MORE ON ILHAN OMAR AND ANTISEMITISM

There was no state of Israel in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but antisemites, and later the Nazis, made similar claims about Jews then: they’re more loyal to one another than to the nation; they’re “clannish”; they stick together; they plot against the nation; they have foreign allegiances; they’re “cosmopolitan”; and on and on. If you watch a Nazi propaganda film like “Jud Süss,” you’ll see much of the same rhetoric repeated.

Ilhan Omar is not using language that relates specifically to AIPAC and those who have a particular view of Israel. She’s using language that those living around 1900 or in the 1930s would have had no problem understanding.

If Omar had criticized AIPAC’s backing of Israeli settlement policy, that would be one thing; it would be a policy dispute. And I don’t agree with AIPAC much of the time. But that’s not what she did here. She used a trope that revealed her real views of Jews and who we are as a people and how we’re not really authentically loyal Americans. David Duke (former Grand Wizard of the KKK) is now praising her and backing her. And, sadly, he has good reason to do so given what she said.

I may strongly disagree with those who back Israel right or wrong, but I don’t question that they want the best for the United States and for Jews and for Israel. I don’t doubt their motives. They believe that the interests of American and Israel are aligned and that we share common values of democracy and freedom. And they have a point on that, even though recent Israeli policies on democracy have fallen far short IMHO. I think that their views are misguided and leading us to a situation where Jews and Israel and the United States will find themselves in much greater danger. In fact, I see Omar’s comments as vindication of my argument. But those with whom I fiercely disagree are loyal Americans as well as committed Jews, and I will not question their motives. We’e all doing our best in a confusing world and trying to make sense of very difficult and hard-to-solve problems and issues.

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ILHAN OMAR AND ANTISEMITISM

This is my response to Michelle Goldberg’s column in today’s New York Times saying that Ilhan Omar’s comments were offensive, but only mildly so:
————
Stating that Jews have dual loyalty is not mild antisemitism. It’s raw. It’s ugly. It’s mean-spirited.

None of us knows what was in the heart and mind of Ilhan Omar, but we know what she said this time and at least twice before. By any reasonable definition, that’s antisemitism. It’s prejudice and hatred, and there’s nothing any of us can legitimately do to dress it up and make it look like something else.

My father (a Jewish physical chemist) worked for the military most of his career and suffered and eventually died from an illness that was related to his work in the Manhattan Project and other government laboratories. His brother served as a Navy ensign in World War II off the coast of Italy and saw many die? Were they loyal enough to the U.S.? Are some now going to question their efforts and their colleagues and compatriots then and today? Is my loyalty now under question because I’m Jewish? Are we wanted here any more?

Republicans are even worse with their ongoing displays of white nationalist and neo-Nazi rhetoric. Almost as painful are those Democrats who try to play Omar’s words down or talk about “unintentional” antisemitism.

The language Omar used is found in the Protocols of Zion and throughout classic antisemitic literature. We can see it in 1930s propaganda as Nazis questioned the loyalty of European Jewry. I’m a Democrat who holds many progressive views. What are those like me supposed to do now? Maybe, if I go to sleep now, I can dream this all away.

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DEMOCRATS FIGHTING OVER HOW TO RESPOND TO ILHAN OMAR ANTISEMITISM

Ds had better deal with this one way or another. If they don’t, they will lose a core constituency and also lose their moral authority on issues of diversity and hatred. Good luck on winning in 2020. This is not Trump or a racist Republican. This is one of their own. If you want to stand against prejudice, you start with your own. Otherwise, you’re hypocrites and should just shut up on all issues of hatred. If you can’t see that accusing Jews of dual loyalty is profoundly antisemitic, then the white supremacists and neo-Nazis really have won:

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Womens March Leadership and Jew Hatred

Apparently, as they curry favor with Louis Farrakhan, Tamika Mallory and her colleagues have also concluded that they can exclude Jews who are in their view “white” and therefore privileged. They have no problem exalting a man who has called Jews “termites” and praised Hitler, but they happily decide that “white” (whatever that means in this context) Jews don’t deserve to belong in their circle of power.

This is hatred, pure and simple, and it’s disgusting and revolting. Hitler and the Nazis murdered Jews because of their “race” and didn’t give a s*** what their color was. Almost all of those six million were “white” according to this interpretation by Mallory’s little band of haters–a definition which is absolutely idiotic given that Hitler and the Nazis did not view Jews remotely that way. Jews were their own “race,” which had nothing to do with color, but with genetic theory in which the 1930s gang of swastika wearers placed great faith.

Do the murdered in Pittsburgh matter to Tamika Mallory? Do the gassed in Auschwitz matter to her? Do my bullet-rain relatives matter to her? Maybe their blood is irrelevant to her because we don’t actually count as human in her system of accounting–and in Farrakhan’s. Are these representatives there to give her and her friends cover to spew more venom at Jews? Sure looks like it. They are being used.

There are all sorts of excuses made for why Tamika Mallory and others supposedly don’t have to condemn Farrakhan: the history of oppression of African Americans, separation of families, previous requests to condemn other African American leaders, different responses to hatred on the part of Jews and African Americans. But there should be no excuses. Being a victim does not excuse one from following basic moral principles. That applies to Jews, as well as to any other group. Making excuses for not condemning Farrakhan is relativism gone mad. Wrong is wrong. And we need to say so for Farrakhan and for anyone else no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.

Further, why is Linda Sarsour not white, but Vanessa Wruble white? We’re all descended from Semitic peoples and related to one another. Basically, they call Wruble white because she’s Jewish, but the others are passable because the big bosses decided that they’re another kind of minority and get a pass for their Jewishness. So once again people who are not Jewish are trying to control the lives of Jews for their agendas and writing some Jews out of history. Really that’s not much different from what the Nazi commandant, Amon Goeth, said in the film “Schindler’s List” when he talks about eradicating the history of Jews in Krakow and Poland. (Yes, I know, that was not an historical quote, but it was definitely how Nazis like Eichmann conceived of their project). If you erase Jews, then you’ll get rid of them forever. Sounds familiar once again. It’s a form of dehumanization.

I cannot express how utterly depressing and maddening this is. Until they repudiate Farrakhan and his despicable beliefs and meaningfully apologize, Tamika Mallory and her buddies should be shunned.

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Covington Catholic Incident in Washington, D.C.: The Two Sides Narrative Prevails for the Privileged

The student named in many of the accounts was the wrong person. It was another individual–which shows how risky it is to report on subjects in the midst of the drama. Get the facts straight before leveling accusations against someone.

At the same time, I am profoundly disturbed by the “both sides deserve blame” version of events–found in the article below and now today throughout the media. Apparently the Covington Catholic students had faced taunts from others. And that is supposed to excuse their behavior? No, it does not. What those kids to did to Nathan Phillips was wrong. Their behavior was disgraceful and shameful. They were surrounding this man, mocking him with tomahawk chops, yelling, laughing, with one kid from another school declaring that we all have to get used to stealing others’ land because that’s the way it is. No one deserves receiving the kind of threats these students are facing, but they do deserve severe criticism and punishment of some sort for their obviously repellent behavior. Their parents and the chaperones and the school deserve even more.

And these are “good kids”? Really? Now we call a person “good” even when they bully and intimidate a veteran and a native American? No, what they did was not good, and they deserve to experience some shame. We can’t judge the totality of a person’s life, but we can assess his or her actions. And these actions obviously fell far short of anything we can remotely call “good.”

But now that the “two sides” narrative is taking over, these kids will likely face few repurcussions-like most privileged kids who can act out and get away with it. That’s unlike African Americans, native Americans, and other minorities who don’t even have to make a mistake to get pilloried. No, they can do nothing, and someone can kill them for just existing–even sitting on their own property or walking down the street. And that’s just fine. No one does anything about it.

We’re watching how the privileged get off and society brings out the red carpet for them so that they can flourish without regard to their actions. If they were black, there would be nothing but venom and hatred and recriminations. The Covington Catholic students are probably going to get off, and the media will get criticized. They can hire expensive attorneys and PR teams who cast doubt on the versions of events, and the beat goes on. You can just see it. Nothing happens when you’re the right kind of person. There are no consequences for those who attend the right schools, come from the right families, and have the power of privilege to defend themselves. It’s depressing and demoralizing.

Of course, kids do stupid things, and we have to let them be stupid periodically so that they can grow up and become responsible adults. Adults make mistakes too and deserve a chance to atone for them. But everyone should have to face some kind of accountability for actions that are wrong and hurtful. Giving anyone a free pass does no one any good, especially those who engage in the bad behavior. An apology on their part would go a long way. When someone makes a mistake, they should own up to it, apologize, and commit to more positive behavior. They will find a lot of good will, as well as forgiveness out there in the world..

The struggle is long. But we must keep marching. Eventually decency will prevail somewhere in the dim mists of the future.

https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2019/01/21/jeff-ruby-invites-nathan-phillips-dinner-with-covington-catholic-studentes/2637508002/

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Trump’s Plan to Charge Amazon and other Online Retailers Higher Postal Rates

Rest assured that Bezos and Amazon are prepared for this and are miles ahead of the Trump clown car. I would guess that this would hurt smaller retailers much more. Have you seen the cars and trucks with “Prime” painted on them? That’s part of what’s going to replace the Post Office for Amazon.

