“Christians Made Me Jewish”

April 5 2021

Having been raised in a Jewish family with minimal commitment to Judaism, Matthew Ackerman arrived at college with attitude that is no doubt typical of many American Jews:

Early in my freshman year I found myself at an event for the campus Hillel (the college-focused Jewish organization), which carried with it no religious content and served principally to teach me which free bagel brunches to avoid to ensure there would be no Jewish content to my college existence. Many of the friends I made were themselves Jewish but like me had no thought that the distinction meant much. And while I carried in me a vague certainty in the existence of God that is, I suppose, the inheritance of anyone with a sad and lonely childhood (for we must find someone to cry out to), religion and God became even less significant for me.

Ackerman’s orientation toward religion changed after his graduation, when, serving in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, he encountered devout Christians, and began to appreciate their piety as something different from the secular piety of most of his fellow volunteers:

It was the first time I spent any meaningful time with anyone whose lives were governed by the daily call of God. And I saw in it an example I could not deny of how one might truly live a life that was good.

My certainty in my Jewishness (a certainty that has only grown in the years since) was even then strong enough to prevent my consideration of Christianity in any of its varieties as a religious path. But my experience with these Christians in Ecuador created in me a shame at my ignorance of my own religious tradition and a determination to correct that ignorance.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: American Judaism, Christianity, Judaism

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter