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"I just got out of my theatre class and the teacher (Sara Morsey) went into a half hour lecture on how the Satellite is the best source for finding out about what was going on in town. She read parts of Shamrock McShane's article (The Play About the Baby – see: newmoonrising.com) and went on to say that Mr. McShane is a journalistic hero who makes his readers actually think instead of spoon feeding them their news and reviews. She strongly recommended that all her students pick it up this and every month."

– Denise Hank

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Updated: December 25, 2011

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Israel and the Choice

by Shamrock McShane

Can you be both Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestine?

Israel gets about three billion dollars a year from the United States in foreign aid, which is about 33% of the U.S. foreign aid budget. Another 20% of the budget goes to Egypt, as security that Egypt won't attack Israel.

Remember, though, we're cheapskates. Of the 22 wealthiest countries in the world, the United States gives the smallest proportion of it gross national product to foreign aid — about .02%. We figure we gave at the office.

"Christianity is a form of Judaism." – Rabbi Shaye J. D. Cohen

The concept of God begins to emerge, from the voice that spoke to Abraham in the desert to the spin that Plato and Aristotle would put on teleology. But nobody was expecting the curveball that Paul was going to throw them:

"Jesus is God."

Jesus never said he was God. Jesus being God is all Paul's idea. Put it all on Paul.

What's up with Saint Paul?

Paul. What is up with Paul? His Jewish name is Saul. It's the Romans who call him Paul. Something happens to him on the Road to Damascus. And then he makes a complete reversal, and instead of persecuting Christians, he is inspired to become a Christian. He goes from hating them to loving them.

Saul had not only been a Rabbi but also a philosopher in the Greek tradition.

Order of Events

Let's try to get the order of events straight. For starters, there's Creation. It's topped off by Man. Then Wo–man, woman out of man. Then there's the Garden of Eden, which we fuck up. Then there's Cain killing Abel, which makes things worse. After a while there's the Flood and Noah and his Ark – with God complicit, as much as admitting the he fucked up too this time, and wants to start over. So we do. And that's where real historical people, Abram, start to get involved.

Hunting and gathering nomads come before farmers. But farmers claim the land.

Then there is the Law of the Land.

Ten Commandments

  1. I am the Lord thy God, and thou shalt not have false gods before me.
  2. Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain.
  3. Keep holy the sabbath.
  4. Honor thy father and mother.
  5. Thou shalt not kill.
  6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
  7. Thou shalt not steal.
  8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
  9. Thou shalt not covet.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.

Mosaic law says that women are in all ways inferior to men.

Soon it seems the whole world has become monotheistic — except for the entire East, which seemingly believes otherwise, that there is no personal God and there was no creation, only eternity and infinity.

It began when Abram heard the voice in the desert. He obeys. He heeds the call.

Redacted

But all of this, the whole story is redacted — compiled, put together, edited, crafted much later, centuries after the story began to be told. The Bible doesn't begin being put together until around the same time that Homer is writing his epics, around 800 BCE. By the time the source material is gathered together, it is who knows how long after the Jews' captivity in Babylon, long after they heyday of David and Solomon, after the Ark of the Covenant had been stolen and no doubt destroyed (at least nobody but maybe Steven Spielberg has seen it since). It was written down and revised at a time when there was nothing for the Jews to glory in except past glories, the kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

As a story, the Torah fizzles out in the end. It is a strange document, a strange piece of writing, a collaborative effort. Scholars, even believers, discount entire books of the Bible — because the God revealed there is not one they want. And so they pick and choose.

Believers do not simply believe that God exists; they believe in God. An agnostic might believe that God exists, something like God, something you might call God, and not believe in God.

Monotheism tends to lead to individuality?

Nuns were the first free women. Sort of. Christ made them free. They got the idea from Saint Paul.

