Is Compromise in the Culture Wars Possible?

Considering current debates over gay marriage, abortion, and other issues where religion and politics intersect, Peter Berger looks for ways to avoid or defuse confrontation between religiously traditional and secular Americans in the public sphere. He writes:

I think that the only practical as well as morally acceptable formula is some degree of separation between the state and religion. There are different forms of this: British, American, French, German, Dutch. In all of these, the state (de-facto if not de-jure) is religiously neutral and presides benevolently over the pluralistic cacophony. This presupposes a secular space in which people of different faiths can peacefully interact. Important point: acceptance of the secular space (and a secular discourse to go with it, such as religiously neutral law) is not the same as secularism, which is the project of banning religion from public life. Put differently: the U.S. Constitution is not a Jacobin manifesto.

Even under the aforementioned separation formula, there must be some shared values among all of the communities or the society will either lapse into conflict or fall apart before outside aggression. In the current German debate over the integration of immigrants, the concept of Leitkultur (“lead culture”) refers to such a shared value system. This has a clear implication: there must be the shared secular discourse, supported by all communities, albeit for different reasons. Thus the first lapidary sentence of the 1949 German (then West German) constitution—“the dignity of man is inviolate”—was and is understood by Christians in terms of man in the image of God. But it can be and is being understood by people of another or no faith in terms of other conceptions of human dignity.

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More about: Abortion, Gay marriage, Religion, Religion & Holidays, Religion and politics, Secularism

The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics