The Jewish Crossroads

Can a mix of liberal politics and soft traditionalism survive a militant left and a right-wing Israel?

..Every #metoo scandal is different, but most are alike in at least one way.. the fall of prominent men usually accelerates some pre-existing debate about where the larger institution or culture should be going, and which side of its internal arguments deserves to gain.
.. In answering his accusers Cohen has embraced the clichés of male big shot contrition — promising a “consultation with clergy, therapists and professional experts” and “a process of education, recognition, remorse and repair.
.. his fall has inspired a critique not only of his behavior but also his life’s work ..  his sexual sins should prompt a larger reappraisal of “the troubling gender and sexual politics long embedded in communal discussions of Jewish continuity and survival.”
.. the longstanding angst within the American Jewish community around assimilation, intermarriage and fertility tends to sustain a kind of soft traditionalist pressure even in liberal Jewish life — one that defines Jewish identity in exclusionist terms, they complain, while marginalizing “single women, queer people, unwed parents, and childless individuals or couples.”
.. a “liberalism without/conservatism within” combination is common to minority populations, and it’s a particularly reasonable reaction to the experience of Jewish history: An oft-persecuted people’s flourishing can both depend on maintaining a certain conservatism about its own patterns of marrying and begetting and cultural transmission (and, in the case of Israel, the safety of its lonely nation-state), and on encouraging liberalism and cosmopolitanism in the wider, potentially-hostile order in which the diaspora subsists.
..  the fear among many politically liberal Jews that if they don’t sustain a certain familial traditionalism, they’ll just cede the Jewish future to the ultra-fecund ultra-Orthodox.)
.. Benjamin Netanyahu has embraced the view that European Jewry’s old enemy, Christian nationalism, is less dangerous to the Jewish future than the dissolving effects of liberal cosmopolitanism and the threat posed by Islamist anti-Semitism.
.. Thus you have the striking phenomenon of the Netanyahu government cultivating friends like Hungary’s Viktor Orban

The Baptist Apocalypse

Such a God might, for instance, offer political success as a temptation rather than a reward — or use an unexpected presidency not to save Americans but to chastise them.

.. so far the Trump presidency has clearly been a kind of apocalypse — not (yet) in the “world-historical calamity” sense of the word, but in the original Greek meaning: an unveiling, an uncovering, an exposure of truths that had heretofore been hidden.

.. That exposure came first for the Republican Party’s establishment, who were revealed as something uncomfortably close to liberal caricature in their mix of weakness, cynicism and power worship. It came next for the technocrats and the data nerds of the Democratic Party, who were revealed as ineffectual, clueless and self-regarding ..

.. And then it came for a range of celebrated media men, from Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer ..

.. It has come as well for figures whose style anticipated him (Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, that whole ménage) and for figures who have deliberately attached themselves to his populist revolt. The sins of Roy Moore were more exposed by the Trump era, and now likewise the racist paranoia of Roseanne Barr.

.. a similar moral exposure has come to precisely the sector of American Christianity where support for Donald Trump ran strongest — the denominational heart of conservative evangelicalism, the Southern Baptist Convention.

.. The main case is Paige Patterson, the now-erstwhile president of a major Baptist seminary in Fort Worth, who was eased into retirement over revelations that he’d counseled abused women to return to their husbands and allegedly shamed and silenced at least one rape victim.

.. Patterson is a beginning, not an end.

.. Late last year I wrote an essay speculating about the possibility of an “evangelical crisis” in this era, driven by the gap between the older and strongly pro-Trump constituency in evangelical churches and those evangelicals, often younger, who either voted for the president reluctantly or rejected his brand of politics outright.

.. “the big story behind the story of Patterson’s fall is a high-stakes showdown between two generations of Southern Baptist leaders.” Both generations are theologically conservative, but the figures raising their voices against Patterson have been — generally — associated with a vision of their church that’s more countercultural, less wedded to the institutional Republican Party, more likely to see racial reconciliation as essential to the Baptist future and intent on proving that a traditional theology of sex need not lead to sexism.

.. Whereas Patterson’s defenders represent — again, to generalize — the more pro-Trump old guard in the Baptist world, with a strong inclination toward various forms of chauvinism and Christian nationalism.

.. It is not a coincidence that Russell Moore, perhaps the most prominent anti-Trump Baptist, provided early support to Patterson’s critics — while Robert Jeffress, whose Dallas church sets “Make America Great Again” to music, labeled the calls for Patterson’s resignation a “witch hunt.”

.. it’s wiser to regard an era of exposure like this one as a test, which can be passed but also failed. A discredited “old guard” doesn’t automatically lose power; a chauvinism revealed doesn’t just evaporate. And the temptation to dismiss discomfiting revelations as fake news, to retreat back into ignorance and self-justification, is at least as powerful as the impulse to really reckon with the truth.

.. So the question posed by this age of revelation is simple: Now that you know something new and troubling and even terrible about your leaders or your institutions, what will you do with this knowledge?

A Christian Nationalist Blitz

the mission has little to do with what most Americans would call religious freedom. This is just the latest attempt by religious extremists to use the coercive powers of government to secure a privileged position in society for their version of Christianity.

.. The idea behind Project Blitz is to overwhelm state legislatures with bills based on centrally manufactured legislation. “It’s kind of like whack-a-mole for the other side; it’ll drive ‘em crazy that they’ll have to divide their resources out in opposing this,” David Barton

.. more than 70 bills before state legislatures appear to be based on Project Blitz templates or have similar objectives.

..  allows adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate on the basis of their own religious beliefs. Others, such as a Minnesota bill that would allow public schools to post “In God We Trust” signs on their walls

.. The first category consists of symbolic gestures, like resolutions to emblazon the motto “In God We Trust” on as many moving objects as possible (like, say, police cars).

Critics of such symbolic gestures often argue that they act as gateways to more extensive forms of state involvement in religion. It turns out that the Christian right agrees with them.

“They’re going to be things that people yell at, but they will help move the ball down the court,” Mr. Barton said in the conference call.

Skye Jethani: Christian Nationalism and Nominal Christianity

Christian nationalism is the biggest predictor of Trump support.

There is more emphasis on saying “Merry Christman” than loving one’s neighbor or living out other Christian values.

More voters want America to be a nominally Christian nation than to display any actual Christian values.

Neither the Trump campaign and RNC thought Trump would win.

The RNC thought Trump had a 20% chance of winning.

polarization, entertainment, epistemology, Neil Postman

systems, structures, incentives – probably the best bet for change

  • gerrymandering, political parties, role of money, power of parties to select nominees: elites vs voters
  • in order to be more democratic it needs to be less democratic

How Democracies die: in Latin Americans use democracy to destroy Democracy.

mediated vs direct democracy.

The founders rigged it to keep too much power out of the hands of the rank and file uneducated masses.  Thinking that we need the elite to insulate ourselves from ourselves.

Since 1968, there have been reforms away from a balanced system, has swung towards the will of the people deciding almost everything.

The “unwashed masses” — not that the voters are stupid, but they are not experts.

The average voter should not have to know the difference between mandatory and discretionary spending.