic. Modi'in was way before the Treaty of Westphalia.
9.24.2007 12:55am
George Weiss (mail):
david...to be fair however...the maccabees set up a kingdom of preists as king..which was less than optimal acording to jewish law..and eventually became hellinits themselvs
9.24.2007 12:57am
Jim at FSU (mail):
One question. Why are rabbis preaching this land for peace nonsense? Are there really that many jews opposed to the existence of Israel in this country?

Also, doesn't god in the old testament explicitly tell the jews to beat the asses of anyone who tries to take that land he gave them and that he would be most irate if they were to fail this? Didn't that same god depose some of the kings of israel for failing to prosecute war with sufficient skill or fervor? (yes, it was Saul for failing to completely exterminate the Amalekites) Wow god didn't mess around back then.
9.24.2007 12:59am
George Weiss (mail):
milhouse..seimi good point..but the good friends part is a little misleading...they both finnacialy and logisitcally supported terror...if not on US soil..on their own soil against civilians with opposing views.

the maccabees may have been fundmaentalist..but i dont remeber a lot of killing of jews to sujugate the population

btw
the concept of the maccabees being the taliban of their day..is what..not anachronistic?
9.24.2007 1:02am
SMatthewStolte (mail):
Oh, how I wish I could just say, "Hey, convert to Christianity. We don't have any of that nonsense." Ah, well. It is something to hope for.

But I'm attending a highly political church right now, and my particular church actually avoids these kinds of political sermons quite well. They don't do it by avoiding political subjects, but by preaching a theological message with political implications. What those implications actually are will depend in part on the facts on the ground. We may learn about the need to care for the poor and be reminded about why we must care for the poor — to be on our guard against doing so for self-gratification, to be on our guard against giving materially and robbing spiritually, to remember to humble ourselves before the other, and so on. We don't get a sermon about whether the minimum wage ought to be increased or decreased by 50 cents an hour.
9.24.2007 1:22am
SMatthewStolte (mail):
One more point:

… misusing the pulpit, in a rather inefficient way, to further one's own political ideas; and rabbinical frustration at not being a real "player" in DC.


I think this may betray the problem. Preachers who feel the need to get away from theological topics and get their hands dirty with politics are frequently under the impression that God's revelation just isn't the stuff of reality. Damnit, rabbi, of course your a real player in DC. You preach the Torah, for God's sake! How can you ask for more than that?
9.24.2007 1:26am
Truth Seeker:
J. F. Thomas in 1939 America:
That FDR is a warmonger, we need to impeach him before he drags us into a quagmire. We should just TALK to Hitler. He'd probably just settle for France, Poalnd and a bunch of small countries. He doesn't want to kill anyone. And why don't we just give Hawaii to the Japanese? And why are they intercepting foreign cables? it's a violation of all our rights.
9.24.2007 1:41am
A. Zarkov (mail):
I've about had it with the Reform Temple in my local area. The Rabbi can't utter the word "King" or "Kingdom." We get "sovereign" or "dominion" instead. It's just too much. Last year I attended services in Miami Beach and that was much worse. The Rabbi is an ex-hippie and the constant solicitations for money got tiresome after a while. I think I'm just not suited for Reform Judaism anymore.
9.24.2007 2:05am
Grover Gardner (mail):
Forgive me, I am not a particularly spiritual person and don't attend church much, but I am always astonished when I hear these sorts of criticisms. Over on the old Southern Appeal blog, it used to be, "The Pope says the war in Iraq is immoral, but I don't have to listen--it's not official," or some such convoluted justification. What on earth are your spiritual leaders for, if not to help one define the great issues in life? Why bother to attend a church or synagogue if you've compartmentalized it to the extent that politics, the environment and other issues are out of bounds? "Why can't they just stick to the Bible/Torah?" In a way I'm glad I don't have to suffer this disjunct. But in all honesty, I'd rather hear a man of faith talk about justice than a general.
9.24.2007 2:22am
spidly:
I got a nice talk about global warming for Rosh Hashanah - Tikun Olam...Social Justice....drilling hole under our seats....yadda yadda yadda. Conservative Synagogue. There was a bit on how Conservative Christian Fundamentalists could read the same text and believe X, Y, and Z. I've never met a Christian fundamentalist who had the ascribed beliefs.

Separation of church and state mentioned - critical of christians - THEY don't believe in it. This, in the midst of all but saying the Torah commands us to vote Greenie Meanie or Democrat.

Oh ,yeah, Throw in some abortion choice blather as well

First time in my 38 years I've heard politics from the pulpit.

