By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
Beliefnet Windows & Doors blogger Brad Hirschfield is weighing in on God & Country's interview with newly elected Minority Whip Eric Cantor, the House's lone Republican Jewish member (A new Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey released last week reported that there are 31 Jewish Democrats in the House):
Noting that Jewishness is important to him, Rep. Cantor cannot name a specific instance in which it shapes his thinking. Why is that? Does he not really mean it? Having met him numerous times, that doesn't seem the correct analyses. So what is?
Cantor, like many people, has a hard time simultaneously affirming that Judaism is both multi-faceted (two Jews, three opinions) AND capable of providing concrete guidance on specific issues. The inability to appreciate both of those facts creates peopl e who either invoke their interpretation of Judaism as THE interpretation of it, or individuals who can make no real decisions because there are always alternatives in the offing.
Rep. Cantor could make a real contribution by helping those in his party, who are especially fond of using religion in the former way, to see that they can stand for a faith-based agenda without decrying those who happen not to share their interpretatio n of what faith demands. That would be a real Jewish contribution to American politics .
Indeed, when Cantor came up empty when I asked for an example of his faith shaping a policy position, and when he said that "there isn't a monolithic Jewish position on anything" in response to a question on abortion, it struck me how starkly such views differ from those of the conservative Christian activists whom Cantor—a social conservative—comes into frequent contact with. Conservative evangelical and Catholic activists proudly argue that there are monolithic Christian positions on social issues like abortion and marriage—what they consider the biblical position.
Cantor's saying that he's a social conservative by choice, not because the Bible says that he, as a committed Jew, must be. It's remarkable that such a dramatically different view of biblical authority leads Cantor to the same place as the Christian right on policy. Politics makes for strange bedfellows.
Read more by Dan Gilgoff .