Donate

The Jewish Lutheran Who Made Sociologists Rethink Religion

Sept. 14 2017

The sociologist and public intellectual Peter Berger, who died in June at the age of eighty-eight, left a lasting impact on many areas within his field of study, but perhaps religion was what interested him most. At a time when most social scientists saw modernity as bringing inexorable secularization along with it, he was among the first to realize that religion wouldn’t simply wither away. James Nuechterlein reflects on Berger’s upbringing, his intellectual development, and his ideas:

Peter’s ironic temperament marked his complicated and unsettled religious views. He was born in Vienna in 1929 to Jewish parents who converted to Christianity when he was a child. (The family immigrated to America, by way of Palestine, when Peter was seventeen.) At our first meeting in the early 1980s, he described himself as a liberal Protestant, but while he shared that heritage . . . he had little in common with most of those who currently go by the name. . . . His bourgeois mentality and his conservative politics made him a stranger to the culture that prevails in [today’s liberal Protestant circles]. . . . Toward the end of his life, he confessed that he alternated in his religious identity between “agnostic” and “relatively conservative Lutheran.”

[Berger] was a reformer in the 1960s . . . but a reformer who scorned ideologues and who never in his life experienced a utopian temptation. He grasped the fragility of the social order. To the injunction of the youth culture to “let it all hang out,” he responded typically, “Tuck it all back in.” . . .

Early in his career, Peter was convinced that modernization was an inevitable carrier of secularity. But over time the evidence changed his mind. Most of the modern world, he concluded, is decidedly unsecular: the principal exceptions are Western Europe and the non-geographical category of intellectuals. What modernization decrees is not secularity but pluralism. Our modern problem, he concluded, is not the absence of God, but the presence of many gods. There is no available route back to a world taken for granted. We might choose to quarrel with modernity, but we cannot pretend it does not exist.

Read more at First Things

More about: Lutheran, Religion & Holidays, Secularization, Sociology

Why Israeli Arabs Should Drop Their Political Parties

Sept. 20 2017

Even as Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy rights, freedoms, and economic opportunities unrivaled in the Arab world, their political leadership is more intent on undermining the Jewish state than on serving their actual interests. Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister, comments. (Free registration may be required.)

[T]he Knesset members of the [Arab] Joint List have nothing but criticism for Israel and praise for its enemies, be they Iran, President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, or Palestinian terrorists. . . . Although spanning the ideological spectrum from Communism (aside from the North Koreans, the only Communists still around), the Muslim Brotherhood (called the Islamic Movement in Israel), and Baathists (the Balad party), they are united in their hatred of Israel. Naturally, they do not call for Arab integration into Israeli society.

Those who oppose the polygamy rampant in the Arab community oppose Israeli measures to curb it. Those who are against the abuse of women and so-called honor killings think these are “local problems” that should be handled by the Arabs themselves. Nor do they want the Israel police to handle the crime running wild in Israel’s Arab towns. Keep Israel out of your lives, is their common motto. They oppose young Arabs volunteering for either military or civilian national service. . . .

Within Israel’s Arab community there is a struggle between those who insist on rejecting everything Israel stands for while supporting its enemies and those who want to integrate into Israeli society and take advantage of the opportunities it offers. . . . Can Israel’s Arabs become a beacon of democracy and modernity for the Arab world, or will they provide proof that Arabs are not yet prepared to enter the 21st century? . . .

[E]ach year, growing numbers of young Arabs volunteer for national service and join the ranks of Israel’s military and police. At the moment, the only way this trend can express itself politically is for these individuals to drop their support for the Joint List in favor of Israel’s existing political parties, and for these parties to welcome Arabs into their ranks.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli politics, Joint List