Oct 15 2016

Male Leaders to Never Look Up To

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Male Leaders to Never Look Up To

Over at First Things,  Alexi Sargeant talks about great male role models growing up then complains that Trump doesn’t compare.

Sargeant makes some interesting points, and the whole post, “Making Better Men,” is worth reading,  but its underlying assumptions don’t quite add up. I don’t see what great role models in a child’s day-to-day life have to do with the quality of leadership they receive from the executives its parents elected. Kids watch cartoons on television, not presidents.

I had a good church-participating father and a few adequate male role models but they were neither politicians nor clergy nor bureaucrats nor professional athletes. Nor do I remember my alpha-male peers expressing their admiration or paying dues of gratitude to any of the above classes of professionals. I find it an absolute lie that every day Americans (especially under the age of 18) look to politicians for any sort of guidance, yet the fact that many journalists and academics assume that to be the case is not only perplexing, perhaps in a Maimonidesian sense, but also only further elevates“the worst examples of masculinity” mentioned by Sargeant.


Sep 7 2016

When Monotheism Succeeds Too Much: Winning Versus Wincing

Palazzo Re Enzo, Bologna, Italia

When Monotheism Succeeds Too Much: Winning Versus Wincing

A PERPLEXITY OF JUDAIC SUCCESS

For Maimonides, “The convert is blameless—but the natural-born Jew is suspect of ‘going through the motions’.” In this case monotheism is better adopted than inherited; new originals are better than old replicas:

The natural-born Jew’s faith is always suspect since one can never be certain whether adherence to the faith is not somehow motivated by national memory, shared history, and familial allegiances. The convert’s intentions, however, like those of his or her archetypical predecessor, Abraham, are not subject to challenge since the convert arrived at the essential truths of Judaism by reason….[1]

A PERPLEXITY OF CHRISTIAN SUCCESS

Life under Christendom often made for lazy Christians, because the dominance of Christianity unintentionally encouraged the laity to be lax:

The great change in the world means that there must be a great change in the attitudes and thoughts of the great mass of believing and practicing lay people. For centuries past, the laity could be passive, except for the rare individual and except for each one’s secret spiritual life. The reason was the existence of ‘Christendom’. Under Christendom, it no longer took special energy to be a Christian, as in the early centuries; in most places in Christian countries, people did not have to choose a form of life. There just was a basic form of life there: lay people—especially laywomen—either were its victims or, favoured by fortune, were happy in it. Goodness or badness of life was a specification within the basic form. Someone who wanted to lead a holy life would often, if the thought came to him in time, not marry but enter religion.[2]

A PERPLEXITY OF ISLAMIC SUCCESS

For Islam, too many conversions means not enough folks to pay high taxes; here, monotheism becomes a victim of its own success:

The Arabs, already subsidized by the decree of the Caliph Omar, lived apart at first, as a military aristocracy, holding aloof from trade, farming, or manual crafts. Far from pressing their faith on the Christians or Jews around them, they preferred to leave them outside the Muslim community so that they might get enough money from them, by way of tribute, to keep the state treasury well replenished and help to pay their own fixed stipends. The Muslims themselves had to pay certain taxes, but these were considerably lower than those required from non-Muslims. This fact, together with the prestige of belonging to the religion of the ruling caste, rather than any active proselytizing on the part of the Arabs, caused increasing numbers of Christians and Jews to embrace Islam. [3]

NOTES

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[1] Diamond, James A. Maimonides and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon. Cambridge UP. 2014. p. 85. More from Diamond:

Considering that existence of God and His unity are his primary concerns, one could characterize the Guide, as well as the Mishneh Torah,* as a treatise on divine names whose understanding is essential to preserve the ideas of existence and unity.

*See the beginning of the MT and, for example, MT, Forbidden Intercourse 14:2, where Maimonides directs that the prospective convert be introduced to Judaism first and foremost with the principles of divine unity and prohibition against idolatry. Only these philosophical teachings are conveyed to him “at length.” Everything else, including familiarizing him with the details of the mitzvoth, are really the framework for inculcating and preserving these two beliefs. (Diamond 19–20)

A representation, taken as a literal presentation, an “ultimate,” is no longer a representation but an idol, i.e., mistaking the map for the territory it marks (Barfield, Owen. Saving the Appearances: a Study in Idolatry. 1957. Middletown, CN: Wesleyan UP. 1988. pp. 62–64, 157–61).

[2] Anscombe, “You Can have Sex without Children: Christianity and the New Offer.” From Renewal of Religious Structures: Proceedings of the Canadian Centenary Theological Congress. Toronto. 1968. Anscombe Vol. III: Ethics, Religion and Politics p. 83.

[3] Atiyah, Edward. The Arabs: the Origins, Present Conditions, and Prospects of the Arab World. Edinburgh: Penguin. 1958. pp. 38–39.