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Limits of Assimilation?

Reader comment on item: A French lesson for Tom Harkin

Submitted by Peter J. Herz (Taiwan), Jan 5, 2004 at 19:02

America has two unsung blessings that probably made it easier for the Jews to be accepted, even when they "stood out" as a clear minority (well, there were rough spots--Gen. Grant's initial plan to keep all non-military Jews out of the occupied southern Mississippi valley; the Frank case, etc.).

(1) The Reformed Protestant bedrock of American culture (the source of our marvelous self-critical spirit) ensured that throughout the formative period of the Republic, the Old Testament commanded incalculable respect.

(2) The Great Awakening of the mid-18th century brought about a social and political reconciliation of the major English-speaking sects of Episcopalians, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians (affecting as well the Dutch and German Reformed, who were close to the Presbyterians in theology, if not native language)--ending the sectarian strife that had destabilized Britain in the 17th century. This "made room" for other dissenters, especially if they had anything at all compatible with the dominant Evangelical consensus.

Whatever else might be said of Jewish-Christian relations, the fact that 4/5 of the Christian Bible is shared with the Jews (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament) forces a kind of mutual respect--even if it is just that of theological polemicists trying tell each other "We have the Messiah, you don't," versus "No, you're following a false one, we await the real one."

One of the problems present in a Christian-Jewish-Muslim society is that whereas there doubtlessly are many Muslims who desire social peace, Islam shares only names of persons, not an actual book, with the other Abrahamic religions.
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