CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America. No longer is comedy going to be a covert assault on traditional American values, conservatives. Now, it’s just wide out in the open. What this hire means is a redefinition of what is funny and a redefinition of what is comedy.

He’s talking, of course, about Stephen Colbert … who hates “traditional American values” so much that he teaches Sunday school.

I can only imagine that Rush is upset about CBS choosing Colbert to replace Letterman because he believes the real traditional values are taught in synagogues on Saturdays.

I’m going to go ahead and guess that Rush doesn’t know the first thing about Colbert — which is bolstered by the fact that he calls him “Kohl-burt” rather than “Kohl-bear” — except that his Comedy Central persona satirizes conservatives. And that was enough for Rush to give his well-reasoned opinion.

On the plus side, at least his ridiculous opinion wasn’t as off-the-wall as this.

# media # comedy # Limbaugh # Colbert # television # religion

In my last post, I wrote about explaining the laws of kashrut to our nanny and I ended with this paragraph:

Keeping kosher is something we do; it’s part of our tradition and part of who we are. But it’s not the easiest thing to explain. I mean, it’s easy enough to say, “There are a bunch of passages in the Torah that are all about dietary restrictions and Jews have stuck with those for an awfully long time.” But it takes a good deal more than that to explain why those dietary restrictions are ones that we — in this house in this time and place — still find meaningful and worth following, especially since we don’t read the Torah literally and we don’t take to heart all of the rules-and-regulations passages from right alongside the passages about keeping kosher. But it’s a worthwhile endeavor to try to explain oneself to others … despite, or perhaps because of, the difficulty that often attends making sense of one’s beliefs and actions.

And so a number of people wanted to know why I keep kosher.
In the first place, it’s a return for me to the way I did things when I was growing up. My grandparents kept a kosher home and so did my parents; I went to a private Hebrew day school from kindergarten through eighth grade. So keeping kosher was the standard for me until high school. I didn’t keep kosher in high school, college, or graduate school. Returning to it now that I have a family of my own is a sort of homecoming for me.
But it wasn’t necessarily a choice I would have made for myself. It was my wife’s idea and it was important to her; when we drove out to Nebraska from Virginia back in 2008, she suggested it and, over many hours in the car, we debated and decided to give it a try. It was actually pretty difficult to do when we lived in Lincoln; there was no kosher meat available in the city until Trader Joe’s opened shortly before we moved, so we had to drive to Omaha and stock up on frozen meat. Most of the time, we were de facto vegetarians. Despite the challenges, I have to say that it was a great feeling to know that my grandparents could eat anything in our house, using the proper dishes and silverware, when they came to visit. My grandfather never would have said anything, but I’m sure it was a concern when he visited me during my grad school stint in North Carolina. 
Having moved to Omaha, it’s much easier. The Jewish community is larger here and there are many more kosher items available in the grocery stores.  Buying kosher meat, separating dairy from meat, choosing to have a whole bunch of sets of dishes, or asking questions about ingredients when you’re at a restaurant are all things that could be a hassle but, at this point in my life, they bring a sense of intentionality to a meal. Rather than just choosing anything from the fridge and putting it on a plate, each meal represents an opportunity to pause and consider what’s important to me.
Finally, and very much related to the last point, keeping kosher has become something that’s a part of our identity because we’ve joined a vibrant Jewish community here in Omaha and we’re raising our kids in that community. Keeping kosher is something we do to explain Judaism to our kids; it’s a connection with the history and tradition of the Jewish people. And it’s part of consciously creating a particular identity as Jews in a place where Jews are a very, very small minority. My sense is that this will pay dividends as the kids get older, as their Judaism always will have been a clearly defined part of who they are just as it was for me.

In my last post, I wrote about explaining the laws of kashrut to our nanny and I ended with this paragraph:

Keeping kosher is something we do; it’s part of our tradition and part of who we are. But it’s not the easiest thing to explain. I mean, it’s easy enough to say, “There are a bunch of passages in the Torah that are all about dietary restrictions and Jews have stuck with those for an awfully long time.” But it takes a good deal more than that to explain why those dietary restrictions are ones that we — in this house in this time and place — still find meaningful and worth following, especially since we don’t read the Torah literally and we don’t take to heart all of the rules-and-regulations passages from right alongside the passages about keeping kosher. But it’s a worthwhile endeavor to try to explain oneself to others … despite, or perhaps because of, the difficulty that often attends making sense of one’s beliefs and actions.

And so a number of people wanted to know why I keep kosher.

In the first place, it’s a return for me to the way I did things when I was growing up. My grandparents kept a kosher home and so did my parents; I went to a private Hebrew day school from kindergarten through eighth grade. So keeping kosher was the standard for me until high school. I didn’t keep kosher in high school, college, or graduate school. Returning to it now that I have a family of my own is a sort of homecoming for me.

But it wasn’t necessarily a choice I would have made for myself. It was my wife’s idea and it was important to her; when we drove out to Nebraska from Virginia back in 2008, she suggested it and, over many hours in the car, we debated and decided to give it a try. It was actually pretty difficult to do when we lived in Lincoln; there was no kosher meat available in the city until Trader Joe’s opened shortly before we moved, so we had to drive to Omaha and stock up on frozen meat. Most of the time, we were de facto vegetarians. Despite the challenges, I have to say that it was a great feeling to know that my grandparents could eat anything in our house, using the proper dishes and silverware, when they came to visit. My grandfather never would have said anything, but I’m sure it was a concern when he visited me during my grad school stint in North Carolina. 

Having moved to Omaha, it’s much easier. The Jewish community is larger here and there are many more kosher items available in the grocery stores.  Buying kosher meat, separating dairy from meat, choosing to have a whole bunch of sets of dishes, or asking questions about ingredients when you’re at a restaurant are all things that could be a hassle but, at this point in my life, they bring a sense of intentionality to a meal. Rather than just choosing anything from the fridge and putting it on a plate, each meal represents an opportunity to pause and consider what’s important to me.

Finally, and very much related to the last point, keeping kosher has become something that’s a part of our identity because we’ve joined a vibrant Jewish community here in Omaha and we’re raising our kids in that community. Keeping kosher is something we do to explain Judaism to our kids; it’s a connection with the history and tradition of the Jewish people. And it’s part of consciously creating a particular identity as Jews in a place where Jews are a very, very small minority. My sense is that this will pay dividends as the kids get older, as their Judaism always will have been a clearly defined part of who they are just as it was for me.

# Judaism # food # Nebraska # Omaha # kids # religion

On Nannies and Keeping Kosher

We hired a nanny a little over a month ago, both because we wanted our daughter to have some one-on-one care before she becomes a middle child and because we don’t see a lot of benefit in putting an infant in full-time daycare.

The whole thing is working out really, really well. The woman we hired is fantastic; she takes our daughter to the park or to the library and, when she’s taking care of both kids (our son goes to daycare three mornings a week to hang out with his friends), she takes them to a museum or to the zoo. The kids took to her immediately and all the behavior issues that crop up whenever there’s a big change were quick to dissipate. They’re napping much better at home than they ever did at daycare and, as a result, we get to spend more time (and more quality time) with them after work.

Interestingly, the biggest challenge to having an entirely new person spending a great many hours in our house is trying to explain the notion of keeping kosher. The simplest part is showing her the different sets of dishes and silverware, and explaining which is used for which type of food. Then there’s a basic list of commonly-eaten kosher and non-kosher animals. From there, it gets trickier: “Also, don’t mix milk and meat. And, for some reason, chicken counts as meat but fish does not.” And then, “We have to read all the packaging of everything before we buy it because, for example, a lot of the cheese you might find in a grocery store is made with animal products and is, thus, not kosher.”

But all of that is ultimately just a memorization game. The hard part, as expected, is explaining why. Keeping kosher is something we do; it’s part of our tradition and part of who we are. But it’s not the easiest thing to explain. I mean, it’s easy enough to say, “There are a bunch of passages in the Torah that are all about dietary restrictions and Jews have stuck with those for an awfully long time.” But it takes a good deal more than that to explain why those dietary restrictions are ones that we — in this house in this time and place — still find meaningful and worth following, especially since we don’t read the Torah literally and we don’t take to heart all of the rules-and-regulations passages from right alongside the passages about keeping kosher. But it’s a worthwhile endeavor to try to explain oneself to others … despite, or perhaps because of, the difficulty that often attends making sense of one’s beliefs and actions.

