Tag Archives: religion

Shabbat’s Gray Area

by Rebecca Borison

Israeli President Shimon Peres recently announced that he has cancelled his trip to London for the Olympics’ opening ceremony. Why? When he discovered that the ceremony would be taking place on a Friday night, Peres, unable to find a hotel within walking distance of the Olympic grounds, decided to cancel the trip.

For most of the Shabbat-observant—those of us whose daily work doesn’t have an imminent impact on world matters—taking a break from technology for 25 hours is more of a personal challenge than a matter of political import. But what about those for whom it is? What if resting on Shabbat impacts a country or even the world? What happens when a Shabbat-observer enters into the realm of politics?

Judaism has a principle called pikuach nefesh, which means that in life-threatening situations, Jewish law can be somewhat altered. Many translate this into allowing doctors to work on Shabbat, for example. Their ability to save a life trumps the laws of Shabbat and the necessity to rest. The principle becomes a little murkier when applied to other realms of life, such as political issues, which may not be seen as equally life-threatening on an individual basis.

Can a politician employ pikuach nefesh to enable him to work on shabbat?

In his recent book, The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath, Senator Joe Lieberman discusses the conflicts that arise as an observant Jew in Congress. In 1988, when Lieberman was nominated for Senate, he decided to pre-tape his acceptance speech rather than travel to the ceremony on Shabbat. In 2010, however, Lieberman decided to answer the phone on Shabbat in order to convince Senator Lindsey Graham not to withdraw his support for the American Energy Act.

For Lieberman, that was a case where he had to prioritize global climate change over the laws of Shabbat. Lieberman writes, “I understand that the privileges I’ve been given to be in public office also involve responsibilities that also sometimes conflict with Shabbat, so I’ve got to do the best I can to reconcile those conflicts.” In order to make the best decisions, Lieberman consults with Rabbi Barry Freundel of Kesher Israel congregation on the guidelines he should keep in mind. One of the guidelines is a “hierarchy of ways” to get to Capitol Hill on Shabbat depending on the level of urgency.

Following in Lieberman’s footsteps, Jack Lew has returned Shabbat to the forefront of America’s political sphere. As the White House Chief of Staff, Lew is forced to balance the Jewish six-day work week with the White House seven-day work week.

JTA notes one particular intersection of the two worlds. Some years ago, Lew returned home from synagogue on Shabbat to hear his phone ringing. As he always did, he waited to hear the call on the answering machine to determine if it was urgent enough to pick up. It was someone from the White House calling to tell Lew to ignore a previous message from Bill Clinton. Clinton had been overseas and forgot that it was still Shabbat in Washington. The message was not urgent.

The fact that President Clinton now has Shabbat on his radar is a success in and of itself. Because Lew has made Shabbat a priority, the White House respects his decision and works with him to create the best possible balance. By bringing Jewish values into the public eye, Lew is epitomizing the value of Kiddush Hashem.

In Peres’s case, we can probably agree that going to the Olympics can in no way be considered a life-threatening situation. It probably falls pretty low on the hierarchy. While the Olympics are a big deal, Peres decided to choose Shabbat, making an even bigger statement. Peres upholding the importance of Shabbat is not only good PR for the Jews, but also a good lesson to the world about where we place our priorities. Yes, it would be great to go to the Olympics opening ceremony, but not at the cost of Jewish principles.

As Rabbi Ethan Tucker wrote in The Jewish Daily Forward, “The Torah intends for Jews–especially observant ones–to be visible, engaged in society and capable of taking on responsibility for others as opposed to just looking out for their parochial interests.” When that value conflicts with our other Torah obligations, we are forced into a gray area. But that should never stop us from being visible and engaged. It’s all about living in the gray.

