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Posts (101)

Judaism is a religious tradition centered on the idea of a covenant between God and the Jewish people that can be traced back to the prophets Abraham and Moses. The Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) and an extensive interpretative literature (Mishnah and Talmud) outline the laws and practices that provide a basis for the different contemporary currents of Judaism, including Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform. Judaism is the oldest of the Abrahamic faiths and the smallest of the world’s major religions, with around 15 million adherents. The US and Israel have the largest Jewish populations, together accounting for about 75 percent of the worldwide total. Israel, the world’s only Jewish-majority state, has been in conflict with Palestinians and the Arab states that surround it for most of its history since its founding in 1948.

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  • April 29, 2011
    Alexa West is a sophomore in the Edmund. A Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is majoring in Culture and Politics with a specialization in International Security, and is receiving a certificate in the Program for Jewish Civilization. She currently serves as a producer for The God Vote.

    This week, The God Vote co-hosts Jacques Berlinerblau and Sally Quinn turned their gaze abroad and discussed the religious implications of the current unrest in Syria and Egypt.
  • April 29, 2011
    The “hunger fast” inspired by Tony Hall, David Beckman, and others, in a passionate call for a “moral budget,” came to an end on Easter Sunday, highlighting its initial tie to the spirit and tradition of self-denial of Lent. Last week a small group met at the Buxton Initiative, which promotes interfaith dialogue and understanding, to reflect on what lay behind the fast, what it had achieved, and what comes next.
  • April 22, 2011
    Benjamin Rosenblum is a sophomore in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He is majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs and serves as assistant producer for The God Vote.

    On the morning of April 19, 2011, President Obama hosted the second annual Easter Prayer Breakfast. “I wanted to host this [event] for a simple reason,” announced the president to a White House stocked with some of America’s most prominent Christian leaders. “During this season, we...
  • March 31, 2011
    Tony Hall is a remarkable man. He represented Ohio in the House of Representatives for 20 years, and later served as the US ambassador to the several organizations based in Rome that are dedicated to producing and distributing food (among them the United Nations’ World Food Program). Today he heads the Alliance to End Hunger. He is a wonderful role model, that brave voice of conscience that we need today more than ever to point to what is right. He speaks out constantly, with hard truths,...
  • March 9, 2011
    In November, 2009, peace-loving Switzerland shocked itself and the world when over 57 percent of its voters supported a referendum to ban construction of new minarets. The government had opposed the proposition on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, contravening Switzerland's commitment to religious freedom. In the expectation that the measure would fail and fearing that a "positive" campaign would fuel fear, the government did not actively campaign against it. In Switzerland's unique...
  • March 1, 2011
    Sam Dinger is a student in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, majoring in International Politics and Arab Studies. He serves as the Research Supervisor for The God Vote.

    WATCH: "The core principles of Sharia are analogous to the core principles of the Constitution," says the imam behind the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero. Imam Rauf also talks about his hopes for the Muslim Brotherhood, the revolts in the Middle East and what he thinks of the arguments made by...
  • February 14, 2011
    A group of American Christians, most of them evangelicals, met for four days last weekend with a distinguished group of Moroccans at Eastern Mennonite University, concluding with a public session Monday at Georgetown University's Berkley Center. To an outsider, the point of the conclave was not easy to fathom. It opened with a showing of a terrifying film about nuclear threats: Countdown to Zero, and concluded with heartfelt statements of shared interests and values. What was it all about?...
  • February 4, 2011
    President Obama spoke on Thursday morning at the 59th annual National Prayer Breakfast. The gathering is one of those peculiar Washington pageants that elicits diametrically opposed reactions from those who bother to take note of its existence.
  • October 26, 2010
    There was such a flurry of activity in Rome last week that it seemed as if the Eternal City was, once again, the center of the world. Bishops from all over the Middle East met in conclave, new cardinals were proclaimed and new saints were canonized. With a candlelight march, the Community of Sant'Egidio commemorated the dark day in 1943 when Rome's Jewish community was deported to concentration camps.
  • October 23, 2010
    The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which describes itself as "a nonpartisan 'fact tank,'" has recently garnered immense media and popular attention with its "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey."
  • October 4, 2010
    Philanthropist Edgar M. Bronfman speaks about Jewish intermarriage, cultural Judaism, and the advice he would give Prime Minister Netanyahu.
  • September 22, 2010
    This blog post originally appeared in The Public Discourse, an online blog arm of the Witherspoon Institute, on September 22, 2010. The second installment of this blog post is available here.
  • August 31, 2010
    A conversation between Jacques Berlinerblau and Martin Lemelman, author of Two Cents Plain: My Brooklyn Boyhood.
  • July 28, 2010
    With all the loud clamoring about the proposed Islamic Center to be built near Ground Zero, reasonable voices are hard to discern. One thing is clear: this is not a debate about religious freedom. A mosque by peaceful Muslims of good will, unrelated to perpetrating the 9/11 attacks has every right to exist anywhere on these shores. It is the worst form of religious intolerance--and very un-American--to think that one form of religion has limits on where and when it may be practiced.
  • June 7, 2010
    On Feb. 15, 1947, the Exodus 1947 set sail for Palestine with some 4,500 Jewish refugees, most of whom were survivors of the Holocaust. The organizers of this fabled expedition fully expected the British to forcefully prevent the passengers from disembarking. As things turned out, they got more than they bargained for: three people died, including a U.S. sailor bludgeoned to death resisting the King's Navy.
  • April 27, 2010
    With 200,000 American troops committed to two wars in the greater Middle East and the U.S. president leading a major international effort to block Iran's nuclear program, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a strategic imperative.
    -- Martin Indyk, New York Times, April 19, 2010.

