Somehow or other he manages to express dumbfounded amazement at his experience at having a discussion with a Jewish theologian where she makes points that are so mainstream in Judaism that you can't hear a Rabbi's sermon without hearing at least one of them twice:
In her classes and groups, she tries to create arduous countercultural communities. “We live in a relativistic culture,” she told me. Many people have no firm categories to organize their thinking. They find it hard to give a straight yes or no answer to tough moral questions. When they go in search of answers, they generally find people who offer them comfort and ways to ease their anxiety.Shocking, here is a Jew who asks a question in response to a question. What do you think of that?
[Dr. Erica] Brown tries to do the opposite. Jewish learning, she says, isn’t about achieving tranquility. It’s about the struggle. “I try to make people uncomfortable.”
Brown seems to poke people with concepts that sit uncomfortably with the modern mind-set — submission and sin. She writes about disorienting situations: vengeance, scandal, group shame. During our coffee, she criticized the way some observers bury moral teaching under legal casuistry and the way some moderns try to explain away the unfashionable things the Torah clearly says.Sorry, but I've heard this from Reform Rabbis through black hat Orthodox.
I don't mean to imply that she is not a rigorous thinker, or that she might not be an engaging teacher. What I am saying is that this is completely mainstream Jewish thought, and that any Jew who expresses surprise and wonderment at what is standard boiler plate for a B'nei Mitzvah speech given by a 13 year old.
I have seen such expressions of surprise from Christians that I've dealt with, I recall a Pentecostal woman in college who was stunned when I noted that the afterlife was simply not particularly important in Judaism, for example (It's orthogonal to Tikkun Olam), which blew her mind.
It's one of the reasons that I object to the term "Judeo Christian," because there are real and deep differences in ethics and philosophy. I would argue that existentialism, with its focus on personal responsibility, is actually closer to Judaism than many of the strands of Christian theology.
As Ioz observes, "This is like a Catholic expressing surprise at the trinity."
I am not sure if he's really stupid, or if his hanging out with right wingers, who either are evangelicals, or who find evangelicals "useful idiots," but he really needs to spend some time listing to the rabbi's sermons, as opposed to playing on his Blackberry.
H/t Brad Delong.