Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We're all religion scholars now

Call it religion-envy.  I understand. 

Martha Nussbaum concedes that the big questions, in the popular mind, are now owned by religion, not so much by philosophy.  Indeed, every political junkie can now spell Niebuhr, and David Brooks, arguing that the Oslo talk might be Obama's best, freely refers to "Obama's Christian Realism."

On the other hand, in the "is this fair?" department, many critics of Senator Joe Lieberman ask if his self-proclaimed bona fides as an observant Jew can be used against him as he abandons the progressive vision of health care.  David Gibson asks "Good Jew?  Bad Jew?  Or not so bright?" and Lee Siegel at the DailyBeast accuses him of "fundamentalist Judaism,"  claiming that Lieberman's "approach to modern life is just as uninflected as that of his Christian counterparts:"
You don’t doubt the morality of your feeling, because you have used your strict, self-sacrificing observance of Jewish law to prove to yourself that you are a good man. And you are not a hypocrite, because your observance proves that not only do you profess a belief in God, but you act on your belief. God on one side, your obedience to God on the other—the result is an ironclad conviction that what you do is absolutely right.
Nussbaum may get blasted by her fellow philosophers, commentators may vigorously contest these analyses of Lieberman's religiosity, but at least we have the start of a public conversation that is worthwhile.

But perhaps I speak too soon.  Two days ago, at the sundown lighting of a menorah on the local town green (by the gazebo where there are concerts on summer nights), three masked men held up Nazi signs and shouted at this public celebration of Hanukkah, the season of light.  A news report is here.  This is a blow to all of us.