    Martin Indyk is a long-time friend of Israel who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Tel Aviv. He also directs foreign policy programs for Brookings, an institution with close ties to the Obama...
  • April 16, 2010
    Arab journalist Nadia Bilbassy-Charters speaks about Islamist parties and the future of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process.

  • April 2, 2010
    With the economic downturn and massive job losses, it seems many Americans have no sympathy for employees requesting religious accommodations for Sabbath observance. Comments on a recent news story about an EEOC lawsuit against Lowe's for failing to allow a Baptist to not work on Sundays almost all tilt toward hostility to the man's religious beliefs. Hard times seem to make for hardened hearts.

  • April 2, 2010
    New York Times opinion writer Ross Douthat tells Jacques Berlinerblau about Tiger, Brit Hume and why America needs a more robust public discussion about religion.

  • March 25, 2010
    Fresh from his victory in the U.S. Congress, President Obama is seizing the initiative on foreign policy. Thus, instead of making up with Bibi Netanyahu, administration officials from the president on down have maintained a tough--and even obstinate--line with the Israelis. This cerebral president is now leading rather than responding, fighting rather than trying to simply reason with his friends and his adversaries.

  • March 24, 2010
    In this episode of Faith Complex, Fathali Moghaddam discusses suicide bombings and the new global insecurity. Dr. Moghaddam is a professor in the Department of Psychology at Georgetown University.

  • March 11, 2010
    In this episode of Faith Complex, Daniel Byman discusses Iran, nuclear weapons, and counterterrorism. Dr. Byman is the Director of Georgetown's Security Studies Program and the Center for Peace and Security Studies as well as an Associate Professor in the School of Foreign Service. He is also a Senior Fellow with the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

  • March 5, 2010
    Reverend Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, talks about being a "religious secularist" and why government should not be involved with religion.

  • February 22, 2010
    Whether it's rebuilding Haiti or debating about America's health care or immigration reform, it's just plain silly to leave out the religious actors. They are advocates, doers and thinkers who have vast knowledge and experience. But plenty of thoughtful citizens prefer to relegate religion to the margins.
  • February 9, 2010
    Bahá'í lawyer and activist Sovaida Ma'ani Ewing speaks of the persecution of the Bahá'í community in Iran and the ongoing trial of 7 community members accused of spying for Israel and the United States.

  • February 2, 2010
    Bishop Harry Jackson, Senior Pastor at Hope Christian Church, discusses his procedural opposition to the District of Columbia gay marriage law and his theological understandings of the gay marriage debate.

  • January 19, 2010

    Zilda Arns Neumann, sometimes called Brazil's Mother Teresa, was among those who died tragically during Haiti's earthquake. She was in Port-au-Prince to share lessons from the enormous church-based child health program she established in Brazil.

  • January 15, 2010
    In this episode of Faith Complex, Professor Michael Eric Dyson discusses the religious elements in the music of Snoop Dogg and the late Tupac Shakur.

  • January 11, 2010
    Katherine Marshall discusses religious leaders and environmental concerns. She is a Senior Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, where she leads the Center's Program on Religion and Global Development.

