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Total number of comments: 6 (since 2011-08-15 23:36:36)

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  • On Bret Stephens' hate speech
    • Bret Stephens was born to US parents in Mexico. Much in his attitude has to do with the hostility he felt growing up to Mexico -- which he regarded as primitive and hostile to Jews. He's said there was friction between his family and their neighbors (though he's also stated that his parents were secular and not known by their neighbors to be Jewish).

      That tension gave him something of a chip on his shoulder. Stephens claims to have outgrown those feelings of animosity towards the gentile world when he came to the US and learned more about Judaism --"It was a revelation to me that you could be a sincere Christian and not be a peasant" -- but many people will doubtless detect traces of his earlier condescension in his writing.

  • Christian Zionists expose their anti-Semitism at conservative summit in Iowa
    • The question I've always had about this is whether the warm feelings Christian Zionists profess towards the Jews and Israel are the foreground and apocalyptic ideas about the ingathering of Jews in Israel as a prelude to their eventual conversion or destruction are the dark and deep motivating background or whether that apocalyptic theology is a thin surface veneer and the motivating background is years of reading the Bible and identifying with the Ancient Hebrews, an identification which results in those warm, friendly thoughts about the modern state of Israel, Likud, and the IDF.

      I'm not sure there's one single answer. Different Christian Zionists have different motivations and give different reasons for what they believe. The idea that for every Christian Zionist it's "all about" Revelation, the End Times, and the eventual conversion of the Jews must be an oversimplification. Indeed, it looks like the interviewer only found one person who was willing to express that thinking publicly. While Christian Zionism may have had its origins in such a theology, after decades Evangelical support for Israel and Zionism may have taken on a life of its own and may not need such a theological or theoretical scaffolding.

      I could well be wrong about that. I don't know how to establish what may be inside other people's heads or what "really" motivates them deep down. We all function within certain limits and with certain assumptions. If we're asked for a reason, we may grasp for some concept that isn't part of our everyday thinking. Is that the real foundation of our thinking? Or something we take recourse to in our confusion?

      In mentioning all the Bible-reading, though, I don't want to discount present-day secular political factors which also draw Evangelicals to Zionism and Israel. A focus on the Middle East, Islam, and Israel takes the place of the older focus on the Soviet Union and Communism for many people in giving them bearings -- often very simplistic and Manichean bearings -- to understand, find a place, and take a stand in the wider world.

  • 'Desperate' Senator Graham promises 'violent backlash' by Congress if Palestinians go to UN
    • The US State Department described Israeli actions as “unacceptable” 87 times in 2014, with only three countries being more “unacceptable,” according to a Foreign Policy article published last week.

      They did a search for "unacceptable" and various country names on the web site. The briefings on Israel-Palestine are done by the same people at the same time as those on Egypt, Syria, Iran, and other Middle Eastern countries, and information about all those countries appears in the same documents on the web.

      So documents referencing unacceptable actions or situations in Egypt, Syria, Iran, and other countries turn up when you search for web pages which contain the words "Israel" and "unacceptable," and that accounts for many of the hits you get with that search.

      Also, the search turns up transcripts of briefings where reporters ask if a particular action or situation in Israel or Palestine or elsewhere is "unacceptable" and officials giving negative or non-committal responses. In other words, what I saw wasn't a very systematic or serious survey or the available information.

      I suppose it could still be that Israel is number four in unacceptability at the State Department, but the data one turns up with the search makes for some skepticism about that conclusion.

  • David Brooks's romance of community
    • I do share Brooks's dislike for the direction Republicans have taken, but my "specific idea" was that the country is getting torn apart by intemperate opiners. As I implied, I don't have a very high opinion of Brooks as a thinker or a writer, but seeing all the rhetorical heavy artillery unleashed on his books, out of proportion to the offensiveness about he actually says about social stratification or neuropsychology, makes me have a certain sympathy with somebody who gets caught in the crossfire, something which has happened to me and people I know often enough. If we're not allowed to express a little human sympathy sometimes, things are worse than I thought.

    • "I’ve always liked Brooks because he’s actually interested in meaning and he’s such a clear writer."

      I'm not sure I agree with your assessment, but it's hard not to have at least a small soft spot for somebody who manages to be so hated and despised by both the right and the left.

      Without ever expecting very much from Brooks, it can be fun to see just how much he sets some people's teeth on edge.

  • 'The clash of civilizations’ theory is absolutely and completely dead
    • How so? Aren't we seeing a split between Orthodox and Western Christian "civilizations" right now? If the idea was that different "civilizations" were always going to be in conflict, it's wrong and silly, and maybe pernicious, but if the idea was that the lines of potential division in the world follow the borders between different religio-cultural blocs, there's something to be said for it.

      What happened with this idea in the 1990s was typical of political-intellectual life, or just of human nature. The Cold War ends and ideological conflicts appear to dry up. Scholars and journalists ask, what might divide the world now, where might the next conflicts arise. They hit on the idea of different civilizations as engines of conflict and the idea takes off from there. It's taken for a fact and used to explain whatever happens in the world. Speculation becomes 911 probably did a lot to make the idea more popular, and to many people, more convincing.

      I'm not sure we can wholly dismiss the idea of civilizational clash. Borders between "civilizations" are still places where conflict is likely to happen (the break-up of Yugoslavia, where Eastern Christianity, Western Christianity, and Islam meet did a lot to promote the theory), but any evidence that our future won't be an endless war between civilizations is certainly welcome news.

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