Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thoughts On Dennis Prager, Shmuley Boteach, And Christians

I email: I like Rabbi Joseph Telushkin's books, particularly his series on ethics.
Courtesy is a big deal for many WASPs. Parents, school instill it. Peers. I've noticed it is not always such a big deal for Jews. They tend to be more blunt than WASPs.
Dennis Prager (DP) has been quite negative about Joel Osteen, Pastor Rick Warren in Orange County. DP says they're nothings because they won't stand up on important but divisive moral issues such as gay marriage.
There's a good debate on youtube between DP and Shmuley on this.

A friend emails: I saw the 9 min Shmuley-DP debate (why do it in a car, but OK)

DP was somewhat calmer at the end,

but he sounded very nasty and emotional when he said they're worthless

(When you get fixated on your issues, then it's natural to forget about other more ultimately important values, the way the real religious often do, let alone the liberal when they get angry and hateful at Conservs.)

These 2 are hugely on his side (! I think you seemed to be impressed by that too, or by this particular vehemence)

Logically they cause a lot of good which can be overlooked.

When you go to his church, you will tend to be less wild in your lifestyle even if they never breathe a word about it, just indirectly.

Shmuley sounded better than most times I've seen him before [let alone more pleasant, and even more the person in the front seat], and good point about hooking up culture or nihilism being far more important than gay (100 or 50% vs 2%).

2) DP also is very into saying what his audience likes, almost to an extreme [I never heard him so extreme on abortion like here, just gay, and even that not big]

But a huge difference is that DP is all about politics, and Joel is totally divorced from politics, which can be a huge difference for HEALING.

I became a much better person and less critiical when I stopped listening to talk radio and started reading Wikipedia for general info instead. Also sports unites and doesn't divide, just is not ultimately very important.

Joel is more of a uniter or a HUGE one (and promotes love, hope and encouragement. kindness and being good to NASTY people).

(and Reagan among politicians, which even Dems praised him for, and Palin unfortunately a pugnacious divider, after I initially liked certain things about her. She had her chance with me, and went out of her way to ruin it. Huckabee has great pleasantness and I respect him a lot, even tho I don't want evangelical. Nixon was pugnacious. I personally like Obama, just hear everyone saying he's ruining the economy. I also like how his intelligent wife is secure and stays out of the headlines, and has good issues which everyone agrees with like helping families of troops and obesity, health, etc.)

Sometimes one needs courage to take a stand, but very many of the issues are not clear-cut at all [political followers of either side tend to take it in package deals], so DP or the other side are doing it for natural reasons of their followers. A more clear cut issue is apparently that they have to reduce the debt. Or be tough on terrorism, which Obama really did more about once he was elected.

What he quoted from the Talmud how abortion is more severe for a non-Jew than a Jew to put Shmuley on the hot seat, when he himself picks and chooses [and if you would know what it says right nearby in Sanhedrin 57a, which he probably doesn't know, and Prager doesn't accept the Talmud anyway, which I don't mind, but to use as a club against Shmuley, when abortion can cause huge suffering and even Chareidi Jews understand inside would have filled America with criminals if they all had not been aborted. Once someone finally asked R Miller this, so he said what he had to, but you could tell he understands this factor.]

AC Green is a pleasant guy and has an abstinence organization, also for whites. This is probably fairly beneficial for society, even to someone who is not into his quiet belief in eternal damnation for non-believers. I don't care as long as he is quiet about it. He is stuck with this terrible belief because unfortunately his Book says it. But I would like to see if he can hint that he doesn't believe it, because that is a great and happy trend today.

See this: (type in YT "Rob Bell: Love Wins" major evangelical in Mich 7000 attend on cover of Time April 25. Billy Graham and Schuler say this too, but he is writing a whole BOOK to emphasize this. Very good development. Every average good person and I think many average Latinos I talk to don't believe it, but this is LA.)

I had been aware of that for a long time (altho among the Mod Orth, I don't think it is that different from the Protestant way, and BDJ, maybe YICC is a bit different, or regarding talking during davening, or maybe NY, a NY Protestant might seem more lacking in courtesy than an LA MO, could be tricky.

Also, Reform and Conserv are probably almost the same, esp as time goes by. Maybe even better in some ways. I don't see them lacking any courtesy. Often you can't even tell if they're Jewish. Besides, today there are so many non-Jews in the temples.)

and I even tried to consciously teach myself this as long ago as 1988 when visiting from Israel and seeing the manners (altho at the time didn't know about it being Protestant)

I thought Catholicism is more like Chassidus (superstitious, graves, saints, worshipping the "Rebbe-Popes" emotionalism)

but I thought that other than culture (Italians in Brooklyn, Latinos, Poles in Chicago as opposed to Irish and the Father Greg types with DP's old "Religion on the Line", the more intellectual, also the ones in the Vatican don't seem much different from Protestant courtesy, Jesuits, Loyola here, etc.) hard to see a definite gap regarding manners and politeness. The MO in LA don't seem that much different.

It's an interesting topic. Politeness has been important to me all my life. (Some say Protestants may sometimes be too cold, not sure. But my impression is that Protestant tends to be better than Catholic in various ways, altho there are excesses of evangelicals and often less intelligent behavior as opposed to the Vatican, which has a lot of power, fancy clothes and potential corruption and molestation problems, but seems to have less Chilul Hashem in how they represent it, or less wild, strange things, like speaking in tongues or faith-healing, etc. Or ranting televangelists and charismatics. I'm sure you know a lot more, wonder how much experience you had with Catholics.)