Maybe M.O. might better suit me.
9.24.2007 2:37am
Jason F:
Grover, you just don't get it. It's perfectly appropriate for spiritual leaders to preach on political topics, as long as they take positions I agree with!
9.24.2007 2:49am
George Weiss (mail):
grover-

i think people dont mind being guided by their rabbi/other clergy about personal ethical choices....

but national ethical choices i.e. politics...theres the rub
9.24.2007 2:52am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
When politicians stop preaching about religion, maybe religious leaders will stop preaching about politics.

Actually, I think it is okay for both to do so, because religion is about morality and politics involves making moral choices, so the two are intertwined.
9.24.2007 2:53am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Right. You go to services basically to hear God's take on things, not a point of view you could get from an oped.

I would expect the clergyman to be able to show me how God's teaching relates to my life.
9.24.2007 2:54am
Milhouse (www):
George:
they both finnacialy and logisitcally supported terror...if not on US soil..on their own soil against civilians with opposing views. the maccabees may have been fundmaentalist..but i dont remeber a lot of killing of jews to sujugate the population?
Oh? Cast your mind back to the incident that started the Hasmonean revolt. A Jew in the Modi'in public square steps forward and volunteers to sacrifice to a Greek god, and Matityahu runs him through. From a religious POV, he was absolutely right to do so. But from an objective POV how is it any different than the Taliban?
btw
the concept of the maccabees being the taliban of their day..is what..not anachronistic?
Not. The Taliban are not a modern phenomenon. They're hardly distinguishable at all from the Almohades, for one thing. But the distinction you attempted to draw between an attack on "US soil" and "foreign soil" simply can't be projected back to that time. Athens was no more "Greek soil" than Alexandria or Modi'in; the concept didn't apply.
9.24.2007 2:55am
spidly:
I should clarify; I do ascribe to the belief we are obligated to perfect the world by performing mitzvot as individuals. Don't need government to tell me what those are. Pretty sure a national tzedeka administration would destroy all justice and charity.

And if anything the 20th century has taught us that governments never slaughter so efficiently as when they do so in the name of social justice
9.24.2007 3:02am
LM (mail):
Jim at FSU:

What's wrong with JF Thomas' comment? Not the substance, which I dispute, but which essentially amounts only to, "DB's objections are dangerously ill-advised." What's offensive is how he chose to say it, using inflammatory rhetoric which crosses the line of civil discourse.

Do you see where I'm going with this yet, Mr. "STFU?"
9.24.2007 3:03am
George Weiss (mail):
i said greek soil (not athens) and my real point was that the maccabees never harmed outsiders (such as greek civilians living the the asirian greek emprie)

as for the midrash involving matithias and the square at modidn...thats a pretty good point...

two responses:

1. the story may not off really happened that way..i belive in the historical reality of the hanukah story to some extent...but the only historical source for your incident really is from migilat anitochus...a good story..a famous sotry...but a apocriphal tale notheless

2. the story is told particularly becuase it is so exceptional..this indicates that summary execution by the maccabes for idol worship didnt really happean..and was only done by matithias in this one instance


regarding your continued point on the anaranisim of greek soil:

nobody said anything about athens. i said greek soil...the king in the story..aniouchus..ruled over many lands and was sovrign over a huge empire (albeit an emprie shared with other rulers)...i dont remeber the maccabees conducting terror (killing of greek civilians) on that soil

you still fail to give a single example of that..which would rightfully compare them to al quada or the taliban.

your continued armuent of the point that there was no 'greek soil' at the time..and thus no real greek citizens analagous to us citizens on us soil (such that wer killed by the taliban)..strikes me as an argument of symantics

the ditinthion can indeed be drwn...
the maccabees are not the taliban...they were a gurrila group of figherter that targeted the greek military....

apocraphal and isolated incidents of zelotry notwitstanding.
9.24.2007 3:09am
Rabbi popping in:
Chabad Rabbi popping in to say that I hate giving or hearing speeches that touch on anything not directly related to Jewish teachings. We can provide the sources and some general modern day context, the audience is intelligent enough to take the connection to modern day issues further on their own.

I have actually heard worse - rabbis opining on Jewish subjects - ancient history, archaeology, etc., in which some of the members of the audience were more well versed than they...

And let's not get started on the length of the speeches. Keep them short and to the point.
9.24.2007 3:10am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"i think people dont mind being guided by their rabbi/other clergy about personal ethical choices....

but national ethical choices i.e. politics...theres the rub"

Yes, George, that would indeed seem to be the case. :-) But what are politics and national issues if not "personal ethical choices"? I'm not trying to start an argument, and won't pretend to be ignorant of how people view these things, but as an observer and sometime attender of services with my wife and daughter, I'm...well, bemused.
9.24.2007 3:12am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"We can provide the sources and some general modern day context, the audience is intelligent enough to take the connection to modern day issues further on their own."

