Yom Kippur, The Pope And My Reluctant Secularism

September 21, 2010

Sometimes the easiest questions are the hardest ones to answer. Like: What religion are you?

I had reason to think about this issue the other day during a routine doctor’s appointment at a local London hospital. As we were winding up, the doctor turned to me and asked: “Oh, yes, and what religion are you? It could be relevant to your treatment.” He was holding a clipboard and a pen, ready to tick the appropriate box on his chart.

I paused, as if he’d asked me the solution to Fermat’s Last Theorem. “Umm . . . well . . . I used to be Catholic.” I heard myself say. “But my husband’s Jewish . . . so I guess . . . um . . .”

The doctor raised his eyebrows. As polite as the Brits tend to be, you can tell when you’ve tried their patience. And I could see that this kind gentleman was thinking: “Honey, just answer the question. I’ve got loads of patients to see in the waiting room and I really don’t need an American confessional right now.”

“I guess I’m nothing,” I told him finally. “Yeah, that’s right. Just tick ‘nothing.’ ” But what I really wanted to say was: “Do you have a box for ‘formerly Christian’? Or perhaps for ‘wanna-be Jewish’?”

Read the rest of this post on www.PoliticsDaily.com

Image: Yalmukes by Bekah Stargazing via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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Mel Gibson As Metaphor For What Ails America

July 27, 2010

OK. Here’s my guilty summer confession: I can’t get enough of the Mel Gibson scandal.

Let me preface this post by saying that I’m hardly one for celebrity gossip. I have no idea who Justin Bieber is. I don’t care whether Jennifer Aniston wants kids or not. And despite former Politics Daily colleague Emily Miller’s compelling argument for why we should all be taking The National Enquirer more seriously, I can’t stomach tabloids.

Still, when it comes to the ongoing Mel Gibson saga, I can’t look away. And I suspect I’m not alone. And that’s because — Australian accent notwithstanding — Gibson embodies a whole bunch of different ills plaguing America right now, which we’re trying, as a nation, to figure out. And as we do that, Gibson provides a convenient foil for examining our worst fears about ourselves as a country.
Read the rest of this post at www.PoliticsDaily.com

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While you’re there, you may also wish to check out my post on the growing trans-Atlantic tension over the BP-Lockerbie hearings this Thursday in the United States Senate.

Image: Mel Gibson by kjd via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Why I Could Not Go Back To Catholicism

April 9, 2010

An old friend of mine recently posted the following sentence on his Facebook page: “I know this is totally not a PC thing to say, but can someone please explain to me why anyone is still Catholic?”

It’s a fair question. And my Politics Daily colleague, Melinda Henneberger, has one answer. In an honest and moving piece she wrote a few days back, Melinda tells us that she’s as put off as the next person by the current sex abuse scandal roiling the Catholic Church, as well as by the Vatican’s latest attempts to play the victim and point fingers. At the end of the day, though, Melinda is going to hang in there with this Church, because being Catholic is integral to who she is. “In the end,” she writes,”it is not about them.”

Today I’m over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about why I’m not convinced by this argument. I explain why – even if I were contemplating re-entering Christianity – I don’t think I could stomach becoming a Catholic right now, despite being raised in an observant Catholic family. And yes, it has everything to do with the current sex abuse scandal.

Drop on by and have a look.

Image: Pope Benedict XVI in Nazi camp in Brezinzka by miqul via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Interfaith Marriage: A Catholic Contemplates Passover

March 29, 2010

Passover begins tonight, followed quickly by Easter. As a former Catholic married to a Jew, I hate this time of year. It reminds me — once again — of just how unresolved my husband and I are about the status of religion within our family.

Yesterday, I was over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about how hard this time of year is for those of us in inter-faith marriages.

Have a look

Image: Passover by Ohad* via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Defending Burqas In Adulthood

January 21, 2010

For those of you who live in Europe – and even those who don’t – you’ll know that headscarves – and now burqas – have been a hot-button political issue in France for awhile now.

Today, a colleague of mine over on PoliticsDaily.com – Bonnie Erbé – wrote a post suggesting why she thinks France should go ahead and ban the burqa…and why The United States should do the same thing.

As with so many issues, my feelings on burqas and headscarves have changed dramatically since living in a country where they are a part of everyday life.

Please come visit me over on PoliticsDaily.com today where I find myself in the unexpected position of…defending the burqa.

Image: Burqa a Meta by fotorita via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Religious Identity in Adulthood: Is It Who You Are Or What You Do?

December 22, 2009

Last week I posted about my ongoing struggle to forge a religious identity as an adult by borrowing from different faiths.

Today I continue that discussion of religious identity in adulthood – with a particular eye towards Jewish identity – over on PoliticsDaily.com. It’s a question directly raised in a landmark decision by Britain’s Supreme Court, which ruled last Wednesday that it was illegal for a state-funded Jewish school to base its admissions policy on whether or not the applicant’s mother was Jewish.

And so the thorny question arises that bedevils all of us who struggle with religious identity, but particularly Jews:  whether our identity is determined fundamentally by what we do or by our blood.

Have a look and be sure to weigh in…


Image: Metal Menorah by Skyco via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Religion-Hopping In Adulthood: A Tale Of Guilt and Gelt

December 14, 2009

According to a new poll taken by the Pew Forum, Americans are mixing faiths more than ever before. Many attend worship services of more than one denomination, and many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation and astrology. This follows on an earlier survey showing that Americans also change religion in adulthood with increasing regularity.

To which I say:  guilty as charged. We celebrate Hanukkah in our household and Christmas at my Mother’s. Yesterday, I went to a Hanukkah party and sang along (semi-credibly) as the candles were lit; next weekend, I’ll be singing Christmas carols in Belsize Square.

I’ve tried to resist this whole wishy-washy, neither-fish-nor-fowl approach to religion (and we all know what Jesus would prefer). Like Kristen over on Motherese, I’m also a once-religious Catholic now married to a Jew. I, too,  feel badly as I confront the inevitable December Dilemma which plagues all couples choosing a religious path for their mixed families. I worry that my kids aren’t getting the sort of firm anchoring in tradition, identity and beliefs that I had growing up.

But despite all the guilt and accompanying feelings that I *should* “figure out religion” or join a synagogue, somehow those never quite manage to make their way up the ladder of my to-do list.

And so, in the spirit of “eliminating the shoulds,” this year I’m trying to accept that for now – at least – I’m a sampler of religions, not a practitioner. I am, in fact, that dreaded “consumer of religion” which one religious studies scholar bemoaned in the Wall Street Journal. And I’m trying to embrace my dabbling tendencies where religion is concerned, and enjoy them, rather than feeling guilty.

After all, my kids seem totally comfortable with their faux-Jewish identities. They have no concept of the fact that because I’m not Jewish, they really aren’t either. They are proud to call themselves Jews, and to celebrate Christmas in a sort of ad-hoc way. As for me, for the first time in many years, I find myself actually wanting to go listen to some religious Christian music this holiday season (something I was dragged to on many an occasion in my youth.) So when I saw a sign at the local (Anglican) parish for a Festival of Lessons and Carols, I thought:  Why not?

So guilt, shmilt.

And speaking of which, my favorite holiday story this season comes from a (non-Jewish) friend of mine whose 4 year-old daughter was so eager to celebrate Hanukkah that she instructed her mother to rush out and buy some “guilt.” (She meant gelt.) To which my friend was tempted to reply “Oh, honey, I think we have enough guilt in the house already…don’t you?”

And how.


Image: Nes gadol hayah sham by techne via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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