Roots of Anti-Semitism

At first, the Pope valued the Jews and they were more protected in Italy than in the rest of Europe. They had been in Rome since the beginning of the empire. But by the 16th century they were locked into a ghetto, banned from any role in public life, barred from owning land or practicing any profession — except for money lending, scrap metals, and rags — which are trades, not professions. Jews had at one time been the physicians of the pope.

But the real roots of anti–Semitism must lie with the Romans, the destroyers of the Temple, who set the Diaspora in motion. The spirit of Rome lives on in anti–Semitism. That's just one way, perhaps the most virulent, that the spirit of Rome lives on.

Jesus lived!

There is no doubt that Jesus lived. He lived, he died, he was buried. That much is all historical fact. It is what comes next that is contested. It is not an historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead.

Neither is it factually disproved.

Jesus said to love your enemies, but he didn't say to have no enemies, only that you should recognize the same divine energy in your enemies too.

Finding the divine within yourself and within all things is not a view favored by any of the world's monotheistic religions — Christians, Muslims, or Jews.

Constantinian Christians

It was the Roman Emperor Constantine who invented Christmas in 325 CE. Constantine had seen a cross in the sky on the eve of battle, and above it was a banner that read: In this sign ye shall conquer. And that did it for him. And the Cross went from being a symbol of Roman domination to being the symbol of the Holy Roman Empire, which meant more domination, but of a Christian–sanctioned sort.

Barbarians

The barbarians wiped out Greek and Roman civilization, having little idea what either of them meant. They translated grammar as glamour because they thought the act of reading or writing was magic.

By 476 CE the Holy Roman Empire was good and dead. The damn Goths, the barbarians, couldn't speak Greek, couldn't read it, didn't want to learn it, but without it there'd be no way of knowing math, science, philosophy, medicine, or engineering, any of it.

Holy War

King David says, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." This becomes the basis for Augustine's doctrine of Original Sin.

Augustine would also contrive a theory of just war, whereas Jesus (Remember him, Rabbi Joshua?) seemed purely pacifist.

Cathars

In 1205 CE Pope Innocent II decided to debate the Cathars. Big of him. He was of course infallible on matters of faith and morals, and this debate would clearly qualify. The Cathars (from catharsis) considered themselves pure. They understood things clearly because they had applied Aristotelian logic to the moral universe and thereby conceived the notion of Dual Creation. At the same time that God created the spiritual universe, an evil God created a parallel material universe. Thus began the war between good and evil.

The Fall of Man was a win for the dark side. The Resurrection was a win for God.

How could an all–powerful and all–merciful God create evil?

It took the Catholic Church till 1330 to burn all the Cathars to death. As many as 20,000 were said to have been torched in southern France. Heretics. Apostates. It was part of the Crusades.

Johnny Come Lately

There was no such thing as Islam before the 6th century CE. This would make the followers of Islam something of a Johnny Come Lately to the World of the One God Believers, no? It would seem, clearly, the Jews got there first.

The time before Islam is a time of blackness.

Without Islam, there is no Aristotle, no Plato, the whole spectrum of Greek thought, which both Medieval Christians and Jews were wont to do without.

The Five Pillars of Islam

  1. The proclamation of a single God, Allah, with Mohammed as his emissary.
  2. Prayer five times a day.
  3. Fasting during the 30 days of Ramadan.
  4. Alms for the poor.
  5. Pilgrimage to Mecca.

It is 571 CE when Allah speaks to Mohammed.

Islamic Philosophers Rescue Aristotle

  • Al-Farabi (870-950CE)
  • Avicenna (980-1037CE)
  • Averroes (1126-1198CE)

Averroes tried to show that philosophy is the highest form of religion.

  • Why did the Jews reject Muhammad?
  • Why did the Jews reject Jesus?
  • Why did the Jews reject Spinoza?