You know who this will hurt the most? The Post Office—because they will lose Amazon’s business (and other retailers’). And that’s one of the few profitable components of the Post Office’s balance sheet.

https://politi.co/2FX92fx?fbclid=IwAR0-9od6tHjzhufncwoK5Cat1VpYuNjjzFLvqVGYuB5l8hCjm8nAlSfSGyc

 

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The Transformation of the Modern Republican Party

THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE MODERN REPUBLICAN PARTY

I see the transformation of the modern Republican Party in five stages: 1) Barry Goldwater and the rejection of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, followed by Goldwater’s strategy of winning the South via race politics; 2) The alliance of the Republican Party with evangelical Christians in late 1970s, capped with Ronald Reagan’s victory which used that alliance to win the 1980 presidential election–thus began the era of the culture wars, including abortion, gay issues, anti-woman agenda, prayer in the schools, flag politics, etc.; 3) The transition of Republicans from small government to anti-government, with a decisive victory led by Newt Gingrich in 1994 through the so-called Contract with America (I called it the Contract on America); 4) The rise of Tea Party Republicans and the alliance of Republicans with white nationalism and other hate movements after the election of Obama in 2008; 5) The global decline of support for democracy and its embrace by most Republican voters who saw Donald Trump as an authoritarian leader who would align with white voters to revive American nationalism as a homogenous culture that rejects America’s growing ethnic, religious, and racial diversity.Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2018 Laurence Kant

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Friends, Enemies, and Hatred

Hatred is not the answer. It is never the answer.

At the same time, while I don’t regard those who back Trump and his worldview as my enemies, I certainly don’t regard them as my friends. Those who want to take away my rights and the rights of those I care about are not my friends. Those who spew hate toward minorities and immigrants are not my friends. Those who view victims of sexual assault as non-entities or worse are not my friends. Those who are happy to let our planet die are not my friends. Those who want to deny health care to others are not my friends.

I don’t hate others. It is wrong, morally and theologically. Meeting the hatred of others with one’s own hatred only leads to chaos, hurt, and harm. I have no time for that. I do not want to look in the mirror and see that. When I feel hatred well up in me (which is another way of saying that I’m a human being), I accept it, feel it, and try to move on toward strength and acts of lovingkindness.

But that doesn’t make those who are agents of what I regard as destruction as my friends. Just because someone is not my enemy, does not make that person my friend. We must peacefully defeat the forces of hatred that Trump and other authoritarian leaders on both the right and the left are gathering across the globe. We must face those views down in the public square and must win at the ballot box. And we must try and try and try again until we succeed and humanity and our country and our planet can flourish and thrive.

https://www.kentucky.com/living/religion/paul-prather/article219868740.htmlDigiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2018 Laurence Kant

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Media Punditry and Power Sniffers

Every one, even the best, can be wrong. None of us are immune. But certain pundits blaze paths to simplistic conclusions based on claims that have little basis in data. Their assertions actually reflect a sub-conscious (my psychologizing here) desire to preserve the familiar and the well-trod paths of individuals who make themselves feel important by hanging out with one another in select groups of the self-appointed, golden, anointed ones.

Tom Friedman (and David Brooks and even Brett Stevens, and many other media darlings) fall into that category. They are what I call power-sniffers. Sometimes they have good things to say, and I respect them for that (I just posted something from Stevens today criticizing Israel because it a was good essay). But a lot of time they aggravate the hell out of me because they so very much crave to support old institutions, the familiar power circles, and the arguments that play well among the kinds of people who come from well-heeled backgrounds–the kinds of people who don’t ever really get to know how regular people live and what they’re thinking

Tom Friedman did this in “The World is Flat.” Obviously, world events have totally proven this thesis not only wrong, but profoundly wrong, especially in the U.S.–where we have never seen such a sharp division between rich and poor and the educated and not-as-well educated. The world still looks rather mountainous to me.

And now again we find the promise of Friedman shattered on the rocks of a horrifying murder of Jamal Khashoggi, apparently ordered by a cruel tyrant, posing as a modernizing member of a royal family–the very same prince to whom Friedman has cozied up and whom Friedman has praised for his visionary leadership of Saudi Arabia.

I’m not saying that we should be never pay attention to the favored clubby pundits that grace PBS, NPR, and the New York Times. They too have useful things to say. But, from now on, let us be more cautions when we read them (or listen to them). And may they use their powerful stoops to mix with the hoi-polloi and learn what real life is for a lot of people who do not run in the rarefied air of their intellectual circles.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/10/09/end-saudi-whisperer/?utm_term=.7cb11b35433fDigiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2018 Laurence Kant

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Trump: Words vs. Action and the GOP

He’s right that words do constrain (modestly), but wrong that this is a middle course.

When you have a president who regularly engages in treasonous behavior, challenges fundamental democratic norms, tears down the post-World-War II global order by embracing Russia (our enemy) and attacking our friends (Western Europe), consistently endorses dictators and essentially promotes himself as one of them, views the press as the “enemy of the people,” implements an economic policy (tariffs) that helped to cause the Great Depression, tears children from their parents, and affirms white supremacists and neo-Nazis and other extremist haters, then this is not a normal time.

Words do not suffice at such moments any more than at other historic moments of crisis in the U.S. or globally. Words here are just that: words. Action is required at moments like this, and most Republicans have totally failed to oppose an executive course of behavior that threatens the our historic values, the Constitution, our standing in the world, our way of life, the underpinnings of our economy, and the global order.

Conservatives don’t have to oppose Kavanaugh or hold up tax reductions (both of which I strongly oppose, but I get it that they’re conservatives–though I do think that Kavanaugh has bigger confirmation problems than some people realize). They should, however, support Mueller, condemn Trump when appropriate, support our intelligence services (not undermine them), vigorously (not meekly) oppose treason, and stand up for the security of our electoral system.

History will deride these Republican leaders as bystanders and weaklings in a time when leadership and strength was required. And they will deserve that harsh judgement.

 

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/gop-criticism-of-trump-is-all-talk-but-it-still-matters/

“GOP Criticism of Trump is All Talk but it Still Matters”Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2018 Laurence Kant

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Birthright Israel and Zionism

This reflects views found among many American Jewish millennials. One-sided? Yes. Incomplete? Yes. Too sympathetic to Palestinians and hostile to Israelis? Yes. Naive and a little silly? Yes. Part of an anti-Israel, anti-Zionist political movement? Possibly.  Anti-Israel propaganda? Yes. But no less one-sided or propaganda than Birthright or other tours led by mainstream Jewish organization. The American Jewish community had better get its act together if it wants its Jewish youth to continue as Zionists.

 

 

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-nagel-birthright-israel-walkout_us_5b54f04fe4b0b15aba90107d

(“Why I Walked Off My Birthright Israel Trip,” Huffington Post)

 

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Evangelical Leaders Abandon God

 

The group sponsoring the National Prayer Breakfast is ominously called “The Family,” and this story about Maria Butina makes them look really bad. Where exactly is God with all this political machinating among Evangelical Christian leaders?

Now, effectively, the leading preachers of “God is dead” theology are the majority of Christian evangelical leaders.

https://religionnews.com/2018/07/18/why-mariia-butina-wasnt-the-only-russian-targeting-the-national-prayer-breakfast/

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Becoming

We are intersecting fields of eternal becoming.Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2018 Laurence Kant
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Political Revolution in the Air

I don’t buy the argument of Coons and Bennett at all (or Collins). The Rs would have just waited to gut the filibuster until now. Coons and those who agree with him are suckers. They’re like Charlie Brown with the football, so blissfully unaware what’s really going on. The Rs move the ball every time, and some Ds just whine. This is political war, not a tea and crumpets party. The Ds have to stand for something, not cower before the big, bad meanies–who don’t cower one whit before them.

The filibuster is in trouble anyway; it’s a tradition, not in the Constitution. I expect the Ds to gut it further when they get power again with a Democratic prez. Whether that’s a good idea is another matter (I’m not sure it is), but it’s likely what going to happen down the road. And then we might have 15 SCOTUS judges and lots of extra others at the appellate levels. Or we might put term limits on federal judges through a constitutional change. The Democratic base will not accept anything less, and they will eventually outvote the Republican base.

Our political system is crashing, and we are probably going to have to rebuild it. The old political order is crumbling, and something new will emerge in its place. Revolution is in the air; reform’s time has passed. The Constitution will remain, but we will have to establish new traditions that work for a different era.

America will have to reinvent itself–as it did after the American Revolution, the Civil War, the great depression, and World War II. So will the old western order which has forgotten what most working people have to deal with in their lives. That’s the one good thing that Donald Trump has shown us in the U.S. and the world: the old ways are dying because they no longer work and have left working people in the dust. We will either collapse or transform ourselves. This is our time of reckoning in so many ways. Given the human instinct for survival, I always bet on transformation. But it will not be easy or painless. This is why those of us who resist are here. This is our moment when we can actually do something and help co-create the world we see faintly outlined in the darkness.