  • January 11, 2010
    Sarah Holewinski discusses Innocent Civilians in Conflict. She is Executive Director of CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict), an organization working with warring parties to help civilians they have harmed in combat.

  • December 11, 2009
    This episode of Faith Complex features Jim Wallis, the evangelical Christian writer and political activist best known as the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine, and of the Washington, D.C.-based Christian community of the same name.

  • November 23, 2009
    Weekly Standard editor Michael Goldfarb tells Jacques Berlinerblau that even if J Street is actually moving from the Left to the political center it would still be unnecessary in light of the pro-Israel advocacy of AIPAC.

  • November 22, 2009
    In this episode of Faith Complex we interview Hadar Susskind, Director of Policy and Strategy at J Street. Mr. Susskind discusses his groups position on the Gaza War, the Goldstone Report, and sanctions on Iran. We talk about J Streets apparent move to the political center and what role anti-Zionists played in their recent conference. In order to get a different view, next week we interview Michael Goldfarb, online editor of The Weekly Standard, and a perceptive critic of J Street.
  • November 19, 2009
    In this episode of Faith Complex, former Prime Minister of Spain José María Aznar discusses the events of 9/11 and 3/11 and gives reasons why Turkey should not be admitted to the European Union.

  • November 9, 2009
    Did abortion politics maroon healthcare? In this episode of Faith Complex, Time Magazine reporter Amy Sullivan talks about how Catholics and Evangelicals approached the health care debate and how the Obama administration may have flubbed the abortion issue.

  • October 26, 2009
    Faith Complex kicks off its second season with Michael Eric Dyson telling Jacques Berlinerblau that--in all due respect to David Brooks--opposition to Obama is racially motivated.

  • September 28, 2009

    Newsweek has some edgy covers these days. How about, "The Case for Killing Granny"? Sure catches the eye. But "Is your Baby Racist?" on September 14, with an adorable little face staring innocently out, is equally disturbing.

  • September 14, 2009
    Two contrasting images hovered over the September 6-8 "Prayer for Peace" in Cracow, Poland. The first was the benevolent visage of Pope John Paul II, with his Cracow roots, and the memory of the exuberant role he played in Poland's transformation and, after 1989, throughout the world. Recollections of the horrors that happened not far away, at Auschwitz and Birkenau, and during the conflagration of World War II conveyed very different images and feelings. The prayers were both for a hopeful...
  • September 10, 2009
    Critics of a New Jersey mosque's plans to hold a prayer event on the National Mall are wrong in their views of religious liberty.

    The Star-Ledger reported last week that a mosque in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Dar-ul-Islam, will spearhead a national prayer gathering for September 25 in Washington, D.C., "that organizers are billing as the first event of its kind--organized prayer for tens of thousands of Muslims outside the U.S. Capitol building."
  • August 16, 2009
    Hospital waiting rooms are glum places pretty much everywhere. People, sick or injured, wait and wait and wait. Nowhere are the huge gaps between rich and poor so graphically in evidence. That's the essence of the American health reform challenge, however deeply it gets submerged in the passionate debates now raging: to bridge those gaps so that the misery of illness is not compounded by inability to pay.
  • July 27, 2009
    Today's altogether fun Faith Complex episode with Katie Paris, program and communication director of the group Faith in Public Life, might be subtitled: How Things Get Done in Washington, DC.

    Faith Complex is hosted by Jacques Berlinerblau, produced by Thomas Banchoff and sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University.
  • July 7, 2009
    In today's interview Ms. Donna Payne, Associate Director of Diversity for the Human Rights Campaign, grades the Obama administration's performance on issues such as HIV/AIDS policy, Hate Crimes Legislation, Gays in the military, and same-sex marriage. She also talks about relations between the LGBT community and the African-American Church.

    Faith Complex is hosted by Jacques Berlinerblau, produced by Thomas Banchoff and sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and...
  • June 29, 2009
    Richard Cizik puts the protest back in Protestant. It is impossible not to watch this new video interview I conducted with him without pausing to marvel at how many mainstream Evangelical theological and political positions he challenges. That he does so with charm and wit just makes it all the more entertaining.

    Faith Complex is hosted by Jacques Berlinerblau, produced by Thomas Banchoff and sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and the Program for Jewish...
  • June 22, 2009
    This episode of Faith Complex features Washington Post reporter Jacqui Salmon on the topic of the White House Initiative on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

    Faith Complex is hosted by Jacques Berlinerblau, produced by Thomas Banchoff and sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University.
  • June 14, 2009
    Faith Complex is hosted by Jacques Berlinerblau, produced by Thomas Banchoff, and presented by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University.

    Consider my interview with Father Thomas Reese of the Society of Jesus to be a primer in the ever-interesting, ever-complicated subject of the relation between the Obama administration and the American Catholic community.
  • June 3, 2009
    Faith Complex is hosted by Jacques Berlinerblau, produced by Thomas Banchoff, and presented by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University.

    If I seem a bit amped up during my interview with Professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, then please chalk this up not only to the man's infectious intellectual energy, but to the excitement generated by his breathtakingly bold and erudite book Islam and the Secular State:...
  • May 27, 2009
    Faith Complex is hosted by Jacques Berlinerblau, produced by Thomas Banchoff, and presented by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University.

  • May 27, 2009
    And so the circus begins.

    Sonia Sotomayor was nominated by President Obama to fill the vacancy created by Justice David Souter's impending retirement. She would become the sixth Catholic on the Court. What does her nomination mean for religious freedom?

    Even before the nomination, attack ads were ready to roll, with charges that she was a "liberal judicial activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written." Others contend...
  • May 26, 2009
    Faith Complex is hosted by Jacques Berlinerblau, produced by Thomas Banchoff and sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University.

    Today's interview is with the very erudite Michael Novak who, as you are about to see, was not exceedingly awed by President's Obama's speech at Notre Dame. I, by contrast, sort of liked it.
  • May 20, 2009
    Today marks the launch of Faith Complex--a show about the collision of religion, politics and art. Faith Complex is a joint production of Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and Program for Jewish Civilization. We are delighted to be teaming up again with our old ale-house cronies at the Washington Post "On Faith" page.

    Today we invite you to view Part I of our interview with Asra Nomani, entitled "A Bad Girl of Islam." This is the prelude to Part II,...
  • May 1, 2009
    "We remind Hosni Mubarak that we are all Egyptians. Where does he want us to go?" Gergis Faris, a 46-year-old pig farmer in Cairo who collects garbage to feed his animals, told the Associated Press. "We are uneducated people, just living day by day... and now if our pigs are taken from us without compensation, how are we supposed to live?"

    In the past two days Egyptian authorities have slaughtered some 300,000 pigs. Never mind that health officials from Atlanta to Melbourne have asserted...
  • April 20, 2009
    "Vatican Unhappy with Obama Ambassador Picks," scream the headlines. The only problem is that the stories are totally false.

    First the stories were about Douglas Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University, who supported Obama for president even though Kmiec is pro-life. Then the stories moved on to Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President Kennedy, who was said to be rejected because she is pro-choice. Why both a pro-life and a pro-choice candidate would be rejected was never...
  • April 20, 2009

    It's hard to find any silver linings in the dark gathering clouds in Darfur. It's the time of year that many parts of Africa call the "hungry season" or the "soudure" (a joint whose parts are welded together and thus is liable to break). The rains are about to begin, and with them comes planting season. Mud roads and tracks become impassable. Food from last harvest is gone and the new harvest is months off.

  • April 15, 2009

    How can the United States harness the extraordinary organizational capacity of global religions and turn them into a force for peace and welfare? That's a question the Obama administration should confront early on. The faith factor can and should be a critical part of America's public diplomacy--and not a piece apart but integrally linked to the core question of how the "smart" new diplomacy needs to unfold.

  • April 8, 2009
    Holy Week is a challenging time for Christians because it reminds us that Jesus failed. That's right, I said he failed.

    This is especially emphasized in the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus' preaching is not accepted and his mission is a failure. In the Gospel of Mark, no one understands Jesus, not even the disciples. At the passion, Jesus is alone. The disciples fall asleep. He is betrayed by Judas. Peter denies him, and the young man runs away naked. Even the women do not approach the cross but...
  • March 10, 2009
    Anti-Semitism is... becoming part of the political ideology... If you dehumanize a group of people -- and the Islamists dehumanize the Jews -- even if they don't say they want to kill them, the dehumanization is... a crime. -- Bassam Tibi

    A Syrian-born German scholar and leading expert on Islamist ideology, Bassam Tibi doesn't mice words. For the sad reality is that many Islamist leaders today espouse a version of Jew hatred that is as odious as any other prejudice.

