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Politics Vs Theology: Beginning A Debate With David Swindle

Why we should not frame political issues as a matter of Good versus Evil.

Michael Lumish


October 13, 2013 - 3:00 pm
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Editor’s Introduction: I’ve known Mike Lumish since the summer of 2010 when he began starting a shift toward the pro-Israel and counter-Jihad movements. He submitted several strong, thoughtful blog posts during my tenure as managing editor of a media criticism and ideological activism new media publication. He primarily wrote from the position of a liberal Jew seeks to advocate for his fellow Jews to recognize the great threat of the global Jihad. After the closing of the publication I began a small email listserv — only a few dozen alumni — and now still continue more than two years after joining PJM. They’re my friends and it’s great to keep track of what they’re all doing and to debate political and cultural issues. (We’re an oddball assortment across ages, cultures, religions and the ideological spectrum.)

A few weeks ago I was wearing my New Media Troublemaker hat and decided to provoke a discussion when Mike submitted another of his posts for the group’s consideration. I responded, critiquing his whole approach in fundamental ways and explaining how I had continued to change in both my ideas and tactics while he seemed to still be repeating the same stuff over and over. And we went back and forth for a bit and finally it occurred that the discussion might be appreciated and perhaps even joined by others. So I invited Mike to submit a post to PJ Lifestyle. And I am so delighted that he accepted! Though we may have important disagreements, I think Mike’s got a good heart, is moving in the right direction, and on the important fight of the day — Radical Islam’s war against the West and its oppression of fellow Muslims — he’s an ally. Check out his blog Israel Thrives here. So I look forward to an engaging discussion soon.


David Swindle is an editor and writer for PJ Media and my former editor at NewsReal Blog, once the blog of FrontPageMag. The alumni of NRB maintain an email list in which we keep one another current on our activities and writings and interests and in which people hash out policy differences. I am a member of that list despite the fact that I am not a political conservative.

Not long ago David offered his criticism of my concerns. In a nutshell, David took me to task for encouraging my fellow liberals to understand that the rise of political Islam is dangerous to women and to gay people and to Jewish people and to all non-Muslims throughout the Middle East, if not the Islamic world, more generally.

He writes:

When you describe yourself as an activist in these words: “I am actually non-partisan and want the progressive-left, including the Jewish left, to stand up against political Islam and to recognize that the Obama administration has supported the rise of political Islam throughout the Middle East via supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, among other places” then you are defining your primary priorities as a writer-activist.

But David objects to this.

He responded by telling me that I am a “blind, childish fool” in making this my “crusade.”

He claims,

“It would be as if I decided that my primary goal in life was just to convert the postmodern secularist progressive pop culture polytheists of my friends and old family into conservatives.”

Just why he makes this strange claim is beyond me.

The fact of the matter is that the rise of political Islam throughout the Middle East is of the foremost geo-political significance since the demise of the Soviet Union.  The rise of the Brotherhood and political Islam, despite Morsi’s defeat in Egypt, is something that we must discuss and address and oppose. Much of my writings center upon the fact that my fellow liberals absolutely refuse to even discuss this issue and it is an issue that is greatly in need of discussion.

David suggests that, in contrast to my work, his “writing and editing activism is aimed at EVERYONE, not just one small group.”

I fail to see how the progressive-left, as a political movement, represents “one small group.”  It doesn’t. David is a good man, but he is simply wrong. The progressive-left is a huge political movement that dominates politics and political discourse throughout Europe and the United States and I, in fact, am a member of that political inclination.

It is because that I am an American liberal, and someone who marched against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that I feel some responsibility for standing up against the Obama administration’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood and the rise of political Islam.

David, however, feels that this is simply insufficient. He tells me that my,

“focus on politics doesn’t go deep enough. Left, Right, progressive, conservative — none of these ideologies matter if the person holding them does not really choose to believe in a transcendent God and thus Good and Evil.”

It is at this point, not surprisingly, that the conversation comes immediately to a grinding halt. I do not write about theology, although the history of religion is part of my academic background. When someone tells me that there is “Good” and there is “Evil” and that they stand for “Good” then there is nothing further to discuss, which is why it took me so long to finally respond to David.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (7)
All Comments   (7)
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Are you arguing the difference between fanaticism and piety? Because it's rather pointless to 'fight evil', unless you plan on doing it on strictly theological grounds or those of theodicy. Why, after all, is there evil, why does it happen under the gaze of a seemingly all loving god? And what can be gained by fighting it at all.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Liberal progressives are incredibly judgmental along their self defined lines of good and evil. Lumish, it's rather astonishing that you refuse to recognize your own harsh, uncompromising moral judgements for what they are.

Are the both of you so beglamoured by your own obstinate vocabulary choices as to be blind to meaning?

So, you and Swinde have agreed to talk past each other. Oh, goody. Won't this be fun and enlightening? That essentially makes both of you common and boring. Just more of the same of what's been going on for more than a century at least. By all means, never get out of your rut.

I don't think either of you understand what politics or religion (primarily Western) are for; what they are trying to achieve.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The "devil's advocate" in me slighly constructs a dialogue between himself and Mr. Lumish: Devil: "Hey, Mr. Lumish, you have expressed disdain or dislike of oppressing women, murdering Gays and chasing out Christians. Right?" Lumish: "Right!". Devil: "Hey, man, I just happen to like to oppress women, murder Gays and chase out Christians and I will so enact a politics of realization". Lumish: "But that is terrible, I find it wrong and will act politically against your likes". Devil: "Agreed, so you act politically because, as a wise Marxist once said, political power comes from of the barrel of a gun. Are you willing to turn the guns supporting your personal tastes on me and my personal tastes in order to make sure that my politically wants to not come to fruition?" Lumish: "Well, I ..... (???)".

Why have I, having surpressed that devilish advocate in me, i.e., terminated the conversation with Lumish as he asserts, well, dots and dots? My thought runs thusly: Lumish is not just POLITICALLY against oppression, murder chasing out because, well, he simply and personally does not like such activity, i.e., his personal preferences are elsewhere. Inspired by Camus at the beginning of "L'homme revolté", I oppose the devil's advocate in me not with a mere preference as a mere function of MY mere personal tastes. No, my individual "no" to oppression, murder and chassing out has no normative value, no authoritative obligation, unless it is normatively binding on each and ever individual "I". And this inalienable obliigation TRANSCENDS mere personal choice and reaches into the trans-human realm of a moral "Thou shalt NOT". Nolens/volens the personal preferences that Lumish is seeking to become political action rest, with or without recognition, upon a transcendent reality that obligates. In simple words, preferences are not enough, rather moral obligation must be formatively active. At this point Mr. Lumish ceases being merely political and begins to become metaphysical, viz., theological. In other words, if oppression, etc. is immoral, morality itself demands a grounding and a grounding will have theological dimensions.

The point I am suggesting is that Swindle's enthusiasm (= "being in God") for "good" and "evil" is logically, though only implicitly, the ground justifying Mr. Lumish's pushing for at least certain political activity,i.e., if it is to be more than MERE preference or MERE taste. It is morally, viz.,categorically wrong, not just a practically mistaken taste, to oppress, murder and chase out people. If Mr. Lumish rejects all that moral foundation in favor or MERE political actionism, I am sure that the surpressed "devil" in me will lick his chops seeing a new comrade.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's true that once a debate is framed in terms of good vs. evil, that's pretty much the end of the debate; hate is not up for debate nor a political issue. I myself don't see most politics in such stark terms, but political correctness has clearly come to be based on group hatreds institutionalized as trendy - the so-called identity politics. Jews are not faring well in this atmosphere and neither are larger swaths of identities such as being white, heterosexual and male.

In terms of Islam, the question is whether it has institutionalized group fear and hatred, or whether it is a form of politics. The irony there is that, though Islam is one of the politically correct and approved identities of the Left, Islam celebrates two of the identities the Left disdains - the male and the heterosexual. As for white vs. non-white, it seems to be something of a non-issue within Islam. Though the middle east has people that are ostensibly
Arab supremacists, there are in fact as few real Arabs there are there were Englishmen in India. It is a region that was colonized by Arabs, but they are long gone, a minority ethnically absorbed into the larger populace centuries ago. Yet Arab identity is so charged with a positive view that the top Shi'ites in Iran claim direct descent from Mohamed, though they otherwise despise Arabs and speak no Arabic.

These contradictions of identity are what both the Left and Islam have in common because they lack true principles and tools of self-criticism - in other words, they are always right because they are who they are. On the Left, nobility is inherent in one's political identity: gay, non-white, female. Within firm believers of Islam, nobility is conferred on ones vision of being Muslim, and both politics and group hatreds easily flow from both the Left and Islam.

Both the Left and Islam are anti-American in the sense that neither has any use for the Constitution, which today, affirmative action and quotas aside, is based on blind principle, though it is being eroded. Neither group is capable of maintaining a thing like the Constitution let alone creating it.

It's clear to me that race and gender-based political correctness and Islam are easy sources of hate-speech because of their fundamental nature, though they diverge widely on the particulars.

I don't see how one can debate people who say "Islam is the solution" or stipulate that straight white males are innately immoral and racist. Both the Left and Islam will destroy any larger community they are a part of until only they, and failure, remain and each needs to be marginalized and ostracized.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
For me, it comes down to this: is there anything about the reality of the brand of Islam currently sweeping through the Middle East and much of the world that is or can be said to be good for someone? And I'm not asking that as a matter of deep-seated, religious Good and Evil but the more simply level of simply asking does it let people live and prosper in any way if it takes hold as a wide-spread movement and system of governance.

I think the conclusion is that by and large it does not, and that you would have to make very large excuses for it to even try to find something of redeeming value to either the Shia or Sunni persuasions of Islam. I think it's also inescapable that you cannot separate the religious aspects of these varieties of Islam from the governance aspects, so separating religion from politics here just really isn't possible, IMO.

That brings us back the larger issue of Good and Evil on the theological scale.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It all comes down to Sex, in the end, Mike. Far too many (especially those under 30) on the political left believe that Islam is their best chance to physically kill those "horrible Christians" that make them feel bad about their sexual lifestyles and choices. That Islam would do much, MUCH worse to them doesn't even cross their minds. They're just lost in the thrall of that single moment of the Sword of Islam literally coming down on the necks of Christians.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If the reality of good and evil is denied by a party in a political debate -- or if one party insists on calling good evil and vice versa -- then a political issue can be framed as good vs. evil.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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