Bar Mitzvah Lessons (Not) Learned
Hasdai Westbrook, on Bar Mitzvah lessons: “Mr. Wolf fixed his gaze on me. ‘I believe in God for one reason only,’ he said. A pause for effect, a great suck of breath through the nostrils; then he started in again: ‘I read in the paper about the Big Bang—you know what it is, everything starting from one big explosion with hot gasses and particles and so on. Scientists say this is the how the universe was created. This for me is not an explanation. Where did it come from?’ He paused again. I had no answer. ‘The only reason I believe in God is because I cannot explain the existence of the universe any other way.’ He tapped out the last three words in the air, then hunched forward. ‘But to say that because of this God cares if I eat milk and meat – this,’ he said, finger pricked to the heavens, ‘is bullshit.’ So began Mr. Wolf’s assault on piety. He was a marvel, a revelation, and I his acolyte…” “Dreading the Buzzer: A Tale of God, Lies, and Audiotape”
Pretty Damn Moral
How moral is “moral”? Pretty damn moral. And why do those two terms belong side by side? According to Christianity Today‘s Ted Olsen, who crunches numbers from a Pew Poll, “moral values” were even more of a deciding factor in the election than exit polls suggest; and they really are about abortion and gay marriage. What “moral values” aren’t about for most voters, however, is poverty. The center-right Christianity Today then points us to a two-fisted critique of far right believers by Barbara Ehrenreich, in The Nation no less.

Right-leaning churches, argues Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, “have become an alternative welfare state, whose support rests not only on ‘faith’ but also on the loyalty of the grateful recipients.” If you think that sounds good, think of the precedent: “The closest analogy to America’s bureaucratized evangelical movement is Hamas, which draws in poverty-stricken Palestinians through its own miniature welfare state…. What makes the typical evangelicals’ social welfare efforts sinister is their implicit–and sometimes not so implicit–linkage to a program for the destruction of public and secular services. This year the connecting code words were ‘abortion’ and ‘gay marriage: To vote for the candidate who opposed these supposed moral atrocities, as the Christian Coalition and so many churches strongly advised, was to vote against public housing subsidies, childcare and expanded public forms of health insurance. While Hamas operates in a nonexistent welfare state, the Christian right advances by attacking the existing one.”