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Judaism, Catholicism and Carrying On Marx's Torches

I identify as a Jew. I look the part, as do many of my family members, and I suspect heritage on both my grandmother and father's side, geneaology that has been overlooked by alot of my mom's research. A great deal of my friends either are Jewish or grew up immersed in the world. I was playing with dreidels and lighting the menorah when I was a little kid, the whole thing.

It's easy to find who is Jewish in almost any intellectual group, even the most reactionary ones, by who conforms the least. Jews are natural iconoclasts and free thinkers - they come up with the ideas that later become cliches for everyone else. It's no wonder that reactionary movements loathed them - the Jewish enigma was unpredictable, creating new ideas of both left and right. People who wanted to go back, to before Christianity, communism or capitalism (all Jewish concepts) would naturally see the Jew as the problem.

Nevertheless, while Jews continue to be the social movers and shakers (even today, the film industry is dominated by Marvel projects, all created by the Jewish genius Stanley Martin Lieber AKA Stan Lee) in the world, the Jewish religious world is null and void. It's ancient - modern Jewish figures often looked at religious Jews with disdain (Moshe Dayan famously rolled his one eye at rabbis praying at the Wailing Wall, saying "What is this? Vatican?").

When I worked at Tikkun, a religious magazine in Berkeley, this really crystallized for me. While most the people working at the magazine were Jewish, the contributors were not. The most frequent contributor was Matthew Fox, a very venerated progressive Catholic writer. I contributed several articles about the Catholic Church, which was more dynamic than anything coming from the Jewish world in my view, at least.

It's true that religion has fueled so many wars in human history, continuing with the West's struggle with radical Islam. However, for most of the world, religious institutions still provide education, health and renewal. Catholicism, with the ascent of liberation theology, very clearly rooted in Marxism, to the point of papacy, seems the only religion to really absorb the goals and ideology of communism.

Catholic radicalism is really odd in that regard. The religious practices of Christianity are Jewish and liberation theology is rooted in the ideology of Karl Marx, who very much was a Jew in both ethnicity and ideological tradition, even if he rejected religious dogma (though his thoughts on the matter were more nuanced than those of his acolytes). It seems as if, whether or not they are aware they are doing it, many Catholic radicals have carried the torch of Jewish radicalism while others have simply turned Judaism in to another form of ethnic nationalism. By applying Marxist principles to a historically reactionary organization like the Catholic church, liberation theologians are putting the praxis of Marxism, i.e. "taking control of the means of production," in a very literal way. Pope Francis' daily addresses of solidarity seem in line with Marx while what you hear from Israel stops just short of the sort of talk that made its establishment necessary in the first place.

When you read a great deal of Jewish magazines, a really reduced ethno-nationalism seems present. While thought provoking Jewish magazines like Tablet or the aforementioned Tikkun continue in the US, out of Israel especially you will find publications like Jews News (yeah, it's really called that) or the Times of Israel that seem about as thought provoking as a nationalist newsletter from Sarajevo. The demonstration of several Jerusalem demonstrators chanting for American presidential candidate Donald Trump made me wonder if being "Jewish" in 2016 was little more than another form Eurasian style nationalism, albeit rooted in thousand year old landmarks in the Middle East.


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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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