And if they don't, either through ignorance or willfulness? Seriously, don't you feel some responsibility as a spiritual and moral teacher?
9.24.2007 3:16am
George Weiss (mail):
gorver...dont worry about being contentious..i dont argue on the internet to convice anybody or get convinced..just to bring up stuffi didnt know or that others might not know

heres one thing to think about

well....national issues do invole many of the same ehtical issues that we face everyday as individuals..clergy are people (really good ppl)..so they understand this stuff pretty well

but national issues also
invovle complex facts..like economics and complex legal realities...sometimes these clergy have difficulty with that part..even if they understand the ehtical ssues involved.

its kinda like a judge knowing what the law is...but not having heard the facts of the case first hand
9.24.2007 3:20am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"It's perfectly appropriate for spiritual leaders to preach on political topics, as long as they take positions I agree with!"

I wasn't going to be so blunt, Jason, but the thought did enter my mind. :-)
9.24.2007 3:20am
George Weiss (mail):
btw..i would conceede that some of the people against poltics fro mthe pulpit wouldnt be so loud if the conservative and reform jewish pulpit got a little more conservative ;)
9.24.2007 3:24am
Grover Gardner (mail):
I appreciate your response, George.

"its kinda like a judge knowing what the law is...but not having heard the facts of the case first hand"

Honestly, this strikes me as a dodge. All evidence points to the Bible as containing just about anything we need to understand about humankind, and yet certain issues are too "complex" for the teacher of faith...I have to wonder at that.
9.24.2007 3:26am
spidly:
A Zarkov.

went to a panel discussion with a reform, reconstuctionist, conservative, and modern orthodox rabbi on differenc/directions of the movements.

reform Rabbi was all about her feminism and used 'communist' as an adjective with positive connotations.
Reconstuctionist Rabbi was very concerned with gay issues and egalitarianism to the exclusion of all else except to say that the traditions were useless.
The orthodox Rabbi spoke of continued adherence, got a bit testy when the reconstructionist said "in the beginning there was reform" when talking about movements. His most/only overtly political statement was when the question of abortion went around and he said "i don't know, the Torah says to choose life so I think that's what we should do."
Conservative Rabbi sort of mediated and did a bit of dancing around the issues.
9.24.2007 3:27am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I've about had it with the Reform Temple in my local area. The Rabbi can't utter the word "King" or "Kingdom." We get "sovereign" or "dominion" instead.
I range from amused to annoyed, depending on how awkward it is, but we get the same thing. It ain't just "King," though. Besides the obvious gendered pronouns (horrors!) there are all the references to "Lord," "Master," etc. He (our Rabbi, not G-d) can't catch them all, because there are just too many and there are only so many ways to reword them without it getting too wordy. (And don't forget needing to add the names of Sarah/Rebecca/Leah/Rachel every time they say Abraham/Isaac/Jacob.)
9.24.2007 3:31am
George Weiss (mail):
grover-

nice talking with you
9.24.2007 3:34am
Grover Gardner (mail):
Succinctly put, George. :-) Me too. I risk overstaying my welcome on this topic. :-)
9.24.2007 3:37am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Yes, George, that would indeed seem to be the case. :-) But what are politics and national issues if not "personal ethical choices"? I'm not trying to start an argument,
Grover, don't you think there's a clear difference between "The Torah teaches us to help the poor; you should therefore give Tzedakah" and "You should vote for a politician who will increase welfare payments"?
9.24.2007 3:52am
Grover Gardner (mail):
Yes, David, I do think there's a clear difference between what the Bible or the Torah teaches, and a blatant attempt to enlist voters for a particular candidate. But that doesn't appear to be the issue here. The expressed concern is over spiritual leaders "giving overtly ideological sermons" on broader issues like gun control and the environment. I just find it ironic that we expect our spiritual leaders to remain "neutral" and stick to "personal ethics"--whatever that may mean.
9.24.2007 4:16am
Grover Gardner (mail):
Sorry, George, I "picked on" your choice of phrasing here--I didn't mean to.
9.24.2007 4:20am
George Weiss (mail):
grover

np

i think people are also a little about the whole church and state thing

even when the bible takes a clear positon on an issue..is it reallyokay for us to consider that in terms of public policy?
9.24.2007 4:25am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Let's remember that a Rabbi is supposed to be a teacher, not a priest. For example (this ismade up to illustrate a point) I don't want a sermon on global warming especially from someone who gives me a blank look when I bring up cloud physics and feedback. If you are going to teach something, then you had better be informed about it instead of parroting the latest trendy leftist propaganda. I also find it awkward and uncomfortable when I have to defend Israel to the Rabbi and other members of the congregation. I get more support for Israel from the Christians. Thus I think I need to finally learn Hebrew and abandon Reform Judaism.

