Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
From the Christianity Today Live Blog:
This was supposed to be the year the Democrats got religion. Too bad somebody forgot to tell the pollsters. One of the big untold stories of the Iowa caucus is that only Republicans were asked about their religious affiliation. The problem isn’t just that we don’t know how many Iowan evangelicals voted for the various Democrats (it would be interesting to see, for example, if Edwards scored as well among evangelicals as he did among conservatives). The problem is that we don’t know whether Democrats as a whole have succeeded in attracting more evangelical voters. (Usually somewhere between one quarter and one third of evangelicals vote Democratic.) I’m told we’ll see some Iowa caucus poll results soon (not from Edison Media Research, the company that does most of these entrance and exit polls) that may shine some light on the religion questions. The good news is that Edison Media Research has repented, and today’s New Hampshire exit polls (via CNN [Rep | Dem] and MSNBC [Rep | Dem] )had many religion questions for both Republicans and Democrats. Clinton, it seems, took the moderately religious (those who attend church monthly or a few times a year), while Obama took the devout (weekly attenders) and the nonreligious (those who never attend church). Roman Catholics (the largest religious group among New Hampshire Democrats, with 36% of voters in that primary), overwhelmingly chose Clinton (43%) over Obama (28%). Those who said they had no religion supported Obama (47%) over Clinton (28%), and that formed a remarkable 22 percent of Democratic voters.
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January 8, 2008 | 10:41 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
The mainstream media has mainly only written about the plight of Israelis living around Sderot when someone actually is killed by a Qassam rocket falling out of the sky from Gaza. But tomorrow’s New York Times has this story, pegged to President Bush’s arrival:
SDEROT, Israel â Less than two months ago, Raziel Sasson emerged from his rocket-proof closet, willing now to sleep just outside it, with the rest of his family, on mattresses circled on the living room floor. But Razi, 13, still wakes his father up three times a night, afraid to walk alone to the bathroom.
Four years ago, Razi was climbing a tree when a Qassam rocket, fired from nearby Gaza, flew over his head and exploded nearby. He remembers the spinning contrail of the crude rocket and its fierce whistle. The blast blew him eight yards to the ground.
Sderot, a working-class town of mainly North African immigrants less than two miles from Gaza, has been hit over the past four years with some 2,000 rockets of improving range and explosive power â 22 in the last eight days. Eight Sderot civilians have been killed by the rockets; Razi has seen 15 therapists.
âHe wouldnât leave the house to go to school for a year,â said his mother, Shula. One of his older brothers, Rafi, 22, used his army exit pay to build Razi a bomb shelter in the living room, a concrete cocoon with a steel door.
Across the border in Gaza, life is wretched for Palestinians. But as President Bush prepares to arrive in Jerusalem on Wednesday for the first time since taking office, to spur peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian president, he will hear a lot about the Qassams.
For many Israelis, Sderot (pronounced stay-ROTE) embodies the fears of what happens when they pulled back from occupied land, as they did from all of Gaza more than two years ago â it turns into a staging ground for attacks by extremist Palestinians that a peace treaty will not stop.
âWhen Bush comes, he should come to Sderot,â said Raziâs father, Moshe, 49, who works as a prison warden in Beersheba.
The problems of Sderot â and of a Gaza run by Hamas, considered a terrorist group by Israel and the United States â are at the heart of Israelâs security concerns. But those concerns, like Hamas itself, are present only in the abstract in the American-led peace effort, which features negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, who has no control over Hamas or Gaza.
January 8, 2008 | 12:40 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Despite Barack Obama’s decisive victory in Iowa last week, and double-digit leads for tonight’s primary in New Hampshire, and maybe because the Republican landscape remains so unclear, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg continues to play the will-he-or-won’t-he game.