# kids # daddy blogging # nanny # Judaism # food # religion

CNN’s headline reads “Hillary Clinton must once again win over some in Jewish community” and the text of the article implies that Clinton might have some problems with the Jewish community in 2016 because of her affiliation with the Obama administration and its refusal to be as belligerent toward Iran as the Netanyahu administration insists is always appropriate.
The trouble is that all the data about “the Jewish vote” in the article itself completely undermines the headline — unless by “some” the author meant fewer than 30% of Jewish voters:

According to a 2012 report by The Solomon Project, a nonpartisan public policy organization, Jewish support for Democrats has grown since the 1990s. When Republican Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980 and 1984, he garnered between 31% and 37% of the Jewish votes. But starting in 1992, when Bill Clinton was first elected to the White House, American Jews began to gravitate to the Democratic Party.
In fact, at no point between 1990 to 2008 has a Democratic candidate for the presidency won less than 70% of the Jewish vote. In 2008, Obama won nearly three-quarters of the Jewish vote.
But history is also changing.
In 2012, Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976 to win less than 70% of the Jewish vote when 69% of the community supported the president.

In other words, if Clinton fails to make herself seem any better than Obama, who has been vilified for no reason as the worst American president when it comes to Israel, she might only manage to garner 70% of the Jewish vote.
So, yeah, I’m sure her advisers are telling her to spend as much time and money as possible in order to ensure that the four decade stranglehold that the Democrats have had on “the Jewish vote” doesn’t somehow magically disappear for no reason.

CNN’s headline reads “Hillary Clinton must once again win over some in Jewish community” and the text of the article implies that Clinton might have some problems with the Jewish community in 2016 because of her affiliation with the Obama administration and its refusal to be as belligerent toward Iran as the Netanyahu administration insists is always appropriate.

The trouble is that all the data about “the Jewish vote” in the article itself completely undermines the headline — unless by “some” the author meant fewer than 30% of Jewish voters:

According to a 2012 report by The Solomon Project, a nonpartisan public policy organization, Jewish support for Democrats has grown since the 1990s. When Republican Ronald Reagan won the presidency in 1980 and 1984, he garnered between 31% and 37% of the Jewish votes. But starting in 1992, when Bill Clinton was first elected to the White House, American Jews began to gravitate to the Democratic Party.

In fact, at no point between 1990 to 2008 has a Democratic candidate for the presidency won less than 70% of the Jewish vote. In 2008, Obama won nearly three-quarters of the Jewish vote.

But history is also changing.

In 2012, Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976 to win less than 70% of the Jewish vote when 69% of the community supported the president.

In other words, if Clinton fails to make herself seem any better than Obama, who has been vilified for no reason as the worst American president when it comes to Israel, she might only manage to garner 70% of the Jewish vote.

So, yeah, I’m sure her advisers are telling her to spend as much time and money as possible in order to ensure that the four decade stranglehold that the Democrats have had on “the Jewish vote” doesn’t somehow magically disappear for no reason.

# media # politics # Clinton # Israel # Judaism # religion # CNN

Nonsense Makes Things Difficult

I was watching a conversation unfold on Facebook about religion, dating, and traditional values in marriages — brought on by some reality tv star entering into some sort of courtship relationship. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that a return to these “old ways” was obviously good, but one participant was concerned about the age difference between the young man and the young woman:

it’s problematic to have a 20-year-old girl with an 18-year-old boy. I’d advise against it. In our increasingly feminized society, men need some age advantage to lead when young, I think.

Pretty much none of this made any sense to me and, when I intruded on the conversation to ask what in the world this all meant, I received no reply.

But a friend of mine directed me to the “Core Beliefs" of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which contains these points (among many others):

We have been moved in our purpose by the following contemporary developments which we observe with deep concern:

  1. The widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity;
  2. the tragic effects of this confusion in unraveling the fabric of marriage woven by God out of the beautiful and diverse strands of manhood and womanhood;
  3. the increasing promotion given to feminist egalitarianism with accompanying distortions or neglect of the glad harmony portrayed in Scripture between the loving, humble leadership of redeemed husbands and the intelligent, willing support of that leadership by redeemed wives;
  4. the widespread ambivalence regarding the values of motherhood, vocational homemaking, and the many ministries historically performed by women;
  5. the growing claims of legitimacy for sexual relationships which have Biblically and historically been considered illicit or perverse, and the increase in pornographic portrayal of human sexuality….