"In the year before the hijra or migration to Yathrib (or Medina, the City, as the Muslims would call it) Muhammad had adapted his religion to bring it closer to Judaism as he understood it. After so many years of working in isolation he must have been looking forward to living with members of an older, more established tradition. Thus prescribed a fast for Muslims on the Jewish Day of Atonement and commanded Muslims to pray three times a day like the Jews, instead of only twice as hitherto. Muslims could marry Jewish women and should observe some of the dietary laws. Above all, Muslims must now pray facing Jerusalem like the Jews and Christians. The Jews of Medina were at first prepared to give Muhammad a chance: life had become intolerable in the oasis, and like many of the committed pagans of Medina they were ready to give him the benefit of the doubt, especially since he seemed so positively inclined toward their faith. Eventually, however, they turned against Muhammad and joined those pagans who were hostile to the newcomers from Mecca. The Jews had sound religious reasons for their rejection: they believed the era of prophecy was over. They were expecting a Messiah, but no Jew or Christian at this stage would have believed they were prophets. Yet they were also motivated by political considerations: in the old days they had gained power in the oasis by throwing their lot with the one warring Arab tribe or the other. Muhammad, however, had joined both these tribes with the Qurayish in the new Muslim ummah, a kind of super–tribe of which the Jews were also members. As they saw their position in Medina decline, the Jews became antagonistic. It was easy for them, with their superior knowledge of scripture to poke holes in the stories of the Koran.

"Muhammad's rejection by the Jews was probably the greatest disappointment of his life, and it called his whole religious position into question… The polemic against the Jews in the Koran is well developed and shows how threatened the Muslims felt by the Jewish rejection, even thought the Koran still insists that not all the people of earlier revelation have fallen into error and that essentially all religions are one."

"Unlike the Torah, however, which according to the biblical account, was revealed to Moses in one session on Mount Sinai, the Koran was revealed to Muhammed bit by bit, line by line, verse by verse over a period of 23 years." — Karen Armstrong, A History of God

How long did Mamet say it took Sophocles to write Oedipus Rex? Twenty years? How long did the Odyssey take? How long did it take to write? Moses didn't write the Pentateuch overnight, and * Spinoza showed that Moses didn't write all of the Pentateuch either.

And Muhammad went to Medina, and I don't want to try and tell you what he was thinking — that would be presumptuous, if not blasphemous. But I can imagine, can't I? And what I imagine happening, what I think he thought, was that things were going to get better.

You're saying he thought this, but that happened, and therein lies the presumption, if not the blasphemy, because what can you know or imagine or think that is beyond the mind of the prophet?

What can I think? What can I imagine? I don't know — until I try. I can imagine and think A Lot of Things.

They will be false.

You could only say that — before I imagine them — if you were a prophet.

Or had been around the block a few times.

In Medina were the people of the Book. He could talk to them.

The Koran is redacted too, although, very unlike the Bible or the Torah, it is very much the work of one writer — Muhammad. It took 23 years to write the Koran. So when it says in the Koran that the People of the Book rejected the Koran — it was a Koran that was still being written or that was still in Muhammad's head, or that he was even then just beginning to articulate to his followers.

Muhammad wanted the Jews to accept him and his book.

He was naïve.

He was sincere. He wanted to befriend the Christians too.

He didn't see the gap between Judaism and Christianity as unbridgeable?

The Judeo–Christian tradition…

Is a joke, isn't it?

He wanted to play. He's a new kid on the playground, he wants to play with the other kids, and they tell him to go away. It hurts, it hurts his feelings. And the game is monotheism. And the Jews don't understand. You see, Muhammad says, God talked to me too.

The same God, the God that Abraham followed. But, in fact, in the Koran, God is not the hardass he is in the Old Testament. He's got a heart. He's not Buddha–Jesus, but then he doesn't need to be. The Koran has nothing bad to say about Buddha–Jesus, Rabbi Joshua. But the idea that God would have a son is absurd, let alone that he would split in three to conform to Aristotelian principles.

Teleology.

It is said that Islam is the desert. But most Muslims are not Arabs. Would it not seem then that Islam has spread beyond the desert.