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/14/us/politics/supreme-court-filibuster.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

 

 

 

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Sessions: Fear of Gang Violence is not Grounds for Asylum in the U.S.

 

Gang violence is not grounds for asylum? How do you think my maternal grandparents came here? How did many Jews end up coming to this country from Eastern Europe? What the hell do you think a pogrom was? “Pogrom” is another word for “gang violence.”

You, sir, disgust me, denying our history. Lady Liberty is barfing right now as you s*** on our heritage and piss on the the moral foundations of our nation, reducing it to sham mockery and a dark imitation of a once glorious past.

 

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/domestic-or-gang-violence-not-grounds-asylum-sessions-rules-n882116Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2018 Laurence Kant

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Korea and Trump

KOREA

I consider the Korean negotiation a sham, a waste, a tv show, and (worst of all) a threat to peace.

The agreement looks something written on the back of a napkin. There’s nothing new in it all, and the term, “denuclearize,” means zip.

Trump is the person who created the drama and danger of war in the first place. Are we supposed to congratulate Trump for defusing a war situation that he himself created? Say what? That’s a bizarre argument.

Trump got played. The U.S. made concessions (ending war games). North Korea made none. There are no timelines now, no nuclear verification systems, and Kim can continue doing whatever militarily while we talk. Kim has no responsibilities other than smiling at Trump.

Most important, Trump should not have met directly with Kim. It was a bigly mistake. He gave Kim and North Korea what they wanted most: international credibility and status. And Trump gave it to Kim for zippo, nada. Trump is a pathetically weak negotiator, and he made us look weak.

And our moral status is now in ruins, shattered. We decided to negotiate with a genocidal maniac, violent psychopath, and torturer-in-chief, and we got nothing. Trump got played. We all got played because Trump is our president. Kim won this hand big time.

As far as I’m concerned, Trump sold us out for tv ratings and hotel deals. I believe that the situation on the Korean peninsula is much more dangerous now medium- and long-term. The North Koreans believe we’re weak, and they’re probably already planning to conquer South Korea. Who thinks Trump will come to South Korea’s aid now if North Korea invades the south? Good luck with that one, South Korea. You’re on your own. We’ve got a prez who is an inveterate liar, and no one has your back.

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Backpacks and Guns

So, instead of gun control, we focus on backpacks by forcing students to leave them at home and by making them clear ones. Students have to change their lives in order to accommodate the bizarre ideology of unfettered gun rights in the USA. Makes no sense. I understand their fears, and this may be the only thing to do, but it will probably not stop the gun toters. And it will help convert our schools into armed fortresses and camps. It will primarily make life less convenient and more uncomfortable for students, as well as traumatic. There are ways to stop mass gun shootings. Other countries have figured out how to do it. Some states have made huge improvements. We just don’t want to do it.

Bottom line, many Americans don’t care about the lives of young people. They love fetuses, but don’t give a damn about people who are actually fully living human beings. We destroy lives of undocumented children, torturing and tormenting them and their families. And we screw up the lives of young people who live in fear and anxiety just having to attend school. One day people will look back on this period of history and discuss the moral bankruptcy of today’s gun policies. Those who have done this will have to account for their actions as they face themselves and their maker, and they will leave a legacy of shame.Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2018 Laurence Kant

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GUNS IN THE USA

GUNS IN THE USA

No other country in the developed word has gun policies remotely like ours. It’s easy to get guns in Syria and Congo, which I guess puts the U.S. in their camp.

Guns are now one of the tenets of our civic religion. Evangelicals don’t have much religion any more. They have guns, fetuses, and the gospel of money and hate. Not much about the real Jesus/Christ in there. We have lost our way. I’m Jewish, and I don’t use this language very much, but we have sinned. We have sinned mightily. And the time of our reckoning is coming due. Those who claim to lead us spiritually are the ones leading us to chaos, barbarity, and inhumanity. We have lost our way. It may take the non-religious to lead this country back to some semblance of morality and, ironically, authentic spirituality. The light in the torch is dim, shrouded by darkness, but it’s there waiting for us to approach and spread its sparks of loving heat and illumination across our nation and globe. Time to get going.Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2018 Laurence Kant

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The Two Ways

THE TWO WAYS

Nationalism and globalism represent two fundamental life outlooks in our word: “Zero Sum Game” vs. “We prosper together.” “Zero Sum Game” assumes that if you win, I lose (and vice-versa). It is a philosophy of conquest. “We prosper together” assumes that we’re more likely to win if we work together and compete with gusto. It is a philosophy of both friendly competition and cooperation.

This is not a right-left dichotomy, but a worldview that goes way beyond politics. Trump is obviously a zero-sum-game person, which is what John Bolton is, as well as Peter Navarro and Wilbur Ross and Carl Icahn. The old liberal “soak the rich” philosophy is a zero-sum-game approach also, since it assumes that, in order for the poor to prosper, the rich must suffer. Or, it applies to those on the left who sometimes assume that, in order to help people, you need to have victims to help. For Trump and his crowd, China must lose in order for the U.S. to win. For Icahn to win, his competitors must lose (or more accurately, he must crush them). In sports, Vince Lombardi subscribed to this. That’s their view.

What some call globalism assumes that nations and businesses prosper when we all prosper. If China is successful, we will succeed (and vice-versa). For a business to succeed, it helps to have competitors to keep one honest and growing. Competition is not the enemy, but a friendly adversary who pushes us to do our best. McMaster belongs to this, as does Larry Kudlow (even though I think he’s an idiot), Warren Buffet, and Barack Obama. In sports, Greg Popovich subscribes to this.

This is the conflict we face. It’s really simple. As you can guess, I am on the side of “We prosper together,” and I have no doubt that that is the only way forward. But both sides have strong and weak advocates who can both help and hurt their causes. Just remember that, when you feel that we’re losing, that’s the time when you have the greatest opportunities to make your case. Trump is making his, and his lack of character will taint his side for many decades to come. It’s time for those of us who believe differently to make ours and do so in a persuasive and humane way.

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The Decline of Religion and Its Influence on the Jewish Community

I teach a shabbat morning class in our synagogue, and I wrote this as an addendum to our discussion:

——————-

In light of our Shabbat morning discussion, I though I might reference some of the actual data and discussion on the decline of religion in the U.S., the rise of “nones” (those who do not affiliate with a religious group),  the decreasing number of self-identified Christians, the decreasing number of self-identifitied white Christians, the decreasing number of self-identified evangelical white Christians, and the diminishing numbers of those attending church services. I really enjoyed our session and appreciated the different points (as I always do– all of which got me to go over some materials I had not examined recently. Just take a look at the articles below for an overview.

Christian identification in the U.S. as a whole is in serious decline. Until recently, this decline was primarily taking place in mainline churches: e.g.  Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, American Baptist, UCC (United Churches of Christ), Disciples of Christ, as well as Catholic. Mainline churches are still declining at a faster rate than evangelical churches. But now the decline has started hitting Evangelical churches, particularly white ones: Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God, Church of Christ, and non-denominational. In 1988, white evangelical Christians comprised 22% of the U.S. population. In 2006, that number hit 23%. In 2015, that number was 17% and is probably at 16% by now—amounting to almost a 30% decline. The speed of this decline will accelerate as scores of millennials leave churches.

Megachurches are struggling as well. I can’t speak specifically about Southland, but megachurch attendance as a whole is well down (as you will see in some of the articles below). There’s virtually no way that membership in megachurches is holding steady (which is the best they could claim), because you can’t increase your numbers while the overall pool is in sharp decline. It’s only possible if you fudge the numbers, which, of course, many institutions do. For Christians (unlike for Jews), attendance is the most important factor in determining membership. And that number is clearly in decline in most churches, especially mega-churches. Smaller evangelical churches have much higher levels of commitment/attendance than mega-churches.  In that world, you will find many complaints that mega-churches are shrinking the numbers of those attending small churches, while at the same time megachurches are seeing a substantial drop-off in church attendance. Many evangelicals see mega-churches as places where those who have little commitment go because they can hide there. While mega-churches may offer wonderful amenities, numerous affinity groups, lots of excitement, and good social fellowship, mega-churches are certainly not stemming the overall decline in Christian self-idenitification or in evangelical Christian self-identification.

White Christianity is aging at a rapid rate. At the same time, millennials are leaving churches—both mainline and evangelical. Churches as a whole have not figured out how to attract young people.

Jewish self-identification is doing relatively better, as far as I can tell, but not synagogue attendance which is in decline. In terms of congregational life, Jews many of the same issues as Christians  Jews do not, however, define identity in terms of synagogue attendance, but have other markers. This gives us a distinct advantage over Christians who do not really see themselves as a *people* or as a culture. Other religious groups such as Buddhism and Islam are growing, though they are a tiny percentage of the U.S. population.

I’m not convinced that all this means the end of religion and certainly not of spirituality. Many who identify as “nones” have a spiritual outlook, but do not wish to affiliate with an organized religious movement. In the U.S. religious people follow the tradition of group identification through voluntary associations known as congregations. Congregations are one form of voluntary association that also includes garden clubs, rotary clubs, lions clubs, Masons, political parties, bridge clubs, farming associations, entrepreneur associations, bowling leagues, book clubs, PTAs, and so on. I apologize for having forgotten some key group. Robert Putnam and others have written about the decline of voluntary associations in the U.S., including the U.S., and this in turn has affected congregational life.

