Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


Glenn Beck & Maimonides

posted by David Klinghoffer
Did you ever think you’d see those two names juxtaposed? I watched Beck’s CPAC speech online just now all the way through — an hour plus. Beck by virtue of his headlining CPAC appearance has been more or less designated as the conservative movement’s preeminent spokesman. The man is a phenomenal talker but I was squirming throughout. Something about the theme of comparing America to a drunk on his way to hitting bottom — through an addiction to taxing and spending — rubbed me the wrong way. The theme was that like Beck himself, who very frequently and emotively refers to his personal experience of having gained wisdom by looking into the “abyss” of alcoholism, the country will soon face a disastrous “morning after” following a long debauch. There were numerous references to vomiting — tasteless, I thought — and to confession and repentance. You have to admit you have a problem before you can seek help. 
His theme, as ever with Beck, was apocalyptic. He asks us to contemplate a coming “economic Holocaust.” And so on. What’s wrong with this? At NRO, Bill Bennett admonishes Beck for extrapolating from his private struggles as if they could be directly mapped onto to the national scene. Trying to put a finger on what irritated me, I opened Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, in the Laws of Repentance, and immediately found two items of interest. 
If there are two things in public life that I despise, they are a) being clubbed over the head with someone else’s personal story when it seems designed to elicit my admiration; and b) being manipulated through fear. Maimonides, distilling the Talmud, writes of both these things. Public confession of sins committed against another person can have a tonic effect. One thinks of Tiger Woods, whose case of confessed adultery Beck discussed in the speech. But sins that are not committed against another person but rather primarily against God – or you might say, against yourself – are not fit for public confession: “In regard to sins between man and God, it is not necessary to publicize one’s [transgressions]. Indeed, revealing them is arrogant” (2:5). Presumably, abusing your body through various addictions would fall into this latter category. Don’t you find there’s something arrogant and preachy about people who flaunt their “recovery,” even if for seemingly fine reasons?
Later in the same text, Maimonides writes about categories of people who by their actions give up the hope of reward in the World to Come. Most sins do not carry this degree of severity. One of the categories is people who rule or influence others through fear: “‘Those who cast fear upon the people for reasons other than the service of God’ – This refers to one who rules the community with a strong hand and [causes] them to revere and fear him. His intent is only for his own honor and none of his desires are for God’s honor” (3:13). I of course have no way of knowing what’s in Beck’s heart, but his apocalyptic style, the habit of constantly trying to scare us, is not in the best conservative tradition as I know and believe in it, that’s for sure. Can you imagine William F. Buckley ever descending to these levels? 


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The Barking Unicorn, Denver, CO

posted February 21, 2010 at 8:08 pm


Actually, I rather like the “drunk hitting bottom” metaphor of our economy. It’s certainly apt.



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Rob

posted February 21, 2010 at 9:20 pm


I have watched the entire Glenn Beck speach four times now. I didn’t know that there were other people that felt and thought like I do… but there he is… God bless Glenn Beck. Stop socialism, liberalism, progressivism, and all the other anti-American ism’s that there are.



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Margaret Placentra Johnston

posted February 21, 2010 at 9:28 pm


As soon as you said it, I knew – Glen Beck must be at the Faithful level. (converted from a Lawless – alcoholic – past, into a fear and punishment-based religion, very tight about the rules of religion and society, believes only my group is right.)
You said you do not know what is in his heart – but I think you do. You write from the Mystic level(god applies to people of all faiths, god is love, not fear, all beings are important, not just my group.) This means you most likely went through the Lawless and Faithful stages as a child or adolescent. Then at some point moved onto the Rational level, questioning everything to some extent and now have reengaged your faith at the Mystic level.
In terms of spiritual development, Beck is way far back in the dust relative to you and that is why you find him irritating. I do too.
Margaret Placentra Johnston
http://www.exploring-spiritual-development.com



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drew

posted February 21, 2010 at 10:40 pm


such pride and superiority there, Margaret Etc.
and your beliefs miss the whole gospel of Jesus, which of course is rejected by this author anyway.
that is an evil spirit you are hearing from there.



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captac1

posted February 22, 2010 at 1:39 am


Let me say first sir that I also am a recovering alcoholic and one of AA’s (hands down the most successful organization for helping the alcoholic) most basic tenets is sharing your story in order to help others. It’s quite effective and not an easy thing to do. Secondly, Glenn Beck, to the best of my knowledge does not hold a position of leadership and seems to me to be influencing people only to be aware and to learn. Let me add though that it might just be prudent to be a little afraid for this “one nation under God”s current direction.



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Your Name

posted February 22, 2010 at 6:03 am


Some folks wouldn’t know sincereity if it slapped them in the face….we see so little of it. I, for one, think this guy is a wonderful teacher and upstanding, honest and honorable man. But,
Ms. Johnston cannot see this, as her head is elsewhere…..perhaps trying to convince others of her intelligence and insight. Talk about simplicity being a stumbling block.



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corey

posted February 22, 2010 at 7:26 am


I neither saw or read Glenn Beck’s speech but Mr. Klinghoffer’s comment that fear based comments turn him off seems to be misinterpreting Glenn’s reasons for saying what he did. Fear is the approach all politicians take especially Liberals. Just think of the reasons Health Care, Climate Legislation and all the rest are being pushed. It’s how they deliver that message of fear or how they go about portraying it and whether they can back what they are saying with facts and common sense.



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karl

posted February 22, 2010 at 8:01 am


Glen is not trying to save your soul. or anybody elses soul, he’s trying to save capitilism from solialism. he’s not a priest and does’nt come of as one to me. ya’all need to remember to seperate relgion from goverment It’s why our founding fathers did.



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Ant E M.

posted February 22, 2010 at 1:03 pm


“Glen (SIC) is not trying to save your soul. Or (SIC) anybody elses (SIC) soul, he’s (SIC) trying to save capitilism (SIC) from solialism (SIC). he’s (SIC) not a priest and does’nt (SIC) come of (SIC) as one to me. ya’all (SIC) need to remember to seperate (SIC) relgion (SIC) from goverment (SIC) It’s why our founding fathers did.”
Thanks for the laugh! I needed it today!



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Ant C.

posted February 22, 2010 at 1:30 pm


It would seem like Glenn Beck would not be your typical Republican: he is an alcoholic, drug addict, ADHD suffering, rage-aholic, divorcee with only a high school education, but his vitriolic demagoguery his struck a chord with many who are looking for quick answers and someone to blame (without blaming themselves, of course). He is a man without a plan, a rebel without a clue and his biggest fan is himself. A real man would have tallied the losses in his life and gained some humility but not good old Glenn Beck!



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Dan

posted February 22, 2010 at 4:11 pm


Beck has a point for our “developed” nation:
look at our now service economy, our fairly poor education standards, our consumption over innovation mentality, the extensive poverty in the US, our poor collective physical health, bad breeding practices, adherance to mythology over reason, and unemployment
We’re screwed.



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Mergatroid

posted February 22, 2010 at 6:02 pm


He was an alcoholic and drug addict, or he is an alcoholic and drug addict? Or does that matter to you, Ant C?



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LByron

posted February 22, 2010 at 9:07 pm


I want to address the two main religious concerns here directly.
First was that public sin should be discussed and private sin be held privately and personal. My first point is that alcoholism is a public sin, in that it removes the individual from public participation, causes neglect of duty and abrogation of responsibilities to family and community, prevents him from contributing to the fullest of his/her capabilities and often causes tremendous public damage (think Exxon Valdez). So is this a public or private sin? I vote public. It needs public confession, and public support. The purpose of AA is public support in overcoming your addiction by people who understand and having lived through it themselves, are less judgmental. Yes, it is a semi-closed and somewhat confidential group, but it is still public sharing and public support. My second point is that Glenn Beck’s use of this is a teaching by analogy, as well as teaching by personal experience and anecdote. He also does this by talking about the situation of uncontrolled spending in a family. One of the problems for many alcoholics is their uncontrolled spending, so again the analogy is quite apt.
Arrogance and pride do fall more in the category of a sin between man and God, but then perhaps a caution might be in order concerning the temptation to judge others as to those sins.
The second point you make is Maimonides’ condemnation in using fear to control people. I believe Mr. Beck’s presentations are chock full of examples, data and historical references to where we are as a nation, what we are doing as a people, and what the end results have been historically. He is prophesying as the prophets of old, that if the profligate and dissolute patterns of behavior continue, the consequences will be dire, but that if we change back to more Godly ways in accord with the Natural Law, we can recover. He does tell us that the way will be hard. A reflective, discipled life always is.
In opposition to this, as others have pointed out, is the willful distortions of truth to promote fear about a future that has no way of being predicted, as with the climate change controversy, or the intentional manufacturing of ‘crises’ through propaganda about health care or food or shelter, to promote encroachments of government power over individual liberty. These are especially egregious, as they remove the individual liberty to be truly charitable and compassionate through high taxation and absurd degrees of regulation, in the name of false masquerades of charity and compassion that disguise collectivist power systems.
It seems that you misinterpret Maimonides to support things that Maimonides never would have.