Onto this crowded and rejuvenated political stage now comes Michael Bloomberg, our skilled and uncommonly non-neurotic mayor, engaged in a different variety of the electoral enterpriseâa prolonged game of Presidential footsie. Even as he has issued denials of interest to everyone from the press corps at City Hall to Ryan Seacrest on Dick Clarkâs New Yearâs Eve broadcast, Bloomberg has deputized some of his leading aides to draw up scenarios for a third-party candidacy and to keep the interest of the press well fluffed. The press, titillated by access, has coÃ¶perated with front-page âwould-he, could-heâ stories. This week, Bloomberg will attend a meeting of Unity08, in Oklahoma, to discuss third-party options, and in recent weeks he has displayed a vague yet imperious disdain for the assembled candidates, while privately hustling from one policy consultant and policy grandee to the next, to ask, âWhat chance does a five-foot-seven billionaire Jew whoâs divorced really have of becoming President?â
The reason that Bloombergâs coy exploratory venture has earned him such attention is obvious. âThere are two things that are important in politics,â Mark Hanna, the Ohio industrialist and senator who ran William McKinleyâs campaign, in 1896, said. âThe first is money and I canât remember what the second one is.â All the front-runners except Mike Huckabee are millionaires to one degree or anotherâObama is the poorest, with a net worth of just over a million dollars, Mitt Romney the richest, with two hundred millionâbut Bloomberg is wealthier by an order of magnitude. According to Forbes, he is worth more than eleven billion dollars. Bloomberg owns an estate in Bermuda, a horse farm in Westchester County, a condominium in Vail, a ten-million-dollar town house in London, and a thirteen-and-a-half-million-dollar town house on East Seventy-ninth Street. To commute among them, he takes his private jet, a Falcon 9. He isnât stingy, though; heâs one of the leading philanthropists in the United States and has said that at some point he hopes to give away as much as four hundred million dollars a year.
Still, running for President is not cheap.
The biggest question, obviously, is whether a third-party candidate—Bloomberg is a nominal Independent—can really compete in a two-party system. I know a lot of Republican Jews who remain excited about the possibility of voting for someone they agree with not just fiscally but socially, but most observers have so far said Bloomberg couldn’t overcome the outsider handicap.
January 8, 2008 | 10:53 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
New New York Times columnist Bill Kristol—liberals didn’t exactly role out the welcome mat—used his first paid column to pom-pom Mike Huckabee. This surprised me because, aside from the clear religious and social differences between the two, Huckabee seems to be among the least globally aware of the Republican presidential candidates, and I always thought foreign policy was what neocons prided themselves on.
Then again, with statements like this, maybe Kristol and Huckabee have the same knowledge of what’s going on in the Middle East.
Some of us would much prefer a non-liberal and non-Democratic administration. We donât want to increase the scope of the nanny state, we donât want to undo the good done by the appointments of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, and we really donât want to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory in Iraq.
Who knew we were winning the war in Iraq? At this point, is it accurate to even call the situation over there a “war?” Or is it better to refer to it as a colossal screw-up in reconstruction (though, yes, some progress has been measurable)?
January 8, 2008 | 10:47 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
A Roman Catholic newspaper has reported the Malaysian government has reversed its decision to ban the publication over its use of the word Allah, easing tensions that had strained racial harmony in the multiethnic country.
In a surprising turnabout, the government renewed The Herald weeklyâs 2008 permit without any conditions, said its editor Rev. Lawrence Andrew. Internal security officials declined to comment. All publications in Malaysia require a government permit, which is renewed annually.
The government had said that Allah, an Arabic word for God, can only be used by Muslims. Officials feared that using Allah in Christian literature would confuse the Malays and draw them to Christianity.
Malaysian Christians said that Allah that was used by Christians before Islam was established. Even in Malaysia, Malay-speaking Christians have used the word Allah for generations. Allah also means God in Bahasa Melayu, the language of Malays.
Though Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the God of Abraham, there are clearly differences in how members of those faiths understand Him, which I would say actually means they believe in different representations of the same One God. Other amateur theologians argue that members of the Abrahamic faiths believe in a different Creator. Assuming the former is true, should Christians call God “Allah?”
January 8, 2008 | 10:09 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Those who came to Oba Ernesto Pichardo’s fall semester course at Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus expecting chicken heads, seashells and drum circles probably left disappointed.
The controversial, charismatic and enterprising Pichardo, a Yoruba priest and the country’s leading expert on Santeria, spent hours talking about the transatlantic slave trade, paraded in cultural anthropology professors and expected both Powerpoint presentations and 12-page research papers at semester’s end.
It was a different side of a man best known for having spent the last few decades fighting lawmakers and Santeria detractors. His most notorious tussle: with the city of Hialeah over sanctioning animal sacrifices in religious ceremonies. He won, earning the U.S. Supreme Court’s blessing.
He also won over his sixteen undergraduate students this year. The class included several religious studies majors, a Peruvian-American Broward school teacher, a 61-year-old auditor and a grandfather-grandson duo. Many of them came to get in touch with their Afro-Caribbean roots.