  • February 6, 2009
    The lifting of the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson by Pope Benedict XVI caused a firestorm of protest from Jews and liberal Catholics. Jewish leaders expressed shock and hurt because Bishop Williamson had denied the reality of the Shoah (Holocaust) that exterminated millions of Jews. Catholic liberals complained that Williamson and the three other bishops of the St. Pius X Society have still not accepted the Second Vatican Council.

    The complaints against Bishop Williamson are on...
  • February 5, 2009 not accept Islamic human rights. If we accept that the Muslims can write an Islamic human rights declaration...from now on, we will see Buddhist human rights declarations...Jewish human rights declarations and so on and so forth...And if the standards are abolished... the weaker people...will be the ones who will suffer.
    -- Shirin Ebadi, Iranian Human Rights Activist and Nobel Laureate

    As the 30th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution approaches, it is refreshing to hear Shirin...
  • January 7, 2009
    "(Israel's)... acts made me reflect on some of the commandments given by God to the 'Chosen People': Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house. No one could be chosen by God to annex the land of other people and kill them."

    Among the many statements I have read regarding the tragic situation in Gaza the above caught my attention. Penned by a Palestinian professor of American literature, it reminds us of two facts:

  • December 29, 2008
    Every other year I fly to Oklahoma to spend Christmas with my in-laws. In their small rural town, where churches and barbeque are plentiful, I ponder the interplay of different religious holidays. Hanukkah celebrates a purported miracle that occurred in 165 BCE, when Jewish rebels revolted against Hellenistic idolatry, while Christmas marks the wondrous birth -some 160 years later-- of a charismatic rabbi whose disciples founded a new religion. Totally unrelated, these two holidays - some...
  • December 4, 2008
    Whose heart was not broken by the image of two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg crying for his parents, both of whom were murdered last week in Mumbai's Jewish Center? The world weeps with this innocent child, and for all of those whose lives were lost or torn apart in last week's carnage.

    The Mumbai tragedy brings with it two sad lessons, not merely for South Asia, but for the entire world.

  • November 11, 2008

    Picking up where we left off yesterday, here are the most important Faith and Values stories of 2008:

    5. The rise of Progressive Evangelicals in triumph and glory?: All year long observers of American religion (myself included) have been predicting that 2008 would be the coming-out party for centrist and progressive Evangelicals. Unlike their conservative co-religionists, these new kids on the block would focus on issues other than abortion and gays. And by all accounts they were kids; it...

  • November 10, 2008

    As promised, here are some of the most important Faith and Values stories of the 2008 election (compare them, if you wish, to those of 2007). My rankings in reverse order:

    10: The Rise of the Faith-Based Operative: Last week, while giving a lecture at the American Academy of Religion and noticing scores of unshaven, scraggly, hung-over and rather forlorn-looking male and female graduate students strewn about the audience, I had an inspiration: "There will be more jobs in politics for those...

  • November 5, 2008

    The not-very-tightly-knit community of Faith and Values pundits is unevenly divided between Narrative People and Numbers People. The latter perform vital statistical surveys about religiously based voting patterns and public opinion. Though, at their worst, they tend to speak in sentences composed of a noun, a verb and a polling result.

    Narrative People, such as myself, are somewhat harder to find. We tend to look for larger cultural, historical and theological patterns. On the downside we...

  • October 30, 2008

    Georgetown University had the pleasure yesterday of hosting a variety of scholars, analysts, and activists at a conference devoted to the Jewish vote and the 2008 election. Many of our guests addressed issues that I have been writing about in this column and I'll discuss some of their views below. But remember that I am refracting their opinions through my own lens (and my lens is darkening at this late hour). So the opinions I attribute to them are, if you will, solely my own:

  • October 30, 2008
    Next week's election has me thinking about democracy both at home and abroad. How, I wonder, can the U.S. promote political reform overseas unless it puts its own house in order? One of our chief problems is widespread political apathy, a long-standing ailment compounded by a congressional redistricting system that encourages political disengagement. Yes indeed, people are "free" to vote or stay at home. But their choices are shaped by the perception that voting does (or does not) advance...
  • October 29, 2008

    Yesterday, I made a variety of predictions about the way Evangelicals might vote next week. Today, I turn to Jews. But since tomorrow I am going to have a lot of experts, advocates and Beltway Insider Types lecturing about this subject at Georgetown University, I want to see what they have to say before going out on a limb. I will report back to you about the conference on Friday. For now, a few predictions and a few observations:

  • October 23, 2008

    Next week I am going to post copiously about the 2008 Jewish vote as well as convening a conference and press gathering on the subject at Georgetown University. But before heading out to the office to work on that, I want to quickly draw your attention to a recently released Gallup Poll that challenges some conventional wisdom.

