Hang in there with me, because I am going to ask what I freely admit could be a very silly question.
As you may have noticed, people here in the land of the Beltways, and in New York City of course, are melting down as they argue about Speaker John Boehner’s decision to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to address Congress. How big an issue is this across the nation? I don't know, but it's a big deal here.
My question is about religion (#DUH) I am aware that doctrinally liberal, oh, Episcopalians are highly likely to be liberal politically, especially when compared with doctrinally conservative Anglicans. The same thing is true with, let's say, doctrinally liberal Lutherans and doctrinally orthodox Lutherans. Or Baptists. Or Methodists. You can see this perfectly obvious point.
Now, I know how to connect the doctrinal dots in these cases, how, for example, doctrines on sexual morality lead to political views that point left or right. What I'm struggling with is understanding the patterns in this case -- the Netanyahu wars. Consider this passage from a report in The Forward, on the Jewish left:
As the Israel lobby kicked off its meeting, Netanyahu jetted into town after proclaiming that he speaks “for the Jewish people” on Iran -- a claim that drew an unusually harsh critique from pro-Israel stalwart Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat.
“(Netanyahu) doesn’t speak for me on this,” Feinstein told CNN. “I think it’s a rather arrogant statement. I think the Jewish community is like any other community, there are different points of view. I think that arrogance does not befit Israel, candidly.”
Understood. This leads me to the A1 political story in The New York Times that is causing so much talk, the one that ran under the headline, "Netanyahu’s Visit Bringing Uninvited Problems for Jewish Democrats."
Now, there are few -- in any -- religious references in this piece since (cue: rim shot) it is about debates inside postmodern American Judaism. But there are some very predictable clues as to who is comfortable with the Netanyahu speech and who is not. For example, follow this passage to its conclusion:
Through foreign policy trials as difficult as the wars in Gaza and Lebanon, Israeli settlement policies, Arab terrorism, and the repeated failures of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Jews in Congress — and to a large extent, Jews in the United States — have spoken in a near-monolithic voice, always in support of the government of Israel.
But the Boehner-Netanyahu alliance has done something that larger foreign policy crises have not: It has led to the open distinction between support for the State of Israel and allegiance to politicians who lead it.
“It’s a tipping-point moment,” said Rabbi John Rosove, an outspoken liberal and head of Temple Israel of Hollywood. “It’s no longer the Israeli government, right or wrong. The highest form of patriotism and loyalty is to criticize from a place of love.”
So what would you assume is the theological tradition of Temple Israel? Well, that's pretty easy to see right here on it's home page:
Since founding by a group of entertainment luminaries in 1926, Temple Israel of Hollywood has never strayed from its Hollywood roots or its connections to Reform Jewish traditions and values. Today, Temple Israel’s dedication to worship, community, Jewish life, social justice, and to Israel has a distinctly contemporary flair.
Now, another tiny dose of religious content comes later, in this long passage about how this debate is, once again, creating fault lines in American Judaism. Read carefully:
J Street, which bills itself as the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby, has taken out full-page newspaper advertisements demanding that the speech be postponed.
The Orthodox Union, an umbrella organization for Orthodox Jewry, released a statement urging “all members of Congress and Americans who care deeply about American and global security to respectfully and carefully listen to the unique perspective of the elected leader of our key ally -- Israel.”
Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the speech should be canceled.
“For some time, there has been a greater diversity of viewpoints on Israel issues within Israel than within the American Jewish community,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, a Jewish Democrat from California who will attend. “You’re now starting to see more diversity of opinion in the pro-Israel community here.”
So the strongest voice in the piece calling for people to lend Bibi their ears and, hello, listen respectfully comes from Orthodox Jewry. Is that surprising? Of course not.
Now, to my question (even though, yes, I know that this is a political story): Why, when dealing with this particular issue, do the the political lines appear to fall along the doctrinal lines?
I would understand if this debate focused on marriage, or abortion, or tax credits for religious schools, or similar moral and cultural issues. But what is the missing X factor here? What is the doctrinal fault line that is linked to this clear division among Jews in this culture?
Is it simply so obvious that the Times team does not owe the subject a single paragraph?