Four months ago he concluded FIU’s first three-credit Santeria class, with a grand prediction: ``You are making history here today.’‘
‘‘This is not some fringe movement,’’ Pichardo told his students. ``If you can get a Ph.D. in Judaism or Christianity, you should at least be able to take a course in Santeria.’‘
Santeria is not a religion I suspect many Americans are familiar with. The only place most people my age have probably even heard that word was on KROQ about 10 years ago. I don’t think the above article from the Miami Herald does much to explain the belief practices associated with it either. It’s roots lie in the Yoruba people of Nigeria, and the most controversial element is that of animal sacrifice. I find more interesting the Santeria understanding of God and of good and evil.
The Yoruba believe in a creator who is called Olofi (god). There is no specific belief in a devil since the Yoruba belief system is not a dualistic philosophy â good versus evil, God versus a devil. Instead the universe is seen as containing forces of expansion and forces of contraction. These forces interact in complex ways to create the universe. All things are seen to have positive aspects, or IrÃ©, and negative aspects, or Ibi. Nothing is seen as completely good or completely evil but all things are seen as having different proportions of both. Similarly no action is seen as universally as wrong or right, but rather can only be judged with the context and circumstances in which it takes place.
I mentioned this summer that Santeria is a popular religion among Major League Baseball’s Latin American players, though few are willing to talk about it.
(Hat tip: GetReligion)
January 8, 2008 | 12:11 am
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
German Jews who survived in Germany, or in exile, had a deeply ambivalent relationship with their homeland. Apart from guiltâthat they had survived, and even stayed in the killers’ countryâmany felt an almost physical revulsion when they came into close contact with Germans. So they retreated to live in yet another form of ghetto.
By the time the Berlin Wall fell, Germany’s Jewish community had only 30,000 ageing members and was dwindling rapidly. Today it is the third-largest, and the fastest-growing, Jewish population in western Europe, after France and Britain. Between 1991, when the country was unified and immigration rules relaxed, and 2005, more than 200,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union emigrated to Germany. (At the same time, more than a million emigrated from the former Soviet Union to Israel and about 350,000 to America, leaving only about 800,000 behind.) In some parts of Germany, immigrantsâusually referred to as âthe Russiansââmake up 90% of the local Jewish population.
A few of the so-called established Jewsâthose who lived in Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wallâare enthusiastic about the new arrivals. Hermann Simon, director of the Centrum Judaicum, a museum and research centre in Berlin, was born in 1949 of German parents, and grew up in East Berlin. He says that without the immigration of Russian Jews, the future for Germany’s Jews would be dark.
Yet most established Jews disagree. The dapper Mr Schoeps, now director of the Moses-Mendelssohn Centre for European-Jewish Studies in Potsdam, near Berlin, argues that Germany’s old Jewish heritage is gone. Its so-called âmemory landscapeââmemorial sites, commemorative plaques, cultural centres and museumsâis now being guarded by gentiles who are merely interested in things Jewish; the sort of people who crowd to the Chanukkah market at Berlin’s Jewish Museum to sample latkes and sufganiot (doughnuts) and to sip kosher mulled wine.
As for the immigrants from the former Soviet Union, most neither know nor care about Jewish rituals and traditions. Few of the newcomers keep a kosher home. Many men are not circumcised. When they arrive in Germany, they focus on the practicalities of lifeâjobs, flats, social security and health insurance. They play chess rather than Skat, a popular card game in Germany. Their cultural icons are Dostoyevsky and Tchaikovsky, not Goethe and Beethoven, let alone Mendelssohn or Heine, who were German Jews.
Established Jews find the newcomers anders (different from us), suspect that they are not ârealâ Jews and think they are mainly coming in search of prosperity and material help from the state and the community. âThey take whatever they can get,â sniffs one.
It’s not so much eerie as it is reinforcing how familiar this story is. Immigrant Jews have often been at odds with their more refined second- and third-generation co-religionists. In fact, Stanley Gold, the new chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater LA, told me his father was born in El Paso because his grandfather had been forced to immigrate through a port in Texas by New York’s German Jews, those elite publishers and bankers with names like Schiff and Sulzberger (though not necessarily those men), who had succeeded in redirecting Yiddish-speaking Hebrews from Central and Eastern Europe.