So that’s what’s going on here.

It’s all about the virtues of inequality between men and women, and about the damage done to society by — let’s see — feminism, homosexuality, pornography, egalitarianism, and probably a whole bunch of other things too.

Having thought about it for just a few minutes, I have to say that what bothers me so much about this sort of thing isn’t just all the nonsense about inequality or sexuality. It’s also that it makes it so much more difficult to be a person of faith today because you constantly have to deal with the perception that you have a connection to or relationship with this kind of nonsense.

# religion # women # television # Facebook # lgbtq

While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.

Part of a disclaimer added by Paramount to the film Noah in an attempt to avoid offending or alienating Christian audience members.

The disclaimer was, apparently, requested by the National Religious Broadcasters, who felt (at least according to one board member) that the film is “historically inaccurate.”

Historically inaccurate. The story of Noah and the flood that wiped out everything on Earth except for the people and animals on a giant boat. Roll that around in your head for a bit.

(Source: rawstory.com)

# movies # religion

Last week, former Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins was speaking at a Christian high school in Michigan and was asked about the possibility of sharing a locker room with an openly gay teammate.
His answer:

So from a football standpoint, if the guy can help us win, come help us win. Now, there are a lot of teammates in my locker room right now who may not have a homosexual lifestyle, but they have sins, too. They’re not perfect. So I don’t say they can’t help us win. Nobody’s perfect. 
To that degree, we’d welcome him into our locker room and say come help us win, and hopefully I can love him like Jesus and hopefully show him what it means to follow Jesus.

A lot of sports websites and blogs jumped on Cousins’ comments to highlight what seems to be obvious intolerance both within the NFL and from Christians.
But I wonder if there isn’t at least a little bit more going on here.
It’s well-known that Cousins is a football player who is outspoken about his Christianity, someone likely to want to proselytize at any opportunity. He’s speaking here to young men at a Christian high school.
The best thing he could say is that everyone is equal in his eyes and, if you can play, you’re welcome on the team. The worst thing he could say is that homosexuality is an abomination and he would never have anything to do with someone who is gay.
What he said, instead, was pretty much exactly what I’d expect: A little bit of the best possible thing he could say, something that sounds close to the worst thing he could say. Taken all together, it amounts to exactly what Cousins has heard thousands of times in the churches he frequents: "Love the sinner, hate the sin."
While this is certainly not what I think of as progressive, my guess is that many people in the crowds Cousins addresses would see it that way. He can do a whole lot better, clearly, but there’s a possibility for real improvement already contained in his statement. Rather than worrying quite so much about teaching his imperfect teammates about Jesus, he might work on his own imperfections and blind spots so that he’s actually living a more loving and less judgmental life himself.
The guy’s not going to stop being outspoken about his Christianity, but that doesn’t mean he’s always going to believe what he believes today about homosexuality being an “imperfection” like, say, adultery or cursing your parents. It might be that, rather than condemning Cousins for where he is today, we could find ways to work with him so as to speed him along toward the place we’d like for him to reach.
HT: Marcus Sanborn.

Last week, former Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins was speaking at a Christian high school in Michigan and was asked about the possibility of sharing a locker room with an openly gay teammate.

His answer:

So from a football standpoint, if the guy can help us win, come help us win. Now, there are a lot of teammates in my locker room right now who may not have a homosexual lifestyle, but they have sins, too. They’re not perfect. So I don’t say they can’t help us win. Nobody’s perfect. 

To that degree, we’d welcome him into our locker room and say come help us win, and hopefully I can love him like Jesus and hopefully show him what it means to follow Jesus.

A lot of sports websites and blogs jumped on Cousins’ comments to highlight what seems to be obvious intolerance both within the NFL and from Christians.

But I wonder if there isn’t at least a little bit more going on here.

It’s well-known that Cousins is a football player who is outspoken about his Christianity, someone likely to want to proselytize at any opportunity. He’s speaking here to young men at a Christian high school.

The best thing he could say is that everyone is equal in his eyes and, if you can play, you’re welcome on the team. The worst thing he could say is that homosexuality is an abomination and he would never have anything to do with someone who is gay.

What he said, instead, was pretty much exactly what I’d expect: A little bit of the best possible thing he could say, something that sounds close to the worst thing he could say. Taken all together, it amounts to exactly what Cousins has heard thousands of times in the churches he frequents: "Love the sinner, hate the sin."

