Let me lead with a question – Is the threat of environmental catastrophe ringing from every pulpit and ethical organization in the country? If not, why not? The Bible records many prophets and the price of ignoring them. Surely making clear the moral and religious imperative of preventing catastrophe is a basic function, a duty of the clergy.
Some of us remember having to sign loyalty oaths. In the language of the U.S. Supreme Court, one had to swear that he or she had not “advocate[d] the overthrow of government by force, violence, or any unlawful means.”
Whenever I talk about the Middle East I get lambasted. And when I fail to mention Israel or Palestine I get lambasted because I didn’t. Pro-Israeli listeners brook no criticism whatever of what Israel does. Supporters of the Palestinians recognize the legitimacy of nothing else. Sometimes you can’t please everybody and sometimes you can’t please anybody. So, OK, here goes.
This is Passover, a holiday that comes straight out of the Bible, the Almighty commanding us to tell the story of the Exodus to each new generation as well as reminding ourselves. The Exodus, of course, is a story of freedom from slavery. The Biblical story is about the Hebrew exodus from slavery in Egypt. But we are very explicit about relating that story to the freedom of others.
I just got back from Chicago where I attended a national meeting of political scientists. One of them described at length the local, national and international barriers to doing anything about climate change. His basic point was that those whose livelihood seemed to depend on activities that are bringing on climate change are strategically placed to prevent the rest of us from doing anything. His point is that to make anything happen it would be necessary to make people come to think about what they are doing as wrong in the teeth of evidence that it is good for them in their own lifetimes. That also makes them totally resistant to the idea that climate change is happening, that human activity is a substantial cause of the change, that it will do any damage and that it is worth dealing with. Ouch for the rest of us.
Ever notice that I frequently talk about economics. What’s a lawyer doing talking about economics? I did read and study economics but there are other reasons why economic issues are dear to this heart.
There has been a lot of loose talk about how to deal with Russia over Ukraine. Some people think Obama should be, or sound, tougher – or more careful. Toughness is mostly about impressing the home audience, and getting people fired up. But it has nothing to do with what actually has to happen, what the choices or consequences are – it’s all about posturing. Foreign affairs is not a simplistic referendum on “toughness,” and the avatars of toughness should be laughed out of the public space.