An Apple application that let users guess which French politicians or celebrities are Jewish was pulled from France’s App Store. but its American equivalent is still available.
French activist groups said the “Jew or Not Jew?” app violated bans on compiling information on people’s religion and revealing that religion without their consent, according to United Press International.
I still remember when Saturday Night Live introduced this as a mock game show almost 30 years ago! Those with long memories will recall that the show was hosted by Kurt Waldheim, then becoming infamous for having lied about his Nazi past. Frankly, I though it was hysterical. But perhaps that’s the point.
What’s funny in America may not be so funny in France, where Antisemitism is a much more prevalent and dangerous fact of life than it is in America. But is that really a sufficient argument?
I do appreciate that in France, far more likely than in the United States, the “Jew or Not Jew” game could be used in ugly ways. I just think that laws which prohibit such things mask very serious underlying problems, much more than they actually address them.
The problem is not the app per se — it is not in and of itself hateful or ugly. The danger lies in how it could be used by hateful and ugly people. Not having this app will not address the problem of their hate and ugliness. Not to mention that the app’s unavailability in the french-based app store does not mean that it will not be readily available in France. That’s one of the blessing and the burdens of the internet, right?
This seems like a well-intentioned, but totally unsophisticated response to a very real problem. And in this case the old adage about the road to Hell and good intentions seems pretty apt.
R. Kirby Godsey’s new book, Is God A Christian?, challenges what the author describes as the commonly held belief among many religious people that the God in whom they believe is “one of them”. People, Mr. Kirby observes, too often confuse God’s religious identity with their own, leading them to believe that God in exclusively on their side in all things, and by extension, hostile to all those with whom they disagree.
In a world of increasing polarization and rising religious violence, the notion that God stands fully and exclusively with any one group or faith is not only theologically problematic for those who believe in an infinite God, but actually quite dangerous. For raising those issues, Kirby is to be thanked. The likely hood that religion will be a source for as much public healing in the 21st century as it has already been a source of public suffering hinges on this issue, if not exclusively, then at least quite significantly.
In pursuing this important line of thought however, the author makes statements and pursues a methodology that is itself problematic in many ways — ways which also invite consideration in an honest exploration of this book. Kirby consistently writes about what, for lack of a better term might be called religious fundamentalists or fundamentalist approaches to God and religion, almost as judgmentally and arrogantly as those people often have treated him.
From the very beginning of the book, for example, the author refers to Christians with whom he has deep theological disagreements, especially on the issues addressed in the book, as “Christians” – note the quotation marks indicating that that are not really Christians at all. Kirby doesn’t even seem to notice the irony of doing this in the midst of stories which inveigh against those very people reading Kirby out of his own Baptist community! What happened to doing to others as you would have them do to you?
I raise this issue precisely because I share so many of the author’s concerns, and identify so closely with so many of his solutions. Kirby’s book is not simply some academic exercise, but a heartfelt effort to bridge the worlds of deep religious commitment to particular traditions, and the absolute necessity to remain cognizant of and respectful toward other communities. If we cannot figure out how to do both of those at the same time, we are going to kill each other and ourselves. Because the stakes are so high, we cannot avoid asking tough questions.
It is a matter of pride among people who identify with words like progressive, forward-thinking, and inclusive, to be at the forefront of bridging that divided, but if those terms become synonymous with treating those who think differently as backward, narrow-minded people who don’t “get” God, then what have we gained?
This book intrigued me and it surely raises questions with which all people committed to any cause, and especially to a faith, must wrestle. It just needs a better, more nuanced ending.
Is God A Christian? answers the question posed by the title with an unqualified “no”. But perhaps by offering a qualified “yes”, the author would serve his important cause better. Instead of undermining God’s Christian identity, one might imagine that God is, or could be, a Christian, just as God is, or could be, a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, etc. all at the same time.
The issue is not what God is, or even how we need to experience the 100 per cent realty that God is as we experience God being – as long as no one of those identities is thought to exhaust all of who God is. For an infinite God, multiple identities are neither problematic nor incoherent; they are simply loving concessions to a finite faithful.
As is so often the case, the issue isn’t God, the issue is us.
The tenth anniversary of 9/11 brings up many emotions and presents some very real challenges, among them how to remember the past without being imprisoned by it. This video, filmed at St. Paul’s, the church closest to the World Trade Center site, is a wonderful example of rising to that challenge. Watch it and see for yourself.
Over the coming days, I will offer further reflections on a variety of questions raised by the attacks of September 11th, how we dealt with them then, and how we deal with them now. Stay tuned.