At the start of a 1983 collection of his essays, Irving Kristol—the so-called “godfather of neoconservatism”—cited an epigraph by the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard: “Everything that passes for politics today will be unmasked as religion tomorrow.” Matthew Continetti argues that Kristol’s belief in the theological roots of politics, a belief summed up by this quotation, animated much of his thinking. To Kristol, whose essays on Jews and Judaism are among the less well-known of his many writings, the “rabbinic” impulse, with its emphasis on law and tradition, was politically superior to the utopianism of what he termed “gnosticism.” In this light, Continetti goes on to discuss the relevance of Kristol’s political theology to today’s political debates. (Interview by Devorah Goldman and Daniel Wiser, Jr. Audio, 46 minutes.)
What We Can Learn from Irving Kristol’s Political Theology Today
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Is American Jewish Liberalism Dying?
In the 1930s, a Republic Jewish judge, observing his coreligionists’ commitment to the Democratic party, quipped, in Yiddish, that Jews have three velt (worlds): di velt (this world), yene velt (the next world), and Roosevelt. Since then, Jewish devotion has attenuated somewhat, although Jews still overwhelming lean Democratic. Most American Jews, however, are unfamiliar with the terms “this world” or “the next world” in any language. Carefully examining a wealth of statistical data, Samuel J. Abrams and Jack Wertheimer argue that the sort of robust Jewish liberalism that characterized U.S. Jewry a few decades ago is in steep decline. Jews, they explain, are undergoing their own version of what political scientists call the “great sort,” whereby politics, religion, and place of residence increasingly align: