Chayei Sarah: America Speaks

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Do Not Fear G-d

Admission: I voted for President Bush. (I hear the murmuring). But it was not a vote for Bush as much as it was a vote against someone else.

That someone was not John Kerry.

My vote was against the liberal establishment of the East and West Coasts that showed utter contempt for faith in G-d – my faith and the faith of millions of others.

And I believe (faith, again) that I am not alone. I submit that the election was determined by one key factor: Americans simply could not tolerate the relentless attack we have been witnessing against the faith of Mr. Bush – not because they support the President and all his policies, but because in the American consciousness there is a profound sense that faith cannot be so utterly discredited.

The icing on the cake was a New York Times Magazine cover story a few weeks ago (Without a Doubt, by Ron Suskind) depicting Mr. Bush as a man whose decisions are determined not through reason and political process, but through Divine inspiration.

He describes the support for or against Bush as a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion. He quotes Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan and a treasury official for the first President Bush: The instinct President Bush is “always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do. He truly believes he’s on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence. But you can’t run the world on faith.”

Give me a break. George W. is a politician not a saint. He climbed the ladder of power through political machinations not religious ones. I’ve seen a tzaddik. Bush is no tzaddik. Yet, ironically, many in the media have turned Bush into a man of absolute faith, and Kerry into a man of reason.

Ironically, many in the media have turned Bush into a man of absolute faith, and Kerry into a man of reason.

Once the liberal press painted the picture in this radical fashion, pitting the election as one for or against G-d, the people of faith in this country came out in-masse to vote for faith.

Not that Mr. Bush is necessarily a man of G-d. Frankly, I find it quite hilarious that the left have made Bush into a Divine man. Why Bush earned that right, only G-d knows. But he has. And that is to his credit. Perhaps it is due to his faith.

But the issue here is not about President Bush. It’s about faith. This country is fundamentally built on the principle etched into our currency: In G-d we Trust. And that’s what this election was ultimately about.

I am cynical enough to not believe in the personalities and personality cults created around candidates. In this mass media, “sound-bite” era, you can only feel sad at the way politicians are marketed, how the campaigns are geared to manipulate our impressions, not much different than the marketing of, say, toothpaste. So, one can hardly expect to know what candidates truly stand for.

Americans in particular like to root for heroes – in sports, in entertainment, and why not in politics. People therefore forge personal allegiances to the candidates, projecting upon them their own lives, just as they may fantasize about movie stars. Heroes and villains are easily created, and then perpetuated. For some Bush is almost like a Nazi. For others Bush is the hero and Kerry the selfish liberal. Frankly, all marketing clichés. Don’t buy into all the messages sold to us through multi-million dollar PR campaigns.

On a serious note, however, getting beyond the cheers and the cries following the election results, I for one am not taking a stand – pro-Bush or pro-Kerry. They both have their flaws. This article is not meant to support or criticize the President. It’s meant to address a larger issue that has emerged.

What will go down in history, long after Bush and Kerry are forgotten, is the consensus. Close to 60 million people made a statement that they want G-d in their lives.

By no means does this suggest, that the other 55 million voters voted against faith and G-d; everyone has their right to believe (or not believe) as they see fit. And undoubtedly many people of faith voted against Bush for good reasons. Indeed, some may even have seen in Kerry a deeper commitment to religious freedom. A vote for Bush does not mean a vote for G-d (as Carl Rove would want us to believe). The point here is to understand what compelled so many to come out and vote for Bush, even if they disagree with him and his policies.

When America is challenged, when it is under duress and in crisis, it gravitates to its roots: That we are here because of Divine providence; that all men are created equal, which guarantees us unalienable rights. Take away G-d, and you take away the unalienable rights. Because “rights” on their own are alienable, subjective and arbitrary. And that’s what the election was ultimately about.

The attacks on Mr. Bush’s faith forced the American public to respond. It’s quite amazing to hear that a majority in the state of Ohio chose to overlook the loss of thousands of their jobs, and instead voted on the grounds of moral values and character. What does that tell you?

It will be fascinating to see how the New York Times will cover this. Don’t be at all surprised to hear how some, in their ongoing contempt, will continue to dismiss the morality issue and argue that people were basically hoodwinked; or that the war in Iraq caused people to support the incumbent; or some other excuse how the public was manipulated to elect Mr. Bush.

All you have to do is read Gary Wills article, The Day the Enlightenment Went Out, in the Times of November 4th. He attributes Bush’s victory to the brilliance of Carl Rove. Rove “calculated that the religious conservatives, if they could be turned out, would be the deciding factor. Mr. Rove understands what surveys have shown, that many more Americans believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

He goes on to explain that America, with its “fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity” resembles Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Sunni loyalists more than it does the European countries. And that’s why “the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.”

Based on this logic, of course, the majority of Americans elected Mr. Bush because they are narrow-minded fundamentalists, who have extinguished the “enlightenment.”

Some liberals will never concede the possibility that people authentically believe in G-d, and that this faith may have profound merit.

Interestingly, it’s these liberals that forced people to suddenly confront the issue of G-d – as if Bush was G-d’s representative, and the other side was not. Bigggg mistake. Had they not been so vehement and contemptuous they may have had a victory…

And what about the power of a majority – one of the cornerstones of a democracy?

I have a friend who was waxing eloquent about the beauty of democracy. Confident in Kerry’s victory, he was lauding the strength and virtue of majority rule. “It’s the people – the majority of the people – that ultimately decides. Numbers never lie.”  After Kerry’s loss by close to 4 million of the popular vote, this friend tells me in a deriding tone: “What can we do about the fact that America has been taken hostage by the narrow minded “religious right,” and Bush’s campaign has brainwashed the South and the Midwest?”…

What happened to the power of majority? Is the majority only right when they agree with YOU?!

I can’t but help wonder whether the liberal movement today is just an outgrowth of the French Enlightenment’s disdain for “la canaille” [the rabble], a phrase used to denigrate the masses.

“As for the canaille,” Voltaire told d’Alembert, “I have no concern with it; it will always remain canaille.” And it would remain canaille because it was uneducable. The people would never have “the time and the capacity to instruct themselves; they will die of hunger before they become philosophers…. We have never pretended to enlighten shoemakers and servants; that is the job of the apostles.”

Close to 60 million people made a statement that they want G-d in their lives.

The thinkers of the Parisian Enlightenment felt that the people could not be educated because they could not be enlightened; and they could not be enlightened because they were incapable of the kind of reason that the philosophes took to be the essence of enlightenment. They were mired instead in the prejudices, superstitions, and irrationalities of religion. This was the great enemy – l’infâme. Religion, Voltaire wrote to Diderot, “must be destroyed among respectable people and left to the canaille large and small, for whom it was made.” Diderot agreed. The poor were “imbeciles” in matters of religion, “too idiotic – bestial – too miserable, and too busy” to enlighten themselves. They would never change: “The quantity of the canaille is just about always the same.”

Diderot made it clear that “the general mass of mankind can neither follow nor comprehend this march of the human spirit.” “We must reason about all things because man is not just an animal but an animal who reasons; … whoever refuses to search for that truth renounces the very nature of man and should be treated by the rest of his species as a wild beast; and once the truth has been discovered, whoever refuses to accept it is either insane or wicked and morally evil.” Diderot believed that we must distrust the judgment of the “multitude” in matters of reason and philosophy because “its voice is that of wickedness, stupidity, inhumanity, unreason and prejudice.” “The multitude,” he concluded, is “ignorant and stupefied.”

Is this obnoxious elitism the root of today’s liberal paternalism and the welfare state, as Gertrude Himmelfarb argues in a new book, The Roads to Modernity?

After reading and hearing the passionate arguments being made against the faith-based presidency of Mr. Bush, you wonder who is more fundamentalist: the faithful or the men of “reason”? Edward Gibbon, the 18th century British historian (far from an orthodox religious believer) jibed against those French thinkers who “preached the tenets of atheism with the bigotry of dogmatists.”

In another article (The Idea of Compassion: The British vs. the French Enlightenment) Himmelfarb quotes Tocqueville, who was speaking of the French revolutionaries – but he might have been of the philosophes – when he said that their “salient characteristic” was a loss of faith that upset their “mental equilibrium.” They adored the human intellect and had supreme confidence in its power to transform laws, institutions, and customs. But the intellect they adored was only their own. “I could mention several,” Tocqueville sardonically observed, “who despised the public almost as heartily as they despised the Deity.” This was very different, he added, from the respect shown by Englishmen and Americans for the opinions of the majority of their countrymen. “Their intellect is proud and self-reliant, but never insolent; and it has led to liberty, while ours has done little but invent new forms of servitude.”

Have some Americans regressed to the French form of so-called “enlightenment”?

Truth be told, I have both a skeptic and believer inside of me. But just as I don’t allow the believer to silence the skeptic, I also don’t allow the skeptic to invalidate the believer. That would be driven neither by reason, skepticism or faith; it would be plain dishonest.

One can fully understand the paranoia and fear of a religious right taking control and dogmatically imposing their religious positions. After all, over the last two millennia hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in the name of religion. The intolerance, tyranny and oppression of the church, ruling with absolute authority had created a “religious fatigue,” which, coupled with the advancements in open-minded reason and science, finally came to a climax with the “enlightenment” and the powerful rebellion against religion and religious authority (at least in its formal form).

And today we don’t need any historical reminders of the destruction wreaked in the name of religion. Fundamentalist Muslims have waged bloody war against the infidels of the West – essentially a replay of the Christian Crusades of the first millennium.

In light of all this, the resistance to religious control by government is quite understandable. Indeed, the powerful fear is in direct proportion to the intensity of church control and the millions of gallons of blood shed in the name of religion for so many years. After being so severely burned by corruption and abuse, there exists, for good reason, a deep embedded suspicion of any governmental authority advocating religious beliefs.

Thus, the severe reaction to President Bush and his faith based initiatives.

However, we must never allow our own fears (even legitimate ones) to cloud our vision. Abuse has the power to cause us to “throw out the baby with the bathwater,” and run away even from healthy experiences. How many people avoid committed relationships because they have been hurt by loved ones?

The true challenge is to know how to embrace the power of faith – even after we experienced its abuse – and distinguish between healthy faith and unhealthy faith.

The Founding Fathers were all too aware of religious abuse. Hence, the separation of Church and State. Yet, their brilliance was the realization that they cannot allow years of abuse to distort mans’ healthy beliefs. Thus, the same framers of the constitutional separation between religion and government, also began the Declaration of Independence with the words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The nation’s founders understood that without a Creator who created us all equally, “unalienable rights” are no guarantee. Many monrachs, for instance, believed that they were chosen  by G-d and were superior to the common man. Ironically, so did the elitist French Enlightenment.

Another reason many fear faith and G-d – in addition to centuries of religious tyranny – is due to a lack of understanding what true and healthy faith is all about (and this too, is a result of the distortions created by centuries of faith abuse). True faith is not merely the absence of reason. It is an inherent human faculty, part of the “Divine Image” in which we were all created, that complements reason, and allows us to reach places that we could never reach with pure logic alone. Faith is what gives humans: the courage and the commitment to love (something reason alone could never sanction); the power to discover; the ability to hope; the capacity to overcome impossible odds; the belief in yourself and in others.

I submit that this is what Americans voted for on Election Day 2004: A vote for G-d in our lives. A G-d that we no longer have to fear. After years of religious exploitation, we have matured to the point where we can embrace the virtues and beauties of the sacred, and integrate it into secular life.

This may the challenge of our times: To revisit faith after its misuse and abuse for so long, and reclaim it as a critical and most powerful tool in our lives.

G-d works in strange ways. Not the people of faith but those that fear faith were the ones that made faith such an issue in America today. With the intention of mocking President Bush’s “simplistic faith” they inadvertently deified him and turned him into a (false) saint. In effect, unwittingly they crystallized an issue that otherwise would perhaps not been quite noticed, and provoked million of people of faith to come out and cast a vote against the bigotry and dogma of non-believers.

Americans are a very tolerant people. They will tolerate flag-burners and atheists. They believe in freedom of religion, that every individual can choose to worship or not worship any deity one wishes. Separation of church and state – a wall between organized religion and political authority – is a must. No organized religion can rule the country. But Americans will not tolerate intolerant skeptics: Freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. “In G-d we Trust” – a non-denominational universal G-d – is the driving force behind all our freedoms and liberties.

Ironically, faith in a Creator and in the edict that “all men  [perhaps it should be amended to “humans”] are created equal” with “unalienable rights” is the reason that we must respect the choice of a non-believer. I wonder if the French Enlightenment would have returned us that favor with equal passion? Would they have honored the right and dignity of each individual to choose faith, even if it seemed to them as inferior canaille?

Be careful what you don’t believe in. Your passion against faith may end up stoking its flames. Your vehement doubts may give birth to the deepest faith of all.

Which atheist was it that said: “I hate you G-d, just as if you had existed.”

A take off on Voltaire: If G-d existed, you would need people who denied His existence. That denial can be as strong as faith itself, and perhaps it is just another manifestation of faith.

So, democrats and republicans, skeptics and believers, secularists and the religious, Europeans and Asians, Christians and Muslims: Whether you like it or not – America has spoken:

Faith, moral values and G-d are the most important priorities in our lives.

This is President Bush’s mandate.

Now let us work on integrating faith and reason.

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Robin Blumenthal
16 years ago

Amen and Amen, Simon. Thank you for having the courage to say what many of us (particularly those part of the media establishment) have felt for a long time. Good Shabbos!

Marian Bauer
16 years ago

Thank you for revealing your vote for the President. I too, proudly, voted for the President for I saw him as a man of honor and courage to stand up for the principles that I hold so dear. Of course, there were many times when my friends who were Kerry supporters who say” Don’t you want a future for your grandchildren?” To which I always retorted, “That’s why I am voting for George Bush.” Your e-mail today reconfirms my convictions. Your emails serve to be a” guiding light.”

Roberta Arnold
16 years ago

Dear Simon,
I just sent you the new map of the United States. Where was your sense of history. Where was your sense of wisdom to vote for them!! They are as dangerous as the Nazis were in the 1930’s in Germany. The dangerous part about Bush is he thinks that G-d is telling him what to do! And, everything he has done since he stopped drinking alcohol and blowing coke has been a total failure. My friends in Europe have asked if “if the American people are really that STUPID”.
You will pay for this in Social Security. Your children will pay because there won’t be any social security for them and their taxes will be outrageous. Didn’t you realize that he and the Christian Right have killed the Age of Enlightenment! This wasn’t an election about G-d or not believing in G-d this was about a man and his crew who are willing to talk about it but don’t do the walk. This wasn’t about Politics as you explain it. It was about a subjective idea of what YOU would think about believers and non-believers. That is not the way a great country runs it’s business.
This country was supposed to be about division of Church and State. Well all you subjectivists have killed that idea. It was what kept US AS JEWS SAFE in this country. Talk to me again about your vote in 2 years when he ruins what policies and lost whatever friends we have left in this little planet.
I know a lot of people who thought as you did and voted as you did. They are Jewish and they are supposed to be able to think, evaluate from past history and be educated, objective human beings. Watch yourself Simon. Watch what happens to the Christian Right and the Jews from now on. Watch how they give to the new Russians in Israel so they can move in to convert them. Watch how your freedoms will be taken away little by little, just like they were in Germany and Austria in the 1930’& 40’s. Be careful. The smart Jews were able to see it coming then and they lived to tell the story.
John Kerry is a statesman. A fine, intelligent, man who knows how to serve in Government and with his family. He was never arrested for drunk driving. He never blew coke. His grandfather was a Jew! I voted for him because he is a rational man who isn’t ruled by his ego and failures.
I have one more observation to make to you regarding your vote for Bush and it is this. What they have done by voting him into office again is exactly what the Muslim Fundamentalists are doing. They are going to build an Anti-Terrorist network that is the identical to Muslim Fundamentalism, called Christian Fundamentalism. Gandhi said it would not work. He points to the road of least resistance which is PEACE NOT WAR. It’s the same cry we had in the 1960’s & 70’s. That’s what a vote for BUSH was really about. Blood for oil. I hope your children don’t get drafted next year or the year after or the year after, cause that’s what is going to happen. He will win no matter what he has to do because his higher power is guiding him. Does that sound like a rational thinker or a kook who believes in his faith? I ask you.
Shabbat Shalom,
Roberta Arnold

Roberta adds:
This country is sacred and blessed to me. My family came here to Boston in the 1880’s. We as Jews are part of the minority here and need to align ourselves with all the other minority’s. Asians, African Americans, Indians, Central & S. Americans. Forget the Christian White Right so we can continue to worship and thrive here in a Democracy and with respect from our neighbors.

Thank you, Roberta

Susan
16 years ago

Rabbi Jacobson,
I’ve only read your first 3 lines so far, but just want to say that you’re the first person I’ve “heard” say exactly what I’ve been saying — “I didn’t really vote FOR Bush, I voted against all the liberals in this country who totally don’t get it.” In fact, I was super open-minded about Kerry until the last week, he simply never gave me the confidence to vote for him and I was not going to vote for him just to vote against someone else. On the other hand, I was quite happy to vote “against” a lot of the supposedly open-minded people in NY who are anything, anything BUT.
Thanks for writing this piece, by the way. I keep hearing people — Jews unfortunately, very much included — talk about how scary this country is becoming. How people are too “ignorant” to see it, that we’re becoming a Christian country (we weren’t?). No more separation of church and state. How the Christian right is taking over and going to take away all our rights. They have completely forgotten who, and how real, our enemy actually is. And these same people, who say that W has created a factory of hate in Iraq, have also forgotten that 9/11 happened before we invaded Iraq. And lastly, they fail to realize that they — the liberals who believe in all doing whatever we want, including walking around half naked, are themselves the ones that stand the most for everything Islamic fundamentalists are trying to destroy. They think singing kumbaya will bring piece, but fundamentalists don’t even believe in letting women speak up at all.
Ok, thanks for letting me vent…
Take care

Shabbat shalom
Susan, NY

Lucy Zammarelli
16 years ago

I regret that you feel the way you do; I think you are all wrong. I think you may be ignorant of the suffering the current administration has inflicted on individuals. Perhaps your life has benefited by the Bush policies, but many of our country’s most vulnerable, including impoverished families, the mentally ill, the addicted, and the traumatized, have been beaten down severely. You may be smug enough to proclaim your affiliation with pride, but to me it seems full of hubris. The damage is done, but the consequences will follow us for a long, long time. May G-D help the future generations who are the true recipients of today’s mistakes.

–Lucy Zammarelli

Simon responds:

Thank you for writing.

I fully empathize with anyone who has suffered under the Bush administration. And please don’t think that I support Bush’s policies to cut any people’s benefits. I made it clear in my article that I was not addressing the President’s policies. My issue was a larger one, but not one that should compromise any personal assistance that people need.

Frankly, I don’t know how different things would be if Kerry had won the election.

I have some more comments to make, and I will do so, perhaps in next week’s. But I am happy and I think it’s extremely productive to engage in this dialogue — even if we may disagree. We may even discover that we agree more than we think we do.

Thanks again for your meaningful words.

Best,
Simon Jacobson

Lucy responds:

Unfortunately, by electing G. W. Bush on a moral platform, you have also put your name on his policies. The policies are real, they are oppressive, and according to post election reports, they will be expanded, based on a “mandate” given by voters such as yourself. Also, I am surprised to find that your article so closely supports the Conservative Christian movement. I find that movement repressive and hurtful, extremely judgmental, arrogant and lacking in compassion. It is the complete opposite of the high spiritual development such as is needed to complete our mission in this world.

David Klinghoffer
16 years ago

Rabbi, excellent! What a wonderful article, I hope it gets wide circulation.

I’d also add that it’s refreshing to hear a Jewish Bush-supporter give a reason for voting for the President having to do with something other than Israel! There is so much more to the election than that.

Good Shabbos.

Lorrie Kazan
16 years ago

This is really hard to read. As a spiritual person, who cares deeply about the environment, and intelligence, I was strongly for Kerry. I guess we can hook into this issue with whatever is our particular zeal. I don’t think anyone can deny what the Bush administration has done to the environment, and G-d knows what they are planning to do. It will take divine intervention, at this point, in order to protect the earth. I don’t relate to the issues the way you do. So, now that you have supported the idea of faith, how are we supposed to live with the rampant destruction of this administration and the erosion of our civil rights?

I know there is a higher justice than what I can see, but right now, I might just pray to see it.

Lorrie Kazan

Lorrie adds:

I understood that you were talking about the issue of not wanting to vote against faith in G-d, but you also understand that Bush’s faith is another matter. It would have been vastly different for the environment had Kerry been elected. What the Bush administration has done is reprehensible, and what it has done to our credibility in the world.

I don’t think it’s about all the articles and things that people made out of it, God-Not God, but about supporting faith in a saner, safer world. I think the time for this discussion was truly before the election. Now that people have supported Bush’s private mandate with God, how much money do we need to give to the NRDC, the Sierra Club, etc, in order to preserve the integrity of the land?

Obviously, I’m still grieving about this and do not see it the way you do. Blessings, Lorrie

David Segal
16 years ago

I really enjoyed this article and agree, as I voted the same way.

Best regards,

David Segal

Benny
16 years ago

Simon:

Excellent!! Your best article yet!

David Sher
16 years ago

Simon,

I read with great interest your article entitled America Speaks. Frankly I was very surprised by it because I have usually found your logic to be impeccable. This is absolutely not the case here. I agree with some of your premise, which is that God is an indispensable part of the structure of our society; that God was clearly part of the framers thinking when the constitution was written. I also agree with you that in electing Mr. Bush, the country displayed a yearning for a more moral society based upon respect for time honored traditions, a love of God and a desire to return to a time when Porn was not rampant on the internet; television was not pandering to the worst impulses of human kind; and there was a respect for faith and fidelity.

So those were the premises. What I disagree with emphatically, is that George Bush is the man to deliver those things. George Bush is a flim flam man whose faith is based not upon a love and respect for other human beings, but upon a cynical strategy designed to limit personal freedom and increase the control of his crowd. I was struck by the fact that in an interview with Laura Bush, she mentioned offhand that she and George often read together “the Grand Inquisitor” from the Brothers Karamazov. I probably don’t need to detail what it was about, but if you think about it, it is precisely what George Bush is doing and has done. He has used the trappings of faith, to advance a selfish agenda of power to the wealthy. It is pure exploitation that is based upon ignorance, intolerance of opposing views, and simplistic divisive slogans without nuance or charity. This is not what the framers had in mind and is exactly what people who truly believe in God are supposed to struggle against. In “the Grand Inquisitor” Jesus comes back to earth during the time of the inquisition and the Grand Inquisitor states that in order to maintain the religion as a structure, Jesus must be executed as a heretic. Lets not make any bones about it. This is not about a compassionate faith, it is about a triumphalist view of Jesus, where everybody must choose Jesus over other religions. It is not friendly to Jewish faith, or indeed a pluralistic democracy, it is about “my religion is better than yours”. I cannot believe that you don’t see this. What has always struck me about the difference between Liberals and Conservatives in this country (labels which you used, but which are ABSOLUTELY not helpful) is that so-called Liberals are afraid of mentioning God, but in fact care about people and try and find ways of ameliorating their conditions…i.e. They are more Godlike. Conservatives in this country talk about God, but don’t care about people that can’t keep up such as the poor. They have a view of the world that is Darwinist, without believing in Darwin! Survival of the fittest, market competition, the poor get trampled and pushed into a permanent underclass and that’s the way its supposed to be.

The last part of your essay that I wish to address is the big lie that you fell for. It is in fact, the crux of the whole matter in microcosm. You use the phrase Liberal Media establishment. Such an establishment, if it ever existed does not exist today. Conservatives in vast conglomerates control the media today in this country. All of the major television networks, radio stations and newspapers, with a couple of notable exceptions are owned by conservative people with conservative national political agendas. Ironically, these are the people that sell sex, pander to the worst impulses of humanity and degrade people…all for a buck. People like Rupert Murdoch then use the vast sums of ill-gotten money to fund conservative candidates who spout triumphalist religious agendas. Don’t you see? It’s “the Grand Inquisitor” in a nutshell. Exploiting religion is the means to power and keeping people uneducated, poor and under someone’s boot. Whether the religion actually is about loving your fellow man and respecting them (even if they have sinned great sins) is irrelevant. Self-righteous piety is what you voted for, not faith.

I have great sympathy for the people out in the heartland that were fooled. While being major consumers of our fast food, exploitative culture, they are generally increasingly poor people looking for answers as to why hope has left our country. Thus someone who claims to believe is the plank that they can hang on to in a stormy sea. Conversely, I have very little sympathy for you, a person who is intelligent enough to know better.

David Sher

Anonymous responds:

I’d like to respond some comments made by David Sher, who wrote the following: “What has always struck me about the difference between Liberals and Conservatives in this country (labels which you used, but which are ABSOLUTELY not helpful) is that so-called Liberals are afraid of mentioning God, but in fact care about people and try and find ways of ameliorating their conditions…i.e. They are more Godlike. Conservatives in this country talk about God, but don’t care about people that can’t keep up such as the poor.

David –
Conservatives absolutely believe in helping the poor, but they don’t believe that it should be done by giving hand outs. They believe in the highest form of charity: in helping people help themselves. They believe that the best way to help the poor is to help them get jobs; to help them stand on their own two feet so that they, too, can contribute to society.

They also believe in the “Trickle-Down Theory”, which states (in short) that giving tax cuts to the rich benefits society because instead of the tax money going into government coffers, it is invested in business, and thus stimulates the economy and helps to provide jobs for all classes of society. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trickle-down_theory)

So you can see that two common beliefs about conservatives – that they don’t care about the poor, and that they selfishly believe in tax cuts for the rich – are really misconceptions. Conservatives are not the uncaring, selfish people you make them out to be. They just believe in helping the “underdog” in a manner different than liberals.

P.S. I tried to keep my explanations brief, so I encourage you to click on the link that I provided in order to more fully understand the trickle-down theory.

Simon responds to David:

Thanks for your meaningful words.

Briefly, let me ask you: Do you think that Kerry’s campaign was not driven with a well financed “cynical PR campaign”? Perhaps you are buying into another form of rhetoric, financed by the wealthy Kerry PR machine? I mean, we can go on in a vicious cycle that we are being brainwashed by the media machines of both parties. Frankly, as I made it abundantly clear in my article, I think little of both of them and don’t trust either of them. I am too cynical to take any of their campaigns seriously. see the battle for President as driven by political, financial and ego-centric forces, not by visionary or spiritual ones. The true visionaries aren’t running for election.

So we have to do the best with what we have. And since the election posed an opportunity to reveal the need for faith in this country, I felt responsible to do so.

Please reread my article in this spirit, and tell me what you think. And of course, share all this with your son.

I have some more comments to make, and I will do so, perhaps in next week’s article. But I am happy and I think it’s extremely productive to engage in this dialogue — even if we may disagree. We may even discover that we agree more than we think we do.

Simon Jacobson

David responds:

Perhaps my response was a knee jerk response of a person who was deeply frustrated with the election and its outcome. I was frustrated by the fact that it appeared to be about one thing…faith, but was in fact about something else which I say is a cynical bid for power. Yes, you can say that John Kerry was funded by the rich and powerful, but I honestly don’t believe that his campaign was based solely upon cynicism. I think he believes in his view of the issues in a way that is every bit informed by faith as George Bush, but without the appeal to a certain type of faith i.e. Evangelical Christians.

You may certainly post my viewpoint and hopefully we can do what the entire nation needs to do, which is in effect to heal the fractures that have made the election more about polarizing differences than about the issues that are confronting our country. I believe that we agree upon one thing at least, which is that the greatness of the United States Constitution and our founding credo is based upon God…not one persons vision of God, but God as a being above man. I do not think that you can have an American Democracy without reference to God. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights”. In other words, rights are not granted to man by kings or by aristocrats, rights are granted by something above man. It is only in this way that fundamental rights to life and liberty are unassailable and unchangeable by the strong with reference to the weak.

I also think we agree that rights come with responsibilities. It is hypocrisy to say “God gave me these rights” but then act as if God didn’t exist. As such, society has a duty and a responsibility to create laws that reflect values. I was watching “A Clockwork Orange” the other day on cable television and was surprised to find out that when it originally came out, it was rated X. I think society has the right to create laws that place generally held values, ethics and morals into our system of justice. It is not censorship for society to try and protect its citizens from things that are harmful (such as excessive violence in the movies or on TV). That is my thesis (although my own personal execution of the thesis is often lacking).

Where I think we might disagree is upon the application of a particular faith to advance values. What I mean is that for a faith based approach, on a specific point of faith, there is no room for discussion. If one believes for example, that life begins at conception, there is no room for an opposing viewpoint. This is an anathema to a democratic society. Those generally held values that become ensconced in law must then be of the inclusive kind…the kind that says that our system of rights granted by God can only be fully realized when people understand and act as if God is not a specific thing…God is instead a vision of the way things should be, but not any particular vision. We can debate the boundaries of that vision, but not the vision itself.

David Sher

Shmuel Goldsmith
16 years ago

A lead of 51% to 48% isn’t a “consensus.” The re-election of Bush isn’t “America” speaking; it’s a bit more than half of America speaking. The rest of America was saying that they’d prefer a leader who may not be as certain in his faith, but whose values lead him to care about the poor and the disadvantaged, the ordinary working man and woman, and the state of the economy and the environment that we will bequeath to our children and grandchildren.

Here’s something else to remember: Historically, the Left has brought us — the Jewish people — repression of our religion, the occasional purge, and mindless support of the Palestinians. The Right brought us the Holocaust. The Left may have given us Pharaoh, but the Right gave us Haman.

I have heard some of my fellow Lubavitchers express the belief that we have to side with Bush because the Alter Rebbe sided with the Czar over Napoleon. And you know what? In the end, that’s the best argument I’ve heard yet for voting for Bush. It’s just that Kerry isn’t Napoleon, and Bush isn’t the Czar. Another four years of control by Republicans, the party of the poritzes and the peasants? No, thank you. I’m a Jew.
Shmuel Goldsmith, Chicago

P.S. I recently heard a poll result to the effect that 17% of Americans — roughly one in six — believe that the world will end in their lifetime. Not that there will be a huge war, say, or a nuclear terrorist attack, but that the world will end. I can’t help but wonder how they voted . . .

Benjamin Gruder
16 years ago

Dear Rabbi Jacobson,

I wonder whether the politically conservative ‘wing’ of Judaism has a part to play in de-polarizing the religious landscape in the US? Here’s an example. When Kerry said in one of the debates that he voted against the ban on “partial birth abortion”, he invoked a Jewish value of saving the life of the mother (his brother is a Jewish convert). Where are the Jews on the Right loudly proclaiming that there is an actual religious belief that fetuses are not on the same level as born human beings? This is not a secular anti G-d position. Yet most of religious America has no idea that a religious person could believe that. So religion gets boxed into a policy statement that co-opts G-d and dishonors the variety of religious belief, even the variety contained in monotheism.

Eilu v’eilu. Where is that in public discourse? There is an opportunity for the Right in Judaism to help resurrect that important principle. They have the President’s ear.

Again, as an example, they could do their part to counter the idea that the only strictly religious response to abortion is to want to eventually outlaw it altogether. There is the perception out in the country that anything other than a ban on all abortion is humanism, ‘reason’ or ‘compromise’. It would take a certain public courage, a willingness to rock the boat and highlight a split between Right Jewry and the evangelical Christian world (our allies re Israel). Nevertheless, there is a choice being made not to speak.

While I think you are correct that some on the Left have spoken in a way that does not truly honor belief in G-d, I would submit to you that is often a (admittedly clumsy) reaction to the Right having consistently, loudly and demagogically equated a belief in G-d with political positions against, among other things, gay marriage and flag burning, and for capital punishment, tax cuts and war in Iraq. You’ve heard the phrase “G-d is a Republican”. A lot of Jewish folk decide which of the 613 are the really important ones and declare everyone else not measuring up. You have not. But that mindset has a lot of religious people (Jewish, Christian and, dangerously, Muslim) indulging in spiritual arrogance. “I keep the Sabbath but cheat in business”. “I go to church but since there will always be poor among us, there’s not point in helping them.” “I pray 5 times a day but it’s ok to indulge in killing innocents in Allah’s name”.

You take pains to say you are not against Kerry per se, but I feel the need to add something. I see no reason not to take him at his word that he is a practicing Catholic and that he believes in family values as much as the many bible thumpers I met in Memphis who in the name of (egotistical) ‘love’ insisted on trying to convert me to Christianity. Same thing with Gary Wills. He’s not an atheist. He’s a Catholic speaking in dissent about extremes he sees in his own community.

I have had occasion to talk with observant, anti-NY times Zionist Jews (one of whom is making Aliyah) who are horrified at what they see as Bush’s misuse of belief in G-d. They wonder if he has confused G-d with himself. Religion in this country has taken on a peculiarly partisan tone with those on the right insisting that those on the left are against G-d. It is true that there are those on the left are not strong enough to contradict it or, perhaps do not have access the ‘liberal media’. This contributes to the exclusion of the left on religious issues. These days, to be on the left and express religiosity is a moderate thing to do. The extreme always initially has more brute power behind their speech. That’s why Nixon spoke of the silent majority. Rush Limbaugh once said “Be on the right or the left. If you’re in the middle you get run over”.

Is it possible for someone to speak from the middle, acknowledging the idea that those on the left can also be profoundly religious? (and also have a share in the world to come 🙂 )

Sincerely,

Benjamin Gruder

Anonymous
16 years ago

Rabbi Jacobson

Your article was thought provoking. Many people will agree with your thesis that those who voted for Kerry voted against faith. Unfortunately, our world has been taken over by the media. We are fed “sound bites” and “spin”. Many of us believe what we hear and read in the media, before doing our own research. In a perfect world, before the next election, someone will figure out how to solve this problem.

By the way, I HEARD Mr. Kerry say, when asked about his faith during a debate, that he had very strong beliefs but did not feel it was his right to impose his beliefs on others. Especially, since he is a Catholic, he did not want to impose the beliefs of the Church on those of us who did not believe in his church.

Respectfully,
Anonymous

Bob Finkelstein
16 years ago

I disagree with several points in your take on the election.

I don’t believe that 100 percent of the people who voted for George Bush did it because they were upset that the democrats were attacking his faith. I have spoken with lifetime Republicans who said that they were uncomfortable with George Bush and remain scared for the future of the country but who just couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Kerry because they weren’t sure where he stood on many of the issues because his speeches and his record did not jibe.

If you look at the exit polls only 20 percent of those who voted for Bush said it was for “moral value” reasons. While that may have been enough to put him over the top, it certainly was not 100 percent of his voters.

Secondly, the dollar may read “in g-d we trust” but the framers of the constitution were clear to see the value of separating church and state. It is beyond my comprehension how with so many things that Bush has apparently mishandled that a voter could put moral values in front of issues such as the war on terrorism, Iraq and the handling of the economy.

I look at it this way. If I was running a business and I had an employee who performed like George Bush I wouldn’t care how good a family man he was, or what religion he was, the fact is that his performance on the job was inept. We are not electing a religious leader as President (although I fear we have), we are electing a man or woman to lead the country in a dangerous world that is filled with difficult challenges. And yes, I would feel much more comfortable with a man who showed himself competent at rational strategic analysis than one who turns to prayer and his g-d to show him the answer. I’d rather a man be a student of history than a student of g-d when it comes to dealing with the problems that this country faces. Although religion provides valuable lessons and can provide guidance, I don’t believe it is any substitute for history.

For many people, even those who voted for him, it is not clear that George Bush and his advisors are up to those challenges. Unfortunately, their “faith” in John Kerry wasn’t strong enough to encourage them to switch their votes.

These are other thoughts that I have as well for people who are despondent over the election, as many are. I submitted this to the Inquirer for publication, but if you thought that it would be helpful to include for comments as well you are welcome to…

While all the focus has been on the role that “moral values” has played in the recent election and how divided this country is, I think we voters — whether Republicans or Democrats — need to think about an important point as this country moves forwards.

While divisions over moral issues certainly helped put George Bush over the top, my conversations with several Republicans have led me to believe that many share much of the same concerns as Democrats over the direction President Bush has taken this country in over the past four years. We just disagreed over whether John Kerry would make things any better.

The country and President Bush certainly face a lot of difficult issues ahead, social security reform, spiraling health care costs, the deficit and the environment — just to name a few. And while President Bush has interpreted his recent victory as a mandate to continue to pursue an extremist agenda, it is my hunch that most Americans would prefer that he take a more moderate approach on several issues.

Because I think it is unlikely that his administration will temper its approach in a second term, I think it behooves we like-minded Republicans and Democrats to reach across the divide and find the places where we agree in order to take our country back. As hard as it will be, I think a sustained grassroots effort from the bottom up is the only way that we will be able to have our united voices heard and ensure that the government serves our interests.

Bob Finkelstein, Philadelphia

Uriela Sagiv
16 years ago

Dear Simon:

Just wanted to tell you that I thought “America Speaks” was brilliant. And so beautifully reasoned and documented.

Nothing short of superb.

Anonymous
16 years ago

I would have voted for President Bush too, if in USA, but not because I would have been voting against Mr. Kerry, but because of those who were against him for his continued support of Israel and fight against terrorism. ‘Those’ meaning, leftists extremists, Osama bin Laddan, EU under annan, and the supporters of terrorism.

Mr. Kerry is a nice man, I can tell by the way he treats his wife and daughters…and well done for him getting so far…I mean wow…running for president is a big thing…but something else was needed at this time…

Judith Bron
16 years ago

Your newsletter was brilliant but I want to disagree with you on one point. This country was set up on the philosophy of “freedom from religion” rather than “a separation of church and state” as it has been played out by those you refer to as “modernists”. What do I mean? The Governor of New York cannot pass a law that every citizen of his state must become a Baptist Christian. This is totally illegal. We have the freedom from being told which religion is correct and create hatred by stating which religion is wrong. The concept of a G-d in the world is compatible with our American society and Americans are to recognize the moral and ethical lessons contained in religion. In other words removing the Asaras Ha’Dibros from that courthouse was totally illegal.

Anonymous
16 years ago

Just a note to let you know how much I appreciated your article: AMERICA SPEAKS: Do not fear G-d.

Thank you so much for articulating the sadness and frustration “people of faith” feel from being judged by “liberals”.

The Bible says G-d is slow to anger—and because He takes so long to react to our “sin” (arrogance, pride, self-sufficiency, immorality, etc.) we think we’ve gotten away with things. However, I think the times they are a’changin’—G-d has finally been aroused.

After years and years of desperate, abusive slavery in Egypt, a point was finally reached where G-d heard the cries of His people and delivered them. I believe we have come to a place in history where G-d is hearing our cries once again. Baruch HaShem!

After King Saul, Israel got King David—a man after G-d’s own heart, then King Solomon—who presided over the most powerful, influential, wealthiest nation on the planet at that time. People came from the ends of the earth to hear Solomon’s wisdom.

I am already praying and crying out for our NEXT president. G-d please give us a leader full of wisdom with a humble heart after You, a person who will deal with Your Land of Israel today the way the other nations dealt with Israel during the time of King Solomon. Amen!

G-d Bless you and Keep you,

-A “faithful” reader

Jeffrey Rubin
16 years ago

Dear Rabbi: I am always interested in your thoughts about life and the importance and meaning of interpretations of Jewish law. But when you emphasize faith as reason to vote for a candidate.

The NY Times article on Bush was an eye opener which showed that he is not a person who should hold the highest office in the land with life and death powers. Faith in G-d does not equate with an ability to make well thought out decisions which are based on facts and rationale. Bush is a danger to all men, especially Jews. He believes his G-d is the true G-d, not the Jewish G-d and certainly not the Muslim G-d. He doesn’t believe in the Shema. He is an oligarch who rejects the needs of those who are less fortunate than he and has gained the radical religious right wing of this country as his allies. Any time you have a right wing element so devoted to a leader you have the makings and beginnings of a dangerous wave of anti-Semitism. For any Jew to vote for the radical right wing of a Christian society means they are not aware of the danger and are not well versed in the history of our people. Thank G-d that 74% of the Jews in this country voiced opposition to this man by voting against him and his racist, narrow minded, repressive policies. There is no excuse for your vote.

You have obviously not paid attention to the manner in which the Republican Party has been attempting and succeeding in placing their brethren on the courts, disregarding the dictates of the Constitution, repressing opposition and creating prison situations which have been compared to concentration camps. The election had nothing to do with voting against faith. It had to do with voting to keep faith with the American ideal. You have completely missed the point.

Jeffrey Rubin

Jeffrey adds:

Dear Rabbi: In rereading my response to your article, I admit that in the heat of my great disappointment in the Bush election victory, I should not have said certain things to you which can be construed as a personal attack. I regret these statements and would like you to know that I have a great deal of fondness for you personally and respect for your views. There is no place in public discourse for personal vitriol. Thank you.

Jeffrey Rubin

Simon responds:

Thank you for your kind words.

From my end I realize that regardless of my intentions, certain ideas, positions and even phrases will infuriate and alienate people. One woman wrote to me that the mere fact that I mentioned that I voted for Bush made her so angry; she could no longer objectively read what I wrote. She later apologized, and actually thought that my article had “extremely important” things to say to her.

I guess that I have a certain childish naivet�, perhaps it’s an idealism I don’t want to let go of, that people are open and we can basically communicate if the words come from the heart (which then enter the heart). I actually weighed the option of not mentioning my personal vote (for Bush), and just discuss the issue of faith. But I decided to be more personal, feeling that people reading my weekly e-mails had some (if not much) trust in me and would give me the benefit of the doubt and listen to my arguments. To some people’s credit, that is exactly what happened; but quite a few simply could not get over it. Funny, but I still feel that I can get through to them. And I will do everything to try.

I believe that confrontations that provoke profound disagreements are an excellent opportunity to create BETTER understanding between people who care about each other. Problem is most people retreat when confronted and criticized, and I for one WILL NOT, and will welcome everyone into this conversation.

Best,

Simon J.

Daniel Singer
16 years ago

Hi Simon.

You wrote:

“Faith, moral values and G-d are the most important priorities in our lives. This is President Bush�s mandate. Now let us work on integrating faith and reason.”

“No organized religion can rule the country.”

In my opinion, you miss a significant point. You say: “No organized religion can rule the country.” Wanna bet! Bush’s faith is informed by highly specific assumptions of the “Left Behind” series of novels concerning the certainty and literalness of Christian mythology around the Christian Rapture idea. Pre-sales, before even in bookstores for the last one alone, began at almost. 2 million copies! Don’t be fooled. Your faith may not be someone else’s faith.

Many of the world’s leaders claim “faith” and some of them are profoundly tyrannical and hate Israel and Jews. Osama believes in HIS faith. But what IS it? Are you then advocating for faith BEFORE reason? First, faith without reason (hurtful, hateful, insensitive and problematic for life); and THEN, over the course of time, maybe reason will slip in? We ain’t got the time or the lives to sacrifice, my dear brother. Nor will the planet endure.

I am surprised you have felt comfortable embracing the current style of simplistic reduction of the word “liberal” and the notion of “liberalism”. You even go through an elegant conflation of “liberalism” and French elitism. My mother, of blessed memory, left this earth with scars on her leg bones from being beaten up by policemen on horses as a young women, demanding “unemployment insurance.” Later, she helped to end nuclear testing to keep strontium-90 out of the food chain. She was, if you’ll pardon the expression, a “liberal. Was my mother displaying the contemptuousness for the masses that you demonstrate by quoting Voltaire?

I am aware that you speak of ” ‘some’ liberals” to cover yourself when you are making critical points, but the thrust of your argument is label based and generic. It fails to meet the call of complexity in an increasingly “dumbed-down” conversation in a painful world circumstance. . Further, it sets up the “them” vs. “us” paradigm. Liberals vs. People of faith. Assumptions about any group and “some of them” are the hallmarks of mentation that ultimately comes back to haunt us all. As Jews, we should know better. I note that you have anger over the demonization of Bush. Well, then I urge you to investigate your own language of demonization, softly and sweetly though you do it in your post.

The next time you hear of someone receiving unemployment insurance to support their family and are glad, thank God and also acknowledge “liberalism” for it’s creating that. And when someone is being helped in a hospital by Medicare or even Medicade, thank G-d and acknowledge the contribution of “liberalism”. And the next time, G-d forbide, you pay a shivah call to someone living in subsidized housing, thank G-d and acknowledge “liberalism”. And the next time you meet a marginalized person on the street who can read and was taught by public education, thank G-d and acknowledge “liberalism”. And the next time you pass a public library, thank “liberalism”. And the next time you see someone measuring the air-quality in your neighborhood, thank G-d and acknowledge “liberalism”. And the next time you meet some receiving social security because they are in a wheelchair, thank G-d and acknowledge “liberalism”. And the next time you see any social program that attempts to provide a safety-net for the fall-out from insular and institutionalized rapaciousness and greed, thank G-d, but acknowledge the contribution of “liberalism”. And the next time you hear another horror story about disease and industrial pollution and a “liberal” reporter trying to uncover the killing of people due to contemptuous dumping of carcinogens into G-d’s precious creation, thank G-d for the reporter, who is a “liberal”. Track him down, if you wish, and see if he might wish to study and learn Torah as well. But please don’t marginalize the essential thrust of political liberalism and relegate it automatically to a valueless materialism.

If you do believe that it is in the love of Hashem and the action of values wherein lies our collective tikkun, then I urge you not to feed unnecessary and unproductive polarization through marginalization and innuendo and demonization, no matter which “side” it comes from. Certainly, you tried to say everything you said with Rachmunus, but, frankly, as we used to say in the Bronx, it didn’t cut the mustard.

Human beings have common needs. Our strategies for meeting them sometimes differ. That is a beautiful place for us to meet and do a motzei together.

Blessings for a beautiful Shabbos!
Daniel Singer

Simon responds:

Thanks for your meaningful words which I read through carefully.

You are right in saying that I was dismissive of the “liberal” force and I overgeneralized and stereotyped. That was not my intention, and I will correct it in the future. I know that there are millions of liberals with deep faith, and many of them voted for Kerry. I for one deeply believe in many of the liberal principles that this country stands for, and that it critical to have a strong liberal voice, especially when it is needed to balance out the other extreme. An election like this — where 56 million vote for one candidate and 52 million for the other — is a healthy sign that we are not being polarized. Had Kerry won I would have said the same, and would not have been upset at all.

But I still believe, no matter who is elected, that G-d is a critical part of the picture, albeit a non-denominational one, not Bush’s G-d nor the G-d of the christian right or of any other group or individual.

I specifically stated that I am not endorsing Bush nor do I think that he is the man to advance the cause of faith. I addressed only the fact that due to the uproar of Bush’s opponents faith became the watershed of the election. It provoked many people to vote — even if their type of faith is not what we like. The ONE and ONLY point I was making in this week’s e-mail was the importance of faith in our lives. I was not advocating Mr. Bush’s type of faith, nor the faith of the Christian Right, nor the faith of any individual (everyone has the right to believe or not believe as they wish). If Bush or anyone were trying to impose their type of religion on others, I would vehemently oppose it.

In the spirit of your own words, you (and all of us) must be careful not to think that all statements made by “liberals” are correct and true. We must not buy into the other “liberal” rhetoric which perhaps has demonized Bush. If you do that, you also polarize the situation, and create an us vs. them mentality.

Best,

Simon Jacobson

Daniel adds (comments on Simon’s response)::

>>I will respond to your comments, and perhaps also in next week’s article. I think it’s extremely productive to engage in this dialogue. We may even discover that we agree more than we think we do.<>You are right in saying that I was dismissive of the “liberal” force and I over generalized and stereotyped. That was not my intention, and I will correct it in the future. I know that there are millions of liberals with deep faith, and many of them voted for Kerry. I for one deeply believe in many of the liberal principles that this country stands for, and that it critical to have a strong liberal voice, especially when it is needed to balance out the other extreme. An election like this — where 56 million vote for one candidate and 52 million for the other — is a healthy sign that we are not being polarized. Had Kerry won I would have said the same, and would not have been upset at all.<>But I still believe, no matter who is elected, that G-d is a critical part of the picture, albeit a non-denominational one, not Bush’s G-d nor the G-d of the Christian right or of any other group or individual.<>I specifically stated that I am not endorsing Bush nor do I think that he is the man to advance the cause of faith. I addressed only the fact that due to the uproar of Bush’s opponents faith became the watershed of the election. It provoked many people to vote — even if their type of faith is not what we like. The ONE and ONLY point I was making in this week’s e-mail was the importance of faith in our lives. I was not advocating Mr. Bush’s type of faith, nor the faith of the Christian Right, nor the faith of any individual (everyone has the right to believe or not believe as they wish). If Bush or anyone were trying to impose their type of religion on others, I would vehemently oppose it.<> In the spirit of your own words, you (and all of us) must be careful not to think that all statements made by “liberals” are correct and true. We must not buy into the other “liberal” rhetoric which perhaps has demonized Bush. If you do that, you also polarize the situation, and create an us vs. them mentality.<<

I agree that there are people, liberals, etc, who demonize him with rhetoric of a violent nature.. I dislike that immensely. What concerned me is that Bush might be significantly prone to confuse his own particular version of faith with a sense of "mandate" and entitlement to act out a fundamentalist right-wing Christian armegeddon based assumption based on a sense of "G-d is on my side". . I don't think he is a demon. He has the need to do that which is appropriate to his life experience, like all of us. However, since by his own admission, he doesn't read, and he can't admit he's ever wrong publicly, and doesn't appear to have the depth of intellect to read past many of the sound bites he himself is fed by his advisors I am concerned for us. These traits are generally accepted by many Conservatives (i.e. the Economist), which decided, basically, that he is dispositional and intellectually unsuited for the job. . I don't think he is evil personified. Rather I feel he is limited in his comprehension of issues and their overriding impact. For the task, he is too susceptible, in my opinion, to unexamined impulses. I don't see that assessment as demonization of Bush, albeit, I have heard many people speak of him as evil, which characterization IS demonization. Discernment of a candidate for President needs to be rigorous. Denigration of a candidate for President is a sad and useless form of loshan hora. I was at a Shabbos meal on Friday in a household, btw, where Kerry was called a filthy communist who wants the Jews to be sacrificed to the Arabs!. Now THAT'S demonization! May we all move beyond that! I concur with you!

Warmly, Daniel Singer

Yocheved Daphna
16 years ago

Greetings!

That was a thoughtful piece, especially all of the historical bookmarks.

I am amazed that more people, especially Jews, do not take into account the correct historical perspective. President Bush has been one of the best friends that the Jewish people have ever had in the White House. Why does everyone forget that the Clintons invited Arafat to the White House six times and the Bushes refused to invite him even once. One more historical fact – the Clintons also entertained Hamas in the White House to celebrate the end of Ramdam. In other words the Clintons actually feasted with the members of Hamas as their guests.
These are important true historical facts. So not only is the left fringe against faith or belief in G-d, for some reason they applaud and support terrorists.

Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
16 years ago

<<True faith is not merely the absence of reason. It is an inherent human faculty, part of the “Divine Image” in which we were all created, that complements reason, and allows us to reach places that we could never reach with pure logic alone. Faith is what gives humans: the courage and the commitment to love (something reason alone could never sanction); the power to discover; the ability to hope; the capacity to overcome impossible odds; the belief in yourself and in others.<<

Dear Rabbi Jacobson

Your essay is excellent!! But to the above paragraph I would add that true faith is the certainty that we aren't alone and values are not subjective.

Rather there is a good, omnipresent Creator who is infinitely far and incomprehensible, and at the same time close and caring. This comforting yet obligating feeling or rather 'urge' I think is what constitutes belief.

Moshiach NOW!!

Sincerely

Rabbi Tuvia Bolton

Kfar Chabad

Anonymous
16 years ago

You seem like an intelligent man. I don’t understand how you can believe a Christian-based country (are you aware that 1/3 of Americans are fundamentalists?) is useful to the Jewish community. Please remove my name from your “wisdom” emails.
Thank you.

Anonymous

Simon responds:

Thanks for your words and I guess, your two-edged compliment. I don’t know if I am that intelligent frankly. I seem to have offended you and some others apparently — exactly the opposite of my intentions.

Since you may be familiar with some of my writings and thoughts, you probably know that nothing is more important to me than preserving and honoring the dignity of every person I come in contact with, and learning something from every experience. I respect you and your viewpoint, regardless whether we agree or not. We are on a mutual journey, in which we help each other grow. I therefore welcome and encourage both being challenged and challenging in return, and really would appreciate the opportunity to continue communicating with you, and hearing from you as well. I am not offended, but if you stop receiving these e-mails, I won’t hear your thoughts, which I respect and cherish. In other words, I need you to help keep me in line and help me clarify these ideas.

Best,

Simon Jacobson

Anonymous responds:

Thank you for your response, Simon. I hadn’t expected one. I am new to your website and had decided, (perhaps prematurely?) to discontinue. Because of your response I would like to remain on to see where this goes, what I, too, can learn. I agree, that is the journey, and yes, the journey is shared by all.
I look forward to your continuing comments.
Be well.

Anonymous

Norman Beim
16 years ago

America has spoken?
Hardly. Barely more than half of America has spoken. There is another half. The trouble is this clash of G-ds is what’s wrong with the world.

Norman Beim

Simon responds:

It’s true that barely more than a half of America has spoken. How do we get
the other half to speak? Do you think that they are intimidated or apathetic
to the whole G-d debate, and don’t feel that they can make a difference?

Best,

Simon Jacobson

Norman responds:

I’m afraid you misunderstood me. I think all religions, for the most part, are more destructive than they are helpful. That goes for patriotism as well.

Anonymous
16 years ago

Please unsubscribe me. I can get all the simplistic reductionist nonsense I want on Fox News 24 hours a day six days a week.

By the way, the only place G-d is mentioned by the founding fathers is in the Declaration of Independence. Any and all reference to G-d was deliberately omitted from the Constitution. There IS a reason for that.

-Anonymous

Simon responds:

Thank you for replying. I apologize if I offended you in any way, that was the opposite of my intention.

I am aware of the sensitivity of the issues that I raised and I also know that you have asked to be unsubscribed from our list. We of course will honor your request. But before we do, please allow me these few words, as means of clarification. If nothing else, just as a courtesy for the time my articles have spent in your e-mail box. Provocation and confrontation, when handled sensitively, can be a great opportunity to elicit deeper understanding and care.

Though we may have never met, I see myself as your friend and colleague. We are on a mutual journey, in which we help each other grow. Being familiar with some of writings and classes, I am sure you know that nothing is more important to me than preserving and honoring the dignity of every person I come in contact with, and learning something from every experience. I respect you as an individual and your viewpoint, regardless whether we agree or not. Conversely, I am deeply hurt if I feel that I have offended you.