  • October 20, 2008

    The scene was a muggy hotel conference room in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, last week. The topic was grand: "Building Peace, Cooperation, and Harmony through Interfaith Dialogue." The audience was a somber group of Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian leaders, government officials, students and a smattering of international speakers. The tone was utterly serious - no backslapping or chitchat. The organizer was a small new group called the Asian Faiths Development Dialogue.

  • October 1, 2008

    I have no formal training in comedy but, as Jews are wont to do, I consider myself something of a comedian (and a tragedian too!). These talents notwithstanding, the only insight I have about Sarah Silverman's recent pro-Obama video entitled "The Great Schelp" is that it is: 1) funny, 2) refreshingly anti-PC, and, 3) based on the rather questionable surmise that Jews might actually be able to tilt the vote in Florida.

    As for funny, well, just watch the clip. That young African-American men...

  • September 18, 2008

    This past week a group of 300 rabbis formally announced their intention "to support Senator Obama for President." The formation of "Rabbis for Obama" strikes me as very good for the Democratic ticket. But not so good for Jews or, more precisely, Judaism.

  • September 17, 2008

    Beliefnet has drawn attention to an innovative PR cum merchandising initiative from the Obama campaign. Religious supporters of the Senator from Illinois can now purchase tee shirts, buttons and bumper stickers with faith-specific messages such as "BELIEVERS FOR BARACK" or "PRO-FAMILY AND PRO-OBAMA," or "CATHOLICS FOR OBAMA."

    According to Paul Monteiro, Deputy Director of Religious Affairs, the new products permit customers "to show your support for Barack...

  • September 12, 2008

    Making sense of the Jewish vote in 2008 is something of an emerging specialization at the University of Faith and Values Politicking (where I coach the Kickline team in addition to my normal academic responsibilities). Here are a few questions and propositions to be considered:

    Does John McCain's selection of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate dramatically impact the way Jews will vote?: My intuition screams "no!" But another voice in my head whispers that her appearance on...

  • July 4, 2008

    World leaders are heading for Japan for the annual ritual known as the Group of Eight meeting. Last week a different group of leaders met, also in Japan, also to take stock of the leading issues that face the world.

    They were religious leaders, and their gathering took place in two Japanese cities with spiritual roots, Osaka and Kyoto. The meeting is part of a tradition, now three years old, of a religious summit on the eve of the grand G8 summit.

    Religious leaders don’t make policy,...

  • July 3, 2008
    This is the first of two stories I will tell in the coming weeks about Muslim headscarves. Both illustrate the sometimes paranoid reactions that religious dress often elicits; they also highlight how the political meaning of headscarves shifts in different political and cultural contexts.

  • July 2, 2008

    Yesterday Senator Obama delivered a bold address in which he spoke of establishing a “Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.” This endeavor, he emphasized, “will be a critical part of my administration.”

    I am not a legal scholar, but a mere biblical exegete. This disqualifies me from commenting authoritatively or even insightfully on the legality of this proposal--a proposal made by a politician who, incidentally, knows his constitutional law.


  • June 23, 2008

    Mississippi native Burns Strider was, until just a few weeks ago, Senior Adviser and Director of Faith Based Outreach for Senator Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. As readers of The God Vote might recall, I thought the team he led performed quite skillfully.

    Having completed his duties for the Clinton campaign, Mr. Strider has recently announced the formation of The Eleison Group (of which he is a Founding Partner). He describes it as “a full service firm focusing on...

  • June 13, 2008

    In the 72 hours since I laid out the first 5 of 12 steps that could help rejuvenate John McCain’s flagging Faith and Values outreach, his Faith and Values outreach has somehow flagged a bit more!

    Not happily for the Senator from Arizona, stories about his woes with conservative Evangelicals are proliferating. See for example this article from CNN, or listen to this lively discussion on NPR’s To the Point where host Warren Olney interviews journalist Wayne Slater, Evangelical...

  • June 6, 2008

    With Hillary Clinton’s expected suspension of campaign operations Saturday, the Faith and Values Primary Season will officially come to an end.

