Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Modern Conversion stories

This essay, found via John Ray at Dissecting Leftism, is very, very good. The author is a young Jewish man raised in a culture of Bostonian Liberalism, who has come to reject that upbringing after his eyes were opened to the threat that radical liberalism poses to his faith and his people. The author's name is Benjamin Kerstein and his blog is Diary of an Anti-Chomskyite.
... to the universalist, whose ideology is inherently totalist in its dimensions, any rejection is also, by definition, a threat. The distinctiveness of Judaism, its very sense of itself, was offensive to the ideology [liberalism] to which I had paid piper for so long, and thus the turn into anti-semitism was an inevitability of liberal philosophy. Most dangerously of all, liberalism's adherents felt themselves incapable of such thinking, for they believed their ideology to be a prophylactic against anti-semitism, when, in fact, anti-semitism was the result of that very ideology itself. It was in this conception of liberalism's negation of Judaism that I began to sense the origins of my own sense of myself; for I realized suddenly that I hated Judaism: hated the synagogue in which I had been forced to sit for endless hours in an uncomfortable suit and tie, hated the language I had been forced to spend my Tuesdays and Thursdays learning as a child, hated the prayers intoned in transliteration by halting American accents which could not comprehend the words, hated the weight of its history and hated its imposition upon me; and I began also to wonder why. I felt, and felt quite abruptly, as though a piece of myself had been stolen, and not merely through my own machinations; felt that my right, the most fundamental of all, to be proud of that which I was had been stolen from me by those determined to chain me to their ideology of self-loathing. As a result, I had rejected what was perhaps the best part of myself as little more than a congenital weakness and an arcane irrelevancy. I began to see that so many of my own fascinations; with Irish nationalism, with Third World revolutionary movements, with Black Power; indeed, my once devout wish that I had been born a black man; with the persecuted anarchist and communist intellectuals of the previous century, with Che and Fidel and Hiss and Vanzetti and Sacco and Mumia and Peltier and Huey; were merely the desperate assignations of my own alienation from myself. An alienation engineered by that all-encompassing creed which I had imbibed since my earliest chldhood; and as I began to return to Judaism, or perhaps, in truth, to discover it for the first time, I began to resent that of which I had been robbed, for it was nothing less than my right to myself.
My own journey - to Catholicism - was amazingly similar, with the exception that the edges on my own journey were nowhere near as pointed. Thankfully. The italics for emphasis are not in the original. Kerstein concludes:
It is not mere armchair psychology to see radical politics, in fact all politics which sees the world as inherently flawed and in need of overturning, as, in truth, the cry of unhappy and angry people; people for whom politics has become a desperate attempt to satiate a pain which is, in fact, deeply personal and fundamentally non-political; an attempt at indirect expression of an alienation which was, in fact, not from society but from the people closest to them, and perhaps even from themselves. ... What is clear to me, however, is that I have become far less sanguine about how much damage radical politics can cause and is willing to cause. I know its corners, its dark places, and the dreams darker still that it can conjure up in the minds of its adherents; and I have come to see in the liberal catechism a denial of both the limits of power and the truth of human reality.
Thanks Benjamin, I could not say it any better than that!

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