Recently I saw that Joel Osteen drives a 9 yr old car (besides having no jets). I was very critical and skeptical about him early on, and then I started to see that (although the problem is mainly too unrealistic and he admits not at all theologically deep,

I just take the best 10% of the other topics, like being a better person. When he's good , he can be VERY good, and better phrased than I've ever heard. One can overlooked that he's thought about it all a lot, has huge experience with what people are thinking and need, and very good understanding of psychology. Also, I got over his Texas accent,

One thing they never mention is his humility. He goes to ballgames, wears casual clothes, doesn't act holy, etc. Makes light of himself a lot. I realized that he's being watched all the time, and he also can get huge satisfaction from helping many people, so doesn't need to be into money. he is definitely totally different from the other televangelists. As a writer put it, "calm, even understated, never raises his voice". His strengths are all positive and representing a loving God, and very likeable and smiling. It can help if one listens to him at first as a researcher of how he is talking to OTHERS. Like a sociological study. I.e., I am too critical and intellectual for this, but I am happy if this can help the masses.

I thought of the possibility of how much this actually changes their lives and behavior - this is a MASS ministry - and if they really stop being angry and nasty in a pressure situation, since many are simple people and he addresses addictions a lot. And from what I gather, it's like "DP listeners" who patronize the advertisers, albeit far more intellectual,

you can apparently tell they are some of the better people, and there was some concrete proof, like their people gave the most blood in the whole Houston. Or they've become known in the stores for being the most friendly and happy. Which makes total sense.

I always think about DP's happy waitress at Denny's. If someone thinks that God loves them, then altho for the masses there could be some problems, for the most part they ought to be markedly better at being happy and more freindly to people. I think a lot of the better Chabad BTs who are not Meshichist have been trained to have a much more loving God than the other Chareidim. The LR got rid of any punishment ideas. In my yeshivah and in Israel they were full of it, and esp Zohar and Ari were terrible. (Of course in America it's always presented better.) It has everything to do with the whole behavior of the Chareidim in Israel, and Satmar in NY.

Also, he sees tons of suffering, cancer, people with problems - which he addresses a lot in his talks, and it could drive him nuts. Also, he has critics, whom he learned to ignore, and there may be people who bother him all the time in public. In his area, he might be almost as recognizable as a rock star, not very enviable.)

I would rather have a neighbor who is "kindly" than "controls arrogance and anger" (also quite good, but not necessarily noticeable)

Here's a short clip (can be watched also as a sociological study, but also note the particular words used, and I think it's more well-prepared and crafted than people can realize initially. He works on it the whole week, I think, someone told me uses no teleprompter. Also good music.

The key is to ignore most of Joel, and only the best 10%, which is possible now on YouTube. "The BrandonAdamsGA" poster has short clips of the best. What helped me was I got out all my criticism and skepticism of him [although I saw from the beginning that he is all Power of Positive, hope and encouragement],

I discovered him in 2007 [saw his book at Ralph's], recorded 6 talks and afterwards stopped for a few years because it's too unrealistic and repetitious. I kept saying when we he talk about being a better person?

But  recently I found the minority topics of bein adam lachaveiro, and he tends to be very effective compared to even DP. Plus more likeable. Afterwards he won me over to the idea of starting with a joke. And he has overlooked friendly humor in the middle, not for laughs, just amiability and pleasantness.

 What I think very rare about Shmuley is his very lengthy and profuse praise of DP and maybe others for having learned much from him. Even if he was a total charlatan, it's very rare. Almost never seen it to this extent, shows a lot of strength of character.

I have read Twitter of churches, other things to get inside feel. Never saw mention of having manners any more than anyone else (Modern Jews or Catholics od the same education. It seems to be that Reform Jews who are less rich are not that unlike Protestants and often can be quite friendly. Like at HUC 3077 Dr near USC, the staff was friendly, usually librarians are very nice people. I think the Reform women might be better, do more chessed. The biggest and richest churches you expect to be less, esp if the people are too well-dressed. I was at Nessah once, reasonably nice but a bit too affluent. And such a huge place.).
Surprised at idea that DP would knock for passive lack of action on gay marriage. There are already plenty on this topic, so why should someone who is Master of Positive and Encouragement and a loving God (desperately needed given both the horrible suffering in the world plus the seemingly harsh content of the various Holy Books] and positively influencing FAR more people than DP [hope no touch of jealousy] change over and ruin it all by joining a losing battle. Even DP could think it's natura; to need different people doing different things. Osteen is on record that gay is "not God's best".
Gay marriage is seemingly a sure loser (almost like being against MLK day in ARIZ) as more and more overcome the taboo and get to know them better.
I think there are only 2%  (not like the old lies of 5-10%) and they don't reproduce. IF they could make OTHERS gay, could be severe problem but I doubt it.  I am open to changing my opinion, as always.
I thought that DP had been much more subdued about this, and that the breakthru article he wrote decades ago, is something he would have to greatly amend today. I thought everyone admits now that they can't change. (unless huge motivation, and even then not exactly. Even a scholar from YU who learned 3 yrs in a black hat yeshivah told me this 12 yrs ago. And about having spoken to someone who was told to wear rubber bands, etc. Also articles from Israel indicated this, that there are plenty of religious ones, who have their own groups, HOD, and R Ron Yosef. Seen this?) 

"Hatred will never be ended by hatred but by love." (Buddha, called it the great principle)

Imagine if all political talkers, or Prager, mentioned this often. (I never heard Prager mention this at all. But his happiness hour has probably done great good. Plus I thought some of his best was when he had on opposite opinions, like Andrew Sullivan and others, and showed respect and an example of getting along very well.)

Creates a totally different mindset and atmosphere and way of looking at political differences.
Unfortunately, the nature of the world is that it is so very easy for even very good people to get distracted and fixated on their issues, and forget what is universally praiseworthy behavior.