    Speaking on behalf those who study the intersection between religion and politics I want to give a shout out to all the Republicans and Democrats who ran for the presidency. Especially you, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. You guys were the best.

    But now we must move to the general election and here are some of the stories I predict we will be...

  • June 3, 2008

    "My -- again what I want to do in church is I want to be able to take Michelle and my girls, sit in a pew quietly, hopefully get some nice music, some good reflection, praise God, thank Him for all of the blessings He has given our family, put some money in the collection plate, maybe afterwards go out and grab some brunch, have my girls go to Sunday school. That's what I am looking for." Senator Barack Obama discussing his reasons for leaving his church this past weekend in ...

  • May 27, 2008

    Why? Why, I ask, did John McCain disarticulate his presidential campaign from Pastors John Hagee and Rod Parsley last week? As we shall see below, he cut them off even though it looked like he would overcome the turbulence created by their support. I have a few theories, but first permit me to point out that the Senator's move spells trouble for Spiritual Endorsers far and wide.

    In the bestiary of Faith and Values politicking the Spiritual Endorser occupies a place distinct from the Spiritual...

  • May 20, 2008

    Much has been said over the past few weeks about the fatal, tactical missteps made by Hillary Clintonâs campaign. These include a troubling lack of caucus know-how, an overabundance of underestimating the competition, and shortsightedness in long-term planning for the primary season.

    After tonight's Oregon primary, it seems likely that more autopsic observations such as these are in store for tomorrow. But if there is one component of Clinton's operation that does not deserve the label...

  • May 19, 2008

    The World Economic Forum on the Middle East at Sharm El Sheikh reeks of solemnity. There is a sense that the people who attend this annual business-driven meeting carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. With speeches by three heads of state (Presidents Hosni Mubarak and George W. Bush and King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud) at the opening event Sunday, with 1,500 world leaders from many different sectors, the gravity of the issues at hand seemed overwhelming.

  • April 24, 2008

    As with most analysts who cover the 2008 election I receive my share of spin-related e-mails (referred to from here on in as âœSpreemailsâ) from the campaigns of those running for high office.

  • April 21, 2008

    Sloshing through Hezekiah’s tunnel near the City of David in Jerusalem brings home what fear and faith can do. The 530-meter-long tunnel was chiseled out of rock over 2500 years ago, deep underground, by men without flashlights or scientific instruments to guide them. They knew that if they were attacked they could survive only if they were sure of their water source. To this day water flows through the tunnel from a spring to a reservoir.

  • April 14, 2008

    There were many winners at Sunday night’s Compassion Forum at Messiah College and no discernible losers as far as I could tell.

    For starters, the sponsoring and organizing group, Faith in Public Life, handled logistics superbly. FPL is setting an agenda and it is doing so with a “Big Tent” philosophy of letting different religious Americans bring their concerns to the fore. Last night a theologically diverse group of pre-selected clergy asked questions about euthanasia,...

  • April 13, 2008

    Because of a suggestion from James Wolfensohn while he was in Israel, I was part of an exciting workshop in Neve Ilan at the end of last month. In a nutshell, the meeting was presented as the second designed to reflect on and to revitalize both Jewish and Israeli development work, and to draw together both religious and secular experience and approaches.

  • April 4, 2008

    Avoid religion and politics at the dinner table -- so goes the conventional wisdom. Tempers will flare and appetites curdle with the passions that both topics so often arouse. But in reality we need to get the kind of dinner-table discussions going that can help overcome some deep and poorly understood prejudices about religion in American life.

  • March 18, 2008
    Tonight we are debating the proposition that âœreligion should have no place in politics and government.â Let me state from the outset that I--a garden-variety Jewish atheistâ”wholly concur.

    It has come to my attention, however, that many of my compatriots do not. Reverend Barry Lynnâs organization recently reported that 65 % of Americans believed that "the Founders intended the United States to be a Christian nation.â A 2006 study by the Pew Forum noted that nearly 7 out of 10 citizens say...

  • March 18, 2008
    Some years back my wife and I befriended three Moroccan brothers who had been summarily locked up for 10 years by the late king of Morocco. Tossed into a cell with little light and a ceiling so low that one of the brothers developed a hunched back, they were only released after a human rights campaign in France secured their freedom. One brother finally came to America, where he settled down in a small town in Texas. There he wrote his memoirs and discovered a kind of happiness, surrounded by...
  • March 1, 2008
    Recently I agreed to become a regular contributor to's provocative blog on religion and politics: 'On Faith'. My mission: to elucidate the intricate mysteries of Islamist politics. Something about my reputation for scholarly honesty and objectivity-- I was told--bolstered by my work with Arab democratic activists, suggested that I could make a compelling addition to the On Faith team! Who was I to argue?