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Mark Lewis

posted February 22, 2010 at 9:22 pm


Thanks, David, for those valuable insights from Maimonides.
Appreciatively,
Mark
P.S. And you’re quite right: Bill Buckley would not have used such an approach.



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Richard

posted February 23, 2010 at 6:12 am


You spiritualists there, you know who you are.
Glen Beck is probably the single most intelligent commentator you have in America. It amuses me that there are actually people in your country that believe rampant spending is ok, and not only that but the best way to deal with a coming default on your debts is to ramp up the spending further.
I can only hope you get your heads out of the clouds and accept the fact that your country needs to tighten it’s belt or face collapse. You are a good nation but how can any country follow a failed state.
A concerned Australian and an American Friend.



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Hector

posted February 23, 2010 at 8:21 am


I like Beck, and agree in general with most of what he says, but tell me this isn’t fear mongering:
“BECK: I told you yesterday, buckle up your seatbelt, America. Find the exit — there’s one here, here, and here. Find the exit closest to you and prepare for a crash landing. Because this plane is coming down, because the pilot is intentionally steering it into the trees! Most likely, it’ll happen sometime after Christmas. You’re gonna see this economy come up — we’re already seeing it, and now it’s gonna start coming back down again. And when you see the effects of what they’re doing to the economy, remember these words: We will survive. No — we’ll do better than survive, we will thrive. As long as these people are not in control. They are taking you to a place to be slaughtered!”
In his explanation of this clip, Beck explained it as LByron (above) would accept. However, and quite unfortunately, he did not explain why he used the word “intentionally.” If he merely said “the pilot is steering it into the trees,” one could grasp and claim that the pilot is being reckless. But adding the word “intentionally” truly makes the pilot evil.



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Philip Koplin

posted February 23, 2010 at 11:17 am


Why weren’t Beck et al. freaking out over deficits when they were being run up by a Republican President and Congress?



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Philip Koplin

posted February 23, 2010 at 11:29 am


And where were Beck et al, when the Bush Administration was exploiting fears over the by-definition endless war on terrorism to claim the right to effectively suspend the Constitution whenever the President felt it might get in the way of “defending” the US?



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Harriet B

posted February 23, 2010 at 11:36 am


Maimonides is turning over in his grave, listening to this. What a comparison.



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Hector

posted February 23, 2010 at 5:50 pm


Harriet B, a comparison between what and what (or whom and whom?



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Richard's friend

posted February 23, 2010 at 9:12 pm


Margaret, Margaret, Margaret!!!!!!!
So tall and lofty, you must come with your own postcode.
Ant C.
Glenn is neither Repub nor Democrat.
Why don’t you brush up on your research and see where his loyalties lay. Why don’t you email him about his track record, as he was just as tough on Bush as he is on Obama.
Don’t believe what HuffPo or Dailykos write about him either.
He has, no doubt about it, got the leftie Libs reaching for all their name-calling stunts.
Glenn prefers to claim he is a modern day “Paul Revere”.
Someone needs to be a fog-horn in America.
You are all in a sleepy haze.



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Mergatroid

posted February 24, 2010 at 3:49 am


You are all in a sleepy haze? Everyone but you, Richard’s Friend? Maybe Margaret has a townsman in her postcode.
Really now, everyone knows that the only person who is right is me. Heh heh.



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