First used as a textbook in a religious studies class on Jewish history after 70CE. I'm revisiting this in bits and pieces for its broad survey of JewFirst used as a textbook in a religious studies class on Jewish history after 70CE. I'm revisiting this in bits and pieces for its broad survey of Jewish history....more
...I flew into such an indignant rage that he realized he would have to resign himself to my independence. Ever since childhood, I haA favorite quote:
...I flew into such an indignant rage that he realized he would have to resign himself to my independence. Ever since childhood, I had always felt that being a woman was an advantage, and perhaps that was why I considered myself free, master of my own domain. It had never crossed my mind that a man could think he had the right to stop me from being who I was...to relinquish the infinite possibilities that life had in store for me. - Gioconda Belli...more
"Not only does tolerance reinforce structural inequality, but it also sets up a political culture in which extremism, rather than injustice, is the ma"Not only does tolerance reinforce structural inequality, but it also sets up a political culture in which extremism, rather than injustice, is the major problem to be addressed in public life. In a public organized around tolerance, the question is not whether we as a society have created unjust (and violent) social hierarchies, but whether we as individuals hate anyone. This disabling structure of tolerance has important implications for participatory democracy because it puts those who take up political activism in any form at risk for charges of extremism" (p. 58).
I don't really remember what I thought when I first read this book in 2007, but it's important and I just re-read it as part of preparing my statement of purpose/writing sample for reli studies grad programs.
"This, then, is the 'afterlife' of religion in modernity: secularization has not so much meant the retreat of religion from the public sphere as its reinvention...under cover of an official secularism, particular religious claims about 'the good life,' the way things are or should be, remain operative" (p. 21).
Social theorists Lauren Berlant & Michael Warner - heternormativity (p. 28)
"But we are even more concerned with another moment that erases the complexities of history, namely, Burger's invocation of 'Judaeo-Christian moral and ethical standards.' The hyphen suggests and equality and event an identity between the two positions, as if any areas of difference between Judaism and Christianity are of nothing next to their shared 'moral and ethical standards' around sex. In fact, whether or not 'Judaism' and 'Christianity' agree on questions of sexual ethics depends entirely on which Judaism and which Christianity are being considered...Consequently, we caution against mistaking Burger's hyphenated 'Judaeo-Christian' as a marker of religious pluralism in America. It seems to us, rather, that the hyphen actually passes off a wished-for assimilation of Jewish difference into Christian tradition as an instance of religious pluralism" (p. 31).
"[Scalia] is speaking out of a shared --and largely unconscious--cultural logic. This cultural logic depends upon the establishment of an exclusionary notion of Americanness. Within its terms, antigay discrimination is reasonable precisely because homosexuals can be constructed out of the meaning of America--as Jews once were and perhaps still are (invocations of 'Judaeo-Christian' values notwithstanding" (p. 41).
"Toleration, then, falls well short of democratic equality...The American principles of religious freedom were supposed to overcome these limits of toleration. In principle, religious freedom provides for the equal treatment of different faiths---there is no established church, and all religions are free to practice as they please. But this ideal of religious freedom has never really been enacted in the United States. On matters of religion, the United States has two conflicting self-understandings: that this is a nation of religious freedom and equality, and that this is a basically Christian nation...Thus, in America as well as in Britain, the initial boundaries of tolerance were narrow and offered only to differences within Christianity. Those who were Christian in a nondominant way (who were, for example, Catholic) might be tolerated, if marginalized...But there were others who were not Christian and, hence, remained outside the bounds of tolerance. These 'others' could be eradicated, as was so often the case in Christian interactions with American Indians, or enslaved, as was the case with Africans...In fact, as a number of historians have noted, the original distinction that determined who could be enslaved in the colonies and who could not was not a racial distinction, but a distinction between 'Christians and strangers'....In all this, the category of 'Christian' anticipates future categories of race and national identity...To put the point more strongly, the category 'white' was not yet fully operative" (p. 47-48).
"This history teaches us that in the United States religious understandings of difference have served as the basis upon which secular social differences (for example, race and ethnicity) have been constructed. It is not that religious distinctions have disappeared or are inoperative in American life, but that they have sometimes been absorbed into other social differences, such as those that define racial, national, and ethnic identity. Contemporary conflations of Arabs with Muslims, for example, show how confusion between religious and ethnic or national identities persists. Similarly, 'tolerance' emerges out of a specifically religious history that may not be directly named, but that remains powerful. Thus, as we argued in the first chapter, Protestantism is expressed in American secular sexual regulation, and so too have Protestant understandings of religious tolerance influenced areas of our social life that now seem fully secular" (p. 49).