Reform and Conservative Judaism will die out anyway, going the way of the Shakers (albeit more slowly).
9.24.2007 6:05am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Spidly:

Your Reform and Reconstuctionist Rabbis seem to have lost their moral compasses. That assumes they once had a compass to lose. Judaism affirms life. "Spengler" over at the Asia Times writes about the Jewish affirmation of life in his essay-- It's easy for the Jews to talk about life.
9.24.2007 6:16am
Avi1 (mail) (www):
Agreed, particularly in DC. However, much of non-Orthodox Judaism has been watered down into leftist politics and thinks it's worse to vote Republican than eat a bacon cheeseburger on Yom Kippur. Of course, within some of Orthodoxy, they have copied Christian fundamentalism, which also doesn't reflect the halakhic (Jewish legal) or aggadic (homiletic) tradition.

You may be interested in the monograph Judaism, Markets, and Capitalism: Separating Myth From Reality published by the Acton Institute and written by the Executive Director and President of the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, a pro-market think tank in Israel. (https://secure.acton.org/BookShoppe/main/title.php?id=557 and in PDF at JIMS' website: http://ftp.jims-israel.org/Jews&Liberalism.pdf)

Full disclosure: I work for JIMS
9.24.2007 8:46am
lurker:
Zarkov--we Reform Jews do have sex, although not as often as some of us would like. Conservatives, I'm not so sure about.
9.24.2007 9:00am
MDJD2B (mail):

Zarkov--we Reform Jews do have sex, although not as often as some of us would like. Conservatives, I'm not so sure about.


But do you have children?
9.24.2007 9:36am
SMatthewStolte (mail):
I'm sure people are bothered for different reasons about the overtly political sermon, but what bothers me is that it seems to be a matter of subverting the theological principles for the sake of political ideologies. Thus, even (or especially) if the Bible is mined for passages that support the (usually) left-wing position, the sermon fails because it is fundamentally political and only incidentally theological, when it ought to be the other way around.

It isn't necessary for the preacher to stick to the level of generality, nor even to avoid topics that relate to society. It is necessary that the sermon at its core be an exposition on the word of God. Referring to Jesus as He/She isn't offensive to me because I care so much that Jesus was male, but because it's so obvious that gender-inclusive language, as proper as it may be in general, is given dogmatic status, and the Gospel is only given secondary standing.

I suspect that a fine sermon might be given about reconciliation in the holy land that could even be a call on political leaders to ease up on their stubbornness, if it were a critique about idolatrous behavior.
9.24.2007 10:22am
CJColucci:
Clergy of all denominations have been talking politics forever. Not all of them, of course, market forces prevent that, but this is nothing special. If it bothers you, find another congregation or, if you have the votes, get a new preacher.
9.24.2007 10:52am
LTEC (mail) (www):
By the way, I actually agreed with the political message of the rabbi in each case that I complained about above.
9.24.2007 11:06am
RH:
For a slightly different wrinkle, the rabbi at our Conservative Manhattan Synagogue gave an overtly political Rosh Hashanna sermon this year with a strong right-wing bias. As you can imagine, given the audience, this went down like a ton of bricks (probably radioactive) and led to an outcry against the political nature (and tilt) of the sermon. The rabbi, who can best be described as rather unconventional and feisty, responded by titling his Yom Kippur sermon "Politics and Religion".
9.24.2007 11:47am
Observer (mail):
Most reform rabbis seem to view judaism as primarily a "social-justice" movement, with religion strictly secondary. It wouldn't surprise me if most reform rabbis were atheists. Bad sermons about subjects they know little about is par for the course.

The rabbi at my reform temple is, uniquely, passionate about Judaism, about G-d, about studying the Torah and about Israel, not necessarily in that order. Every service includes a prayer for the American soldiers who are fighting for the "liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan." He also preaches, sometimes, about charity and G-d's commandments to help the poor. Alas, he is retiring and I despair that we can find someone to replace him - we'll probably end up with your typical reform rabbis, a half-baked Marxist who thinks G-d hates President Bush as much as he does.
9.24.2007 11:56am
Tony Tutins (mail):
I always thought Orthodox Judaism was too breathtakingly sexist to attract Reform and Conservative Jews. Or will these Jews simply become secular?
9.24.2007 12:55pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

In short, why would I go to a synagogue to hear a rabbi speak about, say, the prospects for U.S. intervention in Darfur, when I could attend a speech by a real expert at Brookings, SAIS, or some other DC venue?


