Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A "Social Experiment"

The founding premise of this blog was that, while it would primarily serve as a posting outlet for my sermons and other written materials, it would also, from time to time, be a source for other material that I found thought provoking or significant.

Today, I ask you, my friends and readers, to join me in a "social experiment." And, I admit, up front, this is not up to the laboratory standards for such an undertaking, and in many ways it is contrary to Jewish teachings that I hold dear. But, in the afterglow of yet another powerful MLK celebration yesterday (thank you County Executive Baker and my fabulous clergy colleagues), and in the middle of an even more rhetorically divisive presidential campaign, I think I need the reality check I am seeking with this effort.

The experiment seeks to do two things, simultaneously. First, I am seeking to get as bias-neutral a response as possible to the quote below. Secondarily, I am trying to judge how pervasive the bias of labels, names, and organizations can be in a world in which we are still far from the dream of judging "by the content of character" and merit. It is for these reasons that I am NOT sharing either the original source of the comment, or the source from which I received it -- yet.

Here are the rules:

1. Read the quote below. If you recognize either the speaker, or any organization that has been spreading the quote on-line, please disqualify yourself from public comment either here or on my facebook page, but feel free to send me your private reaction to AskRabbiSteve@verizon.net .
2. Without doing any research at all, simply decide whether you agree or disagree, and post a response either here or on my facebook page (since I have over 1000 contacts there, and probably under 50 here directly, I am running this through both places to increase traffic -- I will coordinate the response from both places), that simply says "agree" or "disagree."
3. Please do NOT (yet) broaden the responses on either discussion stream beyond a simple "agree" or "disagree."
4. If you cannot wait until next week for me to post both the results, and the sources, feel free, only after responding as above, to search out the speaker and the spreader of the quote. If you do, and are willing to share honestly how, if at all, that additional knowledge changes your opinion of the quote, I would be most curious to receive your thoughts -- again, for the sake of the experiment, privately, via e-mail.
5. After I post the results of the experiment, we can then have the fully contextualized debate on the merits.

Thanking you in advance, and hoping for a fascinating response :) Here is the quote:

“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values… it requires that their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason.

“Now, I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons., to take one example, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church, or invoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”