Religion and social justice

I often wonder why many religious groups don’t have more of an emphasis on social justice.  And I often wonder why some religious groups seem so hateful.  I once received a particularly vitriolic racist e-mail from somebody, and the signature line included that fish and a biblical phrase.  So I sent back a four-letter e-mail:  WWJD?

Anyway, that’s an overly long warm up for this link.  It’s a rabbi writing about why Jews should not use the term “shv*rtza”:

Jews are called by the Torah to be a light unto the nations, and it is religious Jews in particular, who live lives openly committed to Jewish ritual and values, upon whom this responsibility first devolves. But what light is it that we impart when we use a term of vulgarity that betrays the Torah’s most sacred value, that there is only one God in heaven who created every human being in His likeness.

He lost me when he got to the part about Wright and Farrakhan, but oh well.

6 thoughts on “Religion and social justice

  1. Well, I learned something from that article.

    I agree on Wright. I don’t get the complaints from whites about him. I don’t find the man offensive at all. There is some kind of double standard there. I hear the same people that complained so long and hard about Wright say similar things about the same country, the same government, depending on the polarity of the current administration.

    Can’t say I have a negative opinion on Farrakhan either.

  2. I’m not sure I understand what’s going on here. From what I gathered from the linked article, the writer of the article is saying that Jews, as a population who have suffered from prejudice and bigotry, should not use language that perpetuates prejudice and bigotry.

    I don’t think the rabbi is wrong. I think that there are a lot of words that perpetuate bigotry, prejudice, and racism that should fall out of the lexicon, that should never have existed in the first place and should particularly not be used now or in the future.

    What am I not seeing here?

  3. DesertRose,

    What the rabbi has done in his article is make an equivocation. He references Rev. Wright and his bigotry, and – mysteriously, does not mention what Rev. Wright has said that was “bigoted.” The only mention of Wright’s supposed bigotry is his generating of “heat” rather than healing…and his”praise” of Louis Farakkhan, who, in the rabbi’s own words is “guilty of hate speech against Jews and Judaism.” In both cases, he offers no evidence of these items for the reader to verify.

    In the case Rev. Wright, no one cared to hear his actual words – or cared to ask him why he would make such statements. Instead, it was a snip of “G&^ D(*&*# America” and “America’s chickens are coming home to roost” for the purpose of stoking racial tensions. Candidate Clinton cared not for Rev. Wright’s words except for the purpose of taking advantage of the hole in Candidate Obama’s almost impenetrable armor in an attempt to try to win the Democratic Nomination. The same can be said for Candidate McCain and VP Candidate Palin in their quest to win the Presidency after Obama won the Democratic Primary.

    The problem is that when it comes to African-Americans, the fastest way to attempt to discredit a would-be representative is to try to broadbrush paint them as a supporter of some “toxic” African-American leader. This was tried several times against Candidate Obama, first by attempting to pin him with Minister Farrakhan (which would have given the Obama campaign the anti-Jew/anti-Semite problem), and then the roundabout approach with Reverend Wright (by calling him a Radical Black Nationalist, and then attempting the tie-in to Farrakhan ).

    It’s not just words. It’s never just words. Thus, any mention of Rev. Jackson, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, and now Rev. Wright, especially by someone who is not African-American, is not done so for the purpose of fostering discussion; but is done so to accuse African-Americans of “playing the race card” and shut down any discussion of race – especially by African-Americans – on any discussions involving racial grievances.

    In this article, the rabbi equivocates the use of the S— word with Rev. Wright’s commentary on American foreign and domestic policy, as well as Minister Farrakhan’s critiques of Judaism. Those are valid topics of discussion, but in a column about the Jewish use of the S— word, it comes off as an unnecessary pot-shot; and acts as a ready-made excuse for those who use the S– word – and other derogatory language – to continue to do so (Well, Black people do it, too!).

  4. Okay, gotcha. A faulty and erroneous comparison undermines the legitimate point. Thanks for taking the time to explain. I appreciate it.

  5. heavyarmor,

    I wholeheartedly agree that black leaders like Rev. Jackson, Al Sharpton, Louis Farrakhan, and Rev. Wright are usually referenced as symbols of “scary” black radicalism, with no discussion of their actual words.

    But I disagree that the rabbi who wrote the op-ed is making an equivocation between a supposedly bigoted Wright with Jews using the term shv*rtza. His condemnation is not in equating Wright with the student who used the term, but rather what he believes is the duty of religious folks to foster “healing” rather than “heat.” “Generating heat” doesn’t come close to his condemnation of using a “pejorative” that is “callous,” “condescending,” and “racist.” He’s not calling Wright a reverse racist (which would be stupid enough to make me discredit the entire op-ed), but a religious leader who doesn’t focus on healing despite being the pastor for Obama, who does just that. I think that’s an important distinction to make, at least for me.

    That said, I disagree with the rabbi’s assessment of Reverend Wright as being on the wrong side of a heat-healing dichotomy (a dichotomy which is ridiculous to make in itself). As you said, he is remarkably dismissive of Reverent Wright’s actual words. He never makes clear what he finds so “heat generating” about them, that we should hold racists accountable? that we need to stay critical of our government? That’s what is problematic for me. Also is he aware with all the “Blacks and Jews” concluding statements that some Blacks are Jews?

  6. Silvena,

    The reason why it becomes an equivocation is because the article itself was about the Jewish use of the S- word. As has been the case many times over for many decades, so-called introspective motions, especially by those with lots of gender/racial/political/financial privilege, cannot stay with self-criticism for very long.

    Minister Farrakhan has nothing to do with Jackie Mason using the S- word and trying to defend his use of. Rev. Wright has nothing to do with the Rabbi’s prized student scholars using the S- word without giving a second thought to the unmitigated offensiveness of the word. Nothing in the rabbi’s article explains the need to include either of these men in the article – especially since neither man is “Jewish” nor have they used the S- word.

    I am also curious as to what kind of “healing” that Rev. Wright should be involved with? And what does that have to do with Jewish people using the S- word in describing Blacks? Also, why did the Rabbi feel the need to single out Black pastors? Many white “celebrity” pastors like Falwell, Graham and Robertson, many of whom have made verifiable anti-Semitic remarks, and have inflamed American sentiment in a very hateful direction (such as calling 9/11/01 “God’s Revenge on Gays, Lesbians, and other sinners [or words to such effect]) and yet, no words for them.

    It is an equivocation because the rabbi provides no basis for the mention of these specific men, offers no positive evidence of their inclusion in this article, and fails to tie Rev. Wright’s or Minister Farrakhan’s (non-existent) hatreds with Jewish people using a derogatory word against members of a different ethnic and cultural background? And since the point of the article was about Jewish people taking responsibility and control of their words, including three other people who have nothing to do with this (Obama, Wright, Farrakhan) comes off as dead weight, filler, or a potshot. I called it a potshot because this has been a consistent pattern with privilege, except that it used to be Martin Luther King instead of Obama as the so-called “Healing Black Leader.” The rabbi took his eye off the target singled out non-Jews for “hatred” – specifically Blacks. And doesn’t offer evidence.

    That’s what makes it wrong.

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