Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tikkun Olam

A long time ago, when I went from secular to Reform, I learned about the notion of Tikkun Olam. The way it was described to me, Tikkun Olam meant "fixing the world" getting it back to a perfect state by doing good deeds that help mankind. And despite kvetching by Rabbi Shafran I still hold by this definition.

As I was reading comments on this post by Godol Hador, I saw the following statement by Dude:

A nice job for modern day sociologists would be to analyze why so much of that which is anti-religion comes from the political Left (and vice-versa of course).

To which I replied:

Slam dunk analysis. Because traditionally, organized religion has worked hand in hand with the State to repress any sort of progressive ideas. This is true especially in Europe where a lot of the progressive ideas crystallized.

Then Orthoprax replied:


Liberalism (generally) is about doing things differently than how they were done in the past. It is consistent to be anti-establishment in politics and religion alike.

And Dude countered:

Interesting theory. But its so interesting how its across the board. Why does abortion=animal rights=anti-war=socialism=secularism=gay rights so often when there is no inherent relationship between them all other than their being anti-establishment.

And I followed up with:

Why focus on the more extreme? We can find extremists on both sides.

I'd like to think of progressivism as equal rights regardless or race, creed, gender. Personal freedoms including freedom of speech and assembly, as well as other civil liberties. Labor laws to prevent exploitataion of children. I could go on. To characterize progressivism as just contrarian anti-establishmentism is not fair.

Once again, if you look at the historical complicity of, say the Catholic Church in denying what most of us consider to be basic human rights, it is not hard to see the anti-religious bias towards established religion. Or you could look at the theocracy in Iran or the Taliban in Afganistan if you want more global examples.

And that was pretty much the end of the comments on this post. What does this mean? Does it mean that you cannot be religious and progressive? Orthodox and Liberal? When did progressivism become such a terrible curse? And why do posts about religious proofs or whether Noach was an allegory garner 700+ comments, but no one is interested in discussing this issue?

Now, in my political views I am a fox and not a hedgehog. But what I perceive as the glorification of the status quo and the disdain for any type of positive social change puzzles and worries me.


Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

I see your point. But liberalism gets its bad rep from those who represent it and shouts the loudest.

February 21, 2006 9:04 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

I assume the same holds for any ideology, including conservatism.

February 21, 2006 9:55 PM  
Blogger Orthoprax said...


"Does it mean that you cannot be religious and progressive? Orthodox and Liberal?"

Not necessarily, but liberalism requires an open mind and those who hold tight to religious doctrines and dogma tend not to have an open mind. There is a correlation.

On the other hand, the most leftist of the left are often the really wacky religious types (new age spiritualists, wiccans, neo-pagans, etc) whose minds are so open that their brains constantly fall out.

People with moderate religious beliefs tend to be moderate politically.

Skeptics tend to be libertarian.

February 22, 2006 1:41 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Orthoprax, I agree with you. Part of what what I am saying is that we can't always be painting people with a broad brush. Because there are extreme types doesn't invalidate the basic premises of progressive thought.

Thanks for your comments.

February 22, 2006 5:43 AM  
Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Orhtoprox, but there are exceptions for every rule. Many nep-cons, for instance, are secular.

February 22, 2006 10:33 AM  
Blogger Orthoprax said...

Of course, there are always exceptions. Individuals should always be judged as individuals.

February 22, 2006 6:34 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Guys, I think we all agree that the concepts are not judged by individuals. Are you saying that the jist of these arguments boils down to people thinking that each movement is run by its most extreme contingent?

February 22, 2006 8:19 PM  
Blogger Orthoprax said...


"Are you saying that the jist of these arguments boils down to people thinking that each movement is run by its most extreme contingent?"

If you wish to dismiss an ideology it's easiest to do so if you identify your opponent's ideology by his weakest point. The extremists of any movement are usually the easiest to dismiss and so that straw man becomes identified in many minds as _the_ ideology.

February 22, 2006 11:02 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Are you saying that the jist of these arguments boils down to people thinking that each movement is run by its most extreme contingent?

In essence, yes. The right perceives that the left is run by the Kennedy/Kerry contingent, the same one that voices their opinions loudly on Kos and the like that thinks Bush is a terrorist. The left perceives that the religious right runs the right, and that they plan on banning all abortion and would prosecute homosexuality.

I'd also argue that neither side is truly like that: Today's conservatives are far more progressive than modern-day liberals on any non-social issue. Soc. Security, pre-emptive war, and economics are breaks from the status quo by the right; while the reverse positions are a desire for the status quo from the left. Times are a'changin'. :)

February 23, 2006 1:48 PM  

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