Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Spiritual Aristrocrats . . .

Faith is a gift. Those who have been given the gift have been give responsibilities along with it. I have recently been struck by this, as I have begun to use a passage from King Lear, Act III, scene iv as my prayer before meals. It is, it seems to me, an example of what it means to be a Christian aristocrat, radically distinct from, but not incompatible with, being a worldly aristocrat.

In this storm scene Lear is teetering on the brink of madness. So recently an arrogant and self-centered king doing precisely what Christ forbids in the Gospel, namely lording it over those under him, Lear is now reduced the famous "nothing" which is such a leitmotif throughout the play. Now noticing the suffering of common humanity and his indistinguishability from them, Lear cries out:
Poor naked wretches, whereso'er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta'en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayest shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.
This is Shakespeare expressing a quintessentially Christian understanding of the world turned upside down and the aristocracy of the poor in spirit. For the time being at least, it makes a nice prayer before meals.

As Robert Frost said: what worked for me may work for you.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gratuitous Goodness

Hans Urs von Balthasar:
There may be people who, for some reason or other, have become used to doubting the existence of intrinsic goodness. On their view, what is called good or appears to be so in everyday life can be explained away in terms of mores, changing customs, unconfessed laziness and selfishness, a natural will to power concealed under various guises. If, however, such people came face to face with the evidence of a selfless act that another, say a friend, performs for its own sake, and they realize by their own inward experience that the naked overcoming of self is a really attainable possibility, they forget for the moment their entire theory and bow before the simple fact of goodness. Their theory now has a breach in it; they may stop it up later, but for now they have stepped through it, naked and undisguised, into the presence of the Good.
[Theo-Logic, Vol. 1, p. 35]

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday evening's lecture

Fr. John M. McDermott, S.J. "Benedit XVI and the Faith-Reason Relation." Here are a few things that I jotted down during the lecture, not necessarily attributable to the lecturer -- either approximations of what he said or thoughts which his lecture brought to mind:
The separation of reason and faith is tantamount to the separation of nature and grace, and that separation leads inevitably to either fundamentalism (fideism) or liberalism (relativism).

Understanding goes deeper than knowledge, because, as the word implies, it is knowledge that is inseparable from taking a stand.

Augustine's "You made us for yourself O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee" correlates with Thomas Aquinas' "God leaves a wound in the human heart which only He can heal."

Or (again Thomas): "The light of faith makes it possible to see what is believed." Now there is an important insight!

Or, Ratzinger/Benedict: The mystery can be seen only by someone who lives it."
More anon.

Catch as catch can . . .

Blogging from the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars annual convention in Providence, Rhode Island . . . in between sessions.

Here are a few (roughly remembered) comments from the afternoon talks by Fr. Vincent Twomey, Emeritus Professor Moral Theology and former student of Joseph Ratzinger, either quoting Ratzinger/Benedict or remarking on his thinking and his theology:
It is the loss of transcendence that gives rise to political ideologies, which, in turn, give rise to social and cultural catastrophes.

By itself, politics cannot produce that without which it collapses into incoherence, namely, ethics and the authority on which they depend.

Political powerlessness is the key to the recovery of the Church's real power.

If Hans Urs von Balthasar was like a painter who painted every single detail with incredible precision, Joseph Ratzinger is like Picasso, who with a few bold brush strokes captured the essence of the subject.

Cardinal Ratazinger/Pope Benedict XVI, however, "speaks in paragraphs, thinks in chapters, and writes books in a single draft."

The reduction of reason to rationalism is a disaster for our age and our world. Reason needs revelation in order to be itself, and revelation needs reason in order to account for itself.

On the subject of conscience in a world where many think of it as a synonym for one's own preferences, Fr. Twomey used a little parable: an old woman has lost something but she cannot remember what she has lost until she finds it. An adequately formed conscience is like that.

Finally, from Fr. Twomey, citing the pope: Only when the Church respects her limits is she limitless.
From Sr. Timothy Prokes, Professor of Theology at the Graduate School of Christendom College:
The body's meaning is gift, and humans are made for self-gift.
On Ratzinger/Benedict's discussion of the body in the Church's liturgical life: the refusal to kneel is a misunderstanding of freedom. To kneel is to recognize the truth of one's existence.
More if and when there's time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Objective and Subjective

"The Word is objectively present by the Spirit in the missionary's speech: but he (or she) must struggle to make that presence thoroughly subjective to the hearers by thinking through what its reception, spiritually, culturally, demands. (There is also the little matter -- crucial to the efficacy of mission -- of letting the Word be in subjective accord with the Gospel-bearer's life.)." -- Aidan Nichols O.P.

Free Speech on a Slipper Slope?

Here is something from September 11th.

Your comments are welcome.

More on the weblog icon in due course.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Stone the Builders Rejected . . .

The search for a new image continues.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Weblog Bannner?

In the immediately prior post I explained the new banner icon for this weblog, but I remain uncertain as to which of the images below to use. Perhaps you can help me decide.

Below these images is link which you can use to let me know which you prefer. I'm grateful to you for your help. This is, after all, a collaborative effort.

Go here to express your opinion.

A Cornerstone Forum newsletter will go out later today with several news items of interest, including a link to this same survey. If you are not on our email newsletter list, I hope you will sign up by putting your email address in the link at the upper right.

Thanks again.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Coming Soon: Easter in the Meantime

As the Caravaggio painting above -- depicting the arrest of Christ -- suggests, this blog is getting a slight make-over. In fact, however, it is only preparing to do more explicitly what it was originally designed to do, and now, as T. S. Eliot put it, "under conditions that seem unpropitious."

The blog exists, as it has from the beginning, to reflect on the interaction of faith and culture in our day. What is becoming more recognizable every day is that beneath the surface of events, where the tectonic plates are grinding, what is taking place is what Hans Urs von Balthasar called the reciprocal intensification of the Yes and the No to Christianity and the moral revolution it awakened. René Girard has made essentially the same assessment on the strength of his anthropological analysis. In his own way, so did the brilliant religious nihilist, Friedrich Nietzsche. (He was brilliant inasmuch as he understood what a catastrophe would ensue upon the death of Christianity should such a thing ever happen, as he most solemnly hoped it would.)

The point is that the worldly No to the truth to which Christianity exists to say Yes is growing louder and more explicit all the while. In that sense, we are living in the "mean" time. Our challenge is to bear witness, in season and out, and to do so as best we can in an Easter spirit. This does not mean that we must not speak and act with the strength of our convictions, or that no one will be offended by our defense of the truth which the spirit of the age exploits and distorts. But it does mean that we should, as far as we can, bear witness in the spirit of Easter. “Take courage,” Jesus said in John’s Gospel, “I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)

A reproduction of Caravaggio's painting has hung in my home for some years, and I have had many occasions to wonder at it. The most obvious thing about it, as I have said elsewhere, are the hands of Christ in the lower center of the painting. The hands depict what Christ's face also shows: his faith that the terrible events that are about to occur are not outside of the Father's providential love and that the very act of expelling the Father's love-in-person will serve only to reveal that love more powerfully than ever.

This, it seems to me, is Easter in the Meantime.

Thanks for checking in here from time to time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Word of Thanks from the Sidelines

I often feel like a referee at a hockey game. I toss the puck down and flee for my life while contestants more agile and accomplished than I am whack away at the puck. Unlike the referee, I'm not often entirely neutral in the ensuing contest. Like everyone else, I tend to cheer for those who are clever enough to agree with me on everything. But that doesn't mean that I'm not grateful to those who hold up the other side of the argument with zest and conviction.