 

The Kosher Higgs Boson

by Daniela Enriquez

Last week, on the Fourth of July, while most Americans were celebrating their Independence Day, scientists working at CERN (the European Center for Nuclear Research) finally discovered the Higgs Boson, also known as “the God particle.” The entire scientific world celebrated the announcement, which signaled a new era of human knowledge. Israeli scientists were among the researchers who shared in this success. Eilam Gross, a member of the team and a professor at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, said: “When I walk around now and see the trees, I feel better connected to nature.”

Don’t worry if you’re not so interested or think that your life doesn’t seem so different than it did a week ago. I wasn’t thrilled about the sensational news either, until I ran across a number of articles about the religious consequences of this discovery and the relationship between the Higgs Boson and God. “God?” I thought. Why should He be affected by this human discovery? Why should religious people be worried about it? What does Higgs’s idea have to do with monotheism, with God or the Torah?

I started to read about the topic, trying to understand the relevance of this human achievement, and to figure out why such a small particle should be of such great importance to the Jews. I got lost in the midst of incomprehensible scientific descriptions and names, tried becoming acquainted with electromagnetism and the weak force, read articles about protons, electrons and neutrons.

I can’t say I totally understood the role of the Higgs Boson in our universe, but here is what I’ve managed to suss out:

1. The Higgs Boson is responsible for the mass of everything existing in the universe.

2. It controls the speed of protons and electrons.

3. Thus, it makes possible a structured universe, rather than an uncontrolled flow of energy.

By studying the Higgs Boson, scientists will be able to find an explanation to the beginning of the universe–a universe that is the result of a cosmic explosion, not created by God, but governed by natural laws that humans, finally, will be able to explain.

Is it okay for Jews to believe in such a world—come to life thanks to a huge collision, rather than one created by God? Is it okay to accept the idea of a world whose perfection depends on a tiny particle? There is a midrash, in Bereshit Rabba 1, about the letter Bet—the first letter of the Torah. The midrash asks why the world was created with a Bet. The answer? Because only one of its four sides is open—and open in the direction of the text. Thus, human beings can investigate only what has happened since the creation of the world, and not what is before, behind and above them.

Well, apparently this isn’t true anymore. Humans, it seems, are going to discover the entire history of the world, up to the very beginning, whether they are ready for it or not. It seems that religion and science are ready to collide and confront each other once again in the battle between creation and evolution.

Like many, I’ve always thought that in the modern era, religion and science could work together, as religion and philosophy did during the Middle Ages—as Maimonides seemed to be sure of.

But the question still remains: Is the Higgs Boson kosher?

Maybe yes. As Natan Slifkin writes on his website, rationalistjudaism.com: “In light of the foregoing, would Judaism not be justified in viewing this idea of a universal unity, which inquiring minds have already pieced together from the textbook of the universe and which man’s consciousness yearns to express, as nothing less than the long-awaited triumph of the truth of Judaism? This is the truth with which, thousands of years ago, Judaism first appeared in the midst of a chaotic multitude of gods, proclaiming that there is only one, sole God in heaven and on earth, and that all the phenomena of the universe are founded upon His Law. This idea, the concept of the Unity of God, is the truth for which Judaism has endured a course of martyrdom without parallel in world history. And so, I would firmly conclude that the discovery of the Higgs Boson is Good For The Jews”.

Maybe the idea of the world starting from a small subatomic element is anything but against Judaism. Maybe there is still room for dialogue between the most Orthodox rabbi and the most liberal scientist.

Or room for compromise. We discovered the particle responsible for the existence of the entire universe—but where did the Higgs Boson come from? Who created it? Or, isn’t it true that the world “Bereshit” could be translated as “with the principle” rather then “in the beginning”?

Maybe in the end it’s not so wrong to call it the God particle.

The New Religious Intolerance: An Interview with Martha Nussbaum

By Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil

From Switzerland’s ban on minarets, to France’s ban on headscarves, and the controversy that raged over Park 51, the “Ground Zero Mosque” in lower Manhattan, religious fear is on the rise, writes Martha Nussbaum. In her latest book, The New Religious Intolerance, the University of Chicago law professor tackles the politics of fear, and lays out a roadmap for society to overcome its fear of the other, which she warns, “currently disfigure[s] all Western societies.” To learn more, Moment spoke with Nussbaum about religious fear, anti-Semitism, burqas, Mitt Romney’s Mormonism and more.

MM: You write, “We should be worried about the upsurge in religious fear and animosity in the United States, as well as in Europe. Fear is accelerating, and we need to try to understand it to think how best to address it.” Can you explain why you think religious fear is accelerating—hasn’t it always been with us?

MN: There are periods of high anxiety and lower anxiety, so when I say it’s accelerating, I mean from what it was 10 years ago. There’s a new upsurge of anxiety about Muslims. 9/11 was the catalyst, as well as the wave of Muslim immigration—Muslims are the fastest growing religious minority in America. Every time you have a new minority coming in, you often have an upsurge in religious anxiety, so this is nothing new. We saw a great deal of anxiety in the late 19th and early 20th century with the waves of Roman Catholic immigration from Southern Europe. In some ways today is not quite as bad as then, because there’s no national political party right now basing its appeal on a nativist agenda the way there was in the 19th century. But we have to watch out.

MM: How did the old religious fear, anti-Semitism, give way to today’s religious fear, Islamophobia?

MN: The treatment of the Jews in Europe is in many ways parallel to the current European treatment of Muslims. If you assimilate, dress like everyone else, marry with us, eat with us, then you can fit in. But if you don’t, then we’re going to regard you with great suspicion. That was the European approach to the Jews, wherever the Jews were allowed to be. The reason was that for many centuries, Europeans have based their idea of national belonging and nationhood on ethnicity and religion. It’s a romantic idea of solidarity, and the idea that if you’re truly one of us, you’re going to have the same language, culture and religion, and you’re going to fit in. America never had that conception of that national identity. We were fortunate to be a nation of immigrations where people came as refugees from various types of religious persecution. So many of the American religious minorities dressed oddly: Quakers wanted to wear their hats in the courtroom, and Jews, of course, dressed in a characteristic way and didn’t want to testify in court on a Saturday. So there were many occasions for Americans to get used to the fact that religion leads people to behave differently. The American conception of national belonging is one of sharing political values, so if you swear to respect our Constitution, that’s enough. Anti-immigrant politics has never really taken off in America. The closest was in the 19th century, when so many Roman Catholics were coming from Southern and Eastern Europe. Anti-Semitism in America was also quite real. But still, it was at the level of refined, polite discrimination in employment. There was social discrimination among elites, but it wasn’t the kind of systematic political discrimination you got in Europe.

MM: You say that fear is a “narcissistic emotion.” Why is that?

MN: Fear has this riveting character that it makes you exceedingly aware of your own body and its own processes. If you read descriptions of fear in combat, it means you’re very alert and alive, but to yourself. Often it blocks the view of other people and other things around you because you’re so focused on survival. It’s an evolved instinct for survival, and it gives the message that you’d better pay close attention to yourself. It can be good, and very helpful, but it also means we neglect the implications of our actions and our policies for other people who are in our area, and we become very focused on warding off threats to ourselves, our families and people like us.

MM: What are some of the inconsistencies in the arguments for the burqa ban?

MN: In general, it’s always a good idea when you make an argument against somebody else’s culture, to first look at your own, and if you have the same problem, to treat the two similarly. The first argument is about security risk of bulky clothing under which you could carry a bomb or a gun. Because Chicago is a very cold place, when I go out in the winter, I’m more covered than a woman in a burqa, even more. I have a floor-length down coat, a shawl over my mouth and nose, a hat pulled down over my eyebrows and sunglasses, so my whole body is covered. And nobody thinks that’s a threat because they’re used to this. So we have to ask ourselves, when do we think that there’s a reason for extra caution? I’m prepared to say that in airports, let’s have the full body scan, as long as everyone has it. I don’t think they should single out the Muslims for special treatment.

The other argument is that you can’t have a good human relationship unless you can see their whole face. I think that’s just wrong. For one thing, eyes are traditionally thought of as the windows to the soul and the main place you make contact. Also, think about all the people with disabilities who can’t see, yet they have rich human relationships. Human beings have many ways of making connections with each other–through the voice, for instance—without seeing each other’s faces.

And then there’s the argument that the burqa objectifies women. I think the fact that women are often treated as objects for male use and control is a real problem. But let’s also think about porn magazines, the treatment of women in advertising and in the media, where women are treated as consumer objects and are encouraged to package themselves for male use and control in a way that eclipses their individuality. If you go to a high school dance, girls are wearing identical micro-skirts and packaging themselves as objects for a simulated group sex ritual that takes the place of dancing. There are lots of practices in our society that objectify women, unfortunately. To complain about one that happens to be the practice of the minority religion and not to examine yourself and the many ways in which you participate in such practices is terrible, especially when the force of law is brought to bear. In America, fortunately we don’t have bans on the burqa and the headscarf. But the French would ban you from walking down the street in a burqa, while you could wear a micro-skirt and your 4-inch heels and they’d think nothing of that. I think it’s just an ugly inconsistency.

MM: You lay out several principles that can be used to overcome religious fear. These seem to be designed for well-intentioned people, but how can they be used to push back against those in power who use religious fear for political gain?

MN: The first of my principles, which is having good constitutional norms, is helpful here. Fortunately we do, because our constitution was written by people who were very alert to religious persecution and religious fears. You can see over time that minorities find relief when they go to court and practices that stigmatize them are found unconstitutional. Again and again we find minorities making law and prevailing because we have good constitutional principles. That’s something that even in bad times, when politicians are doing bad things, it’s a bulwark.

The other things I talk about are consistency and self-examination and the use of a sympathetic imagination. We still shouldn’t despair of these things even in our own political climate because we should keep trying to have a deliberative public culture and to appeal to sympathy. I found that in studying the Park 51 controversy, there was a lot of sympathy. Sometimes it was one-sided sympathy, sympathy for 9/11 victims and their families, and not the Muslims. But even Sarah Palin—who I don’t support politically—expressed a fair amount of sympathy with peaceful Muslims. There were very few people who demonized all Muslims. I think George Bush set a good tone when he said we’re not at war with Islam. Americans both left and right have tended to try to exercise some thoughtfulness and sympathy. I think that reminding people constantly of history and of parallels to anti-Semitism is a useful way to get them to remember what they’re saying and to get them to look at things in a more complicated way.

MM: One interesting aspect of this presidential campaign is that not much has been made of Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. Does this signal a change in the climate of fear in the United States, or is it something else?

We have heard a fair amount about it. I think that’s why there was so much resistance to Romney early on, and such a desperate search for an alternative. In my earlier book, Liberty of Conscience, I wrote about the demonization of Mormons in the 19th century, which is an unfortunate part of our history. Mormons were pilloried in a way that involved a kind of racism, oddly, because, of course, Mormons look like the dominant white-Anglo culture. But they were described in journalism as having African features, as an African race. There was great demonization and lies about Mormons and the link to polygamy, which at the time was not any worse than the conditions of women in monogamous marriages. Women in monogamous marriages had no property rights and couldn’t get divorced on the ground of cruelty. Women in the territory of Utah had the vote in 1874, which is way before any other Mormon in monogamous America. So there was no reason to think these women were slaves. Today polygamy has long been outlawed by the Mormon religion, so it’s ridiculous to try to link them to that. The thing that ought to be discussed is the fact that Brigham Young is a university that does not have genuine academic freedom because the Mormon elders have decided that it’s okay to fire people whose theology is dissident. I’d like to know if Mitt Romney takes issue with this, and if he speaks up for academic freedom. If he doesn’t, that’s a problem.

MM: What are the consequences if we can’t keep religious fear in check?

MN: What would be bad is to get to the point where there’s demand for laws that are genuinely repressive. Europe has already gotten to that point. Beyond that point, there’s a potential for real violence. We’ve seen this from isolated psychotic individuals such as Anders Breivik in Norway. He may be deranged, but he’s certainly functional and has a program closely linked to right-wing bloggers in America, who have denounced him, but nonetheless his ideas have a lot in common with them. That kind of situation—where unstable individuals are whipped up and violence takes place—that’s what we need to worry about. It has happened in our past; we have had a lot of violence against Mormons, who were murdered, which is why they kept moving further west. We also had Jehovah’s Witnesses who were lynched because people feared they were a threat to American security. Let’s hope we don’t get to that point again—I think we’re not near that now. Let’s just stay vigilant.

A Vietnamese Yom Kippur

by Kelley Kidd

A Yom Kippur spent fasting on the beautiful island paradise of Phu Quoc, in Vietnam, is not my typical Day of Atonement. But somehow that’s where I found myself, fasting after a seaside dinner in a bungalow. I stayed up late that night gazing into the sea reflecting, and wondering at its vastness. The next day, an early morning moto ride led us to a waterfall in a secluded jungle, where I splashed in the water and lost a flip flop, but where I also took the time to sit on a tree branch with water rushing across my legs and meditate. I considered my resolutions for the coming year, considered what I had noticed in my life that I wanted to change and to improve, and what to keep. I focused on my desire to be more courageous and open, and to live with gratitude, and as I gazed at the beauty around me, I made it my goal to find that kind of peace, joy and beauty in my life every day.

By 10:30 that morning, I was on a private boat out on the water, awed by the absolute beauty of the sparkling water and sunshine. In keeping with my resolutions, I went snorkeling and jumped off the top of the boat a few times—things I would often have been too timid to try. I spent the entire day in a state of wonder at the world, and my own life, and made a conscious effort to focus in on it, savor it, and pay attention to it so that I could preserve that sense of gratitude.

By most standards, this is not what Yom Kippur generally looks like. However, I don’t think that spending my Yom Kippur in hungry bliss detracted from the meaning or experience of the holiday. On the contrary, rather than spending the day exclusively in backwards-looking repentance (which I do also appreciate, as I actually love Yom Kippur), I was able to spend it looking forward to the new year as a time in which I wanted to incorporate the beauty, gratitude and wonder connected to its beginning.

To me, this meant that the traditional way is not even close to the only way, but rather, that personalized approaches can bring value and renewed meaning to faith and practice. Another blog inspired by the idea is the Wandering Jew, written by Ben Harris, who seems to share my appreciation for adventurous Judaism. He traipsed across the Jewish world and traced his experiences, many of which revolved around learning from non-traditional, and even many non-Jewish, sources. None of this detracts from its value. Similarly, I find that a Jew can experience Judaism even far removed from it.

The Jewish people are by no means a global majority, despite our capacity to maintain a sense of community and collectivity no matter where we may be. But our frequent isolation from the majority around us means that we must also cultivate a personal understanding of faith, one that can manifest itself even far from anything familiar or typically Jewish. By making Judaism my own, I am able to access it anywhere, because it exists within me, rather than as something I need to take in from outside.

Religion in the News

By Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil

The biggest religion news stories in 2011 involved tensions with Islam, followed by faith in presidential politics, a new Pew report reveals. Some of the key findings in the study, “Religion in the News,” include:

  • Religion coverage made up just 0.7 percent of all mainstream media coverage in 2011, down from two percent in 2010
  • Religion received as much attention as race, gender and LGBT issues
  • Islam made up nearly one-third of all religion news stories last year
  • The top religion stories of the year included: religion in the election, Peter King’s “Radical Islam” congressional hearings, anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States, the Westboro Church protests, religion in September 11th commemorations, the Catholic priest abuse scandal and Terry Jones’s Quran burning

For more on religion coverage in the mainstream media, Moment speaks with Jesse Holcomb, a research associate with Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and one of the authors of the study.

MM: Your report says that religion accounted for only 0.7 percent of all mainstream media coverage in 2011. Why do you think religion gets so little attention?

JH: First of all, we’re talking about a fairly big news hole, and by that I mean a large space for a whole variety of topics. There are a lot of topics that get just a small share of that total pie, and religion is one of them. Part of it may be because other topics tend to get a lot of attention—politics, government, in this past year, foreign affairs, economics—and can crowd out the other subjects.

Another potential reason is methodological. In our daily analysis of the mainstream news media, we don’t study every story that appears in every newspaper, and we don’t study the entire hour of a news broadcast, or all 24 hours of a cable channel. We use a sample, so we look at the first half hour of news shows, and with newspapers, it’s the front page as well as the homepage of news websites. So what we’re really looking at is the stories and subjects that get the most attention, that get the most priority by news organizations. These would also presumably be the stories that people see most often. So it is possible that religion might appear inside the newspaper, but what we’re talking about is the top of the newscast. For those reasons—and a combination of other reasons—religion is just not one of those top subjects. However, it does appear as a thread in many other stories, especially politics.

MM: Why does Islam dominate religion news coverage, and what kinds of stories do we see about it?

JH: Muslims represent a numerical minority in the United States, so it is quite striking to see how many of the major religion stories of the year were focused on Islam. Lots of these stories revolve around some sort of conflict or tension. Those are traditionally the kinds of themes that can generate lots of attention. You won’t see as many stories in the top of the news cast that say, “everyone’s getting along.” These conflicts and tensions tend to drive the news agenda, so there may also be something in the zeitgeist of news room culture or perceived public opinion that is concerned about the issue of Islam.

MM: According to the report, the other big religion stories involved faith in politics. Has religion in the presidential race always been such a big story, or has it received more attention this year because of Mitt Romney and Mormonism?

JH: No, religion and politics tends to be a perennial theme in religion coverage in the mainstream news media. It was certainly a big aspect of religion coverage in 2007 and 2008. In fact, even though we have at least two major candidates for whom faith is an important part of their biography, the attention to religion and the campaign this year as a percentage of the whole, is less than it was in 2007, the last time we had a primary. So in fact it has gone down, if you look at those two years side by side.

MM: Do you think this news coverage of Mormonism is helping Americans understand the religion better? One Pew poll found that 62 percent of Mormons in the United States think that Americans know nothing or not too much about their religion, and another said 49 percent of white evangelicals don’t consider Mormonism to be Christianity.

JH: That’s a really good question, but it’s not a question I can answer definitively with our research. I do know that there have been complaints from the Mormon community about the way their faith has been portrayed in the news media, a common one being that Mormons have not been given the opportunity to define themselves in the press, that Mormons are often defined by people of other faiths, or characterized in a certain way by reporters. We can expect that Americans are getting a lot of their information about the Mormon faith through the media, but whether there’s a cause and effect between the kind of coverage there is and their attitudes, I can’t say.

A large portion of the attention to the Mormon faith in political coverage in the past year was focused on one incident, which was when an evangelical pastor who had endorsed Texas Governor Rick Perry came out on the record and suggested that the Mormon faith is a cult. It got a lot of attention, and created some waves. No one in the mainstream media were condoning that kind of speech on the part of that pastor, yet it was a story that got a lot of play. And you could argue, for better or for worse, that it defined that faith in the context of the campaign throughout the year.

MM: Judaism was not mentioned at all in the report. What kind of religion news coverage have Jews seen in 2011?

JH: That’s right. One way that we broke down the media coverage was by looking at which religious faiths got the most attention, and which ones didn’t. So along that spectrum, Judaism was not one of the major faiths that was featured. Although we don’t break it out in the published report, I can tell you that the Jewish faith accounted for about four percent of all religion coverage over the past year. So it’s a small percent—it’s certainly more than Buddhism or Scientology, but it’s significantly less than the attention paid to Islam, Christianity. In the big stories over the year that involved Judaism, there wasn’t necessarily one theme. There were stories about a congressional race in New York involving a Jewish candidate, and stories about archaeologists in Israel digging up the ancient city, and so on—a of collection of stories that didn’t necessarily fall along one special theme.

Election News Roundup

By Monika Wysocki

Here’s a look at a few religion and politics highlights from this week…

The newest front-runner in the wildly unpredictable GOP primary, former Senator Rick Santorum, has dominated the media cycle with his provocative remarks about President Obama—accusing the President of governing based on “a phony theology, not a theology based on the Bible,” and accusing him of orchestrating an “assault on all religion in America.” On Monday, Santorum’s spokeswoman mentioned President Obama’s “radical Islamic policies” in an interview on MSNBC—only to call the show after the interview to say she misspoke.

In the midst of the religious attacks, Santorum is surging in national polls and attracting larger crowds at public events, putting him on the stage as a serious contender for the nomination. Despite widespread disapproval and calls from 15 religious organizations for presidential candidates to refrain from using religion as a “political wedge issue,” Santorum’s remarks are likely to raise his profile and appeal to the surprising number of Americans who are unsure about President Obama’s faith. Which is no small matter—the latest research by the Pew Forum found that “beliefs about Obama’s religion are closely linked to political judgments about him. Those who say he is a Muslim overwhelmingly disapprove of his job performance…” If Santorum succeeds in re-invigorating false claims that President Obama is a Muslim, the president’s approval ratings will likely suffer—despite his candid remarks on his personal religious beliefs.

Santorum is not the only candidate that has doubts about the sincerity of President Obama’s faith. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has also accused the President of “an assault on religion,” while Gingrich today called the president “the most dangerous president in modern American history,” arguing that the Obama administration has failed to address the problem of radical Islamists. Franklin Graham expressed similar notions on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” saying that “Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama.”

Santorum’s controversial remarks might win him support from evangelical Christians that are alarmed over the recent contraceptives debate, but in the long run the religion-based rhetoric could also alienate women and independent voters. Dick Polman points out that the largest Catholic college in America routinely offers birth-control coverage in its employee benefits and that the majority of Catholics support a federal requirement that private health insurance plans cover the full cost of birth control. In the end, Santorum’s attempts to brand himself as the most conservative of the GOP candidates and President Obama as an anti-Catholic may do the GOP more harm than good in November.

From the Archives: My House Shall Be a House Of Prayer For All

By Lynne Schreiber
From Moment Magazine, December 2005

One day last summer, as my friend Katie and I sat beneath an umbrella at a sidewalk café sipping coffee, I mentioned that I needed a quote for a talk I was to give on spirituality in America at my Orthodox shul. Katie, whom I’d met at a poetry seminar in college before I became observant, lit up. “Rabbi Levy said something once about God being in the silence,” she said. “You should ask him for the source.”

It took me a moment to remember why Katie, a member of an Episcopalian parish in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was quoting a rabbi. Her church, St. Clare of Assisi, shares a sanctuary with a Reform synagogue, Temple Beth Emeth. Once a year, Beth Emeth’s rabbi, Robert Levy, delivers a sermon to St. Clare’s parishioners, and Katie, who is as drawn to the spiritual as I am, absorbs nearly every word.

I called Levy, and he knew exactly what Katie was talking about: a reference in Kings to Eliyahu experiencing God’s presence on the mountain as “a still small voice.” I wove the quote into my speech, which I gave before a pin-drop crowd, delighted that my non-Jewish friend had helped me to better understand my heritage—simply because she attended a congregation whose building, like our friendship, transcended religion.

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