But who is to say that *congregations* are the defining element of religious life? Who is to say that voluntary associations will not make a comeback, as book clubs (for example) have done? Perhaps, congregations will themselves change form, or other structures will rise up to replace them. It’s possible that old structures simply can’t change, just as older for-profit corporations have found it impossible to adapt to transformative cultural and socio-economic changes. In other cases, some for-profit corporations do manage to negotiate transitions. We just don’t know, and we’ll have to see how events play out.

In other countries, congregations are not the sole or primary form for the expression of Jewish values, as other secular organizations and non-congregational modalities hold an equal or higher sway (including in Israel). Remember, there are synagogues (churches also) in other countries that do not depend on local contributions to maintain themselves. Not every synagogue has to have a membership list as a defining feature. Also a synagogue (or a church) does not necessarily require a building to exist and thrive. The self-funding membership model in a building has thrived in the U.S., but it’s not the only option out there. Perhaps some eclectic version of what we find globally will emerge, or a new structure altogether will suddenly take hold and assert itself as a vacuum opens.

I do suspect that “religion” will have a more marginal role in U.S. society than in the past, or it will restructure itself and take on a cast that we may regard as unrecognizable. Change is scary for most people, but it’s happening whether we like it or not. The best we can do is not surrender to despair, but to take of our own house, make religion more dynamic, meaningful and appealing, and keep trying to adapt. That’s difficult for us all. But we have no other choice.

B’shalom,

Larry

https://www.prri.org/research/american-religious-landscape-christian-religiously-unaffiliated/
https://www.prri.org/spotlight/additional-evidence-white-evangelical-protestant-decline/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/08/15/white-christian-america-is-dying/?utm_term=.0eafff83ba64
https://www.vox.com/identities/2017/7/18/15958214/age-of-white-christian-america-over
https://religionnews.com/2017/09/06/embargoed-christian-america-dwindling-including-white-evangelicals-study-shows/
https://www.christianpost.com/news/megachurches-growing-face-declining-weekly-attendance-protestant-church-151570/
https://www.forbes.com/sites/chrisladd/2017/03/30/organized-religion-is-being-replaced-by-disorganized-religion/#2c90fe6a489c
https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2016/0610/Southern-Baptists-face-a-familiar-trend-emptier-pews
https://urbanedge.blogs.rice.edu/2016/04/25/in-houston-the-land-of-megachurches-fewer-people-attending-religious-services/#.WoiEeRPwYck
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/churchformen/2016/03/why-is-church-attendance-declining-even-among-christians/
https://millennialpastor.net/2015/03/15/5-truths-we-dont-want-to-admit-about-church-decline/
http://thomrainer.com/2016/09/five-reasons-churches-dying-declining-faster-today/
http://www.churchleadership.org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=42346
https://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/12/millennials-increasingly-are-driving-growth-of-nones/
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/14/the-factors-driving-the-growth-of-religious-nones-in-the-u-s/
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/opinion/trump-scaramucci-evangelical-christian.html
http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=129
https://world.wng.org/2007/12/numbers_racket
https://www.christianpost.com/news/megachurches-less-involved-members-than-small-congregations-duke-study-finds-157080/
https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/11/houston-mark-driscoll-megachurch-meltdown/382487/

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his Legacy

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER AND HIS LEGACY

Below (see the dashed line below) is a response to a Facebook post I read on a friend’s page.

Dietrich Boenhoeffer’s birthday was today February 4, 1906. Bonhoeffer is a renowned Christian theologian and ethicist who was executed by the Nazis in 1944 for his role in Operation Valkyrie that attempted to overthrow the Nazi government and assassinate Hitler. Among Protestant Christians, he is viewed as a hero who saved the lives of Jews and gave up his life, helping in Operation Valkyrie. Among scholars of Jewish history and the holocaust, he is viewed more complexly and critically.

One of the comments claimed that Bonhoeffer had always stood in solidarity with Jews. That’s simply not true. Further, Bonhoeffer wrote little about Jews. What he did write more or less reflected the elitist Christian perspective on Judaism that predominated among European Christians prior to WWII in the 20th century.

I admire Boenhoeffer. I really do. But he is someone whose views of Jews were deeply problematic, though they evolved over time. More important and beyond that, it is hard to understand why so much adulation prevails around Bonhoeffer, but not around the many Christians who did a lot more than Bonhoeffer, and with little fanfare, to help save Jewish lives. The reality is that very few non-Jews helped Jews in that time of crisis and horror. Why do some Christians fixate on Bonhoeffer, but ignore the others who gave so much for the Jewish community (and for other victims) in that period? I don’t have all the answers to that question, but I suspect that understanding the Bonhoeffer issue would uncover many issues in Jewish-Christian relations that we have yet to resolve.

——————
Bonhoeffer was not always in solidarity with Jews; he evolved. Within the Jewish community and among shoah (holocaust) scholars, Bonhoeffer is a controversial figure. Earlier on he believed that Jews should convert to convert to Christianity, essentially subscribing to a supersessionist theology. His focus in his rescue efforts was on on Jews who had converted to Christianity or were offspring of converted families. Later on he changed and supported rescue efforts for other Jews as well.

He showed courage, but he was imprisoned and executed under relatively comfortable circumstances compared to what Jews and other inmates had to endure in lagers and in ditches on the eastern front. He was not starved in a ghetto or in a concentration camp. He did not endure forced labor. He was not mocked, humiliated, and tormented in ways that many Jews in concentration camps and in forsaken fields in eastern Europe (including members of my family) were. He got to write letters and papers in prison which most victims of Hitler’s horrors most certainly did not.

He was a relatively minor figure in the plot to assassinate Hitler. The real hero of the attempted coup (Operation Valkyrie) against the Nazis was General Henning von Treskow whom I admire as one of the truly great resisters of the Nazis (like the White Rose). Here are some quotes from von Tresckow:

1) “The whole world will vilify us now, but I am still totally convinced that we did the right thing. Hitler is the archenemy not only of Germany but of the world. When, in few hours’ time, I go before God to account for what I have done and left undone, I know I will be able to justify what I did in the struggle against Hitler. God promised Abraham that He would not destroy Sodom if only ten righteous men could be found in the city, and so I hope for our sake God will not destroy Germany. No one among us can complain about dying, for whoever joined our ranks put on the shirt of Nessus. A man’s moral worth is established only at the point where he is ready to give his life in defense of his convictions.” (July, 1944 right before he committed suicide at Bialystock)

2) “The assassination must be attempted at all costs. Even if it should not succeed, an attempt to seize power in Berlin must be made. What matters now is no longer the practical purpose of the coup, but to prove to the world and for the records of history that the men of the resistance dared to take the decisive step. Compared to this objective, nothing else is of consequence.” (1944)

3) “I cannot understand how people can still call themselves Christians and not be furious adversaries of Hitler’s regime.” (April 1943)

Why do so many remember Bonhoeffer and Claus von Stauffenberg (one of the Valkyrie leaders) who talked hardly at all about Jews or any other victims, but about Prussian pride and the boorishness of Hitler? Why isn’t Henning von Tresckow a household name like Bonhoeffer?

There are many great Christians who rescued Jews, like the residents of Le Chambon sur Lignon, Corrie ten Boom, Geno Bartali, Lorenzo Perrone, Aristide de Sousa Mendes, and countless others. Bonhoeffer is not memorialized on the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles in Jerusalem at Yad Vashem for a reason. Many righteous rescuers (most of whom were Christians) were murdered, imprisoned, tortured, their professional lives ruined, forced to flee their homelands into exile, lived with depression and severe anxiety, committed suicide, lived (and still live) in poverty, and/or fell into anonymity, forgotten by the media and prominent spokespeople and those who focus on brand names and coolness.

I respect Bonhoeffer, but I am troubled by the adulation he still receives compared to what so many others who did so much more and risked so much have not received. For me it’s not about Bonhoeffer as a person or what he did, but about the fixation on him at the expense of so many others whose names have fallen into a dustbin (except at Yad Vashem and scattered memorials).

Why Bonhoeffer? I think I know part of the answer. But it hurts profoundly as it makes me realize that we have not made nearly as much progress in Jewish-Christian healing as we like to think we have.

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PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS UNDERMINED THE FUNDAMENTAL VALUES OF OUR NATION

PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS UNDERMINED THE FUNDAMENTAL VALUES OF OUR NATION

By pardoning Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Trump has now directly, publicly, and openly undermined the rule of law in the U.S. I strongly suspect the president of financial crimes related to Russia and of possible conspiracy to undermine our electoral process, but there’s not yet sufficient evidence to establish this within a sufficient degree of certainty–at least for me at this time. I also question the president’s mental competence to execute his duties, but I don’t know for sure. With the pardon of Arpaio, Trump has essentially given a middle finger to the judicial process and said that criminals can violate the law with impunity as long as they back him before they have served any time at all and before they have even apologized or asked for forgiveness. It also says to racists and xenophobes that the president has their back. This is shameful and a scandal. It undermines our Constitution and therefore violates the president’s oath of office. It promotes a culture of chaos and lawlessness.

Will most Republican politicians do anything? No. They will stand in silence while the president tears down our country so that they can avoid alienating their racist and xenophobic base that might rise up and defeat them in a primary. They too are failing our nation by serving as bystanders to evil. Senator McCain has criticized the pardon, but he also mitigated his criticism by defending the president’s right to pardon. In other words, McCain isn’t likely to defend our Constitution at a time of crisis–let’s hope I’m wrong about that. Republican politicians need to get off their butts and act in defense of our country, whatever the political consequences. This is not a game, but about leadership and courage and the future of a nation that calls itself “the leader of the free world.” Is that the truth or a lie?

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Demonstration of Solidarity of Christians and Jews at Temple Adath Israel: Friday, August 18, 2017

Thanks to support from our Christian friends for the Jewish community on Friday. With me is Rev. Marsha Charles who helped to organize this demonstration of solidarity at Temple Adath Israel. She is a mensch and my former student at Lexington Theological Seminary!

 

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Elie Wiesel: Neutrality

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Elie Wiesel
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Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass Press Release: On Tolerance, Hatred, and Respect (including response to Stephen Bannon appointment)

PRESS RELEASE

SUMMARY

The Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass (JFB) issues a call for tolerance, a rejection of hatred, and a respect for all. The JFB also asks that President-elect Trump reconsider his appointment of Stephen K. Bannon.

———

STATEMENT

THE JEWISH FEDERATION OF THE BLUEGRASS CALLS FOR TOLERANCE, A REJECTION OF HATRED, AND RESPECT FOR ALL

The Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass issues a call for tolerance, a rejection of hatred, and an embrace of diversity and pluralism.

In recent months, we have seen a spate of incidents of intolerance and prejudice in the U.S. and abroad. Numerous instances of bullying, vandalism, violence, ugly language, and name calling targeting ethnic, racial, and religious minorities have led to a climate that both adults and children find unsettling and even frightening.

The appointment of Stephen K. Bannon, especially, as President-elect Donald Trump’s “chief strategist and senior counsellor” has caused consternation among many Americans, and particularly in the Jewish community.

All presidents should have the right to make their own choices as to who advises them on strategic and other matters. We respect the latitude necessary for a president to work efficiently and productively on issues of national and ultimate global significance.

Yet, Mr. Bannon, through his position as chief executive of Breitbart News, has associated himself with a variety of radical views that fall into the categories of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and misogyny. For these reasons, white nationalists and neo-Nazis celebrate him as one of their own. No one with these associations should be in the White House, especially among our president’s closest advisors.

It is the responsibility of our Federation to support and defend the rights of the Jewish community and all minority communities against all forms of bigotry, racism, hatred, and persecution.  We understand that prejudice, including anti-Semitism, exists at both ends of the political spectrum. History has taught us that silence is both unacceptable and dangerous.

We urge President-elect Trump to demonstrate his commitment to the pluralism, diversity, and respect for all Americans he pledged in his victory speech when he promised to “bind the wounds of division” in America.

As a first step in this endeavor, we ask President-elect Trump to reconsider his appointment of Stephen K. Bannon. We also request that he reach out and show in all his personnel appointments his desire to work toward genuine healing in our divided society.

Our Federation, along with other federations, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, continues to stand for the values we have always upheld: welcoming the stranger, fighting injustice, repairing the world, supporting Israel and Jewish communities around the world, speaking up for the voiceless, and protecting the orphan and the widow.

Hate is neither a Jewish nor an American value. We urge local, state, and national leaders on both sides of the aisle to speak up against this threat to American democracy, to uphold inclusion, to fight against bigotry and discrimination of all kinds, and we encourage other community groups to join in our efforts to combat prejudice and abuse.

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Protests Against Trump: A Response

THE PROTESTS AGAINST TRUMP

A friend who was a Hillary supporter recently criticized protesters in our county, saying that we would have criticized Trump supporters if they had done this. Here was my response:

——————-

Look, I’m not out there, and I’m keeping an open mind. Nobody really knows what Trump will do. But, for young people, Muslims, Latinos, and women especially, Trump’s words are real and threatening. That’s all we have to go by.

Young people in particular do not understand how someone can win the popular vote and lose an election. It seems undemocratic, and indeed it is. This is the second time in twenty years this has happened, and many feel disenfranchised. These kind of events where the majority loses strike at the heart of our democratic system and persuade many that this is no longer a free society.

I realize from a political point of view, demonstrating at this time may not be a smart move. I get that.

Yet, a man who threatens to deport an entire population of people and to ban an entire religion from this country is not someone we should ignore. This is a man who promised to torture people and to murder families of alleged terrorists. He recently mocked Somali immigrants in Minneapolis and has made fun of the disabled more than once. He is a self-admitted sexual predator, and many women have come forward to confirm this. His closing advertisement targeted Jews as part of a global economic conspiracy.

Bystanders have not been moral actors in the past. History has taught us that, when politicians make horrifying statements and threats, we should believe them until proven otherwise.

I still hope and would not be shocked to see Trump change. Rhetoric is one thing, action another. But, as a member of a family and a group affected by murder and torture in the holocaust, I’ll be damned if I would expect others to sit down and be silent in the face of hatred. That never works, and it never will. The only chance for Trump to change is to make known to him and his supporters that words have consequences and that we will resist evil when necessary.

This is not merely a political contest between two candidates and political parties. It represents a clash of worldviews, one of which expresses a group (white people, especially those less educated) that feels victimized and has decided to victimize others. This is serious and not a “normal” moment in American history and politics. It’s a visceral threat to many and potentially strikes at the core of freedom and democracy.

Maybe this is not the best political thing to do right now, and I’m not participating (yet), but it is understandable and justifiable given the raging hatred and threats that Trump spewed in this campaign.

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Comey Second Letter: The Fog Finally Lifts

COMEY SECOND LETTER: THE FOG FINALLY LIFTS
This reminds me of the battle of the Bulge when the fog prevented air support for the Allied troops in mid-December, 1944. It was a cold, shivering, grim, wet, bloody battle with heavy losses and countless tragic moments. I know many were scarred for life from the viciousness of the fighting with close to 200,000 lives lost on both sides. At Bastogne, the Germans surrounded 20,000 Allied troops who were ready for a massacre. When the Germans asked the Allies to surrender, Major-General Anthony McCauliffe replied, “Nuts.” But eventually near Christmas, 1944, the fog lifted and the planes and bombers arrived to helped Allied troops evict the Germans from their positions with a great victory in the Ardennes offensive.
 
Now the fog has lifted in this election, and the sun shines through the clouds. We just need to get out of our trenches, move forward, and not look back. The end of the battle is at hand. Evil is on the run.
 
This is not a normal election. Trump is not a normal candidate. We all need to stand together, from all parties and points of view, and reject hatred, bigotry, violence, divisiveness, dictatorship, and demagoguery. Trump’s nomination is a shame and a stain on America. Let us do what we can to remove it and stop ourselves from committing national suicide. Finally, the light has returned, and we are on the offense and moving fast against dark forces.

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TRUMP, HITLER, AND THE RETURN OF FASCISM

TRUMP, HITLER, AND THE RETURN OF FASCISM

Laurence H. Kant

 

Many, including Melania Trump, have assured us that Donald isn’t Hitler. Some commentators object to the comparison outright; others simply bleat the equivalence hysterically, without further explanation. All should contend with the evidence:

 

  • Trump’s tweeting a Mussolini quotation and retweeting neo-Nazis, white supremacists;
  • Trump’s belated (and weak) disavowal of David Duke and the KKK;
  • Trump’s refusal to condemn or even rebuke Jew-hating tirades—including death threats and concentration camp oven imagery—against Jewish journalists who’ve criticized   him (Bethany Mandel, Ben Shapiro, and Jonathan Weisman);
  • Official association of Trump’s campaign with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, giving talk-show host, James Edwards, a VIP press parking space and interview with Donald Trump, Jr. at a Memphis rally, and designating William Johnson a California Trump delegate to the Republican convention;
  • Ivana Trump’s Vanity Fair statement (1990) that her husband kept a copy of Hitler’s collected speeches, “My New Order,” in his bedside cabinet (which Trump acknowledged);
  • The right-arm salute Trump invokes at his rallies, recalling the Nazi salute (some dispute this, but, given his media skills, it’s safe to assume that Trump knows the symbolic effect of every image he uses);
  • Trump’s use of “America First,” alluding to an isolationist, early-40’s U.S. movement that was rife with Jew hatred and called for negotiations with Hitler;
  • Trump’s October 13 speech that refers to international bankers, media, and global elites that allegedly strip the U.S. of its rightful power—a trope that recalls the classic Jew-hating screed, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” , and has numerous and widespread parallels in other Jew-hating rhetoric as well;

 

Does anyone really believe that this self-described “really smart” Wharton grad draws on the Nazi tradition of political rhetoric, symbolism, and ethnic/racial scapegoating unawares?

The onus should be on those who deny the obvious connections to explain in detail why they’re not relevant.

Countless other items of evidence connect Trump to fascism more generally:

 

  • Using threatening gestures, encouraging supporters to beat up protesters and intimidate critics;
  • Forecasting (and encouraging) “riots” at the Republican convention;
  • Calling reporters “scum” and implicitly threatening them, and barring major media organizations (left and right) from his campaign events;
  • Calling to change libel/slander laws to curb criticism of public figures;
  • Demonizing ethnic groups: labeling Mexicans “rapists” and “drug addicts,” calling for mass deportation of 11 million undocumented aliens, advocating a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., and demanding the recusal of a judge as biased and unqualified because of his ethnic heritage;
  • Targeting the disabled by mocking the arm and facial movements of New York Times reporter, Serge Kovaleski;
  • Praising dictators, including North Korean Kim Jong-un, for murdering potential  enemies; Chinese rulers, for cracking down on Tiananmen Square protesters; and Vladimir Putin for being “a leader’’;
  • Openly and frequently calling for the jailing of his political opponent, Hillary Clinton—this happens as a matter of course in totalitarian societies from the Congo to Cuba to North Korea;

 

No, Trump doesn’t outline a genocidal philosophy or well-thought-out plans to implement discrimination—what coherent policy strategy has he ever enunciated?—but he is aware of Hitler and Mussolini and riffs off of them. He knows who they are and borrows their ideas—most notably the use of intimidation and violence to acquire political power.

Does this make him more like a third-world dictator (Marco Rubio’s assessment)? Would Mussolini serve as a better comparison than Hitler? Silvio Berlusconi?

We don’t know what he sincerely believes, but does that really matter? We can only judge him by his words, his actions, and what he promotes.

We d­­­on’t know what Trump would actually do if elected president. Given the American system of checks and balances, his attempt at authoritarian rule would likely be limited by the realities of governance. Yet, is that a risk worth taking?

Why don’t commentators address the specific evidence instead of asserting that Trump isn’t Hitler? Many in the press minimize the Trump phenomenon by laughing off his words or by rationalizing the crazy stuff he does. The reason is clear: because the evidence is so troubling and disturbing, and the implications so appalling, that they would rather it simply go away.

If we’ve learned anything from the holocaust, it’s that we can’t take on the role of bystanders and let troubling events transpire by ignoring or glossing over them.

Too frequently in the past, politicians and commentators trivially compared political adversaries to Hitler and the Nazis, leading to what many call “Godwin’s law”: the inevitable invocation of Hitler or Nazis to refute an argument. Neither mindless name-calling nor willful ignorance force us to face the facts before us.

The facts are clear: Trump uses language, images, and tactics that directly recall those of the Nazis and Hitler, along with other fascists. To allow him to speak destructively by incorporating this pernicious tradition and to permit him to encourage violence without calling him to meaningful account does nothing more than offer him a media get-out-of-jail free card. It amounts to an abdication of the sacred responsibility the founders gave the press in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. Who is willing to stand up and be counted?

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Donald Trump: “BECAUSE YOU’D BE IN JAIL” (to Hillary Clinton)

Donald Trump: “BECAUSE YOU’D BE IN JAIL” (to Hillary Clinton).
 
These are the words of a dictator, a fascist, a tin-pot demagogue, not someone who aspires to lead a great country. If one candidate said this about another in another country, we would condemn that process as undemocratic, as would Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among others. I would expect to hear something like this in North Korea or Uganda, not a democratic nation leading the free world. And to start the evening with a circus show of women accusing Bill Clinton of sex abuse (which was fully litigated almost twenty years ago and found to have no legal substance by Ken Starr of all people) recalls tactics used by authoritarian leaders of third-world nations who have no interest in democracy or free speech or freedom of the press or freedom of religion. It was a disgusting remark that everyone who cares about our country should condemn.
 
Unfortunately, it was not the only disgusting remark in this appalling spectacle that has lowered political discourse in ways I have never seen. We now have a self-admitted sexual predator running on a major party ticket for president of the U.S.A. who also stands opposed to the democratic values that undergird our government and political process. Sadly at least 35-40% of our population seems to think that’s all right. We can get through this, but we have serious problems to address even if Hillary wins convincingly.

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The Press, the Storyline, and Politics USA

This comment by Belichick says it all about the press and how utterly dense and clueless they can be. All the reporter is interested in is what the STORYLINE is about their quarterback (Jimmy Garropolo), but all Belichick is interested in is getting his work done.
 
And that’s exactly what’s happening with Hillary Clinton and the presidential election. The media is in a frenzy about her health and pneumonia, because they need a STORYLINE to take down the front runner and because they want to equalize the two candidates as if they are both legitimate contenders for the presidency in order to create a horserace to attract more advertisers and readers. That’s their story and they’re sticking with it no matter what.
 
I remember Joe Friday in Dragnet: “Just the facts.” For the media, it’s “Just the storyline.”
 
This is the sad state of affairs that currently passes for the press and media in the U.S.
 

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Hillary, Pneumonia, and Me

PNEUMONIA, HILLARY, AND ME

In late 2012 I had pneumonia, and I waited and waited to see the doctor–mainly because I didn’t know what the cause of my illness was. Finally I got so sick (high temp), was wheezing so much, and was throwing up a lot (which is not typical of pneumonia) that I had Dianne drive me to an urgent care treatment center here in Lexington (KY). I got out of the car while Dianne went to park it. I was so out of it that I walked into the wrong office–a nail salon where the employees spoke no English, and I tried to communicate with them in my somewhat delirious state. Finally I figured out what was going on and walked into the right office. I could barely sign the intake form and finally shakily headed off to the doctor who suggested I get a chest x-ray. I remember sitting in the x-ray room and going into a dream state where I was convinced that what I was dreaming was actually happening. Then the x-ray tech came in, told me put on the x-ray-proof vest, and stand beside a wall to get my x-ray taken. I told her I was feeling nauseated, and she told me that, if I threw up, please do it in the trashcan beside me. I remember looking inside the can and feeling disgusted that I would have to throw up in it.

The next thing I remember was waking up on a gurney surrounded by EMTs with all sorts of stuff attached to me. They were worried I was having a heart attack and doing an EKG (among other things), I said I was fine and felt rested because I had napped a bit. They were giving me intravenous fluids and told me that I had fainted, and they had put me on the gurney. They said I would have to go to the hospital by ambulance, I asked that they let Dianne drive me, but they were adamant. And I ended up at Central Baptist, where they x-rayed me finally, and I was found to have a relatively low-grade case of pneumonia. Apparently I was so dehydrated and wiped out that I had fainted.

Now we have the Hillary episode and the great drama that has ensued in its wake. Yet, all the huffers and puffers seem to have forgotten that pneumonia can make anyone faint and cough a lot, including teenagers. I’m sure that Hillary had no idea how serious what she had was and was just trying to keep her schedule.

And yet the media goes nuts, trying to imply that Hillary has some kind of mysterious disease or that she is hiding a secret health disorder. They are busy criticizing her for her lack of transparency. Say what?

Look I know Hillary has weaknesses as a candidate and does not always interact sufficiently with the press. Yet, the media and the pundits are way off base here. If anything, this incident makes me admire Hillary even more. As far as I’m concerned she’s a hero, a kind of political Wonder Woman, When I had pneumonia, I could barely move, except to engage with the toilet. Now here you have Hillary sitting and speaking at an emotional 9/11 event after having kept a schedule that almost no one could imagine keeping even with normal health.

I cannot think of a time where the media has seemed more pathetic and sexist, busily trying to equalize the two presidential candidates, as if they are both legitimate in their quest for the presidency.

No, Trump is not a legitimate candidate. He is a mentally ill fascist demagogue and con-man who cheats and lies almost every minute of the day and who appeals to hatred and bigotry to get the votes of those whose fears and dark sides have gotten the better of them.

On the other hand, Hillary works her butt off every day trying to make a difference in the world, and she gets smoked for it.

Now we have a woman who exemplifies what hard-working women have generally always done: Keep going and getting the job done no matter how they feel. That’s what makes Hillary a role model here. And I’m embarrassed by a press whose capacity to sink to new lows knows no apparent bounds.

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Workshop in Lexington: “Reading the Bible Mystically”: Dr. Laurence H. Kant: Flood and Noah Narrative: Sunday, December 13, 2-5 pm

Reading the Bible Mystically continues on Sunday, December 13, 2-5 p.m., at 131 Jesselin Drive. Everyone is welcome, whether or not you were able to attend prior sessions. This time we will discuss developments in human history following the story of Cain and Abel (including the Nephilim/giants in Gen 6) and continuing through the flood narrative and the Noah saga: Gen 5-9. See more details below.
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READING THE BIBLE MYSTICALLY: Fall Series
Dr. Laurence H. Kant, Historian of Religion (Ph.D., Yale University, 1993)
December 13, Sunday, 2-5 pm
Genesis 5-9: Flood and Noah Narrative: Part 1
Location: 131 Jesselin Drive, Lexington, KY  40503

Everyone comes to the Bible with different perspectives. Lay people appeal to tradition, practice, belief, social justice, evangelism, literal interpretation, and opposition or apathy to religion. Scholars interpret the Bible from their own angles: history, literature, sources, language, theology, and archaeology. No one perspective, however, can encompass and fully explain biblical texts.

For me, a mystical approach to biblical interpretation entails the discovery and creation of profound meaning in the text. Integrative in nature, it uses a variety of perspectives to understand the contexts and multiple (often ambiguous and sometimes conflicting) meanings of passages. We start from the ground up, beginning with small details (word-by-word and even letter-by-letter) as we move through sentences and stories toward apparently hidden and esoteric readings. Usually what we regard as secret or mystical lies in open sight, but seeing it demands close attention and far-reaching awareness of all sorts.

IN THIS SESSION, we will study developments in human history following the story of Cain and Abel (including the Nephilim/giants in Gen 6) and continuing through the flood narrative and the Noah saga: Gen 5-9. This will take at least two sessions. Reflecting on the universality of flood myths and of tales of humanity’s role in them, we will explore what makes floods such a powerful symbol for human beings and what makes the Genesis narrative distinctive. As always, there are profound questions to consider: Where exactly did humanity go wrong? What makes Noah different from his ancestors? Why are there two flood narratives, and what does each contribute? How do these stories fit into the tradition of epic literature, with concepts of honor and courage? How can a compassionate, moral God commit an act of genocide and planetary destruction? Why is this story of global violence so popular in the religious education of children? Why does God promise not to flood the earth again? How can the mind of God change? What is different about humanity and the earth after the flood?

No previous background is necessary. Mutual respect is assumed in an atmosphere open to all spiritual, religious, and non-religious points of view.

The cost of the workshop is $35.00 per person (cash, or check made out to “Mystic Scholar, LLC”), Reserve a place by emailing Dr. Kant at dblk2@qx.net (with “Mystic Scholar” in the subject line). Payment may be made at the door before the workshop. Please read Genesis 5-9 beforehand. For further information on the presenter, see the attached CV and bio, as well as the brochure with photos.

Dr. Laurence H. Kant
dblk2@qx.net
859-278-3042
http://mysticscholar.org

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Workshop in Lexington: “Reading the Bible Mystically”: Dr. Laurence H. Kant: Fall Series: Sunday, November 8, 2-5 pm

Reading the Bible Mystically continues on Sunday, November 8, 2-5 p.m., at 131 Jesselin Drive. Everyone is welcome, whether or not you were able to attend prior sessions. This time we will discuss Genesis 4, the story of Cain and Abel (see some of the question topics below).
—————–


READING THE BIBLE MYSTICALLY: Fall Series
Dr. Laurence H. Kant, Historian of Religion (Ph.D., Yale University, 1993)
November 8, 2015, 2-5 p.m.
Location: 131 Jesselin Drive, Lexington, KY  40503

Everyone comes to the Bible with different perspectives. Lay people appeal to tradition, practice, belief, social justice, evangelism, literal interpretation, and opposition or apathy to religion. Scholars interpret the Bible from their own angles: history, literature, sources, language, theology, and archaeology. No one perspective, however, can encompass and fully explain biblical texts.

For me, a mystical approach to biblical interpretation entails the discovery and creation of profound meaning in the text. Integrative in nature, it uses a variety of perspectives to understand the contexts and multiple (often ambiguous and sometimes conflicting) meanings of passages. We start from the ground up, beginning with small details (word-by-word and even letter-by-letter) as we move through sentences and stories toward apparently hidden and esoteric readings. Usually what we regard as secret or mystical lies in open sight, but seeing it demands close attention and far-reaching awareness of all sorts.

We will spend the bulk of our time this session engaging the text, particularly Genesis 4, the story of Cain and Abel, and ponder some challenging questions: What happens to first-born children in Genesis? Why? Why did God prefer Abel’s offering to Cain’s? How would you describe God’s treatment of Cain? Why did Cain choose to bring Abel to a field to kill him? Why did Cain kill Abel? What is murder? What do life and death mean to those who have never experienced death? What does it mean to be a wanderer? What is the mark of Cain? What does it mean that Cain and Cain’s descendants built cities, played lyres and pipes, and made tools of copper and iron? Who are the descendants of Cain? Who are the descendants of Seth and Enosh? If we have time, we will also consider Genesis 5-6:1-4.

No previous background is necessary. Mutual respect is assumed in an atmosphere open to all spiritual, religious, and non-religious points of view.

Our next date for the Fall Series is Sunday, December 13, 2-5 pm.

The cost of the workshop is $35.00 per person (cash, or check made out to “Mystic Scholar, LLC”), Reserve a place by emailing Dr. Kant at dblk2@qx.net (with “Mystic Scholar” in the subject line). Payment may be made at the door before the workshop. Please read Genesis 4-6:1-4 beforehand. For further information on the presenter, see the attached CV and bio, as well as the brochure with photos.

Dr. Laurence H. Kant
dblk2@qx.net
859-278-3042
http://mysticscholar.org

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Workshop in Lexington: “Reading the Bible Mystically”: Dr. Laurence H. Kant: Fall Series: Sunday, October 11, 2-5 pm

Reading the Bible Mystically continues on Sunday, October 11, 2-5 p.m., at 131 Jesselin Drive. Everyone is welcome, whether or not you were able to attend prior sessions. This time we will discuss Genesis 3: the story of creation, human origins, the quest for knowledge and wisdom, disobedience and deception, frailty and strength, gender symbolism, and the banishment from Eden.

—————–


READING THE BIBLE MYSTICALLY: Fall Series
Dr. Laurence H. Kant, Historian of Religion (Ph.D., Yale University, 1993)
October 11, 2015, 2-5 p.m.
Location: 131 Jesselin Drive, Lexington, KY  40503

Everyone comes to the Bible with different perspectives. Lay people appeal to tradition, practice, belief, social justice, evangelism, literal interpretation, and opposition or apathy to religion. Scholars interpret the Bible from their own angles: history, literature, sources, language, theology, and archaeology. No one perspective, however, can encompass and fully explain biblical texts.

For me, a mystical approach to biblical interpretation entails the discovery and creation of profound meaning in the text. Integrative in nature, it uses a variety of perspectives to understand the contexts and multiple (often ambiguous and sometimes conflicting) meanings of passages. We start from the ground up, beginning with small details (word-by-word and even letter-by-letter) as we move through sentences and stories toward apparently hidden and esoteric readings. Usually what we regard as secret or mystical lies in open sight, but seeing it demands close attention and far-reaching awareness of all sorts.

We will spend the bulk of our time this session engaging the text, particularly Genesis 3, and discussing its use in constructing meaning for our lives. We will explore the story of creation, human origins, the quest for knowledge and wisdom, the consequences of disobedience and deception, frailty and strength, gender symbolism, and the banishment from Eden. No previous background is necessary. Mutual respect is assumed in an atmosphere open to all spiritual, religious, and non-religious points of view.

Upcoming dates in this series are as follows (at the same time from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday afternoons): October 11, November 8, and  December 13.

The cost of the workshop is $35.00 per person (cash, or check made out to “Mystic Scholar, LLC”), Reserve a place by emailing Dr. Kant at dblk2@qx.net (with “Mystic Scholar” in the subject line). Payment may be made at the door before the workshop. Please read Genesis 1 and 2 beforehand. For further information on the presenter, see the attached CV and bio, as well as the brochure with photos.

Dr. Laurence H. Kant
dblk2@qx.net
859-278-3042
http://mysticscholar.org

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Reading the Bible Mystically: Fall Series: Dr. Laurence H. Kant

Reading the Bible Mystically continues on Sunday, September 20, 2-5 p.m. at 131 Jesselin Drive. Everyone is welcome, whether or not you were able to attend the prior introductory workshops. This time we will discuss Genesis 2 and its relation to Genesis 1.

—————–

READING THE BIBLE MYSTICALLY: Fall Series

Dr. Laurence H. Kant, Historian of Religion (Ph.D., Yale University, 1993)
September 20, 2015, 2-5 p.m.
Location: 131 Jesselin Drive, Lexington, KY  40503

Everyone comes to the Bible with different perspectives. Lay people appeal to tradition, practice, belief, social justice, evangelism, literal interpretation, and opposition or apathy to religion. Scholars interpret the Bible from their own angles: history, literature, sources, language, theology, and archaeology. No one perspective, however, can encompass and fully explain biblical texts.

For me, a mystical approach to biblical interpretation entails the discovery and creation of profound meaning in the text. Integrative in nature, it uses a variety of perspectives to understand the contexts and multiple (often ambiguous and sometimes conflicting) meanings of passages. We start from the ground up, beginning with small details (word-by-word and even letter-by-letter) as we move through sentences and stories toward apparently hidden and esoteric readings. Usually what we regard as secret or mystical lies in open sight, but seeing it demands close attention and far-reaching awareness of all sorts.

We will spend the bulk of our time this session engaging the text, particularly Genesis 2, and discussing its use in constructing meaning for our lives. No previous background is necessary. Mutual respect is assumed in an atmosphere open to all spiritual, religious, and non-religious points of view.

Upcoming dates in this series are as follows (at the same time from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday afternoons, location to be announced): October 11, November 8, and  December 13.

The cost of the workshop is $35.00 per person (cash, or check made out to “Mystic Scholar, LLC”), Reserve a place by emailing Dr. Kant at dblk2@qx.net (with “Mystic Scholar” in the subject line). Payment may be made at the door before the workshop. Please read Genesis 1 and 2 beforehand. For further information on the presenter, see the attached CV and bio, as well as the brochure with photos.

 

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dblk2@qx.net
859-278-3042
http://mysticscholar.org

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Workshop in Lexington: “Reading the Bible Mystically”: Dr. Laurence H. Kant

READING THE BIBLE MYSTICALLY: An Introductory Workshop
Dr. Laurence H. Kant, Historian of Religion (Ph.D., Yale University, 1993)
August 30, 2015, Sunday, 2:00-5:00 p.m.: Encore class
Location: 131 Jesselin Drive, Lexington, KY  40503

Everyone comes to the Bible with different perspectives. Lay people appeal to tradition, practice, belief, social justice, evangelism, literal interpretation, and opposition or apathy to religion. Scholars interpret the Bible from their own angles: history, literature, sources, language, theology, and archaeology. No one perspective, however, can encompass and explain biblical texts.

For me, a mystical approach to biblical interpretation entails the discovery and creation of profound meaning in the text. Integrative in nature, it uses a variety of perspectives to understand the contexts and multiple (often ambiguous and conflicting) meanings of passages. We start from the ground up, beginning with small details (word-by-word and even letter-by-letter) as we move through sentences and stories toward apparently hidden and esoteric readings. Usually what we regard as secret or mystical lies in open sight, but seeing it demands close attention and far-reaching awareness of all sorts.

We will initially have a brief review of some basic Hebrew Bible background, including chronology, history, the source hypothesis, and language issues. We will follow this up with a short discussion of how Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as well as non-believers, non-affiliated, and spiritual-but-not-religious, view the Bible. Then we will spend the bulk of our time engaging the text, particularly Genesis 1, and discuss its use in constructing meaning for our lives. No previous background is necessary. Mutual respect is assumed in an atmosphere open to all spiritual, religious, and non-religious points of view.

The workshop is part of a larger series that continues in the Fall. Upcoming dates are as follows (at the same time from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday afternoons, location to be announced): September 20, October 11, November 8, and  December 13.

The cost of the workshop is $35.00 per person (cash, or check made out to “Mystic Scholar, LLC”), Reserve a place by emailing Dr. Kant at dblk2@qx.net (with “Mystic Scholar” in the subject line). Payment may be made at the door before the workshop. Please read Genesis 1 and 2 beforehand. For further information on the presenter, see the attached CV and bio, as well as the brochure with photos, below.

Dr. Laurence H. Kant
dblk2@qx.net
859-278-3042

 

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Yes, Charleston Mass Murderer is a “Terrorist”

CharlestonTerrorist1

If we can’t apply the words, “terrorist” and “terrorism,” to this this situation, then they have no meaning, and we ought to stop using them. When someone from the Middle East (or sympathetic to someone in the Middle East) murders in the name of a political agenda, we don’t hesitate to call it terrorism–which it is, of course. When African Americans protest in Baltimore, we call them “thugs.” However, when white people murder African Americans. or when those opposed to abortion murder doctors at clinics, or when anti-government tax protesters kill government officials, the media sympathize with them and label them “mentally ill.” I suspect that the media would not be so sympathetic if an African American had done this in a white church. I’ll bet that the police would have killed such a person immediately on sight, and I can only imagine the horrible words the media would use to label then.

Look, I have no doubt that many of the people engaged in such violent activities are mentally ill (though most of them probably are legally competent to stand trial), but why is it we’re ready to label a white Christian person so quickly that way, but anyone else gets hammered?

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/06/19/refusal-call-charleston-shootings-terrorism-shows-meaningless-propaganda-term/

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My Family, The Holocaust, and ‘Original Sin’

KastonowiczFamilyBelarus2a

 

I was recently discussing the concept of original sin in a workshop I was leading. I was explaining that I thought that this was a legitimate concept, even though I did not share it. If I ever did accept original sin, I would certainly apply it to the holocaust.

This photo was taken c. 1905 in Pinsk, Belarus. In the center is my grandmother, Leah Kaston (Kaplan). Standing behind her are my great-grandfather Ya’akov and my great-mother Rivka Kaston. To the far left is my Aunt Bunya, my grandmother’s sister. She tried to come to this country around 1915, but was turned back by immigration services at Ellis Island because of red eye (conjunctivitis). She returned to Belarus. Later her husband, and some of her children followed her, and they went to live in Babruysk, Belarus. Somewhere between 1941-1943, when the Nazis entered Babruysk, they shot my Aunt Bunya and her family and dumped them in mass graves.

When I was growing up, my grandmother cried frequently about her sister. There were always hushed tones and requests to me that I please not ask too many questions about this. I heard the sobbing, but I did not really get to ask or say much. I have always thought that this affected the upbringing of my mom and her sister. My mom felt neglected and unattended. Is it any wonder that my grandmother could not give more attention to my mom when she felt so deeply wounded by the murder and absence of her beloved Bunya? There are many families with holes and wounds like this, especially many Jewish families, and sometimes I wonder how we might close the circle and find a way to restore the gaping hole that persists to this day in my family and in many others who went through this.

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Workshop: “Reading the Bible Mystically”

READING THE BIBLE MYSTICALLY: An Introductory Workshop
Dr. Laurence H. Kant, Historian of Religion (Ph.D., Yale University, 1993)
June 14, 2015, Sunday, 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Full Circle Massage School: 465 EAST HIGH STREET, Suite 110, Lexington, KY  40507 (Please note that the correct address 465 East High Street)

Everyone comes to the Bible with different perspectives. Lay people appeal to tradition, practice, belief, social justice, evangelism, literal interpretation, and opposition or apathy to religion. Scholars interpret the Bible from their own angles: history, literature, sources, language, theology, and archaeology. No one perspective, however, can encompass and explain biblical texts.

For me, a mystical approach to biblical interpretation entails the discovery and creation of profound meaning in the text. Integrative in nature, it uses a variety of perspectives to understand the contexts and multiple (often ambiguous and conflicting) meanings of passages. We start from the ground up, beginning with small details (word-by-word and even letter-by-letter) as we move through sentences and stories toward apparently hidden and esoteric readings. Usually what we regard as secret or mystical lies in open sight, but seeing it demands close attention and far-reaching awareness of all sorts.

We will initially have a brief review of some basic Hebrew Bible background, including chronology, history, the source hypothesis, and language issues. We will follow this up with a short discussion of how Jews, Christians, Muslims, as well as non-believers, non-affiliated, and spiritual-but-not-religious, view the Bible. Then we will spend the bulk of our time engaging the text, particularly Genesis 1, and discuss its use in constructing meaning for our lives. No previous background is necessary. Mutual respect is assumed in an atmosphere open to all spiritual, religious, and non-religious points of view.

The workshop is part of a larger series that continues in the Fall (September-October). Dates and times will be announced. There is a limit of 24 people for the June 14 session. If significantly more than 24 sign up, I will hold a repeat session at a later date.

The cost of the workshop is $35.00 per person (cash, or check made out to “Mystic Scholar, LLC”), Reserve a place by emailing Dr. Kant at dblk2@qx.net (with “Mystic Scholar” in the subject line). Payment may be made at the door before the workshop. Please read Genesis 1 beforehand. For further information on the presenter, see the attached CV and bio, as well as the brochure with photos.

Dr. Laurence H. Kant, Historian of Religion (Ph.D., Yale University, 1993)

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Israeli Governing Coalition Likely to Have 1-Vote Majority

Barring a unity government (which the Zionist Union under Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni have thus far resisted) or the sudden withdrawal of Bayit Yehudi (Naftali Bennett = the religious settlers’ party), there will be a coalition government of 61 MKs out of 120. This gives a 1-vote majority to the coalition and is a recipe for political instability and possible new elections. [MK = “Member of the Knesset]

Avigdor Lieberman and Yisrael Beteynu made this possible when they opted out of the government for a variety of reasons (see my post from a couple of days ago: See http://mysticscholar.org/lieberman-and-yisrael-beteinu-out-of-israel-government/

Essentially one member of the Knesset can bring down the government. One member can sit out a vote to prevent legislation from passing. One member can exact retribution on political rivals by voting one way unexpectedly or by abstaining. If someone wakes up in the morning on the wrong side of the bed, that MK can simply gum up the wheels of the government. One member can basically do anything he or she wants. It’s a level of political chaos, which even for Israelis is quite extraordinary. I have no idea how much can get done under these circumstances, unless a military crisis compels unity of some sort.

In Israel, they have nicknamed this potential government: “EVERY BASTARD IS A KING.”

For the moment, there will probably not be new elections, simply because the politicians and the voters are exhausted by the previous campaign. No one apparently wants to face an election right way. That will likely change in short order, however, once the political circus again enters into full season.

Israelis are famously tough and resilient in these kind of circumstances. They will have to use every bit of that ingenuity to keep this government afloat for an extended period of time.

Anybody out there have ideas about how all this is likely to play out?Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2015 Laurence Kant

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