You know the one about the fellow he told his friends: "I went to brawl the other night and a hockey game broke out." Well, the latter is always preferable to the former, so whack away, but don't break any hockey sticks on each other.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Perhaps the Left hand does know what the Right hand is doing?

Rene Girard has thrown a great deal of light on the problem of cultural meltdown. Societies in the throes of a collapse undergo what Girard calls "the crisis of distinctions," making the detection and diagnosis of the crisis all the more perplexing. The differences begin to break down, beginning with the most "socially constructed" of differences, but eventually eroding even the most irreducible of differences, the difference, for instance, between sex and violence, or between men and women, or between beauty and ugliness (visit your local museum of modern art).

So . . . the tried and true labels for getting some grip on the overall crisis begin to lose their usefulness. Here is an example: A story from Germany -- a society, like Britain and many other European societies -- in a far deeper crisis than its political and reportorial classes would like to acknowledge. It is just one little example of a very large and very alarming international trend.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Snake Oil or Henry V at Agincourt

As I have said before, the health care debate is not one with which I am familiar enough to make intelligent comment, but I do remember a few of the arithmetical skills the good nuns taught me in grammar school. Based on that alone, Krauthammer makes sense to me.

Thanks again to Athos for calling my attention to this video clip.

Those more familiar with the details, have at it.

To make the exchange even livelier,
here's Mark Steyn's view of the matter.

My sacrifice: A Contrite Spirit

In penance for my occasional lack of charity, in past postings and in one's to come, here's a real palate-cleanser, one of my favorite hymns.

Here are the lyrics:


My life flows on in endless song:
Above earth's lamentation,
I catch the sweet, tho' far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul--
How can I keep from singing?

What tho' my joys and comfort die?
The Lord my Saviour liveth;
What tho' the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it.
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am his--
How can I keep from singing?

The Giant Pyramid Scheme

There is a spectre haunting Europe, the spectre of empty maternity wards and closed-down schools. Europe is dying - its people have lost confidence in themselves and choose a life of pleasure-seeking over procreation.

And for four decades they have bought the good life, with five-week holidays and retirement at 60, by hiring low-paid, invisible immigrants to do the dirty, dangerous and demeaning jobs, each generation of migrants then joining this giant pyramid scheme once they are granted citizenship. Now Europe is paying the price.

Ignore the exaggerated scare stories about Islamic growth in Europe - the raw statistics are disturbing enough. France and Holland are already 10 per cent Islamic, but that ignores the age gap between native and migrant - Britain is only four per cent Muslim but among new-borns that figure is 11 per cent; the top seven boys' names in Brussels are all Islamic; at current trends Germany and Austria could be majority Muslim by mid-century.
So begins an interview with Christopher Caldwell in Britain's Catholic Herald.

It's here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Just coincidence?

I suppose there was no way the main stream media could have ignored the story of the murder of pro-life activist, Jim Pouillon, given how much coverage they gave to the murder of an abortionist not long ago. But am I alone in wondering why this particular photograph of Mr. Pouillon was the one chosen to appear on the CNN website?

I am trying to avoid cynicism, honestly I am.

Where is Freud when you need him?

Reuters reports this from Zurich:

Body Worlds plans cadaver show dedicated to sex
German anatomists plan a new show dedicated solely to dead bodies having sex as part of the Body Worlds exhibitions.

Gunther von Hagens and his wife Angelina Whalley show corpses prepared using a technique invented by von Hagens called "plastination," that removes water from specimens and preserves them with silicon rubber or epoxy resin. . . .

Von Hagens has already triggered uproar with a new exhibit which shows just two copulating corpses.

German politicians called the current "Cycle of Life" show charting conception to old age "revolting" and "unacceptable" when it showed in Berlin earlier this year because it included copulating cadavers.

The way a plastinate is exhibited can vary from country to country to reflect local sensibilities. A vote of local employees decided that one of the copulating female cadavers should wear fewer clothes in Zurich than was the case in Berlin.

