Don’t Declare Secularism Victorious, Yet

April 3 2017

Responding to Rod Dreher’s recent book The Benedict Option, which discusses the argument that conservative Christians—having lost the culture war and become a minority—should retreat into insular communities, Peter Berger writes:

What Dreher is saying is . . . this: don’t exaggerate. Are Christians being persecuted in America? Not really. Yes, there are regrettable power plays—as when the Obama administration wanted to force Catholic hospitals to cover contraception in the health plans offered their employees, or to threaten the livelihood of Evangelical photographers or caterers unless they are willing to serve same-sex weddings. . . . But a comparison with real persecution of Christians—massacres, enslavement, forced conversion, or prosecutions for “blasphemy” by Islamist forces in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, or West Africa—shows that there is really no comparison at all.

It is much too early to give up on the strong religious forces in American society—a still-intact and influential Evangelical community, also an intact and vital presence of the Catholic Church (now invigorated by the growing influence of Latinos), also the less-visible but nevertheless powerful presence of religious [traditions] from South and East Asia. It is, I think, too early to assess the significance of the Islamic presence.

It is also easy to exaggerate the importance of secularism in America. This is not Europe, though a sector of the American intelligentsia has been “Europeanized.” The values of sexual life have certainly been secularized, once one moves outside the relatively closed worlds of conservative religion (including its Jewish sector). The trend of sexual mores has clearly been in the direction of ever-increasing liberality. Especially young people strongly resent any “authoritarian” claims to put limits, any limits, on the ethics of autonomous “consenting adults.” . . . Any threat (real or imagined) to this [sense of] entitlement will be fiercely resented. [So] don’t figure on a neo-Puritan sexual revolution.

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Read more at American Interest

More about: American Religion, Christianity, Middle East Christianity, Religion & Holidays, Secularism, Sexual revolution

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat