Times: Religion, Religion, Religion

Religion items of note in the Times this weekend:

"EARLIER this month state senators in Tennessee approved an update to our sex-education law that would ban teachers from discussing hand-holding, which it categorizes as “gateway sexual activity.” The bill came fast on the heels of a new state law that effectively allows creationism to be taught in our classrooms. Though he voiced misgivings, our governor, Bill Haslam, refused to veto it..."            

IT IS FICTION -- In the Magazine, "My Son Went to Heaven, and All I Got Was a No. 1 Best Seller" by MAUD NEWTON  puts 'nonfiction' in quotes - finally somebody is pointing out that the book is on the wrong list - and she opines towards the end about a book by Todd Burpo that has been a 'nonfiction' bestseller:  "...In the Middle Ages, Christians’ near-death narratives explicitly involved harsh judgment and infernal torment. All of that awaits the ungodly in Colton’s 'nonfiction' story too. You just don’t notice it at first, what with Jesus, his rainbow steed and the seraphim..."

The Book Review section has Barnard professor RANDALL BALMER at first dissecting Ross Douthat's book and then turning his review into a syllabus. The review part informs us that 'Ross Douthat’s contribution to this genre, “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics,” laments the departure from what he calls “a Christian center,” which “has helped bind together a teeming, diverse and fissiparous nation.” Absent a national church, he argues, Christianity “has frequently provided an invisible mortar for our culture and a common vocabulary for our great debates.”'

To the Editor:
Jonathan Rosen didn’t review my book “The Crisis of Zionism” (April 15); he evaded it. At my book’s heart is this claim: While the Palestinians absolutely bear part of the blame for the lack of a two-state solution (I call Yasir Arafat’s role in the second intifada a “crime” and Palestinian terrorism “grotesque”), settlement building imperils Israel’s future as a democratic Jewish state. Does Rosen agree? He doesn’t say. Does he agree that American Jewish organizations should be more willing to publicly challenge Israeli policy when it violates the promise of “complete equality of social and political rights . . . irrespective of race, religion and sex” in Israel’s declaration of independence? He doesn’t say. Does he agree that some of the most committed younger American Jews are alienated by the organized Jewish community’s unwillingness to permit a truly open debate about Israeli policy? He doesn’t say.

Instead, he calls my book simplistic. In fact, it contains a detailed, multicausal account of the failure of the peace process between 1993 and 2009, and the most in-depth account yet written, based on dozens of interviews, of its failure in the Obama and Netanyahu years.

Rosen’s review deals with none of this complexity. But there are simple truths as well as complex ones. One of those simple truths is that holding territory in which one ethnic group enjoys citizenship, the right to vote, free movement and due process while another ethnic group is denied those rights is unjust and corrosive of a country’s democratic fiber. Evading that basic truth does not constitute intellectual sophistication. It constitutes moral abdication.


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