"Switzerland is the first country that already said from the outset that we could show whatever we wanted," said von Hagens.

"Zurich is ready ... but it's maybe not so easy in every other town," he said. "We have discussed whether it is proper to show homosexuality and in what way. This is a very delicate subject."
"Delicate subjects," perhaps you remember the term. It once meant . . . oh, never mind.

Welcome to the final manifestation of the sexual revolution. It was shamelessly irresponsible while it lasted, but now it's come full circle: Eros has turned to Thanatos for titillation. What a perfect and perfectly fitting commentary on its wildly successful attempt to uncouple (if you'll pardon the expression) sex and reproduction, leading directly to the demographic death of Europe and many of the cultures it once inspired.

Thanks to Carl Olson at Ignatius' "Inside Scoop."

The Third Jihad

I am too busy at the moment to watch this film in its entirety, so I cannot vouch for it. But I watched the first part of it, and from what I saw it is balanced and objective. It is, I think, timely. I am posting it therefore in commemoration of September 11th. If you have time to watch it, I welcome your comments.

The Third Jihad

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Morning After . . .

"Anybody with an informed and reflective mind who lives in the twentieth century since the end of the First World War, as I did, finds himself hemmed in, if not oppressed, from all sides by a flood of ideological language. . . He cannot deal with the users of ideological language as partners in a discussion, but he has to make them the object of investigation. There is no community of language with the representatives of the dominant ideologies. Hence, the community of language that he himself wants to use in order to criticize the users of ideological language must first be discovered and, if necessary, established." -- Eric Voegelin

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Monk on the Loose . . .

Harold Talbott on Thomas Merton in Asia:
“He tipped Sikh taxi drivers like a Proustian millionaire. He was on a roll, on a toot, on a holiday from school. He was a grand seigneur, a great lord of the spiritual life. He radiated a sense of ‘This is an adventure, here I am folks,’ and he woke people up and illuminated them and enchanted them and gave them tremendous happiness and a good laugh. People knew his spiritual quality. People in planes knew it. There was no question about it. Merton was not an object of scrutiny, he was an event.”
I get a good long look at some of Merton's fellow Cistercians every morning, and I see this possibility in their bright, childlike eyes. If the Abbot turned them loose on the natives, they might not all be as flamboyant as Merton was in Asia, but I have no doubt they would -- in their own unique way -- give us worldlings good reason to rethink our habitual ways.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Love those who hate you.

1 million Pakistani Catholics pray for persecutors

September 08, 2009
Gathering at Pakistan’s principal Marian shrine the weekend before the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, over half of the nation’s 1.6 million Catholics prayed for their persecutors. “Let us pray and fast for the transformation of terrorists involved in the recent anti-Christian violence,” Father Emmanuel Asi preached on September 5. “We are a complete part of this country and want to become instruments of peace.”
The original story is here, and the Catholic Culture post is here.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. I regard him as one of the most thoughtful and reliable public intellectuals writing today. He has not been any more sanguine than I have been about the direction of the current administration, but in a column today, he expresses his anxieties with what seems a special sense of alarm and urgency. I recommend his piece.
It is here.


Good poets borrow, wrote T. S. Eliot, great poets steal. Well, lazy bloggers steal, too.

My old friend "Athos" has a blog quote so ripe and low hanging that I stole it quicker than Augustine stole the famous pears, but, unlike Augustine, who didn't even care for the pears, I really love this quote, however inadequately I sometimes live up to it. For that failure, I have a firm purpose of amendment.
Every Catholic is to some extent a marked man; in the casual contacts of daily life he is bearing witness, or failing to bear witness, to Jesus Christ ... the point is, not so much that we ought to be better Catholics, but that we ought to be better Christians. That we should be lovers of the truth, fair-minded, ready to believe the best of people, impatient of scandal, considerate towards the unbefriended, generous in our enthusiasms, temperate in our pleasures, discreet in our friendships, that we should have a smile for everybody - in a word, that we should live in the sunlight of that creed which we profess. -- Monsignor Ronald Knox
Thanks Athos.