Maybe there is no more desert.

Maybe the desert isn't what it used to be.

Maybe we aren't what we used to be.

Norman Mailer says one effect of Hitler is political correctness. It may be better, Mailer contends, to permit hate speech. "Someone may need to say ten times 'I hate Jews' before he says, 'you know, that guy's not so bad.'"

Out of 14 million Jews, how many wicked sons could there be? And who decides who's an apikoros? To the Hasidim in The Chosen, Reuven Malter is one. Reuven, a Zionist, who wants to be a rabbi.

The Wicked Son by David Mamet
Schocken Books, Random House

David Mamet says the world hates Jews, always has, and he's afraid the world always will hate Jews. But is he afraid that it will happen, or is he confident that it will happen, or both? Can fear and confidence coexist?

Certainly Jews are afforded less protection world–wide than those creatures covered in this country under the Endangered Species Act. Jews, apparently, can be hunted anytime anywhere, always have been. Always will be?

Not in this country. Not in the good old USA. No? See: The Old Religion by David Mamet.

Mamet goes on to assert, with persuasive logic, that the world hates Blacks and Gays.

Surely, hate is what the world does best; it's right up there with spinning.

For a monotheist, Mamet talks a lot about the gods. "Obviously and observedly, the gods are angered as we, misguided, failed to feed them."

"The masochistic and sadistic imagination engages in fantasies wherein the cryptosexual delight of unlimited power is experienced (equally and perhaps interchangeably) as victim and perpetrator."

"We note that the individual, by accepting the power of ritual, endorses the power of, and thus feels himself worthless before, the mystery bids to serve (the ritual thus essentially substituting for the generalized anomie) and the increasing devotion to the religious group may address the anxiety and, so, awaken in him increasing gratitude — called variously, filial piety, patriotism, religious dogmatism, or sports rooting.

"This is why one sees half–naked fans shivering in the sub–zero weather of the football stadium — automatically re–creating themselves as ritually purified priests, capable of interceding before the sports' god. They perform a hieratic display of suffering that might not only sway the gods, but banish from the performers the terrible notion of their own worthlessness vis–à–vis the actual combatants."

"How could one who had not experienced it treat the survivals of slavery with anything other than a profound, nonjudgmental respect? And might not the spared recognize, in the culture they inherited, phenomenal courage and invention rather (and more morally) than awkwardness, and difference from the 'majority culture'? For to today's African–American, though not to the Jew, the idea of the 'majority culture' is, perhaps, recognizable as an illusion." — Mamet

We, who are not Jews, are part of the majority culture. And it is no culture.

"For what is the majority culture other than an accidental, moot, and at best transient confederation of the momentarily unchallenged. It is no culture but an assemblage of the fortunate under the illusion that they have something in common other than their luck." — Mamet

Luck equates to riches in the world we live in.

"True cultural identity, as familial identity, comes from absolute commitment. Assimilation that entails rejection of one's ancestors' sorrows, rather than a ticket of admission to the majority culture is an announcement of depravity." — Mamet

Depravity is something Islam deplores as well.

"The un–discharged trauma of slavery (for all of the Western world, black or white) persists as racism; as the absolute certainty that this or that group was so abused (c.f. the Intifada) they must have brought it upon themselves."

Racism is a generalized term for anti–Semitism. But in the generalization it loses its significance; it is devalued.

"One may note that this is not primarily a reaction of the coward but of the child who looks on at horror inflicted on another and at his parents' and society's passive endorsement of the horror. To conclude that his parents and their society is depraved is beyond the child's imagining. They must be, then, correct. The true strength of race prejudice is that it is inculcated in childhood (before the possibility of rational judgment) and is inseparable from the child's need for security and for powerful and moral parents." — David Mamet, The Wicked Son

The world hates Jews, Mamet says, and the thing to remember is that the world includes Jews, so that among those in the world who hate Jews are Jews themselves.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3