Here in Los Angeles, there has certainly been a delay, if unintentional, in breaking down the barriers between the former Soviet Jews and the more-established Jewish community. Not to mention the overdue acceptance of tens of thousands of Persian Jews.
(Hat tip: Bintel Blog)
January 7, 2008 | 4:14 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
I’m been receiving e-mails from Daryl Toor since last week promoting a new book, at first ambiguously, that he says will do to presidential candidate Mitt Romney what the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth did to Sen. John Kerry in his unsuccessful 2004 run for the Executive Office.
This exciting new book—Mitt, Set Our People Free!—published by Revelation Press, reveals just how Mitt Romney’s sacred oath to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, known as the Mormons or the LDS—including a vow of obedience to the “Living Prophet,” the President of the LDS Church—will impact his ability to govern as President of the United States.
Jesus said that man cannot serve two masters—but if Romney is elected President, he will have to serve two conflicting oaths. American Presidents swear an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. However, this Presidential Oath is in direct conflict with Romney’s sacred oath to his Mormon Church—a blood oath which puts Romney’s life, fortune and obedience at the unrestricted service of his Church. This obedience is defined by the Church’s Living Prophet, the President of the Mormon Church and—as they believe—the literal Voice of God on earth.
According to author Mike Moody, “One of the LDS Church’s basic tenets is a prophecy from founder and First Prophet Joseph Smith that in the latter days, the U.S. Constitution will ‘hang by a thread as fine as silk fiber’ until a Mormon leader rides in on his White Horse to save the U.S. and the Constitution—then use his control of the United States to set up a world-wide theocracy, one based on the clearly unorthodox beliefs of the Church of Latter Day Saints.”
Author Mike Moody, himself a 7th Generation Mormon from a family of Church-founding patriarchs - men who served Joseph Smith and Brigham Young as they created this remarkable “church”—uses his both insider knowledge of the LDS Church and his long-time personal ties to his one-time college fraternity brother, Mitt Romney, to point out the essential conflict between Romney’s sacred Oath to the Church and the oath he seeks to take as President.
Moody also details—chapter and verse—the many compromises and less-than-candid and frequently inconsistent positions Romney has taken to bring himself from successful venture capitalist to one of the leading contenders for the Republican nomination for Presidency.
For all the talk about dirty tricks this season, one of the more questionable (and curious) came at a news conference Monday far from the campaign trail. At a news conference at the sleepy National Press Club in Washington, a no-name college classmate of Mitt Romney hawked his “open letter” to Romney titled “Mitt, Set Our People Free!”
A lapsed Mormon, Michael Moody mocked his former religion (in very nasty terms) and declared Romney unfit for the presidency because of what he sees as the Mormon former Massachusetts governor’s biggest conflict: his “blood oath” to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
And then came the “C” word: “The great American cult,” Moody said, characterizing the religion founded by Joseph Smith, a prophet to Mormons.
“Many of you are from the East Coast and you don’t know a lot about Mormonism,” Moody said to the roomful of about a dozen reporters and four photographers who clearly had nothing better to do, what with 75 percent of their colleagues from the Fourth Estate (truly a “C” word organization) in New Hampshire to cover Tuesday’s primary.
So, even as he went on and on (and on) trampling the tenets of Mormonism, Moody omitted references (too obscure for his East Coast audience) to the angel Moroni, who led Smith, the prophet, to a set of golden plates in 1827 written in an unknown language—and then to the seer-stones Urim and Thummim, which translated the ancient language to the epic Book of Mormon.
Instead, Moody spoke in more dumbed-down terms of how Mormons are beholden to living prophets, such as Gordon Hinckley, who can tip them off to the Second Coming. “The Mormon prophet—he is the man,” Moody said, adding that “they”—the Mormons—are “waiting for Hinckley to tell ‘em: ‘Let’s go to Missouri and knock it off with an Osmond concert and build the new Jerusalem.”
The seemingly embittered former Mormon claims he and Romney were members of the Cougar Club together at Brigham Young University, where he saw Romney give the valedictorian speech at their 1971 graduation ceremony. There was “great buzz” on campus about young Mitt one day running for president, he said. Romney’s view, he claims, was “If not me, then who?”
One of his main problems with Romney becoming president is that Romney, if he follows the teachings of his faith, “believes he’s going to become a God some day.”
Don’t worry about this book making much of an impact. I can’t find it online. And who’s ever heard of Revelation Press?