Monday, September 07, 2009

For What It's Worth . . .

I don't have a television or a radio, and, so disheartened am I by developments in our culture of late, that in the last year I haven't bothered to turn on a television even when I'm on the road and stuck in a motel.

But before that I occasionally turned on the TV in my motel room -- switching back and forth, as was my habit, between the cable news outlets, hoping against hope to find some reasonably unbiased reporting. On those rare dips into the turgid waters of the mainstream media, I think I may have caught a glimpse or two of Glenn Beck. He struck me as a young man who needs a rest, who is bordering on clinical hysteria, just as I suspect his MSNBC counterpart, Keith Olberman, is.

As my post about the Van Jones fiasco may have suggested, I got my information about that sordid affair from what have proven to be reliable sources among the new media: NewsBusters for instance (which, by the way, has a story today that bears reading, here), and Sunlit Uplands, Creative Minority Report, City Journal, and others.

Only belatedly did I learn that most people were made aware of the Jones controversy by Glenn Beck's hammering away at it. Well, if that's what it took, I'm glad he did, but that doesn't mean that I find his pugnacity any more appealing than Olberman's.

The above mentioned blogsites are culturally conservative, which is one reason I find them interesting, but their cultural and social conservatism, while occasionally expressed vigorously, as is mine at times, is rooted in something far more substantive than party politics.

As I say, for what it's worth.

The World the Monks Bequeathed

Before Lauds at St. Joseph's Abbey

It was the monasteries of the seventh to the twelfth centuries that were the seedbed for the civilization we have inherited. Among the countless things bequeathed to us by those monastic orders is the recognition of the dignity of work and the joy of being productive and contributing to the material welfare of one's community. They were able to sustain those noble ideas because their commitment to work was only exceeded by the commitment to prayer.

On this Labor Day in the U.S. we can remember not only our debt to those monks, but the dignity of labor as well. We should also pray for those who have lost their jobs or who are unable to find work to support themselves and their families. We may not be able to guarantee every person adequate employment in this vale of tears, but, when given the opportunity, we can do something to remind the less fortunate that we recognize their inalienable human dignity.

The least fortunate among us are those who have no one to pray for them by name. We can pray for them especially.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Post-Post-Partisan Post

Apropos the prior posting, here's today's Washington Post lede:
"Van Jones, special adviser for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, resigns following weeks of pressure from the right and a flurry of revelations about his past statements."
Pressure from the right. Get it. This public servant has been hounded from office by right-wingers. Even when the sing-a-long media feigns objectivity -- which they hardly bother to do anymore -- they expose their bias all the more. According to the Post's innuendo, Jones' departure from the current administration was due to the politically motivated and by implication mean-spirited attack of "the right." Ignore the glaring facts about Mr. Jones' political radicalism and contempt, not just for his political opponents, but for the country from whose taxpayers he condescended to draw a generous salary.

There's more than a grain of truth to the Post's claim that the pressure came from the "right," but it hardly flatters the mainstream media for which the Washington Post serves as a flag ship. The relatively tiny cross-town paper, the Washington Examiner, reported on Friday, weeks after the story had begun to emerge, that the conspicuously non-right-wing news organizations had conveniently averted their eyes:
Total words about the Van Jones controversy in the New York Times: 0.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy in the Washington Post: 0.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy on NBC Nightly News: 0.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy on ABC World News: 0.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy on CBS Evening News: 0.
This leaves all the reporting to the new media and to media outlets that can be labeled as "right-wing," giving the old mainstream media the opportunity to take the sting out of the story by hinting at political bias. Had the Pravda-style mainstream been doing their job, there would have been no grounds whatsoever for the accusation. Had a comparable story emerged -- about, say, a Bush administration figure -- everyone knows that it would have been page one, above the fold in the print press and a prominent feature on the cable channels. As it is, the old and now predictably biased mainstream media had ready at hand a way to deflect the impact of the story: It was all a tempest in a right-wing teapot.