In all my years of learning and teaching, no one has ever accused me of being intolerant, judgmental or dictating a certain type of faith. I firmly believe that everyone has the ability and the gift to find their own way. The best a good teacher can offer is some information, open up more options, provide inspiration to help each of us discover the truth that we carry WITHIN.

I therefore want to apologize if I offended you, in spirit or in content. I did write provocatively, because I felt (right or wrong) that this high profile and emotionally charged election was an excellent opportunity to address the critical need for healthy faith in our lives. I believe that spirituality is a vital component to develop healthy relationships, families, communities, and even for facing our global challenges in the Middle East and elsewhere.

When I say G-d, I don’t mean the G-d of Bush or the Christian Right or for that matter, any denominational G-d of any group or individual. I mean the universal G-d that transcends all denominations and man-made institutions, the One Who created us all, Americans, Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Secularists, every one.

I specifically stated that I am NOT endorsing Bush nor do I think that he is the man to advance the cause of faith. The ONE and ONLY point I was making in this week’s e-mail was the importance of faith in our lives. I was not advocating Mr. Bush’s type of faith, nor the faith of the Christian Right, nor the faith of any individual (everyone has the right to believe or not believe as they wish). If Bush or anyone were trying to impose their type of religion on others, I would vehemently oppose it. Indeed, the main objective of my writing is to NOT allow the Christian right to hijack faith, but allow faith to play it’s true and healthy role in our lives.

I also believe deeply in the liberal principles that this country stands for, and believe that it critical to have a strong liberal voice, especially when it is needed to balance out the other extreme. An election like this — where 56 million vote for one candidate and 52 million for the other — is a healthy sign that we are not being polarized. Had Kerry won I would have said the same, and would not have been upset at all. But I still believe, no matter who is elected, that G-d is a critical part of the picture, albeit a non-denominational one.

Saying all that, I reach out to you and welcome and encourage both being challenged and challenging in return. I therefore really would appreciate the opportunity to continue communicating with you, and hearing from you as well. I am not offended, but if you stop receiving these e-mails, I won’t hear your thoughts, which I cherish. In other words, I need you to help keep me in line and help me clarify these ideas. Of all people I want to hear most from those that can teach me, not those that agree with me.

I don’t know what you can from Fox News, but I know what I can offer: Open and frank dialogue, with no hidden agenda, where all positions are heard, out of love and understanding. I think it’s extremely productive to engage in this dialogue. We may even discover that we agree more than we think we do.

In the name of tolerance and openness that we are discussing and agreeing about, let us together demonstrate how we can create meaningful dialogue with productive results. Perhaps this can set an example to the rest of America how to bridge rifts.

Thank you again for provoking me to write this, and I hope you welcome my free flowing response which came instinctively.

May our example help the world come to experience true peace and co-existence the way G-d always intended it to be,

Respectfully,

Simon Jacobson

Anonymous writes:

Dear Rabbi Jacobson,

Thanks for the thoughtful and honest response. Please accept my apologies for my far-less-thoughtful (though also honest) reaction to your essay. Whatever was going through my head, my language was insulting, and I feel terrible about that. There’s no excuse.

Although I disagreed with most of your points in that essay, I do agree that there are much better ways for two Jews to disagree than to cease communication. You met my negativity with a positiveness that completely caught me off guard and took me right to the heart of my responsibility in the whole matter, yet with such obvious love that you left my dignity intact. Remind you of anyone? 🙂

If we’re ever going to get out of this mess we put ourselves in 2000 years ago, you’re right that we must keep communication open. In my opinion, all the books and essays in the world can’t accomplish what setting examples in ordinary life accomplishes. Thanks for being such an example for me at my advanced age.

Back to the topic at hand:

The question is whether we can learn anything from this election. In my opinion, knowing the people I know who told me how they voted, I honestly can’t determine a darned thing about what – if anything – their vote said about their faith in G-d, their need to reaffirm it, make a statement about it, or whatever. Truth is, most people I know voted the way they’ve voted their whole lives. Put it this way: I don’t know a single individual who changed the way they vote in every election based on a sudden need to declare their fundamentalism (or anti-fundamentalism). I agree that times are changing, that people want and need more of G-d in their lives. I just think that those needs take different forms than pulling the voting lever.

Thanks again for keeping the door open. And please keep me subscribed. 🙂

All the best

-Anonymous

Simon writes:

Your response made me cry… Thank you. More later.

Todd Amodeo
16 years ago

Dear Rabbi Jacobson,

I appreciate your letter.

I just don’t understand how you can possibly side with a faction of this country who’s goals as described by Rabbi Tovia Singer, “are dedicated to the idea of bringing every Jew to a belief in Jesus.” Here’s the link:

“EVANGELIZING THE JEWS”

With all due respect, evangelicals (like Bush) believe that you are going to burn in hell.

Here’s another quote from the Outreach Judaism website:

Tom Short, an itinerant evangelist brought to campus by the A&M Christian Fellowship, told one student that, because she is Jewish, she is going “to burn in Hell.” He told another Jewish student that “Hitler did not go far enough.”
“Anti-semitism at Texas A&M”

As someone with a shared Jewish and Christian heritage and more importantly, as a human being and child of G-d, this makes me SICK!

And, as I am sure you are aware, the effort to convert Jews is not a purely American phenomenon (although it’s driven by American evangelical dollars).

In Russia, where generations have grown up in the dark about their Jewish heritage, the battle for Jewish souls rages on. (please see article below)
“Jewish leaders counter savvy campaign by Jews for Jesus”

I am polarized on this issue because I believe that Born-Again’s like George W. and the legions which he is beholden to are taking this country down a very dangerous road.

They pretend to be supporters of Israel while (not so secretly) funding these massive efforts to convert Jews.

In addition, their militarism is an effort to bring on the apocalypse. They want nothing more than to see the Middle East go up in flames so their messiah will rain fire down on the non-believers…Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, secularists, etc.

Personally, I am against all forms of militarism–Christian, Hasidic, Muslim or secular. In a nuclear era there can only be one outcome from this rising tide of tough talk and even tougher bombings.

I draw tremendous inspiration from the Dalai Lama. His people, their culture and their land have endured unspeakable acts of torture, murder, cultural eradication and ecological devastation. And yet, the man unceasingly carries a message of non-violence and compassion, even towards the Chinese oppressors.

I try to think…If I was the Dalai Lama…would I have turned into Osama Bin Laden? I may very well be driving airplanes into Beijing. But this man, for some reason has been able to sustain the message of love and compassion in the face of such seemingly devastating oppression. I watch him and say, truly, this man has some wisdom that the human race needs to learn in order to survive.

Another outcome of the invasion of Tibet is that thousands of years of Tibetan wisdom has been disseminated around the globe.

I like many people in the world have been greatly saddened by the re-election of George Bush to the presidency of the United States. However, like the situation in Tibet, maybe there is some good that will be channeled out of this event. I have never been more certain of my own ignorance about G-d’s plan for the world. I know nothing other than my deep intuitive feeling there is a benevolent singularity at the heart of all things. And all things are part of G-d’s plan, despite my own ignorance of it. Resolutely turning towards love and compassion seem to me the way out of darkness. Much more than this…I don’t know.

I appreciate your willingness to hear my and others opinions about these very important issues.

May G-d’s love and wisdom open all of our hearts and minds to our true potential in this world and that beyond.

Todd Amodeo

Geri
16 years ago

Dear Reb Jacobson:

I cannot express to you how utterly disgusted and disillusioned I am by the Bush-supporting faction within Judaism, for I see his circle as representative of everything — greed, self-righteousness, intolerance, insensitivity, not to mention ignorance — that runs counter to any form of Judaism with which I would want to be associated. I cannot understand how educated Jews are unable to see how corrupt, how ethically deficient is this regime.

Geri

Simah Devorah Schlosser
16 years ago

Thank you for putting into words what so many of us have been feeling and expressing to each other. I suppose FEAR is the catalyst for this lack of trust in each other and Hashem that’s been causing so many people to behave (dare I say this) CHILDISHLY.

I sat next to a woman on the bus who was wearing a Kerry button and a man on his way out told her not to give up. She said she’s going to wear the button for the next four years. How sad! It’s really hard sometimes to disassociate ourselves from our expectations, but that’s why I love being Jewish. Torah gives us our expectations, but also our realities. With the gift of Hashem’s free choice, I bless myself and all of us to not be afraid to use it!

All the best,

Simah Devorah Schlosser

Anonymous
16 years ago

How I wish you were right in your analysis, however I disagree with your view of the President. A Christian, which is what Bush claims to be, is known by his actions like a popular hymn says” And they’ll know we are Christians by Our Love.” Yet, this administration has repeatedly demonstrated that what they stand for is profit for big business and for the wealthiest citizens at the expense of the poor and less fortunate. Despite all the references to God which do appeal to the American psyche, Bush and cronies have set back the environmental movement to a historic degree which damages air, water and resources that effect the health of us all to help corporations, have gone to war on false premises, and made proposals which threaten our social security system. They have limited civil rights in a manner that is completely un-American and made us more vulnerable to attack by terrorists by alienating most of the world with our go it alone policy toward Iraq.

You believe the American people voted for Bush because they believe he is a man of faith. Does it matter to you whether that belief is correct or not? If his actions do not match his claims, should we not consider that Bush’s claims may be, as many say, simply tools to hook the masses into supporting his agenda to aggrandize the ultra wealthy? People of faith, back their faith with action just as the Rebbe did. I do not see much evidence of that with this president.

As for John Kerry who has Jewish ancestry which few realize, he did not choose to exploit his faith for political ends, however I encourage you to look into his faith. Have you heard him speak on religious issues? I heard a rare excerpt from a talk he gave at a church and it was quite clear that the man has a very deep and abiding faith and discrimination that W in no way has. He does not come from the bible thumping proseletizing background that Mr. Bush represents but that does not mean he is anti-religious or anti-G-d. He was simply raised to respect the faiths of others and not to shove his faith down the throats of others. Perhaps his mistake was not to be a big PR man and witness to God publicly like W does despite Jesus’s exhortation to “not be as the hypocrites, praying aloud in public.”

Frankly, Mr Bush is tied in with some very scary rightwing so-called Christian groups who would like to hurry up and bring Armageddon on so they can see Christ descend from the clouds and get rid of all the Jews. It seems you are not aware of this. There was a very good article on this in the Voice several months back and I did further research on line which showed the information to be frighteningly accurate. These folks rub elbows with him and call themselves a link to the White House.

The next 4 years will reveal who this man really is and I am afraid you may regret your decision as noble as it may seem now.

Miriam
16 years ago

So, democrats and republicans, skeptics and believers, secularists and the religious, Europeans and Asians, Christians and Muslims: Whether you like it or not – America has spoken:

But what percentage???

it was really awful close – doesn’t that say something??

Does it invalidate the rest of us who do not believe that our President has served us well or that he represents the lofty and wonderful goals you think he does…because he appears to support Israel more than Kerry???

Faith, moral values and G-d are the most important priorities in our lives.

Yes, it is a pity though that we are blinded by theatrical displays and “family” values that are smoke screens for the real issues.

This is President Bush’s mandate.

Now let us work on integrating faith and reason.

Are you up to reading other viewpoints and then integrating the best of each?? I know you are.

It is not black and white or cut and dry. Aiming for a universal peace and love for each other by shifting the focus to that in our children and the ones to come might be a great way to start the momentum.

Not forgetting protecting ourselves when necessary.

I pass on another point of view…

And I thank you for putting yours out there for us all.

We are all in it together!!

Good Shabbos

Miriam

Anonymous
16 years ago

You stated:

>>I submit that this is what Americans voted for on Election Day 2004: A vote for G-d in our lives. A G-d that we no longer have to fear. After years of religious exploitation, we have matured to the point where we can embrace the virtues and beauties of the sacred, and integrate it into secular life.<>Americans are a very tolerant people. They will tolerate flag-burners and atheists. They believe in freedom of religion, that every individual can choose to worship or not worship any deity one wishes. Separation of church and state – a wall between organized religion and political authority – is a must. No organized religion can rule the country. But Americans will not tolerate intolerant skeptics: Freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. “In G-d we Trust” – a non-denominational universal G-d – is the driving force behind all our freedoms and liberties.<<

You are so wrong. The people who voted for Bush are not tolerant. They are stiff necked, narrow minded, unreasonable. They do not even do what Christ said, which is to love one another. You are mistaken about tolerance for flag burning, etc. etc. I am on some email distribution lists of acquaintances who are educated, well-heeled, right wing. They don't know that I am Jewish or a Democrat. I have never tried to hide it. They just assumed that I am a "regular" person. For them, there is no separation of church and state. They believe that this is a Christian country. They have no tolerance. They are ruled by fear and separation. They do not have faith in their lives as you have comforted yourself into believing. They are the right, as in, get rid of, kill even, anyone who is not like us. We, as Jews, do not have a right to exist in "their" country. Nor the spics, the wops, the chinks, the niggers, the Mexicans, the Canadians, the Iranians, the French…….. you name it. Don't kid yourself.
-Anonymous

Simon responds:

I appreciate your words, thanks.

I agree with you. Yet the point in my article was not the INTENTIONS of the Christian right, but rather how WE can use this episode to advance faith the way it should be advanced.

And let's not forget, America for all its faults has provided a haven for Jews and people of all faiths to practice their religion freely — unprecedented in history.

Best,

Simon Jacobson

Anonymous responds:

I have gifts living in this country that no other people have enjoyed throughout history in any part of the world. I realize that this has been the promised land for Jews for many years. I am pragmatic and I see and hear the intolerance around me. Let us pray that people's hearts will yield the love for every other person. I'll never understand why we can't all just respect each other’s differences and get along.

Sue Spiegel Pastin
16 years ago

Truth be told, I have both a skeptic and believer inside of me. But just as I don’t allow the believer to silence the skeptic, I also don’t allow the skeptic to invalidate the believer. That would be driven neither by reason, skepticism or faith; it would be plain dishonest.

Good for you. But why couldn’t you just have written a letter to the editor or op-ed piece for the New York Times instead of voting for a dangerous man who wants to both undermine the Constitution and roll back the New Deal? And who has many cruel and immoral policies? Faithful is as faithful does.

Sue Spiegel Pastin

Chicago IL

Anonymous
16 years ago

Rabbi Simon,

What hurt was your timing and the stereotyping in your vitriolic, which you have owned here so courageously and graciously. I am so glad to receive your email today. I am interested in healing and learning and growing with my fellows. On the day after the election I felt as if I was in aninut- my dead was laying unburied before me. I could not mourn yet as I was in shock. I am a faith-based married lesbian and daughter of a Holocaust survivor and a 9/11 survivor. This election went to the core of frightened people on all sides. I am also a Jewish educator. I do not appreciate either side claiming to have or not have faith or truth. I think we all need to do berur and get to our fears which make us project terrible untruths onto the other side. I see your point that on the left the fears make them deny themselves and others the gifts of a certain life of faith and practice. But I am much more frightened and deprived by the desires and actions of the right and I feel my president is a murderer of tens of thousands. Your first email did help me understand the pain in the camp that voted for Bush. I relate to your pain. I feel very blessed to have had a YU education that I later supplemented with hassidut and psychological study and practice. I am blessed to be a musician in touch with the One’s power and grace. I hope for balance, constructive attempts at truth and the protection of all. I will fight for new interpretations of Torah even if it scares the frightened and those who think they are righteous.
Much Love
Anonymous

Steve Guttman
16 years ago

Please withdraw my name from your list. How can someone so smart be so blind to all Bush’s shortcomings? I guess you do not believe in stem cell research, feel that gay marriage is worthy of a constitutional amendment and women should not have the right of choice with regard to their bodies.
Steve Guttman

Simon responds:

Thanks for your words and I guess, your two-edged compliment. I don’t know if I am that smart frankly. I seem to have offended you and some others apparently — exactly the opposite of my intentions.

Since you may be familiar with some of my writings and thoughts, you probably know that nothing is more important to me than preserving and honoring the dignity of every person I come in contact with, and learning something from every experience. I respect you and your viewpoint, regardless whether we agree or not. We are on a mutual journey, in which we help each other grow. I therefore welcome and encourage both being challenged and challenging in return, and really would appreciate the opportunity to continue communicating with you, and hearing from you as well. I am not offended, but if you stop receiving these e-mails, I won’t hear your thoughts, which I respect and cherish. In other words, I need you to help keep me in line and help me clarify these ideas.

Regarding the actual issue, I specifically stated that I do NOT support Mr. Bush and all his policies. The ONE and ONLY point I was making in this week’s
e-mail was the importance of faith in our lives.

Best,

Simon Jacobson

Steve responds:

To continue our discussion, while I can certainly appreciate valuing faith as a virtue, I cannot comprehend voting for a President using this measure as the primary standard. I am quite concerned that Bush’s personal vendetta (aka Iraq) has already resulted in thousands of deaths and severe injuries as well as an enormous cost both in dollars and the sharp decline of the position of the U.S. in the view of the rest of the world. I am writing this from Paris where the view of the war as well as Bush is far different than it is in the U.S. In a few months, we will be forced by the insurgents to exit Iraq and so much will have been lost and Iraq will then truly be a place, like Iran where WMDs can and will be being developed. I obviously strongly believe that we are on the wrong course as a country and it is difficult for me to place sufficient value on any one of Bush’s few redeeming characteristics.

Janet Goldstein Reagan
16 years ago

I am open-minded and was myself undecided until I entered the booth. Whether I voted for Bush or Kerry is not important, but that I have the right to have an opinion and make a choice without having my unwavering belief in G-d challenged or questioned.

I am a Jew first and foremost, from a long line of Litvak Zionists and my only son has made Aliyah. My professional life is Business Manager to 3 Jewish institutions in my hometown; I attend Synagogue regularly, serve on Federation Committees, have volunteered at Jewish Family Services, am a past Vice-President Hadassah and am the President of my Sisterhood and on the Board of its international organization.

My political opinions do not define me as a Jew – that is the beauty of being both Jewish and American. Last night I attended a speech by Ehud Barak and spent the evening debating the choices of the Politicos in Israel with my good friends…all devoutly Jewish, all strong Zionists, and many who take the opposite side of the issues from my views. But I would never, ever question their beliefs in G-d or in man.

I have to say that your last message did NOT challenge me to dialogue, it angered me. I have been impressed with your insight, but suddenly saw a bigotry – and towards ideals that come straight from the Torah. Label me a Liberal if you will, but I will always believe that those who “have” also have an obligation to those who “have not”…no matter if they are unable or unwilling to take care of themselves. Not a welfare state, but a humane citizenry who don’t look the other way.

I also believe that one of the reasons that Capitalism thrives in this great country and in Israel, and may not do so well in other countries, is that our taxes have created the greatest infrastructure on which to build cities and industry, and an infrastructure that allows for entrepreneurship at its best. We don’t have to build sewers and streets and hire armed guards and lay lines for water and power and communications to open a business…our government does all of that with the taxes we pay. Stop paying taxes, and watch us crumble. I didn’t even mention the FREE education…one of the highest Jewish Values. So tell me that us Liberals don’t believe in G-d, and I won’t waste my very precious, very limited time on your “wisdom”.

Okay, I got that off my chest. Keep me on the list. But respect my right to be a Social Liberal and a Fiscal Conservative!

Janet Goldstein Reagan

Simon responds:

Thank you, Janet, for your beautiful and enlightening words in return. They only amplify for me the importance of communicating with each together. I for one am learning much for your reply and the reply of many others.

I share your feeling about how we are to look at each other with total respect. And I am sorry that my words came across as bigotry. Indeed, I agree with your belief in the obligation of those that “have” to those “have not.” I don’t even know why that would be called “liberal;” that is basic humanity, especially from a Torah perspective.

Perhaps, yet another distortion today is the way society has been programmed to use the terms “liberal” and “conservative.” Who is it that created the stereotype that “conservatives” (or Republicans) are people of faith and supporters of the wealthy, and liberals (Democrats) are faithless supporters of the needy?! I — and it appears that you too — would say that we are people of faith with deep liberal values. Indeed, it’s our faith that dictates these liberal values. However, the issue has been hijacked by the “political” marketers, who feed us all sorts of distortions. This was part of the theme I was touching upon in my last article — and I intend to clarify in clearer terms in my next article. I look forward to hear your feedback.

Looking forward to continue our dialogue, with dignity,

Best,

Simon Jacobson

Anonymous
16 years ago

A presidential election is not a vote for or against G-d, it is a vote for his record. One should consider the war with Iraq, the economy, education, environment. The more I hear from all of you pro Bush people, the more I feel sickened. I am not an east or west coast elitist, nor am I secular. I am an American citizen making an informed decision based on politics. I suggest you leave God out of the equation. Thank you for letting me know who the real opponent is, it is a soon to be God fearing Fascist society.

Anonymous

Anonymous
16 years ago

Rabbi Jacobson,

You got it wrong. You voted for Bush not for G-d. Your vote was not a vote for G-d. John Kerry and other Liberals believe in G-d, they just believe that our role in the world as G-d’s partner means caring for the poor, the vulnerable, of treating everyone in the image of G-d, of helping to complete the world. We don’t believe in a world of absolute justice (as defined by a preacher’s reading) but a world of justice and mercy of compassion and commitment and responsibility to each other.

Anonymous

Michael A. Bedar
16 years ago

Rabbi Jacobson,

I agree that this election outcome is about faith and reason, and I am glad you articulated this much. I, a person of faith, voted for Kerry primarily on the issue of faith, as did everyone I know of in the community of faith, which is the Tree of Life Foundation, in which I am deeply involved. I write to make a point that I feel you left out: how this faith-based election demonstrates what faith is.

If as you claim, Kerry seems to represent an intolerant “enlightenment,” I don’t think it is because of Kerry. In the debates Kerry spoke of his faith in G-d, and expressed that faith as having to do with kindness to our neighbors, rather than as a divine mandate to kill them. The New York Times Magazine, if it really wanted to support Kerry, could have. However, after decades of learning from the religious right’s rise, the Times was aware enough to know that a lukewarm endorsement coupled with portraying Kerry as a child of reason in a battle opposed to faith, would be a recipe for Kerry’s defeat.

When there is an equally faithful contingent on the left, how do you use this election to enhance a spiritual teaching about the essentiality of faith? Faith is not always in religions. Faith is often in acting for justice without religious talk or trappings.

I have made a comment here on the substance of the material that you wrote, Rabbi. I trust this will merit your response, which my requests for our organizations to network have not. I still believe that together we can further help people know the meaning in their lives.

Shalom prevails,

Michael A. Bedar

Jacob W.
16 years ago

If Bush is a man of faith then why does he give tax cuts to the rich and cut services to the poor when every major religion (especially his) that we must take care of those less fortunate. If he is man of faith why does he hord millions of dollars in personal wealth when many of god’s children in his own country go to bed STARVING. If Bush is a man of faith then why did he approve the execution of more of god’s children than any other governor in our history. If he is a man of faith why has he allowed mercury admissions to be at an all time high in god’s ocean and god’s fish which god’s people eat. If Bush is a man of faith then why did go to war and kill 100,000 of god’s innocent civilians. If he is a man of faith why did he lie to the world about the war in Iraq. If he is a man of faith why would he not want to expand the assault weapons band which protects god’s children and law enforcement officers from automatic weapons that are made to KILL. Bush’s actions are far from faith based, just his rhetoric is.

Jacob W.

Anonymous
16 years ago

A SHANDEH!!!

Since you have taken the liberty of sending me an email, allow me to respond with a question. How can you, an orthodox Jew who believes in the Bible’s teachings, including the sanctity of life, justify your vote for a man who uses faith to push his own self-aggrandizement, who condemns the poor, who puts our money into the pockets of the corrupt corporations whose profits helped elect him, a man whose hands are dripping with the blood of over 1100 DEAD GIS AND OVER 11000 MAIMED GIS and countless thousands of Iraqis and other nationalities for the sake of his own aggrandizement, and to settle old scores???

I REPEAT – A SHANDEH!!!

Thank you,

Anonymous

David Barker
16 years ago

I am proud to be PAGAN. I don’t believe in these new fangled religions. I get very pissed off by fundamentalist Christians and any other miscellaneous god botherers who proselytize, don’t know their subject, and think theirs is the only way. It ain’t! We believe in an earth based religion that has been around for several thousand years long before any new age stuff. The world didn’t start in CE, but many thousands of years before that.

Bright Blessings

David Barker

Anonymous
16 years ago

What about the vicious attacks on Senator Kerry’s character, the merciless angry tone and mocking at the Republican convention? It was enough to make any rational human being extremely nauseated. The anger and mocking certainly was not becoming of a “faith community”.

Anonymous

Debra Grossmann
16 years ago

Shame on you.

You think that BUSH would actually do more than look upon you, a JEW, with anything but contempt in his heart and sadness for your utter soul? If the religious right were wearing their garb, they would be in sheets (KKK in case you do not remember those years) and your temple would be burned. You have foolishly bought his rhetoric — but go into Texas wearing your yarmulkah and see how friendly the religious right is to YOU.

You bought the lie, in which he makes you all think he is a spiritual man of G-d — Bush is not a man of lies and utter contempt for the word of Jesus, Mohammed, Abraham, Moses, or Buddha, et all — a dangerous man who would take away your ability to love G-d in your own way — and because of this, I want my name taken off your email.

I will not support any one or any group who would support the bigot who will take away our basic civil rights.
I will not support anyone who will take away your (my) spiritual and mindful freedom.
They have declared a war on freedom of religion, and I will sadly fight any who would join their war.
You are treading on dangerous ground to have joined forces with this man — he is a cowardly man who stands for little, and the Republican party should wake up and lose this terrible thing they are about to do, which is to start a religious war. Our country is founded on a glorious principle that all people have the right to freedom and this means freedom of speech and thought and faith — and your vote for Bush is a vote for this country to become a Fundamentalist Christian Country.

Debra Grossmann

Raised a Catholic, Became a Buddhist, Married a Jew

Anonymous
16 years ago

Very good!!!!!!!!

Congrats on your insight and courage to provide an important perspective which will be very controversial in this bluest of states and where on the upper west side– a Bush supporter is the rarest of species. You will definitely receive a flood of negative reaction because you have cohesively articulated a regionally unconventional view but an opinion that is defensible.

As background, I actually voted for Kerry –tried to vote for Bush–because of W’s strong support for Israel. I was undecided up until the last minute… your write-up may have swayed me if you published it before the election. The NYT Magazine article on faith did spook me. Your analysis is solid and thought provoking on the topic.

My theory on the exit polls– they missed the actual vote tally because many middle of the road constituents (not hard core supporters) were embarrassed to admit publicly that they voted for Bush given his controversial positions and lackluster public performances.

I prefer to be anonymous so that I can avoid the backlash which is weirdly reminiscent of the McCarthy (spelling) times.

-Anonymous

Ms. Katz
16 years ago

I do not know who you are, but you wrote to me, and I read what you wrote. I think you are missing something in your argument. Many of us who supported and voted for John Kerry are troubled by Bush, not because he is a man of faith. We don’t like that he thinks his faith is better than other faiths. We don’t like that he is trying to impose his faith and values on our nation. We cannot reconcile that a man of faith plans to amend the Constitution to exclude others, many of whom are of faith. We cannot reconcile that a man of faith who is President of all the people plans to appointed a court which will overturn a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. We cannot reconcile that a man of faith would not make an exception to save a woman’s life over that of a fetus, regardless of how many weeks or seconds of gestation. There is no doubting Carl Rove’s genius, and I suspect many people voted as you say. I fully believe, however, that many of them used the cover of moral values to mask their own bigotry, and there is nothing moral about that.

Ms. Katz

Simon responds:

Dear Ms. Katz,

Thanks for writing to me. Yes, it’s true that we don’t know each other, and I actually did not send you my article; someone else did, and forwarded me your reply. Yet, I believe that everything is by providence and we should attempt to transform every interaction into a productive experience. Since we are connecting here perhaps we could turn this into something positive.

Your point is well taken, and I absolutely agree that Bush, and for that matter no person can dictate and impose on others his faith. That is exactly what the founders wanted to avoid with their insistence on the separation of church and state. You are also right in saying that many people of faith were manipulated by Rove’s genius strategy. At the same time, the Bush opponents fed right into the strategy by attacking Bush’s faith and dismissing him for making faith based decisions. Rove and company brilliantly used that provocation to their advantage by (falsely) pitting Bush as the man of faith and Kerry as the man of no faith.

Though many were manipulated by that strategy, that doesn’t mean that everyone who voted for Bush was manipulated. Just as I hope, many who voted for Kerry were not manipulated to vote for him. Because, after all is said and done, campaigns today are marketing drives, feeding into our deepest fears and hopes to elect the intended candidate. I am quite cynical about the process, and don’t really trust either side. But hopefully, some of us can transcend the marketing and find some truth amongst the clutter.

I would really appreciate the opportunity to continue communicating with you, and hearing from you as well.

In the name of tolerance and true faith, let us together demonstrate how we can create meaningful dialogue and accept each other, and accept all faiths and also those that choose no faith.

May our example help the world come to experience true peace and co-existence the way G-d always intended it to be,

Respectfully,

Simon Jacobson

Anonymous
16 years ago

I received your email today, America Speaks: Do Not Fear G-d. I would like to tell you that I voted for Kerry, and that I am a board member of my synagogue, a believer in God, and an observant Jew. I would like you to explain to me why my vote for Kerry was a vote against God and faith. What an unbelievably arrogant point of view!

I would be interested in your answer.

-Anonymous

Simon responds:

Firstly, I apologize if my words sounded arrogant and may have offended you. That is the exact opposite of my intentions. And I am hurt if that’s how it came across.

If you read my article carefully you will see that nowhere do I suggest that a vote against Bush or a vote for Kerry was a vote against G-d and faith — absolutely not! Millions of people of faith — including observant Jews — voted for Kerry for good reasons.

On the contrary, I specifically stated that I am not endorsing Bush or his policies, nor do I think that he is the man to advance the cause of faith. The ONE and ONLY point I was making in this week’s e-mail was the importance of faith in our lives. I was trying to understand why so many people who OPPOSED Bush nevertheless voted for him — and I suggested that it was a backlash against the anti-faith rhetoric of some of Bush’s loudest opponents. By no means does that imply that all those that voted for Kerry are anti-faith. Indeed, these vocal anti-faith voices may have done a deep disservice to this country and to all the good people voting for Kerry by provoking people and making it seem (as untrue as it may be) that Bush was the faith candidate and Kerry the non-faith one.

I was absolutely not advocating Mr. Bush’s type of faith, nor the faith of the Christian Right, nor the faith of any individual. If Bush or anyone were trying to impose their type of religion on others, I would vehemently oppose it.

Thank you again for provoking me to write this, and I hope you welcome my response.

Respectfully,

Simon Jacobson

Anonymous responds:

Dear Simon Jacobson,

Well, perhaps I overreacted. I am very grateful for the time you took to answer me. I think, judging from your response, that you may perhaps understand my frustration at being part of a group that has had its identity decided for it, en masse.

But in reviewing your original article, I still maintain that you made some generalizations that I feel are unjustified. In this sentence, for example – Close to 60 million people made a statement that they want G-d in their lives – I can tell you at least two people, my brother and my father, who voted for Bush because he was a Republican, and hardly because they want God in their lives (forgive me if I spell it out). I would venture to say that a good number of the close to 60 million voted for Bush for the same reason.� And by extension, it seems to me that your sentence implies that if you voted for Kerry, it was because you DIDN’T want God in your life, or you didn’t care one way or another. And this is what really irked me, I think. Because I know many fine people who have a great need for God in their life AND who voted for Kerry, which you point out below.

I will grant that there is a significant number of individuals who voted for Bush because he purported to embody ‘religious’ values in an active way. I would venture to say, also that, they are conservative values. I think that he could have said that he worshipped the sun and if he said he was anti-abortion and anti-gay, people would have still voted for him.

Sorry if I sound worked up. What I fear is that Americans are becoming more and more simpleminded and unable and unwilling to become informed, like someone I know who voted for Bush because she has friends with family members in Iraq and they were voting for Bush so she voted for him in solidarity with them. Don’t ask her about the issues! I think that her instinct was laudable but not necessarily an appropriate one when voting for the President of the United States.

I guess what you’re hearing is that I feel that our country is misguided. I don’t take comfort in thinking that nearly 60 million people made a statement that they want God in their lives, because know from a personal level that many of them want THEIR God in their lives, and they want THEIR God in our lives, as well. That does not bring me comfort.

I wish I could interpret the election results in the optimistic way that you have. I think that faith is a wonderful thing. I with, though, that faith and tolerance could go hand in hand. Right now, it seems as though faith and intolerance have a working partnership in many places.

-Anonymous