A Rabbi, a Priest, and an Imam walk into a bar. No, wait. Imams don’t drink. Most rabbis don’t drink much either, come to think of it. Priests drink—at least in the movies—but mostly not in bars . . .
So maybe nobody walks into a bar? How, when, and where are we all supposed to figure out how to get along?
My guest today, who also happens to be an old, good friend of mine, has an answer, or several. He’s Jeffrey Israel—a professor of Religion at Williams College and the author of a new book Living with Hate in American Politics and Religion. He argues that pluralistic societies like the United States need two uneasy siblings: a strong political will to recognize and protect our common humanity and also “play spaces” where we can give rein to the difficult feelings- anger, resentment, even hate- that can’t be erased by politics, a Beatles song, or just by wishing them away.
In his generous and provocative book, Jeff mines Jewish-American humor from Lenny Bruce, Philip Roth, and the sitcom All in the Family for models of rough and reflective play. Spike Lee’s film Do The Right Thing gets a well-deserved star turn, too.
And for a civics that can protect human dignity while making space for all the nastiness and alienation we have no choice but to live with, He looks to philosopher Martha Nussbaum, among others.
It’s a difficult conversation for an imperfect and imperfectable world, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. So Jeff makes a bold case and invites us all to the table —rabbi, priest, Imam, and the rest us who don’t fit into easy categories—to hash it out.
Surprise conversation starters in this episode: