All posts by Jacques Berlinerblau


Rick Santorum: Anathematizer-in-Chief

I was quoted in the Washington Post yesterday as observing that “theological disputation [on the presidential campaign trail] is a loser.” I was referring to the rhetoric of candidate Rick Santorum, whose surge among GOP voters has been accompanied by a surge in vinegary faith-based oratory.

A comment Santorum made this weekend has made the rounds, and if you are addicted to Sunday morning news shows or CNN you now know it by heart. In a discussion about Obama’s environmentalist policies, Santor…


Santorum Sacks Sinister Secularism

Secular-baiting has become something of an art form in high GOP circles ever since Newt Gingrich began his pioneering explorations of the genre back in the 1990s.

A milestone in the evolution of this rhetoric occurred in 2007 when Mitt Romney likened Secularism to radical Jihadism in a memorable speech.

Those were impressive accomplishments, for sure. But let me say that no one, but no one, can demonize, Talibanize, or Stalinize Secularism like Rick Santorum. On occasion he has done so, I would…


What Was Holy About Super Bowl XLVI?

False idol?

As I watched the outstretched arms of “the Gronker” (née Rob Gronkowski, the Goliath-sized New England tight end with hands the size of flat-screen TV’s) poised to haul in Tom Brady’s desperation Hail Mary pass at the end time of Super Bowl XLVI, I heard myself–I admit–pronounce the name of God. (Modified by an adjective that I cannot bring myself to admit.)

My hunch is that 120 million or so Americans–believers and nonbelievers alike– were invoking sacred and/or profane words right …


Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast

Remember that young phenom who rocked the 2004 Democratic National Convention with the refrain “we worship an awesome God in the blue states!”? Well, in style, at least, he was nowhere to be found at yesterday’s National Prayer Breakfast. Indeed, listening to President Obama deliver his remarks I was struck by the dirge-like joylessness of his oration.

In substance, however, his speech quietly drove home many of the core-beliefs of the ever-mobilizing, ever-regrouping, ever-coming-in-second-pla…


Saving Our Profession, Part 1: Mentoring

We humanists these days are afflicted by so many calamities (downsizing, disrespect, directionlessness) that it is easy to lapse into a state of complete demoralysis (= demoralization + moral paralysis).

Understandable as such a lapse might be, it is less depressing more productive to envision how we might assure the future of our guild. One possible solution to the crisis–and this is a long-term solution, I confess–centers around getting faculty to commit to mentoring students. It’s an unusuall…


Temperate in Tampa: The GOP Cools Down

In comparison with the recent ructions in South Carolina, tonight’s GOP debate in Florida was a fairly sedate gathering.

Most of the sparks were generated by a few solid Romney v. Gingrich scrums. The former, reeling from recent lackluster debate performances, came out kickboxing and tarred the latter as a Freddie Mac lobbyist, an “influence peddler,” a Washington Insider and a pretty damn embarrassing failure as Speaker of the House.

Gingrich, for his part, repulsed the assaults, never losing h…


The Passing of Joe Paterno, and Jewish Fathers

I don’t know if the situation is comparable with gentile fathers, but this is how it works with elderly Jewish dads. They never voluntarily retire. Under any circumstances. Ever.

If you ask them why, they will riposte with characteristic Hebraic forthrightness: “Because if I stop working I’ll die, that’s why. Schmuck.”  To which the Jewish Children of America—and I literally mean every single Member of the Tribe in the United States—will curse the intransigence of that generation and its il…


Quick Thoughts on South Carolina

Mitt Romney was thumped in the South Carolina primary tonight. This capped off a week of jittery debate performances, PR disasters (how many scholars reading this column are taxed at a rate of 15%?), and the puzzling inability to share his thoughts on Newt Gingrich’s desire to be shared by the women in his life.

Throughout this campaign I keep returning to (and abusing) the term “double down” and after tonight I understand why. As the South Carolina tally indicates, a significant portion of the …


Scrummin’ in South Carolina: Gingrich Breaks Through

Tonight’s South Carolina presidential debate was a pretty rowdy affair. The crackle in the air was provided by: 1) Fox and Wall Street Journal moderators (Bret Baier, Kelly Evans, Juan Williams, and Gerald Seib) who asked intelligent, tough questions, 2) candidates who sought to ignore those questions and strafe their opponents in the process, and, 3) a boisterous crowd that seems to have time-traveled to Myrtle Beach straight from the infamous 2004 Clemson v. South Carolina football brawl (whi…


Tim Tebow (and the Secular Jews)

“So, if Tebow wins against the Pats on Saturday night, then even the Jews are going to convert to Christianity.” So opined my not-exceedingly observant (or reverent) Jewish breakfast partner yesterday. “What about the Reform Jews?” I asked.

“Absolutely and they’ll be holding tambourines.” he responded.

“Reconstructionist and Secular Humanistic Jews, too?”

“Faster than you can say ‘egalitarian congregation.’”

“What about Jews in like Belgium or Israel?”

“Can’t be sure about Belgium, but if Israel…


2 GOP Debates in 15 hours: Santorum and Evangelicals Coalescing

ABC NEWS hosted a halting debate last night at St. Anselm College. It was followed by a far better Meet The Press event this morning at 10:30. Neither gathering, however, provided much to roil the normally tranquil weekend news cycle.

Still there were a few noteworthy developments and one likely scenario is coming into focus for those who follow religious politicking:

Romney, Hard to Floor: In this campaign the former governor of Massachusetts has shown himself to be a superb defensive debater, …


Of the Iowa Caucus and Vomiting

Courtesy of Mrs. Berlinerblau, I was afflicted on Tuesday night–the night of the GOP Iowa Caucus–by the most debilitating, vomit-positive, 36-hour stomach virus known to medical science.

The illness rendered me not merely nauseous, but delusional. One of my delusions was of a boxer speedbag-punching my stomach as his trainer (named “Mack” in my reverie) exhorted him with the words: “F&^& him up, Jake. F%^% him up good.”

Assaulted as such, I was not able to post about the spectacular goings-on in…


The Top 10 Religion and Politics Stories of 2011

Four years ago, in 2007, we faith-and-values pundits were pondering Mitt Romney’s coupling of secularism and radical jihadism in a memorable December speech. We were trying to figure out why John McCain, of all people, was invoking “Christian nation” rhetoric.

We were assessing presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s many references to youthful Bible study and Sunday School taught by her mom. As for that junior senator, Barack Obama, we marveled at the newcomer’s God-talk skills. He was…


Dear ‘First Things’: Do the Right Thing–Apologize

The theoconservative magazine First Things has taken an interest, shall we say, in some of my blogs about secularism. They have stuck it to Berlinerblau here and here. And, once again, here, where a frustrated Oglethorpe University professor lamented, “Why do I read this stuff?” (to which I can only respond, “Duder, why do you write this stuff?“).

It’s not all negative. Here is a reasoned and thoughtful review of a previous book of mine by a colleague who is an Evangelical theologian. And since …


A Serene Jewish-Studies Conference? What Gives?

A scholar peacefully presenting research at the Association for Jewish Studies (left), and, in contrast, the same scholar being restrained during Q&A after a particularly blistering panel at the Society of Biblical Literature. There's just something inexplicably calming about the AJS.

The Association for Jewish Studies will convene in Washington D.C. for its 43rd annual conference over the next few days and I will be there taking in the serenity of it all.

Serenity? In the company of so many…


The GOP Debate: Tim Tebow and Judicial De-Activism

Tonight’s at-points-intriguing Fox GOP debate featured a few exchanges of interest to those of us who study Faith and Values politicking.

Rick Perry Tebows Himself: The Governor of Texas paralleled himself to the Denver Broncos’ Conservative Christian quarterback and fourth-quarter messiah, Tim Tebow: “There were a lot of folks who said Tim Tebow wasn’t going to be a very good NFL quarterback . . I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa Caucus.”

Perry, who looked positively ebullient all night long–…


The Pentecostals and Biblical Scholarship: Another Perspective

Dear Readers:

Following Professor Ruse’s good example of granting space to ideas with which he may disagree, I thought I would share with you Christopher Shannon’s (Associate Professor, Christendom College) response to my recent piece about Pentecostal scholars and  the Society of Biblical Literature. Needless to say, I disagree with his analysis. Perhaps I might share with you my response to Dr. Shannon’s remarks later in the comments section. But for now the floor is his:

After reading Jacque...

The Political Future of Atheism in America: Don’t Go It Alone

For starters, we might want a new ad agency.

If I were in charge of American Atheism—which I am not, but then again who is?—I would ask myself the following questions: Why does poll after poll indicate that we are one of the most disliked groups in the United States? Why are there so few self-professed atheists among 535 congresspersons and senators? Why have all three branches of the federal government turned their backs on the vaunted mid-century policy of Church/State separation? Why has athe…


Osama Bin Laden is Dead: Perceptions and Misperceptions

Professor Bruce Hoffman, one of the nation’s most well-respected terrorism experts (and our esteemed colleague at the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University) sat down a little why back to discuss the implications of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination in  both the Islamic world and the United States. Dr. Sarah Fainberg–another esteemed colleague–conducts this discussion, which touches on everything from Pakistani complicity, to the significance–or lack thereof–of Bin Laden’s porn stash…


In Parsimonious Professorial Praise of Lady Gaga

In my heart there is a chamber larger than a stadium that scarcely contains my overflow admiration and affection for jazz singers. From Ella Fitzgerald to Betty Carter, Johnny Hartman to Jon Hendricks, Sarah, Frank, and Abbey and Carmen (oh what we lost when we lost Ms. McRae): I love and worship them all.

So, naturally, when I heard Tony Bennett’s sweet-as-frosting voice on Thanksgiving night I immediately put down my pie and ran to the television. And there, on prime time network TV, was th…