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You’ll be missed, Nat Hentoff

January 9, 2017

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Why would a Bible-thumping holy roller like me mourn the loss of left-wing, self-described “Jewish atheist” Nat Hentoff, the Village Voice columnist and author who died recently at 91? Maybe it’s because he loved jazz. Maybe it’s because the Bible favors the poor and “the least of these.” Maybe it’s because he slammed all group […]

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Religious Leaders: End the Shutdown

October 16, 2013

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“… we must point out that the ongoing shutdown of the federal government deprives many pregnant women of the WIC vouchers that ensure they get enough milk, protein, vegetables, and fruit to ensure the health of their unborn children. And cancer patients—many of whom are children—have been blocked from receiving time-sensitive and potentially life-saving care at National Institutes of Health facilities.”

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Can the past point us to the future?

October 24, 2012

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Swartz guides us down the baby boomer’s memory lane, evoking images of flames in Watts, Newark, and Detroit – and black arm bands and student marches and tear gas and police riots and F-4’s and B-52’s and U.S. marines dodging Hue’s snipers in the Tet Offensive. Through it all, I couldn’t help but mourn over the what-if’s: What if the Evangelical Left saw nuances and shades? What if some of its youthful, bulldog leaders possessed the politician’s wisdom and forged alliances with enlightened conservatives? What if the American Old Left, grounded in pro-religious New Deal liberalism and often embraced by evangelicals, had survived the assault of the fervently secular New Left, which scared off many Americans and tainted the “liberal” label?

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Paul Ryan: The intelligence-wisdom gap

August 19, 2012

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The all-American picture of the All-American family struck our Facebook walls hours after the announcement: A trim dad, donned with a baseball cap and a sweatshirt, sits on the porchswing beside his beautiful wife. Three children smile on their laps. The headline pleads above: “Please say a prayer for the Ryan Family.” The caption explains below: “They are about to face a terrible and merciless onslaught of lies, rumors, and smears from the progressive/Democrat propaganda machine known as the, ‘Impartial and Objective Main Stream Media.”

So the culture-war detonates with a prayer, sealing Mitt Romney’s vice presidential designate from criticism because he’s a pity-worthy victim. Political discourse – always filled with passion and never for the faint-hearted – is no longer about reasonable verses unreasonable or practical verses impractical. It’s good verses evil, the wholesome verses the malicious, the decent verses the vile. Think of that harmless family. Think of the children.

I actually sympathize as they face the potential onslaught. I have no reason to doubt Paul Ryan’s sincerity or his religious devotion. I honestly wish him no harm. He might be a great guy. Perhaps we’d be friends. Maybe he’s one of those give-you-the-shirt-off-my-back libertarians, individualy charitable but suspicious of candy-doling but power-hungry governments. I should listen – especially if he’s the admired GOP intellect and policy wonk. At the same time, my American citizenship obliges me to gauge a candidate’s intellectual coherence, what previous generations called wisdom – and, since he’s a self-advertised Christian, his representation of Christ and his teaching. Romney opened that door when he played the religious card, apparently forgetting how the deck was once loaded against him. He hailed Ryan’s Catholicism and, in a Virginia campaign ad, accused the president of waging a war on religion. Many are leaving churches of all stripes because the faithful are seen as Bible-heaving, take-no-prisoners zealots, so I need to see what we’ve been dealt.

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Fringe thinkers blemish the pro-life movement – again

February 15, 2012

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I can’t help but wonder: Are some pro-life advocates hermetically sealed in a ghettoized world of circular logic? They must be. It’s the only explanation. No one else would spoon-feed the opposition with ready-made quotes for their publicity brochures. Sweet-smiling pro-choice convention receptionists can now hand out pamphlets featuring pictures of frowning, stereotypical finger-waggers. Captions blare: “We’ve always said they don’t care about babies once they’re born. Now we know they’re not exactly charitable about fetuses.”

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A Pro-Life, “Christian” organization gone rogue

October 1, 2011

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I hear the echoing booms. The Family Research Council is hammering nails into the coffin of its own credibility – and, once again, it drags the rest of us into its grave. I’ll crawl out and obsequiously plead before my agnostic friends: “I’m sure the FRC is well-motivated … they care … they’re sincere … law-abiding … love dogs and cats … but (that inexorable “but”) … not all of us are like them.”

My friends are not stupid. They see the organization’s mockery of its proclaimed anti-abortion stance; they see how the FRC is not genuinely pro-life; they see through the chimeras and phantoms and figments and find no resemblance with the New Testament lifestyle. It’s evident: The FRC is a ventriloquist’s doll for the Far Right fringe, complete with a Bible tucked beneath its wooden arm (witness the clone like resemblance between its budget cutting proposals and the Republican Party’s, here and here). The ventriloquist preaches from Ayn Rand’s notes while neglecting the baby in the womb as well as the infant in the crib. They want nothing to do with our ilk if it means resembling the Family Research Council.

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Hiding behind “holy” propaganda

August 19, 2010

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I quake as I ponder the questions: Is the Family Research Council genuinely pro-life? Is it even pro-family? Are we witnessing one more case study in which the Religious Right sacrifices principles on the altar of political expediency?

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