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Not Only Non-Religious Jews and Christians, But Also Religious Jews and Christians Should Read Harold Bloom's New Book

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 24, 2011: Since its founding, the United States has been an experiment in a democratic form of government, a representative democracy. Through democratic elections, we elect representatives as law-makers. But of course we also reserve the right to throw the bums out of office in a subsequent election. So that's our form of democracy.

To many Americans today, it sounds undemocratic to refer to elites. As a result, populists of all persuasions (liberal populists and conservative populists) can refer to elites as the bad guys, with the populists themselves claiming to be the good guys. Using this kind of populist appeal, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Republican noise machine like to denounce liberals as elites and/or as elitists. Within their broad populist appeal, they like to denounce the mainstream media for allegedly being liberal.

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Please don't misunderstand me here. There are indeed ways in which we could show that media people tend to be politically liberal. For this reason, perhaps the admittedly liberal media people do manifest a generally liberal viewpoint in their media reports.

But I hasten to suggest that there are other ways in which media coverage can be criticized, other than considering the liberal/conservative political axis. For example, the mainstream media tend to be sensationalistic and superficial. Oddly enough, Limbaugh and the Republican noise machine also excel in sounding sensationalistic alarms and in being superficial.

From these observations we might conclude that both the mainstream media and the Republican noise machine gravitate toward the sensationalistic and the superficial.

But I want to dwell on the contrast between supposed elites and supposed non-elites.

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Please remember that Rob Kall wants to work toward bottom-up change in the United States today through his efforts in orchestrating and his radio show. In principle, I have no problem with trying to promote bottom-up change in the United States today.

Nevertheless, I would point out that the expression "bottom-up change" clearly indicates that certain people are at the bottom of American culture. In addition, I would point out that trying to promote bottom-up change indicates that certain people are setting themselves up as agents of change who are trying to arouse the people at the bottom.

The model of bottom-up change can be contrasted with the model of top-down change. Now, if you wanted to promote top-down change in the United States today, you would be well advised to get the NEW YORK TIMES on your side. In addition, you probably should get Ivy League academics on your side, because they are learned and articulate and influential.

This brings me to Yale's prolific learned literary critic Harold Bloom and his new book THE SHADOW OF A GREAT ROCK: A LITERARY APPRECIATION OF THE KING JAMES BIBLE (Yale University Press, 2011).

Bloom describes himself as "a Jew of Gnostic tendencies who neither trusts in the Covenant nor shares Christian faith in the Resurrection" (page 280). Earlier in his discussion of Paul the Apostle, Bloom argues that Paul's assertion that Abraham was justified by faith (pistis) and not by works is weird because "From Abraham to the present day, Jews are not required to have faith but to trust (emunah) in the Covenant" (page 268). Bloom also quotes the scholar Hans Joachim Schoeps as saying that "Paul had lost all understanding of the character of the Hebraic berith as a partnership involving mutual obligations" (quoted on page 264). As a result, Schoeps claims that Paul "failed to grasp the inner meaning of the Mosaic law, namely, that it is an instrument by which the covenant is realized" (quoted on page 264). What a wonderful indictment of a Jew who started off persecuting the upstart Christians!

In any event, I agree that the inner meaning of the Mosaic instructions is that the Mosaic law is an instrument by which the covenant is realized, because I have read those ancient Hebrew prophets who told the rulers and ruling class that this is basically the meaning of the covenant. In other words, if their rulers and ruling class wanted to be considered to be part of the covenant people, then they were to show this by doing their part to uphold the partnership of the covenant people involving mutual obligations toward one another, including those among them who could not take care of themselves.

But if this is basically what the covenant means, then we should conclude that all those so-called Christians who participated in the Holocaust or looked the other way demonstrated that they themselves were not part of the covenant people. But you could argue that spiritually all self-described Christians are Jews. However that may be, the covenant is surely one of the greatest ideas of all time.

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Because I am not a Jew, and because I have never received any proper instruction in Jewish thought, I wish that Bloom had explained his statements, quoted above, regarding the Greek term pistis and the Hebrew term emunah. I enjoyed James L. Kinneavy's short book GREEK RHETORICAL ORIGINS OF CHRISTIAN FAITH (Oxford University Press, 1987).

I have also long been fascinated with Gabriel Marcel's distinction of belief-in (a person) and belief-that (a propositional statement is true). Over the centuries, Christians have been famous for formulating propositional statements into creeds (belief-that). However, in the final analysis, Christian religious faith is belief in God (belief-in). Marcel makes this distinction in the second volume of THE MYSTERY OF BEING (Henry Regnery, 1951, pages 68-84). Because of my fascination with Marcel's distinction, Bloom's brief comments about emunah meaning trust remind me of belief-in, as distinct from belief-that.

In his literary appreciation of the KJB, Bloom sets aside all questions of religious faith, trust in God, and supposed divine revelation in order to advance an aesthetic or literary appreciation, which is not necessarily contrary to having religious faith and/or trusting in God.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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