Most excellently, “Spengler” — a.k.a. David Goldman — is blogging. Even more excellently, he’s blogging on a subject near to the heart, or at least the eye, of any reader of Rieff: the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Of the Christian Robert Spaemann, Goldman writes :

Spaemann longs for the unity of Israel, the day on which (he believes) all Israel will come into the sheepfold of Christ. I long for the day prophecied by Zechariah in which all the world will call on YHWH by his unique name.

[ . . . ] But Spaemann incorrectly cites Neusner as saying that Jews pray for the conversion of the world to Judaism; never is it anticipated that the Gentiles would take on the full practice of Judaism, nor do Jews think this is necessary or desirable.

This is key. My mind is continually blown by how fiercely and blithely this is repressed by post-Christians in denial about how they cannot conceive of making Christianity ‘more Christian than Christianity’ without systematically draining it of every last vestige of its Jewishness. The most glaring and instructive example of this revealing and important phenomenon is that of Richard Rorty — whose pomo bourgeois liberalism, it seems to me, cannot function nearly as well as he thinks without an across-the-board repression of the reality of the Jewish faith in its particulars. Discussing Robert Brandom’s ‘ontological priority of the social’, Rorty writes that
All attempts to name an authority which is superior to that of society are disguised moves in the game of cultural politics. That is what they must be, because it is the only game in town. (But in saying that it is the only such game, Brandom is not claiming to have made an empirical discovery, much less to have revealed a ‘conceptual necessity.’ He is, I would claim, articulating a cultural-political stance by pointing to the social advantages of his account of authority ( Philosophy as Cultural Politics, “Cultural Politics and God” 8).

That is, Brandom is rhetorically celebrating the advantages of using power to destroy even the concept authority — advantages which much be social in their power because the predicament of man is not in his relation to nature (a predicament of logos ) but in his relation to man (an erotic predicament). This is awful enough, but Rorty goes on to defang it by explaning how “Brandom’s view can be made more plausible by considering what people actually have in mind when they say that God has authority over human society” (id.) To wit:
They do not say this unless they think they know what God wants human beings to do — unless they can cite sacred scriptures, or the words of a guru, or the teachings of an ecclesiastical tradition, or something of the sort, in support of their own position (id. 8-9).

Although there is of course some overlap between the working application of the concepts ‘society’,  ‘human society’, and ‘human beings’, Rorty plays fast and loose with interchanging them on what can only be described as purpose. It’s true that the looseness here can be seen to derive from the moral universalism inherited from Christianity. But an ethnocentrist like Rorty should have been much more frank about what was afoot — namely, his deliberate rhetorical presentation of all religions as dependent upon universalist moral claims. Either everyone must be such-and-such a believer or, in the alternate, the damned are headed for damnation, and perhaps don’t even count as persons. I think Goldman’s comment on the Jewish attitude toward the necessity and desirability of conversion is a dagger in the helium balloon heart of Rorty’s more-Christian-than-Christian caricature of religious faith — and, therefore, of religious authority. This isn’t to say that the communitarians got it right, end of story; but it is to say that Christians looking for a way to fight back against the ‘purification’ of Christianity into a “celebration of an ethics of love” (id. 33) would be extremely well-served to reflect upon the inextricably and inescapably Jewish quality of their uncannily un-Jewish faith. Rieff’s advice, for the record:
When every Christian becomes an observant Jew in his orthopraxis and every Jew a Christian in his, then and only then will the split in the second culture be closed ( The Crisis of the Officer Class 170).

Articles by James Poulos


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