Mr. Bernstein, do you honestly not understand the difference? I'm not religious at all and yet this seems a hopelessly clueless statement.

Then again, perhaps you do get it an are only perturbed by what these Rabbis choose to speak about. I would like to give you more credit than that, but you are either too cynical to be honest with your readers or too naive to know that there's a difference between a pundit speaking and a religious leader speaking.
9.24.2007 1:38pm
Rabbi popping in:
Grover, see you just assumed there is one truth in politics or other transient ideologies when you said that I need to spoonfeed those present my (apolotical - I hate all politicans) ideologies. Guess what - every idea in Torah and Jewish thought can be used to support conservatism, libertarianism, liberalism, communism, socialism, fascism, tyrrany etc. If I present an idea as affecting only one political notion, I am misrepresenting Judaism. In essence, the Jewish view on global warming would be: The world is G-d's, we need to use it wisely. The world was given to us, we have the right to use it. Study the evidence, decide if global warming needs to be addressed, and then do or don't about it.

Tony, some people at some point realize either that a) sexism is only factor, and the beauty of the rest of traditional Jewish practice (there is no formal Orthodox Jewish movement, it was simply the label given by the reformers to all the groups that existed before). Or b) that G-d is the ultimate sexist for having created two sexes.
9.24.2007 2:02pm
Grover Gardner (mail):
Fair enough, Rabbi.
9.24.2007 3:00pm
NJ (mail):
But what are politics and national issues if not "personal ethical choices"?

There was some comment about this above and the commenters above all seem to agree, but can we get a formal vote on this: who thinks politics is or should be an extension of their ethics?

"I believe in X personally and order my life so, since my religion, derived from eastern Mediterranean shepherds' supersition, says I should. My country should also organize itself along those lines." The US can't break the Commandments now, no special forces team to assassinate enemy physicists to forestall Iranians weapons development? How about: you carry a broom to sweep ants out of your path on your commute because life is so precious to you, so your country should never go to war or assert its interests in any way that may lead to killing humans (no giant broom to sweep them out of the way). Right?
9.24.2007 3:04pm
Ken Arromdee:
If your religion says "no killing of anything, ever", then it's fine to preach not to kill enemy scientists.

But if your religion says "don't kill except in self-defense" or "don't kill except in extreme situations" or something like that, you can't conclude enemy scientists can't be killed without making what is fundamentally a nonreligious decision. Preaching that your religion demands leaving enemy scientists alone is then dishonest.
9.24.2007 4:02pm
Mary (mail):

Oh? Cast your mind back to the incident that started the Hasmonean revolt. A Jew in the Modi'in public square steps forward and volunteers to sacrifice to a Greek god, and Matityahu runs him through. From a religious POV, he was absolutely right to do so. But from an objective POV how is it any different than the Taliban?


Little details like this:

"But they were led by bitter constraint on the king's birthday to the sacrifices: and when the feast of Bacchus was kept, they were compelled to go about crowned with ivy in honour of Bacchus. And there went out a decree into the neighbouring cities of the Gentiles, by the suggestion of the Ptolemeans, that they also should act in like manner against the Jews, to oblige them to sacrifice: And whosoever would not conform themselves to the ways of the Gentiles, should be put to death: then was misery to be seen. For two women were accused to have circumcised their children: whom, when they had openly led about through the city with the infants hanging at their breasts, they threw down headlong from the walls. And others that had met together in caves that were near, and were keeping the sabbath day privately, being discovered by Philip, were burnt with fire, because they made a conscience to help themselves with their hands, by reason of the religious observance of the day."

The man who offered to make the sacrifice was an open collaborator with a hostile force.
9.24.2007 4:50pm
Carolina:
Perhaps my views are colored by my libertarianism. but in general I think my minister ought to tell me what to do personally, but I don't want to hear his views on what laws ought be passed.

In other words, I am very comfortable with the clergy preaching "You ought to give money to the poor," but am very uncomfortable with "You ought to vote so laws will be passed to forcefully take money (taxes) from everyone and given to the poor."

I am pretty confident on what the Bible says about giving to the poor, but I am a lot less sure on what the Bible says about using the raw political power of the government to force people to "give" against their will at the threat of imprisonment.

There is a difference in what is moral and what is/ought to be legal. In general, clergy should stick to the former from the pulpit- we do not live in a theocracy.
9.24.2007 6:07pm
Fat Man (mail):
9.24.2007 10:21pm