But no one gets a job as prominent as Mr. Jones job was without being vetted by the White House, and no one with anything like Mr. Jones' resumé would survive the Secret Service vetting without very high-ranking White House sponsorship. This is not just another of the administration's personnel problems; it is symptomatic of the same out-of-touch mindset that assumes that the town-hall meetings are the work of disreputable right-wing fanatics. So much for the post-partisan promises. The shell game isn't working as well as planned.

The corollary to all this is that, by noticing the ideological bias of the current administration and its mainstream media votaries, occasional bloggers like yours truly must be right-wingers. It isn't so.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The next thud your hear . . .

Pardon my grumblings . . . but . . .

The next thud White House staffers hear will be the administration bus rolling over the political corpse of green jobs czar Van Jones, Jones soon to join a distinguished roster, including Bill Ayers, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Father Pfleger, Tony Rezko, and a an A-list of sundry administration functionaries with legal and I.R.S. problems. For those on the bus, it's becoming a bumpy ride. For those watching it pass by, the reality is beginning to dawn: this is Chicago politics after all, fitted with leftist ideological blinders, and with a disturbing twist of Saul Alinsky's strategic dissembling throw in for good measure.

For those interested in the work of René Girard, it is worth noting that the now all-too-familiar metaphor of throwing politically embarrassing former political allies under the bus is a quintessentially "sacrificial" and "scapegoating" metaphor -- the bus containing the smiling community of those for whom an occasional thud as the bus rolls over the latest disposable former-colleague is a small price to pay for the restoration of political self-righteousness and the cheerful media-led sing-a-longs that keep the passengers from dwelling overlong on less agreeable matters.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Unquestioned Political Reflexes . . .

I keep up as best I can with what Jeff Jacoby, a columnist for the Boston Globe, has to say, he being in my view one of the few voices of thoughtfulness and principle at the Globe. I saw that Jacoby had contributed to a symposium for Commentary Magazine entitled "Why Are Jews Liberals?" a symposium in response to a recent book by the same name by the long-time editor of Commentary, Norman Podhoretz. So I decided to take a look. The other contributors were David Wolpe, Jonathan D. Sarna, Michael Medved, and William Kristol. Here are a few excerpts which have implications, not just for Jews, but for all of us.

The first is a humorous but insightful anecdote from Jeff Jacoby's remarks:
According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, only 16 percent of Jews attend religious services at least once a week, compared with 39 percent of Americans generally. Just 31 percent say religion is “very important” in their lives (vs. 56 percent of Americans).

Such data led Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s chief rabbi, to quote a comment made by the late hasidic troubadour Shlomo Carlebach after a lifetime of visiting American campuses: “I ask students what they are. If someone gets up and says, I’m a Catholic, I know that’s a Catholic. If someone says, I’m a Protestant, I know that’s a Protestant. If someone gets up and says, I’m just a human being, I know that’s a Jew.”
David Gelernter is professor of computer science at Yale University and the author of "Judaism: A Way of Being," to be published in January by Yale University Press.

Here is an excerpt from his contribution to the symposium:
So what’s happened in Europe?

In much of Western (especially northwestern) Europe, marriage seems to be dying. (“Today . . . 0nly the lower orders and what remains of the gentry bother to marry, and everyone else takes a partner, as if life were a dance, or a business venture.” Thus the Irish writer John Banville in his 2006 novel, The Sea.) Up-to-date Englishmen on the topic of science versus religion sound, too often, like smug low-church curates in Trollope holding forth on the British Empire versus the filthy natives. (This suffocating self-righteousness ruins the novels of — for example — the contemporary Englishman Ian McEwan.) European sex (casual or not, hetero- or homo-) seems to have developed the moral significance of an ATM transaction on a street corner. The “Green party” was a German invention, the English Conservatives have recently adopted a green tree as their emblem, and European eco-priests speaking ex cathedra are generally regarded as infallible.