"The rhetorical practices through which a narrow segment of the American public is represented as 'all' of it are repeated, often unthinkingly, across a wide range of contexts. For example, when the mainstream media reported on AIDS in the early years of the pandemic, they would ask questions like, 'Is AIDS a threat to the general public?' Now, if the 'general public' includes everyone, this question would be meaningless...However, the reason this could be a meaningful question was because the 'general public' did not really include everybody; it did not include those persons who had been identified as members of 'at-risk' groups, such as homosexuals, hemophiliacs, and intravenous drug users" (p. 51).
"Framing our public discussions in terms of tolerance versus hate makes it seem as though the major problem we confront as a nation is one of misplaced feelings rather than problematic social relations. Tolerance is supposed to remedy a specific feeling (hate) or disposition (bias). This form of response personalizes and decontextualizes a larger issue, disconnecting feelings or biases from both structures of power and the everyday enactments of those power relations" (p. 60).
"Has lesbian and gay politics really come down to this? To counter antigay laws, pronouncements, and even violence, advocates for gay rights must play not just the biology game (for example, "born that way"), but also the Bible game, arguing about what the Bible really does or does not say about homosexuality? This form of argumentation does not make more room for difference. In fact, it reinforces a Christian public sphere" (p. 80).
"In the previous chapter, we examined how the emergence and legitimacy of 'the middle' and its fantasized 'tolerance' depend on the construction of two opposed sides. Not only are these two sides opposed to each other, but more importantly, they are also opposed to precisely the values of reason, tolerance, and civility the middle comes to represent. This analysis helps us to understand how the progay ad works, but it is not an understanding that provides any comfort. The progay ad does not simply speak to the middle; it actively participates in its ongoing construction...As an initial political response, the gay-affirmative ad was absolutely necessary. Its short-term effectiveness, however, does not mitigate its higher-term costs. The progay ad reasserts a conservative approach to both homosexuality and religion...[it] does not challenge the cultural centrality of Reform Protestantism, then, but even reasserts it in the name of tolerance" (p. 87-88).
"We need to develop persuasive arguments for the value, rather than mere toleration, of difference" (p. 96).
"So often antigay rhetoric focuses on the malleability and 'correctability' of homosexual identity...But we need not restrict our responses to this rhetoric to assertions of immutability. Instead, lesbian and gay advocates could turn charges of malleability to their own advantage by taking the vulnerability of sexual identity to a logical, if unorthodox, conclusion. To require that homosexuals change or 'convert' to heterosexuality in order to receive the full rights of citizenship is to compel sexual orthodoxy. And it is not simply that this sexual orthodoxy (heteronormativity) is akin to religious orthodoxy; it is an express of a particular religious orthodoxy" (p. 100).
"By moving the ground of debate away from a constricted focus on "rights" to freedom, we hope to change a movement that, as it currently stands, is really only against something (discrimination) into one that is actively and unembarrassedly for something (freedom)...The shift from being against discrimination to being for freedom also entails a shift in focus from identity to practice. We do not want to stop at an analogy between religious and sexual identity. Rather, we want to use this analogy to jump-start more expansive considerations of not just want it means to be different , but also what it means to enact our identities differently" (p. 101).
"One of the reasons that we argue for public space rather than simply a zone of privacy for sexual freedom is to interrupt this Christianizing map of the social. The recognition of sexual freedom as a public right is also a recognition of the right not to be Christian in the terms laid out by the dominant understanding of Christianity" (p. 115).
"Thus, constant conflict is maintained, rather than ended, by a system that officially values neutrality but actually enforces hierarchy" (p. 119).
"We need to disaggregate, or unbundle, the set of social goods currently brought together under the rubric of sex and marriage (or even domestic partnership). This insight has important ramifications for our discussion of the interplay between disestablishment and free exercise. Under current social arrangements we cannot freely practice sex, because we have established it as central to social relations that have no necessary connection to sex: emotional ties, raising and caring for children, living arrangements, financial responsibility...Marriage effectively creates a two-tier system that allows the state to regulate relationships...Why should some consensual ways of doing intimacy and family get the stamp of state approval and others not?" (p. 142).
"If lesbian or gay 'does' good, then the good it performs is not for homosexuals alone. Rather, the alternative values developed in lesbian and gay sexual communities offer all of us a deeply ethical vision of the work sex can do to open up new horizons of possibility between people. What is at stake here is nothing less than what kind of social world, what kind of America, we wish to create and inhabit. Sexual relations are part of this reimagination of the possible" (p. 147).
[Originally read March 2007; re-read July 2015.]...more