Posted by David A. Lehrer
The Pew Center, the source of so much insightful qualitative data on the state of America, recently released a poll that confirms what many have seen happening around us—-Jews have become an integral part of the fabric of American society and are perceived as such by our neighbors.
In a poll that probes “Religious Similarities and Differences” the investigators found that, not too surprisingly, Protestants and Catholics each see each other’s faith as most like theirs. More than four in ten (44%) non-Protestants say that the Protestant religion and their own faith are similar. Non-Catholics see Catholicism as similar to their own faith at 43%.
A more surprising datum is that more than one third of non-Jews say Judaism is “somewhat or very similar” to their own faith (35%). A number not out of the range of the 44% and 43% of Catholics and Protestants viewing each other as “somewhat or very similar”.
Judaism is viewed as “somewhat or very different” by 47% of non-Jews. The “somewhat or very different” category for non-Protestants viewing Protestantism is 38%, for non-Catholics viewing Catholicism is 50%—-again within the range of how Jews are viewed.
Considering two thousand years of rocky relations between Judaism and Christianity, that over a third of American non-Jews see Judaism as “very similar or somewhat similar” to their faith and that the range of acceptance is within a few percentage points of how the two major Christian faiths view each other (43%) is remarkable.
As a benchmark, non-Mormons view that faith as being “very similar or somewhat similar” at 21%, non Muslims view similarities in Islam at 16%, non Buddhists see similarities in Buddhism at 15% and non Hindus assess Hindus as similar at 12%.
The study has implications beyond demographers and inter-faith mavens. Analysis of the data reveals that perceptions of religious groups being similar to one’s own are linked with more favorable views of these groups. Among those who say Judaism is “similar” to their faith, 79% view the religion favorably; among those who see Judaism as different, 62% view it favorably—-a not insignificant drop off. Interestingly, the favorability rating of Judaism by non-Jews is higher for Jews (79%) than it is for non-Catholics viewing Catholicism (76%).
I am certain that these revelations are not the result of serendipity. Rather, they are the fruits of decades of inter-faith dialogue, of seminary education reform and, most importantly, of the Second Vatican Council and its alteration of the Catholic liturgy and the church’s outreach to non-Catholic faiths (e.g. John XXIII and John Paul II).
Coincidentally, I attended the funeral today of my late father’s oldest friend who passed away at the age of 101 ½. As I listened to his life’s journey from Eastern Europe to the United States, from the early twentieth century to the twenty first, from a world in which pogroms and fear of being beaten or harassed for being a “Christ killer” was common place to a world in which there are virtually no limits on a Jew’s aspirations and where we are viewed as being very much like our neighbors—-I couldn’t help but think how fortunate we are and how amazingly the world has changed in one lifetime.
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October 2, 2009 | 6:09 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
The Pew Center publishes fascinating polls every week, some get enormous media attention, others go virtually ignored. Last week, Pew published an under-the-radar study that deserves some attention and evaluation.
In a report entitled, “Who Divides America?” the Center discovered that fewer people perceived divisions between black and white as a key dividing line in America than saw conflicts between immigrants and the native born or between rich and poor. In other words, immigrant vs. native and class conflicts outstrip race as the prisms through which Americans view their society.
As Pew notes, “The findings come at a time when discussions about the role of racism in American society have featured heavily in media coverage of the Obama presidency.”
The study found that 55% of those surveyed saw the tension between immigrants and native born Americans as being “very strong/strong.” Whites endorsed this view at 53%, Blacks at 61% and Hispanics at 68%.
Seeing class conflicts as “very strong/strong” was most common among Blacks (65%) then Latinos (55%) and finally, among whites (43%).
Race as the prism through which conflict is viewed was most common among Blacks (53%), then Latinos (47%) and finally whites (35%).
Probably the most notable finding is that only 53% of Blacks (as the report notes, “a bare majority”) see racial conflict as “very strong/strong” while far higher percentages of African Americans see significant rifts between immigrants and native born and along class lines.
What this study may explain is why so many politicians are resorting to a pseudo-populism in their attacks on the stimulus package, Wall Street bailouts and regulation and executive salaries. Their pollsters must have told them—-what Pew has just revealed to us—- that good old American populism and resentment of elites is alive and well and cuts across racial and ethnic lines.
This study puts a lot of things into perspective. Wednesday morning, as I watched Fed Chairman Bernanke being grilled by the House Financial Services Committee, I now understood why so many of his interrogators—-Congresspeople from across the country—-postured themselves as defenders of poor innocents who are being assaulted by barracudas and heartless vipers on Wall Street who manipulate the economy and their constituents. There was little room for nuance in many of their questions. Clearly, they were playing to their TV audience and they probably have read their constituents concerns and angers correctly—-exploiting populist sentiments strikes a responsive chord in today’s political climate.
October 1, 2009 | 4:56 pm
Posted by Joe R. Hicks
Is Mark Lloyd the new Van Jones? Jones was Barack Obama’s “Green Jobs Czar” who was forced out after, among other things, it was revealed that he was a “truther.” Turns out, he’d signed a petition which alleged that the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the 9/11 terror attacks.