The strangest aspect of modern Europe is its tentative yet progressing love affair with death. (We think of Keats listening, darkling, to his nightingale.) The death wish is plain among Europeans who shrug off birthrates so low (and immigration rates so high) that their nations will be gone within a few generations. The death wish probably plays a part in the fervor some European nations (especially Germany) feel to lose themselves in the European Union, and in the outright enthusiasm in parts of Europe for assisted suicide. Modern Germany often cremates the dead with no rites and no comment, making death as humdrum as taking out the garbage.

If we sum up these tendencies, we arrive at a belief that man should be happy as an animal among animals, should aspire to nothing higher, and should be satisfied to worship the earth and himself if he must worship anything. This is a new sort of paganism but is clearly related to older types. In fact, mulling German history in particular, one wonders whether the Germans ever were more than half-Christianized, whether paganism hasn’t always appealed to the lofty German Geist. It’s not surprising that Germany should be a leader not only in the new liberalism but also the new paganism.

Will American Jewish liberalism drift by inches into American Jewish paganism? Not necessarily. But that fate will be avoided only if American Jews form a clear picture of the direction in which they are headed before they follow Europe into the anonymous pagan abyss and disappear. Jewish religious genius is capable of rearing up at any time and changing the direction of history—but only if Jewish prophets speak up loud and clear . . .
Finally, Michael Medved, a radio talk show host, offers what was perhaps the most provocative contribution to the symposium:
For most American Jews, the core of their Jewish identity isn’t solidarity with Israel; it’s rejection of Christianity. This observation may help to explain the otherwise puzzling political preferences of the Jewish community explored in Norman Podhoretz’s book. Jewish voters don’t embrace candidates based on their support for the state of Israel as much as they passionately oppose candidates based on their identification with Christianity—especially the fervent evangelicalism of the dreaded “Christian Right.” . . .

Anyone who doubts that rejection of Jesus has replaced acceptance of Torah (or commitment to Israel) as the eekur sach—the essential element—of American Jewish identity should pause to consider an uncomfortable question. What is the one political or religious position that makes a Jew utterly unwelcome in the organized community? We accept atheist Jews, Buddhist Jews, pro-Palestinian Jews, Communist Jews, homosexual Jews, and even sanction Hindu-Jewish meditation societies. “Jews for Jesus,” however, or “Messianic Jews” face resistance and exclusion everywhere. In Left-leaning congregations, many rabbis welcome stridently anti-Israel speakers and even Palestinian apologists for Islamo-Nazi terror. But if they invited a “Messianic Jewish” missionary, they’d face indignant denunciation from their boards and, very probably, condemnation by their national denominational leadership. It is far more acceptable in the Jewish community today to denounce Israel (or the United States), to deny the existence of God, or to deride the validity of Torah than it is to affirm Jesus as Lord and Savior.

For many Americans, the last remaining scrap of Jewish distinctiveness involves our denial of New Testament claims, so any support for those claims becomes a threat to the very essence of our Jewish identity. Many Jews therefore view enthusiastic Christian believers—no matter how reliably they support Israel and American Jews—as enemies by definition. Rather than acknowledge the key role played by Christian Zionists (prominently including Harry Truman) in establishing and sustaining the U.S.-Israel alliance, liberal partisans love to invoke 2,000 years of bloody Christian anti-Semitism. Today, however, the echoes of that poisonous hatred, complete with seething contempt for the allegedly disloyal and manipulative -“Israel lobby” in American politics, turn up far more frequently in the newsrooms of prestige newspapers or the faculty lounges of Ivy League universities than they do in Baptist churches in Georgia or Alabama.
The whole symposium is here.