While this is certainly not what I think of as progressive, my guess is that many people in the crowds Cousins addresses would see it that way. He can do a whole lot better, clearly, but there’s a possibility for real improvement already contained in his statement. Rather than worrying quite so much about teaching his imperfect teammates about Jesus, he might work on his own imperfections and blind spots so that he’s actually living a more loving and less judgmental life himself.

The guy’s not going to stop being outspoken about his Christianity, but that doesn’t mean he’s always going to believe what he believes today about homosexuality being an “imperfection” like, say, adultery or cursing your parents. It might be that, rather than condemning Cousins for where he is today, we could find ways to work with him so as to speed him along toward the place we’d like for him to reach.

HT: Marcus Sanborn.

(Source: mlive.com)

# NFL # lgbtq # sports # religion # Michigan State # Cousins # football # Washington

Pidyon Ha’Ben

I participated in my first Pidyon Ha’Ben ceremony today.

For those who aren’t familiar with the whole concept of Pidyon Ha’Ben, here’s some info straight from Wikipedia:

According to the traditional rabbinic interpretation, in the early part of the Bible, as recorded in the Book of Genesis, the duties of a priest fell upon the eldest son of each family. The first-born was to be dedicated to God in order to perform this task.

Following the Israelite Exodus from Egypt, after the nation had sinned with the Golden Calf, the priesthood was taken away from the first-borns, and given to the tribe of Levites, specifically to the KohanimHigh PriestAaron, his children, and their descendants. At the same time it was instituted that the first born of each family should be redeemed; i.e. they would be ‘bought back’ from the dedication to God that would previously have been required of them.

The ceremony is relatively rare, so I was both honored and very pleased to be asked by good friends of ours here in Omaha who wished to redeem their first-born son by offering me some sheqalim in exchange for him. I was happy to oblige in making the trade and the cantor from our synagogue helped out to make the ceremony a really beautiful one:

The Shulkhan Arukh states that when a Jewish woman gives birth to a firstborn male by natural means, then the child must be “redeemed”. The father of the child must “redeem” the child from a known Kohen representing the original Temple priesthood, for the sum of five silver Shekels, or equivalent in country’s currency (if it has silver currency of the correct weight). The procedure does not apply when the father is a Kohen or Levite, and does not normally apply when the mother is the daughter of one.

As “a known Kohen,” my grandfather participated in these ceremonies with some frequency for many years; I felt a particular connection with him today in taking part in my first.

# Judaism # religion # kids

Well, this has occasioned a whole lot more discussion than I’d anticipated (especially given how little anyone said about yesterday’s post on the very same topic) …
But, seriously, we all know the whole religious freedom argument is just an attempt at an end run around all manner of anti-discrimination laws and court cases, right?

Well, this has occasioned a whole lot more discussion than I’d anticipated (especially given how little anyone said about yesterday’s post on the very same topic) …

But, seriously, we all know the whole religious freedom argument is just an attempt at an end run around all manner of anti-discrimination laws and court cases, right?

# religion # Arizona # lgbtq # politics # news # Facebook # internet

Unpopular Opinion Alert:
It doesn’t make you look like the genius you think you are when you make fun of someone who died because he believed something you think is clearly ridiculous.
Lots of people believe things I don’t believe; I can’t get on board with their beliefs. And I believe things that lots of people don’t believe; they can’t get on board with my beliefs.
But maybe let’s not laugh at people because their sincerely held beliefs aren’t ours and thus appear to be ridiculous or terrible. It’s one thing to disagree or even disapprove; it’s quite another to point and laugh.

Unpopular Opinion Alert:

It doesn’t make you look like the genius you think you are when you make fun of someone who died because he believed something you think is clearly ridiculous.

Lots of people believe things I don’t believe; I can’t get on board with their beliefs. And I believe things that lots of people don’t believe; they can’t get on board with my beliefs.

But maybe let’s not laugh at people because their sincerely held beliefs aren’t ours and thus appear to be ridiculous or terrible. It’s one thing to disagree or even disapprove; it’s quite another to point and laugh.

# religion # animals # Facebook # internet

The most pressing questions of the day:

Do you think you could spend 10 minutes talking to these people? What makes you think so?

# science # religion # evolution # sadness

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