Monday, July 17, 2006

The cedar and the star
A lament for the Middle East

As she reads this morning of Israel's ground invasion of Lebanon, your blogstress finds her heart sinking ever deeper as the Middle East War intensifies.

One can't help but feel this thing deeply as the names of ancient cities on both sides of the border appear on the role call of towns bombed and attacked by missiles.

Yesterday, your écrivaine flinched as the town of Tyre appeared on the list; this is the place from whence Hiram, the architect and builder of Solomon's temple hailed.

Last night, as she watched the BBC News, your cyberscribe meditated on the graphic that accompanied the report: the flags of Israel and Lebanon, shown side by side. The former, of course, is adorned with the ancient symbol of the Jewish faith, the Star of David. At the center of the latter is a great cedar tree -- the wood used to frame the temple.

I do not argue that Israel has no right to defend itself; of course it does. But accusations of collective punishment do tend to ring true when the infrastructure of a fragile nation is attacked.

Of course, collective punishment is an old biblical theme; who can forget the fate suffered by all the people of Sodom and Gomorra? The difference is that that time, it was Yahweh who was calling the shots.

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Religion doesn't equal stupidity

From a reader and believer in Southern California, your blogstress received this missive regarding her essay at The American Prospect Online, "A Canterbury Tale."

I have a slight disagreement with your excellent article in TAP about the religious left. You wrote this:

"In seeking to create a counterpart to the religious
right, we tried to force our values through a narrow
hole. In essence, we bought into the religious
authoritarianism of the right, inferring that moral
authority proceeds only from religion. In this, we
have sold ourselves short."

I don't see it that way. The religious left isn't making the argument you suggest, not even implicitly. We are trying to do two things:

1. Convince religious people that leftist politics is a valid option for religious people. When the right has a monopoly on religion, religious people who otherwise might be sympathetic are given the false choice of being liberal or being against God. That may not seem important to the non-religious, but to us religious folk being anti-God is a deal breaker:-)

2. We are trying to convince secular leftists that religion isn't synomymous with bigotry and stupidity. That's important to the leftist political project because it helps guard against the tendency of SOME on the secular left to insult religious voters we need to take back the country from the right wing. And it is important to those of us who think we all actually need God in our lives because a good guy leftist might be driven away from God because he mistakenly thinks that God-belief requires shutting off his mind and his heart.

Success in the project to build a religious left ought not be measured by comapring our political strength to that of the religious right. We are successful to the degree that we move SOME people away from the false stereotypes. IMO that project is going well; I hope it gets better.

Your friend,

Keith Johnson
Hemet, California

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