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

Palestinian Leaders Fight Economic Growth

Jan. 15 2019

This month, a new shopping mall opened in northeastern Jerusalem, easily accessible to most of the city’s Arab residents. Rami Levy, the supermarket magnate who owns the mall, already employs some 2,000 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians at his other stores, and the mall will no doubt bring more jobs to Arab Jerusalemites. But the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) are railing against it, and one newspaper calls its opening “an economic catastrophe [nakba].” Bassam Tawil writes:

For [the PA president] Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah officials . . . the image of Palestinians and Jews working in harmony is loathsome. . . . Instead of welcoming the inauguration of the shopping mall for providing job opportunities to dozens of Palestinians and lower prices [to consumers], Fatah officials are taking about an Israeli plan to “undermine” the Palestinian economy. . . . The hundreds of Palestinians who flooded the new mall on its first day, however, seem to disagree with the grim picture painted by [these officials]. . . .

The campaign of incitement against Levy’s shopping mall began several months ago, as it was being built, and has continued until today. Now that the campaign has failed to prevent the opening of the mall, Fatah and its followers have turned to outright threats and violence. The threats are being directed toward Palestinian shoppers and Palestinian merchants who rented space in the new mall. On the day the mall was opened, Palestinians threw a number of firebombs at the compound, [which] could have injured or killed Palestinians. The [bomb-throwers], who are believed to be affiliated with Fatah, would rather see their own people dead than having fun or buying attractively-priced products at an Israeli mall.

By spearheading this campaign of incitement and intimidation, Abbas’s Fatah is again showing its true colors. How is it possible to imagine that Abbas or any of his Fatah lieutenants would ever make peace with Israel when they cannot even tolerate the idea of Palestinians and Jews working together for a simple common good? If a Palestinian who buys Israeli milk is a traitor in the eyes of Fatah, it is not difficult to imagine the fate of any Palestinian who would dare to discuss compromise with Israel.

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More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian economy