  • February 29, 2008

    Note to McCain operatives: Any and all attempts to malign Barack Obama as “all hat, no cattle,” "electoral eye candy," “eloquent but empty,” are doomed to fail. Most Americans will find it difficult to reconcile those descriptions with the heady and effortlessly intelligent person they see on the nightly news. Most Americans will reject the argument that the fellow with the J.D. from Harvard who lectured on constitutional law at the University of Chicago is all fluff.

  • Marriage plots
    January 8, 2008

    Janet Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini write on the Immanent Frame: In his Commonweal essay, “Sex & Christianity: How has the Moral Landscape Changed?” Charles Taylor works to create a space for a Catholic sexual ethic that does not make “a certain kind of purity a necessary condition for relating to God through the sacraments.” For Taylor, the “moralistic code” dedicated to sexual purity fails doubly: it “erects a barrier between the church and...

  • November 27, 2007

    It is my opinion -- and I’ll concede that I am probably not inner-tube floating in the American mainstream here -- that persons of questionable moral scruples can make perfectly good presidents. I will refer to this way of thinking about national leaders as The French Model in honor of François Mitterrand. When the president of France died in 1996 his long-time mistress was in attendance at his funeral. Anne Pingeot’s appearance at his grave (with her child by Mitterrand)...

  • November 8, 2007

    Pandering to a religious constituency in a presidential election has its ups and downs. The ups: The fundraisers where the hosts invite all of their fabulous, deep-pocketed co-religionists: The clergy singing your praises (without specifically intoning your name) from the pulpit: Church photo-ops where old women in wheelchairs roll up to you (or are launched in your direction by shameless staffers) and clutch your hand at precisely the moment that the guy from AP is snapping pictures. And...

  • November 6, 2007
    Paul Beatty’s 2001 novel, Tuff, features many memorable moments, not least of which is the following exchange between an African-American Rabbi and the story’s 300-pound, drug-dealing, art-house-cinema-loving protagonist: “God ain’t never spoken to you?”
    “I don’t believe in God.”
    “You’re a rabbi, how can you not believe in God?”
    “It’s what’s so great about being Jewish. You don’t have to believe in a God...
  • September 6, 2007
    There is a memorable scene in the short story “Bloodshed” by the spectacular Jewish-American novelist Cynthia Ozick. A Hasidic Rebbe endowed with the ability to read other people’s minds confronts a visiting nonbeliever seated in his synagogue. After having somehow articulated the innermost thoughts of this troubled voyeur, the Rebbe exclaims: “Despair must be earned.” The following dialogue ensues: “I’m not in despair” Bleilip objected.
  • August 24, 2007
    On Fridays, if all goes according to plan, I would like to try and respond to the comments my readers made during the week. Because of the sheer volume of responses I cannot address each one of them, let alone a fraction of them. But hopefully, you will soon trust that I am not avoiding tough questions and opposing viewpoints in an effort to ensure myself a restful weekend. A few other things to bear in mind:
  • August 23, 2007
    In an interview to be aired next week on HDTV Michael Bloomberg has told Dan Rather that “nobody’s going to elect me president of the United States.” Only partial transcripts of the conversation are available, and it is hard to tell why the Mayor of New York came to this conclusion. It is also hard to tell whether the mayor actually believed this conclusion. But as far as conclusions taken out of context and made by PR-savvy politicians go, it strikes me as the right one.
  • August 20, 2007

    If New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg were to actually run for president one wonders how he would fare among those Americans for whom a candidate’s personal religiosity ranks among their greatest concerns. I am speaking, of course, of the so-called “values voters.” Now, let me immediately confess that I occasionally find myself hurling profanities at this category because it is so vague and imprecise. Here is one ambiguity that always burns my feathers: What do the values...

  • Awraham Soetendorp is a household name in the Netherlands so an English language symposium to celebrate his life and mark his formal retirement as rabbi of a Reform Jewish congregation in the Hague last month was quickly over-subscribed. Those lucky enough to attend were in for an eclectic treat: wise words, history, politics, provocative suggestions, music, and theology all woven together with good humor. It was a well timed reminder, at a time when Dutch politics are often tense and...