A reader writes:
Wieseltier's response -- especially on the question of his ridiculous assertions about the Trinity - is unbelievable. I'm still shaking at how terrifyingly rude he is. Just because he's had "many years of study in philosophy and religion" he is entitled to state that the Trinitarian Conception of the Unified Godhead is "polytheism?" Really? Really? And this is justified because some people (I'm assuming Arians, though they were hardly the only group to oppose the Trinity) thought differently, so their opinion of the matter is to be taken as the last word on the subject? And because "they are hardly just my opinions?"
This is like a modern-day Christian saying that it's okay to say anti-Semitic things because "These aren't my opinions, this is just what Gregory of Nyssa and Justin Martyr said about Jews!"
It's downright evil to excuse saying terrible things about other people's faiths, especially when the things you are saying misconstrue what those people themselves believe about their own religion. It would be one thing if Leon Wieseltier laid out the doctrine of the Trinity fairly and charitably and then argued against it. But that is simply something he has not done.
Look. I may just be a graduate student, but at least I'm a graduate student in the academic study of religion at the University of Chicago, and not a critic and a literary editor. Wieseltier may be thirty years my senior, but even I know a specious argument when I see it. The fact that some Arians thought some things about the divinity of Christ and the unity of God is hardly grounds for an argument that the Christian tradition is a "regression to polytheism" simply for deciding it disagreed in ecumenical council after ecumenical council.
And all polytheism is "crude?" In one stroke Leon Wieseltier condemns entire continents to backwardness, sacrificing their lives and their faiths on the wagon wheel of his notion of what constitutes religious progress. I've spent my entire life as a Christian trying to find and quarantine aspects of the Christian tradition that have held up Christianity as a progressive religion that renders "backward" peoples only to have Leon Wieseltier come along and decide it's high time Judaism's conception of monotheism started taking up the slack.
And it's okay to derogate this as crude because his objections are somehow "thoughtful," and acting as if he would respect similar ridicule from another provided that ridicule was "thoughtful?" Would he acknowledge any such assault on Judaism as "thoughtful?" If he says yes, here's a hint: even he knows he's lying.
Wieseltier wants to say both yes and no at the same time, and thinks that somehow it's blogging that embodies the postmodern glorification of self as discontinuous and promiscuous. I am at a loss for words.
You're not the only one.
(Painting: Luca Rossetti da Orta, The Holy Trinity', fresco, 1738-9, St. Gaudenzio Church at Ivrea, Turin.)
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