Well, there’s yet another wacko in the Obama administration. Mark Lloyd is President Obama’s “Diversity Czar” at the Federal Communications Commission, a fellow who has decidedly questionable views.
This gentleman has spoken about having white media executives step down out of deference to minorities; called what’s going on inside of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela “an incredible revolution.”
It’s not that prior presidential administrations haven’t had their share of strange characters wondering around, but the hard left seems to have found particularly fertile ground inside the Obama administration.
How do you bring a guy into your administration who believes Hugo Chavez led “really an incredible revolution – a democratic revolution.”?
And how insulting is it that the Obama administration has embraced a guy who’s said that whites need to get out of the way of people of color, gays and others, “so someone else can have power.” I suppose in Lloyd’s mind, merit and hard work has nothing to do with power or position.
However, this diversity czar has other opinions which reveal his racial paranoia. He offered the astounding opinion that “There are few things, I think, more frightening in the American mind than dark-skinned black men.”
Really Mr. Lloyd? After more than 40 years of working in the trenches of race relations work, it is my view that most Americans judge people by the content of their character and care far less about the color of someone’s skin than Lloyd imagines. I also think most Americans detest crude displays of racial victimization – something Lloyd’s comments illustrate.
Are you comfortable paying this man’s salary with your tax-dollars?
One of the things the FCC should be most avid about is protecting American’s freedom of speech and expression. But even here Lloyd doesn’t measure up.
In his 2006 book “Prologue to a Farce” he questions Americans devotion to free speech. He wrote “at the very least, blind references to freedom of speech or the press serve as a distraction from the critical examination of other communication policies.” Huh?
Being the “Diversity Czar” is a relatively silly position inside government. So, why should we be concerned about Lloyd?
Hidden in all of this is the raging debate at the FCC over the “Fairness Doctrine.” This is an old law that formerly required broadcasters to provide opposing viewpoints on their programs.
Julius Genakowski, the FCC Chairman, has said the fairness doctrine isn’t currently on the agency’s agenda. But there remains reason for concern. Lloyd co-authored a 2007 study for the ultra-liberal Center for American Progress which examined what they called the “structural imbalance of talk radio.” In media interviews, Lloyd has whined incessantly about how 91 percent of talk radio is controlled by conservatives. But so what?
As a former radio talk show host, I knew that my show would live or die based only on ratings. It was the marketplace of ideas that would determine my fate. Lloyd seems to have little understanding of this.
The liberal answer to conservative talk radio, Air America, was launched in 2004. By 2006 it was bankrupt. Why? Listeners quickly labeled it boring and humor-less. Now re-named Air America media, and with new owners, listeners still find the station boring and humorless and it struggles to attract listeners.
Will Obama’s Diversity Czar follow Van Jones into oblivion? Only time will tell. Stay tuned.
October 1, 2009 | 4:16 pm
Posted by David A. Lehrer
This blog has taken a brief High Holidays break; we are now back in business.
The New York Times website has an interesting innovation, a dialogue called The Conversation which involves their regular columnists discussing a current issue. Yesterday’s Conversation involves David Brooks and Gail Collins discussing Going to Extremism. As readers of his column would expect, Brooks offers some significant insights.
Here is the money quote:
I’ve always thought that Islamic extremism was different. To me, the most persuasive theory is that some people are caught between modernity and tradition and as an escape have invented a make-believe purism, which permits killing in the name of holiness.
Then came the Iraq war and the debate shifted. But over the past few weeks, I’ve been reminded that the problem has not gone away. There are still fanatics in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Gaza and South Lebanon, and even Denver. In some ways extremism is on the wane but in other ways the poisonous infection has not been addressed.
American attention has turned to domestic issues, and yet it has come to seem more likely that the Obama presidency will be defined by its reaction to this extremism, as the Bush presidency unfortunately was.
There is the Iranian regime, the Taliban, the extremist forces in Pakistan. Events seem to be conspiring to create a series of confrontations in the years ahead. It seems more likely, especially after the past week, that there is simply no escaping the toxin.
And I’m not sure the Obama folks have any comprehensive strategy, other than trying to escape the whole mess. They’ll have to come up with one.
Despite the kerfuffle over Obama flying to Copenhagen for Chicago’s Olympic bid and the countless other silly issues that fill up the twenty four news cycle, this single issue—-how we respond to the extremism that infects so much of the world—-may be the most important one America faces.
Incidentally, The New York Times had another side of the debate in rather positive view of the war on Al Qaeda in Sunday’s Week in Review . It’s worth a read.
Many students of terrorism believe that in important ways, Al Qaeda and its ideology of global jihad are in a pronounced decline — with its central leadership thrown off balance as operatives are increasingly picked off by missiles and manhunts and, more important, with its tactics discredited in public opinion across the Muslim world.
Their views are not necessarily incompatible, we could be succeeding against Al Qaeda while also witnessing the spread of an intolerant and dangerous fundamentalism that simply can’t come to grips with the modern world.